This too shall pass…

A few years ago, I was going through a bit of a tough time. Nothing specific. But life felt hard. My children were babies. I worked full time. They didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep. The expectations from my employers were, quite rightly, that I should be firing on all cylinders.

I couldn’t.

I don’t think that anyone talks openly about how hard it is to have young children and be sleep deprived. The impact that has on you. And it doesn’t matter whether you stay at home, or are working. Essentially, you are working all the time. In fact, if you’re working, you get a designated break time. You have other adults you can speak to. There is a break from the monotony of routine, that is nappy changes, feeding, nap times.

Although I sound completely miserable about it and it was incredibly hard work – I blinked. I blinked and the girls are not tiny helpless beings anymore. They talk and are actually quite funny. They help. They are good company. At times, they are wise beyond their years. And it made me realise – situations do not stay the same forever.

I was blessed. I wasn’t on my own during the periods that I found hard. My husband did everything in his power to help me. My mother would check on me two or three times a day to ask if I needed anything. She would come and give me respite whenever she could. My in-laws would check on us and provide help if we needed it. I was never alone and I’m acutely aware so many incredible women do this and more all on their own. However, it was my brother who gave me a gift that helped me to calm down and see things differently. He would ring me as often as he could and would try to be as supportive as he could. But in 2015, New Year’s Day, he came around and said, ‘I’ve bought you something.’ I unwrapped the gift, and he had given me a copy of ‘The Bhagavad Gita’.The Gita is a sacred, holy text for Hindus and let me explain the context behind it. Lord Krishna was on the battlefield with his disciple, Arjuna. Arjuna and his brothers were about to take part in the biggest battle of their lives – fighting evil. But the power-hungry evil people that they were fighting were unfortunately members of their own extended family. This epic story is described in the holy book of The Mahabharata. As Arjuna gazed across and looks to the opposing side of the battlefield, he has a crisis of confidence and conscience. He sees his uncles, cousins, teachers – people he grew up, people he loved dearly at one time – and he tells Krishna – I can’t do this. This is wrong. I can’t do this. The Bhagavad Gita is the conversation that Krishna has with Arjuna. Krishna advises Arjuna that he has a job to do. The people that he is going to fight may be family members, but they had many opportunities to change their ways and do the right thing. They chose not to – they made their choice and they must face the consequences.

Krishna proceeds to give Arjuna, and the rest of humankind advice about how to live life, particularly during times of difficulties.

To my shame, I haven’t read all of the Gita. The original text is in Sanskrit and even though it has been translated, to read and understand each verse is hard going. Each line is full of wisdom and to understand it, even slightly, requires a huge amount of concentration.

It has been said that if you are going through any difficulties in life, you only need to concentrate and open The Bhagavad Gita to any page – the verses should provide some guidance and advice to help you. When my brother left, I put The Bhagavad Gita in a safe place, returning to it some time later…

The girls were asleep. I had just had a shower. I sat on the floor in my back room and started reading. Very slowly and full of intense concentration.

The biggest thing that I took away from The Gita, and what has stuck with me ever since was this – Everything is temporary. Happiness, sadness, easy times, challenging times – everything is temporary. It doesn’t last.

I realised that prior to reading that passage – that I have explained in incredibly simple terms – that I had had suffered a few setbacks that I wasn’t finding easy to deal with. Had I been feeling stronger, slept better, felt more like myself – I would have felt differently. But reading the passage gave me strength that the difficulties that I felt that I was facing – were they even difficulties? Or were they life lessons? But most importantly – I was given hope. Whatever I was going through was temporary. The feelings, the emotions, the difficulties – were all temporary. Things would get better. I just needed to remind myself and believe it.

The Gita was right. I sound hilarious don’t I? Thousands of years this sacred text has existed, and here I am in 2019, giving my seal of approval, 5 stars rating to Krishna! Krishna, you were right.

Whether it was because I had a sudden change of mindset and began to feel more hopeful – or whether it was a different reason – things slowly began to change. For the better.

Life is a roller coaster, so since that time, there have been ups and downs. Ecstatic moments. Moments of helplessness. Times that I have felt despondent and been pushed to the brink… Offset by times filled with immense gratitude.

I know that some people reading this will be feeling sceptical and uninspired.

Others will be feeling as low as I did at certain parts of my life. My advice to you is to hang in there. Keep going and keep believing. Nothing in life is permanent. Everything is temporary. And if you are going through an incredibly difficult time in your life – have faith. Because if life has taught me anything, this too will pass.

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Back to school!

And so it begins. The weekend before returning back to school, the holidays have almost ended and I’m desperately trying to savour every last, delicious second of freedom, before we’re back on that hamster wheel, when real-life begins again. Over 20 years of teaching under my belt and the ‘fear’ is still there. I know I will not be able to sleep on Sunday and Monday night. A build up of nerves, apprehension and excitement. Wondering how on Earth I’m going to be able to fit back into the routine and discipline of being back at work again.

My daughters also have mixed feelings. They are looking forward to going back to school and meeting their friends, but a huge draw for them also is being with their new teachers. It’s so strange to be on the other side of the fence. Hearing my daughters chatter to each other about what their new teachers are like, and the excitement about building a relationship with someone who is going to be such an important figure in their lives for the next academic year. I know that if I say something to my girls, give them a golden nugget of information, they will listen politely and then perhaps forget or dismiss what I have said a few moments later. If, on the other hand, their teacher says exactly the same thing to them – they will absorb that pearl of wisdom with so much gratitude and love, repeating it to all and sundry.

Listening to my daughters reminds me of how important my role is in the classroom. It doesn’t matter how much other work I’ve got on, how much paperwork needs filling in, data that needs inputting, how many items there are on my never-ending ‘To-do’ list – my most important job is to be present for the children in my class. Not just teach them the curriculum. But to look after them. Listen to them. Notice if they are sad or upset, worried or nervous. Notice if they are tired. Listen to them reminding you everyday that it’s their birthday soon. Listen to what they did during their weekend. Notice if they’re worried about who they are going to play with at playtime or lunchtime. Because being a teacher in the classroom and showing children how to get better in their reading, writing and maths is only a tiny, miniscule part of the job. Actually, we nurture children. Make them believe in themselves. Make them understand that failure teaches us to get back up, dust ourselves off and try again. Teach them to work with different people. Get them to learn to articulate their points of view without being fearful. Make them understand that not everyone can be good at everything – we all have our own strengths – find your strength – you are important and precious, regardless.

On my third teaching practice, I worked in a beautiful, kind, warm, welcoming school. Every morning I would be excited to walk into the school building. The headteacher was always there at 7 o’clock in the morning and he would always walk into the school hall, set up a CD of calming classical music, and that would be the music I would hear as soon as I came into school. The music would get rid of nerves or anxiety that I was feeling and I would almost float into the Year 3 classroom where I was based. Every morning, the headteacher, would walk to every classroom and would wish every member of staff, ‘Good Morning!’, and his presence would always fill us with confidence that we would be able to deal with whatever challenges lay ahead.

There were 32 children in this class. All of them sweet and kind. In this particular class, there were two boys who were twins. One was a smiley, happy, chatty boy. The other brother was withdrawn. Unable to make eye-contact. He had a huge speech impediment and would not want to communicate with anyone. As was the custom on teaching practice, my job on the first couple of days was just to observe the children and learn from the class teacher about how she managed the class, and went about teaching things. The twins intrigued me though. I found myself watching the quieter twin in particular. He never appeared to listen to the teacher. His back was always turned and he would be playing with something in his hands. He found sitting up straight really difficult and would always be lying listlessly over his desk. In a world of his own…

If the teacher went over to speak to him, he would tiredly blink his eyes, as if he had woken up from a dreamless sleep and be completely unaware of what she had been asking him to do. During my break time, I asked my class teacher about him, and she explained that the two boys had been victims of sexual abuse since the age of 3 months. Both children had been removed from the horrific situation and were living with foster parents. Nonetheless, trusting adults, communicating with people, learning – these things were incredibly challenging for them both. What they both needed was an incredible amount of love, patience and understanding.

It means nothing really – but my heart broke for those two beautiful boys. I was probably only 20 years old and I wondered what type of monster could even think of harming babies? Anger consumed me. That was my first experience of working with children who had been hurt, abused, betrayed by adults. Sadly, it was not the last.

I knew from that moment though, that when I became a class teacher, when I was lucky enough to have a class of my own, I would do my best to make sure that the children in my care would feel loved, cared for and valued. But most of all – safe. That regardless of what else was going on their lives, aspects that I was not in control of – when they were with me, in our classroom, I would be there for them and they would nothing to worry about and nothing to fear.

I’m not 20 anymore – but I hold onto that feeling always. I love my job because I am working with the best people in the world – children. Life is so simple with children. They are idealistic – they care about the environment and justice and making the world a better place more than the adults who run the world. They laugh at the simplest things and can be so incredibly kind to others. When I was going through some incredibly tough moments in my life, it was seeing the children in my class daily that helped me heal and feel better again.

I’m aware that I sound as though I’m not bothered about whether children learn or not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually I’m passionate about education and learning, I’m living proof that if you work hard at school, then your life will change! But children don’t learn when they are in a state of fear, or in an environment of mistrust, when they are afraid to make a mistake. Children don’t learn if they feel that their teacher doesn’t like them, or doesn’t care about them. Children don’t learn, if they are not happy.

So, as I enjoy the dwindling moments of the summer holiday, I hope that the children in my new class have had a good summer and are looking forward to coming back. But most of all, my nerves, anxiety, fear is all tied up in a desperate knotted ball of making sure that I do my best for them – because that’s what they deserve.

Why?

I wrote and published my very first blog on 19th August 2016. 3 years ago. I remember having palpitations when I actually shared it on Facebook for the very first time. What would people think? I’m exposing my thoughts and feelings for every one to see – how will people respond? Actually a lot of people liked what I wrote and could relate to some of the things that I have experienced. At times my brother will call me up or text me when I have written about my father or our childhood and he’ll say, ‘I remember that happening so clearly!’ Or, ‘Did that really happen? I don’t remember that at all!’

Some people have asked me why I write.

How can I be so public about my feelings? Should I be baring my soul through blogs on Facebook?

I don’t have an answer to that one. I know that talking about feelings can be unbelievably embarrassing for some. I respect that.

If I wrote about my job, there is a chance that I would get some recognition amongst my peers. Perhaps gain more followers. Perhaps gain some sort of prominence. But I don’t write to achieve that.

I write because there are so many thoughts swimming around in my head, I need a way to articulate them. Every time I have written, it has felt as though I’ve managed to ease my own mind somewhat. Over the years I have written lots about my father. Getting those feelings out of my body and onto a screen has helped me to cope with my own grief – and in the same way ensure that his memory is never forgotten.

I’ve written about relationships between men and women, siblings and the most powerful, all consuming bond of all – the relationship with your own children.

Three years of blogging is quite good going – and I hope that I am able to keep writing for many more years to come. Sometimes I look at my daughters and hope that they will be able to read back on my blogs when they are older and gain some words of wisdom, or simply some comfort from their mother.

There are three things that I want to cover in this blog that I hope will help not just my daughters, but all daughters who read this.

When I was a little girl, I was lucky that I was good at school. I grasped things quickly. I was smart. But it was never enough. Why? Because whenever people met me, the first thing that they noticed was: a) I was overweight; b) I wore glasses. So random strangers in the South Asian community, felt that they had the right to tell me and my mother – she needs to lose weight. She’s not ugly – but she needs to lose weight otherwise she will never get married. Men don’t like fat girls.

No word of a lie. This began from the age of 8. I learned that I would never be good enough for anyone or anything because I was not slim. And so began the self loathing that refuses to go away.

As I grew older, the weight didn’t go, in fact it piled on. I did well academically – but I wasn’t able to communicate with men because I assumed that they would find me an object of ridicule. Why? Because I was fat.

Things changed when I moved away to London. I made friends who helped me to learn to love myself. Who encouraged me to go to the gym. Who made me love and recognise my own strengths and how much I had to offer the world. I didn’t need to impress men – they needed to impress me. I was smart, doing well in my career, owned my own property, a kind person…

I had moved away from narrow minded people who lived in a small pond and felt that it was their right to comment on a little girl’s appearance – away from the negativity, away from the toxicity, away from the comments such as, ‘She’s got a degree, is she getting married yet?’ Away from that, I was able to thrive and be who I am today.

My eldest is now the age I was when people began commenting on my appearance. When people began telling me that I wasn’t good enough. Those negative thoughts that I still battle with on a daily basis. But when it comes to my daughters – I go into tiger mode. First of all, if anyone is going to make negative comments about their appearance, they’re going to need an ambulance on hand because I won’t tolerate that nonsense from anyone. Secondly – they’re never going to be told that they are not good enough. There are times when we may not achieve what we want, things may not go our way, that is life. But it is never, never because they are not good enough.

The next thing I want to cover – exercise! I went to the gym yesterday and worked really hard. I worked so hard that my heart was thumping in my chest, my body was pouring with sweat and I was taking deep breaths to regulate my breathing. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and I smiled a huge, crazy grin. Luckily gyms are a bit like being on the tubes in London. Everyone avoids eye contact. No one wants to speak to one another. Everyone is in their own world, immersed in the motivational music blaring out of their headphones, or staring intently at their smartphones between exercises. So no one could see the crazy Asian woman smiling dorkishly at herself in the mirror. But the reason that I was smiling was because exercise makes you feel so incredibly happy. Sweating and aching and breathing – there’s a happiness in knowing that you’re making your body fitter and stronger and that hard work is fun.

So girls, ladies, women – whatever you are. Go to the gym, do your cardio and then lift weights. Exercise and burn your stress away. Exercise and focus on your breathing. Exercise and revel in how much stronger you are and how much easier it is to carry heavy objects. It is the best form of self investment and indulgence ever.

Finally.

And this is really important. Stay away from horrible men. I’ve said this before in other blogs but I get incredibly annoyed and am full of contempt for women who claim that they are attracted to ‘bad boys’. Honestly, if you’re attracted to men who are misogynistic, who have a roving eye, who treat you badly – but happen to be vaguely handsome – then you’re a massive idiot who will experience a lifetime of pain.

The truth is, there are many, many good, kind, caring men out there. Many. Find them. Find the ones who will put you first. Find the ones who will take care of you when you are sick. Find the ones who find different ways to make you feel special. These men do exist.

Do not give the men who treat you badly and show you their true colours, the benefit of the doubt. They don’t deserve it. Neither do you. Someone who tells you that you’ve put on too much weight, who tells you to stop making a scene when you are questioning them about something, who tells you that you embarrass them – these people are dangerous. Don’t be with them. Why are you with them? What do you gain apart from heartache and heartbreak and not to mention a whole load of mental health issues?

The 8 year old me, who wore glasses and was overweight never imagined that one day I would be married to a kind, loving man, who actually looks after people’s eyes for a living. Who would never, ever make me feel fat or unattractive. Who would love me regardless of my size. Who admires what I do for a living and supports me in everything I do.

Daughters – there are many, many toxic people out there. Those who judge and tear down others. Avoid them. Recognise them and move away from them. Surround yourself with people who will build you up. Who will respect you. Find those people. There are so many of them out there. You will find them because you know – birds of a feather, flock together. If I was able to find happiness – anyone can!

The Lion King

Last week, my brother was driving home from work and decided to call me up.

‘Hey, have the girls seen ‘The Lion King’ yet? If they haven’t, I’d like to take them.’

‘No they haven’t, that’s really nice. Of course, by all means, they’d love that.’

‘Ok, what happens if the youngest one cries – you know, when Mufasa dies…’

‘Do you want me to come too?’

‘Only if you want to?’

A few minutes later, all of us were going. A big, fat, Indian family trip to see the live action, 2019 version of the epic, ‘The Lion King’ at the weekend.

The Lion King isn’t an easy watch for me. A little cub, loses their strong, protective hero of a dad and spends the rest of his life missing him and seeking redemption. The reason why my brother felt that my youngest would cry, was because she did cry when we went to see the musical in the theatre back in December. During the interval, when we were queuing in the long queues for the toilet, she was inconsolable as Mufasa had just died – and the lights came up. It was more than she could bear. Surely that wasn’t how The Lion King ended? The father just dies? We go to the toilet? My brother’s fear of her becoming upset was founded in reality.

We walked into the theatre together, the children sandwiched in the middle, between their Mama (maternal uncle) and Nanni on one side, and my husband and I on the other. We all commented on how we’d never been to the cinema altogether like this before. It was nice. Popcorn and sweets in hand, we all settled into our seats. Eventually, after all the endless adverts and trailers, the film finally began.

The beautiful, spiritual strains of the choir singing in Zulu began their familiar chant,

‘Nants ingonyama bagithi baba’, which translates to, ‘There comes a Lion’.

I felt the familiar sensation of sharp tears pricking my eyes. The animals from all over the kingdom bowing down to their beautiful newborn prince, Rafiki holding Simba up on the edge of Pride Rock for the nation to see – and me knowing already that everything was going to go so horribly wrong. It took superhuman strength to fight those tears back. ‘You can’t cry yet!’ I had to tell myself!!!

No matter how stoical I was trying to be, there was a part when I completely lost it. And that was when Mufasa tells Simba to look to the night stars whenever he needed help. That Mufasa would always be there for Simba, he would never be alone. At this point, I could contain them no longer. The tears were unashamedly raining down my cheeks, I glanced over to my brother – and saw that he was crying too, which made me cry even more.

You might be thinking how pathetic, a pair of grown-assed people, crying at a children’s film like a pair of children themselves? Well, whilst Mufasa was reassuring Simba that he’d always be there for him, and to look to the stars…I was transported back 30 years, when my mother would be feeding my brother rice and curry, and my brother would ask where our dad was – and my mother would take him to the front door, show him the night sky and say in Bengali, ‘Look up there, you see the brightest star? There’s your father looking at you, he’s always there!’

My brother was only a baby at the time, I don’t know if he even remembered that conversation. But to me, it was as vivid and clear as though it had happened yesterday.

A little later on, towards the climax of the movie, Rafiki tells Simba that Mufasa is alive and takes him to the river – whereupon Simba looks into the river and realises that his father still lives – within him. Once again, a flood of tears flowed blissfully from my eyes, grateful to be released. Once again, I looked over to my brother who was bravely trying to contain himself – but fighting a futile battle.

The Lion King isn’t a movie that can be easily watched if you have lost your father. Every word, every sentence, every scene carries a huge amount of meaning.

The months and years after my father’s death were unbelievably painful. Our struggle as a family, the support that we had to give to one another, the fact that we had no one else to turn to – are days that I will never forget. Luckily, my mother was a fierce lioness who kept our ‘pride’ together and we emerged into strong adults ourselves. The dichotomy that we face is that we will be eternally grateful to God that we were given a mother like her, but equally devastated that our father passed away in such an untimely way.

I often think about my father when I watch my little daughters. I know he would have loved conversing for hours with both of them. My eldest, constantly thirsty for knowledge, he would be amazed with her determination and wisdom. My youngest, the cheeky little one, who I know would have him wrapped around her little finger and make him laugh all the time. How do I know this? Because I see how they are with their Mama, my little brother, and even though my brother never got to know my father at all well, I see that my father lives on, inside him. The pride and love that I feel for my own daughters, I know that he would have felt, as he lives on inside me too.

I’ve said this before in previous blogs but there’s never any harm in saying it again. The people who you love, never leave. They are always there with you, living on in your heart. Giving you strength and love when you need it the most. Sometimes reading a blog can remind you of that. Sometimes sobbing in front of a giant screen, watching The Lion King, can remind you of that also.

God bless.

History

My eldest daughter, and many other children that I know are absolutely obsessed with one particular programme – ‘Horrible Histories’. She watches as often as she can. Learning about gory and gross facts from different time periods in history. And she loves it. We were grocery shopping yesterday and told me how much she loves history. How much she loves learning about the past. I explained that history is also important so that we learn from the past – so we don’t repeat the same mistakes from the past. She nodded sagely and agreed with me…

In 2008, the double recession hit Britain – and I called it. I knew what was going to happen next. I remember telling people in the staff room of the school that I worked at, at the time. ‘You watch what happens now. People are going to lose their jobs. People are going to become unemployed. The recession was the fault of the bankers – but the politicians will start to stir hatred and discontent and blame one particular section of society in particular – immigrants. People of colour.’

I was right.

I mean, it wasn’t a mind blowing prediction, I’m not pretending that I’m some kind of Nostradamus! But this shit has happened before. Within living memory of some people. Nazi-bloody-Germany, anyone???? First there was a recession, then came discontent, then came the rise of the far-right, then came the ethnic-cleansing, the holocaust of the Jews. They were blamed for, ‘taking all the jobs’… sounds familiar? They were despised because of their appearance. Massive crowds gathered to hear the right-wing racists speak. Chanting in the crowds. Hatred rife. ALL WITHIN LIVING MEMORY!!!

I grew up in the 1980s. Racism was rife. I was happy at the very first infant school that I went to. My teachers and friends loved me. I had a good life. Which sounds hilarious, doesn’t it, as I was only 6 at the time. But then my parents moved house, I went to a different primary school – and that’s where I learnt that I was different. I was a person to be despised. On my first day at my new school, I was told a joke by a few boys who were in my class.

‘You know what my dad says,’ one of them began, ‘Pakis don’t come in tins, they come in hundreds!’ They all fell about laughing.

I was confused. I didn’t get it. What did they mean? I had just turned 7 – and I could see that I was in for a rough ride.

Luckily, I was academic. Luckily, I was good at maths, I was good at English, I was well behaved, so the teachers liked me. I didn’t react to the racists. To be honest, I didn’t know how to. So much of what they said, didn’t even make sense! I spoke to my mum and dad at home and they only had one bit of advice to give me. Work hard. Become educated. Get a good job. You will have to deal with this for the whole of your life because of the colour of your skin…

Things changed in the 90s. There was a shift. Racism was wrong. It was decided! It was not acceptable for people to be openly racist. Note – I’m being very careful with my words. It was not acceptable for people to make racist comments openly – they would be shot down by others. Other people of all colours would react and the racists would have to modify their behaviour. I loved the 90’s and the early naughties. To me it felt like a brave new world.

2019, on the other hand, is a very different beast.

We have the leader of the ‘free world’ actively goading his supporters to chant, ‘send her home’, whilst he basks in the glory of his power to send a crowd into a racist frenzy, to promote open hatred of minorities, his ability to say anything without consequence. This has had a butterfly effect all over the globe. Here, in the country that I love, once again I’m hearing about open racist abuse and attacks on people of colour. Particularly, focused on women. Groups of people, telling women of colour to, ‘Go back to where you came from’. The abuse that is being reported is from third generation British Chinese, or third generation British Asian women who are furious. This is their country. Imagine how much behaviour is being unreported by others?

Nobody is challenging them. When the women fight back, they are told to ‘calm down, it’s just a bit of banter,’ by other members of the public!!! What makes this worse for me is that I remember that things had got better, and the fact that as a society we are regressing, horrifies me. But the other part that breaks my heart – my daughters. They, because of their skin colour at some point are going to hear abuse like this. They are fourth generation British Asians – this is their country as much as anybody else’s. I don’t want them to be on the receiving end of the type of abuse that I received growing up, or that is happening right now to others.

Anyone who complains is branded as a snowflake. Abuse is passed off as ‘banter’. The attitude being, ‘if you don’t like it, you know what to do!’

Sometimes, when I think of the racists and racism coming out into the open, it reminds me of Harry Potter. When Voldemort comes back, rises to power again, the death-eaters reek havoc and the world is in disarray again. It reminds me of what is happening now, in our world. Hatred is on the rise and seems to be winning again. We know what happened in Harry Potter – we knew what would happen from the very first book. We knew Voldemort would be defeated. It was just a matter of time.

A matter of time. There are so many good people in this world, who are kind and caring and smart. If we can learn anything from history and anything from literature, it is that good will prevail in the end.

We, the good people in the world need to unite together. We need to rise against the hatred that is being spread by the right-wing figures in our land. We need to call it out.

Incidentally, there are some incredibly upsetting threads on twitter which highlight exactly what I have been writing about today. If you wish, please have a look, here are the links.

Meanwhile – take care of one another.

One Upmanship

Have you ever walked into a room, surrounded by many, many people, but felt as though you don’t belong? No one notices you, no one acknowledges you, you’re there – but you may as well be invisible. It’s too hard to walk up to people that you know, in one of the groups – what if they don’t want you there? What if they’re having lots of fun without you – you’ll just be ruining their fun surely? What if the reason that they’re enjoying themselves so much is because you’re not with them?

The times that you are surrounded by people can be the loneliest.

If you’ve never felt that way – be thankful. It’s an awful feeling. And the worst thing is – to admit that you feel this way from time to time – it feels as if there is a huge stigma attached to it. People are meant to be like wolves aren’t we? Survival is guaranteed if you’re in a pack – lone wolves – just how well do they fare on their own?

If you told somebody that you broke your leg over the weekend – they would be able to see the cast, they would see you painfully hobbling about, they would see you on crutches possibly. Because of all the visuals, most people would have empathy for you straight away. You’re in pain, I get it, let me help you, what do you need?

It’s nothing new, what I’m about to say, but I feel that it cannot be said enough. When people are going through pain internally, battling demons that no one else can see on a daily basis – they hide the pain, we choose not to see their pain – and we judge them. We are impatient with them. Their behaviour seems weird to us. Why? Because we cannot see their bandages, their casts, their crutches. They seem fine. And we judge them.

You want to know why someone is so messed up as an adult? Take a good look at their upbringing. Low-self esteem, low self-confidence, feeling unlovable, feeling uninteresting, negative body image, feeling stupid and unintelligent – so many of these issues stem from pain that people went through in their childhood. Each of those things – a huge demon that you constantly fight with every day – all because your primary care givers never made you believe in your self worth. They helped chip away at you everyday. Constant criticism of your intelligence, how uninteresting you are, not wanting to spend time with you, your unpleasing physical appearance… Yes, you may have been fed, clothed, housed, educated – but you have also been given shadows, spirits, invisible beasts that appear all too often to tell you how worthless you are.

No one can see them. No one can hear them. Only you.

Parents have a lot to answer for. I will say it. Parents have children – and they have a duty. I know this because I am one. It is my duty and my children’s right to be fed, clothed, housed, educated – and most of all, loved. I am not doing them any favours by spending money and time on them That is their right. It was my choice to have them. They deserve the best of whatever I am able to give them. They are the most precious people in my life. Why wouldn’t I let them know this? Why wouldn’t I praise their intelligence and make them feel incredible about themselves? Why wouldn’t I try to converse with them and make them understand that their opinions, their points of view, their conversations are interesting and matter? Why wouldn’t I praise how strong and beautiful they are? Why wouldn’t I send them out into the world, feeling equipped to take life on?

Too many people feel that they have no one to turn to – because that stems from their childhood. Parents not having the time to be interested in the little things that their children want to share with them. Their own worries and problems being all-consuming. These patterns that people fall into become habits. A little child tells you that they fell over and now they’re hurt. You don’t want to make it into a big deal, it’s not a major graze, you tell them to stop being silly, it’ll be fine. You go one step further, you tell them about a time that you were knocked over by a car and got hurt. That was serious! What they’re going through – that little graze – is nothing! The child skips away. You congratulate yourself on great parenting. You are a survivor, you were knocked over by a car, you were so brave, everyone told you so, and now look at you – a fully grown adult, with all kinds of responsibilities – look how far you’ve come.

You see the problem comes when a child’s issues, their pain is constantly dismissed by the people they love the most.

Oh you’ll be fine, that happened to me too and I’m alright!

Oh you’re always complaining about something, what is it? Nothing? Well it can’t have been that important then, can it?

You think that’s bad? Well, this is what happened to me and look at me, I’m fine!

The most incredible feeling in the world is when you meet people who actually see you. To whom you are no longer invisible. If you’re in pain, it matters to them. They want to help, they want to listen, they want to take your troubles away. They enjoy your company and like spending time with you. To them, you’re not boring and trivial. They quite like the way you look. And most important of all, they listen.

One upmanship on pain – on who suffered the most in their life is futile. Pain is pain. Worries are worries. You can’t compare one person’s plight with another. What we should do, as decent human beings is just listen to one another. Share our problems and worries – not make someone else feel that our issues are more serious than somebody else’s.

On Thursday night, I discovered that a good friend of mine, has cancer. Bloody cancer. I listened, let her talk. Talk through the shock of discovering what she had. The fears that she felt. The pain of having to tell people about her illness. Do you know what eventually brought a smile to her face? Listening to my woes – that paled in comparison to hers – but made her feel better because she had spoken to me about her troubles, and listening to my miniscule issues, took her mind elsewhere. Not once did she say, ‘Why are you worrying about that? At least you don’t have cancer!’

I think what I’m trying to say is that many people are carrying a huge amount of hurt and pain inside them, which could be alleviated if people simply took the time to sit and talk and listen to each other. Look out for the invisible people. The ones who look lost and simply need bringing into the fold. Make sure they’re ok. We complain don’t we, that the world isn’t a great place to live. People just aren’t kind and don’t care for each other anymore. Well, let’s try to be those kind, caring people ourselves. Not the ones who make everything about themselves. The ones who make others blossom in their presence. The ones who make other people feel like they matter. Then, who knows? The world might just start becoming a better place.

You never know who’s watching…

On Saturday, my husband just happened to switch the tv on during the dying moments of the women’s Wimbledon final.

‘Ah, Serena Williams is losing!’ he exclaimed.

My youngest perked up! ‘Serena Williams? We’ve been learning about her in school. She plays tennis!’

It was heartbreaking to watch Serena lose but equally the winner, Simona Halep was such a joyous winner, she won my heart over too. Her speech was incredibly humble and humorous, I was enamoured. Meanwhile, my youngest waited on tenterhooks for Serena Williams to light up the screen. Although Halep was the champion, in her eyes, Williams was no less. She watched in awe as both women lifted up their trophies. The camera shot to the board where the names of the previous winners were emblazoned in gold. We counted how many times the Williams sisters had won the Wimbledon tournament. It was a lot! Finally, Shreeya to me and said, ‘I want to win a gold trophy like Serena Williams!’

‘Ok, that’s good,’ I responded, ‘Do you want to start playing tennis?’

‘No,’ she replied, ‘but I want to win a gold trophy at something, not tennis!’

Her words stayed with me. Maybe it’s because Serena had been discussed at school. Maybe it’s because Serena is a female of colour, like Shreeya, but the fact that she saw her pick up her trophy, saw her name written so many times, pride of place on the board of Wimbledon champions, my little girl was inspired to be so good at something that she too would win trophies.

In a similar vein, my brother called me up to check up on how I was. Our conversation moved onto a colleague of his, whom he regards as a big sister. He was so incredibly proud of her because she’d recently been made a director. He’d seen how incredibly hard she’d worked for years, inspiring others, leading by example a consummate professional. She was promoted alongside a few other people – all of whom were men. As she was the only female who was promoted at that time, a few trolls decided to insult her by saying that she was a ‘token’, trying their best to denigrate her achievement.

I listened to my brother’s outrage about the situation and anger towards the people who would make such ridiculous comments – then I stopped him and began to explain something that I hoped he would pass onto his colleague.

The truth is, the haters, the people who are inadequate are their jobs, the talentless are always the loudest and most resentful of those who are successful and do achieve. The higher you go, there where will be more and more people who will be envious of your success. What your friend needs to remember is the number of silent women whom she is inspiring with her success. The number of young female graduates, just stepping out into their career, looking up to your friend and thinking, if she can do it, then so can I.

Even at my age, I am constantly inspired by both men and women who achieve success – because it inspires me to try harder, do better and question – What am I actually capable of?

The point of what I am trying to say today is that not everyone can be a Serena Williams, but in your own way you never know who you are inspiring. You never know who is watching you and your achievements and thinking that they want to be like you or achieve what you have.

Keep working hard. Ignore the loud haters. If they were any good at anything, they wouldn’t have the time to criticise what you are doing. Instead, know that you are helping a silent group of people who will want to follow in your footsteps and grow towards the sun, through the glass ceilings that you have smashed.