Expect more.

I don’t always like it, but quite often my Mum is right about a lot of things. She’s not particularly old, she had me when she was 19, she’s not travelled far and wide, but none of this matters. She’s one of those ladies, akin to Miss Marple, who from the comfort of her front room, can tell you precisely who is and who and what is what. Is she humble about her gift? Not a chance! Ever since I was tiny, I’d always hear about how she could correctly assess any situation and how she was always right. Growing up, it would annoy me immensely – now I accept that she has a certain talent or a gift, I just hope that it is hereditary and that I too can be equally infuriating as I get older, by always being right.

One of the things that I will always be thankful to my mother for, is that she always taught me and my siblings that if we were not happy in a situation, or if things were not going the way we wanted them to, or if we had bought something that we didn’t like – never shrug your shoulders and accept ‘that’s just the way things are’ – do something about it.

Her feeling was that in life we work so hard. Every single penny that we bring home, we have truly earned. Nothing is given to us for free. Nothing in life is free. So when you have worked hard in life, to get what you have and if something isn’t how you would like it, why accept it? If you go to a restaurant and you order a meal and the waiter brings something that you didn’t want, would you just accept it, or would you explain this isn’t what you wanted and ask for what you did want?

Sometimes it is easier to not say anything – but is that right? Do you get what you want by just sitting back and accepting things for what they are?

So, here’s a small example of my Mum’s philosophy in action. We’d had a glorious summer this year and even September was remarkably warm and pleasant. But when the weather began to change, my husband and I bought warm, padded, winter coats that zipped up at the front for our daughters. The zips are an absolute pain. They get trapped with material all the time, then you have to spend ages pulling on the zipper, untangling material, I absolutely hate them. My eldest is particularly prone to getting material trapped in her zipper no matter how careful she is. However, it was my youngest whose coat was eventually ruined because the zip actually broke. Luckily, we had another duffle coat that had belonged to my eldest, but she had grown out of it, and she started to use that. It was my Mum who saw this and asked, ‘Why isn’t she wearing her other coat?’ We explained the whole sorry story to her, expecting that to be that. But she asked, ‘Why haven’t you returned to the shop and asked for another one in her size?’ I then explained about how we hadn’t kept the receipt, we couldn’t remember when we had actually bought it, there was no point, blah, blah, blah…

‘Give the coat to me,’ Mum said, ‘I’ll speak to the shop. This coat is only a couple of months old. This shouldn’t have happened. Children’s coats shouldn’t be ruined so quickly. If you haven’t got a receipt it doesn’t matter.’

Off she drove, with the coat in tow. An hour or so later, she called me. ‘I showed them the coat, explained this shouldn’t have happened. They’ve given me a gift card with the value of the coat on it. I’ll give the gift card to you later.’

There was not a single atom in my Mum’s body that had doubted the outcome of the conversation that she was about to have with the Customer Services department of the shop. She knew what was right, she knew what she wanted and she did something about it. And it reminded me about how strong she is, how unfaltering in her views and how absolutely determined she is that things should be right. You never accept less in life.

So…taking a leaf out of her book, I returned a couple more things that I had bought for the children only a few weeks previously, I didn’t have the receipt but the goods were still for sale in the shop. I explained the situation – the shops returned the money onto gift cards and apologised for what had happened.

Reflecting upon what had happened, and reflecting over my life in general, I was grateful to God that my mother is the way she is. She is a fighter. A strong, demanding woman who knows what she wants in life, and will not take the easy, lazy option. She wants what she wants and will get it.

She taught us, and we picked it up without even realising it, that the whole world is out there – you have to know what you want out of life, and you have to ask for it. Expect it. If you don’t get what you asked for – make a fuss. Keep going, keep knocking on doors, keep trying until you get what you asked for, what you wanted for yourself.

Even though I am so much older now, I am astounded at my Mum’s confidence when facing things. When she knows she’s right – she knows she’s right (and that’s quite often), and no one will be able to stop her from getting what she needs, done.

We never stop learning. We never stop growing. And every so often, we need reminding. Expect more from life. If things are not right, in any situation in life – don’t just shrug your shoulders and accept it. Things will never change if you do that. Things will never get better. Be brave. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask for change – just like you would if you were brought the wrong order at a restaurant, or if the zip’s broken on a coat and you don’t have the receipt.

Anything is possible. Just ask my Mum, she’ll tell you what to do. And when it works, be prepared for her to say, ‘I told you it would work. I’m always right!’

Advertisements

Respect

Respect is a funny thing isn’t it? An intangible but a powerful force to reckon with. You know when you have it. However, a bit like water and food, you’re even more acutely aware of it when you don’t have it.

We’re taught from a young age that adults and authority figures deserve respect. Throughout history, there have been innumerable instances when those figures have abused the power of the respect bestowed on them by others by taking advantage of and mistreating those around them. Often, they get away with their actions with very few consequences. Why? Because they are often shielded by others who revere them or benefit from them or bask in the reflected glory of the respected person.

When you go through life and there are ups and downs, you realise quite quickly that people are chameleons. People quite often astound me – and not in the positive sense of the world. To some, position, power and wealth is king. It is absolutely everything. You can be an absolutely wretched, deplorable human being. But, because you have an important position, or are in power, or have wealth – you are impressive, worthy and deserving of respect. On the other hand, you can be kind, helpful, an angel of a human being – but without wealth, or an important job, or not wielding power over anyone – you’re valued as worthless. Undeserving of respect. Your words are not valued, your actions are not valued. You are a ‘nothing’ in their eyes. Nothing.

The older I get, the more and more I observe this behaviour in the world around me. People fawning like sycophants over people with wealth and/or power. If truth be told, it angers me. Those people who are so superficial and lacking in integrity, that the way they judge people is purely based on wealth and power and position – and that is their criteria for giving people respect – in my eyes, these people are truly despicable.

Surely, you have to dig a bit deeper? Surely, if you are going to give respect to someone – you have to have loftier ideals? Surely, the recipient of your respect has to be a good human being in the first place? Surely, they have to be kind and good? Surely, being in their presence should make you feel good about yourself?

The thing with wealth and power – you never know when it will come, or when it will go. The other intangible qualities: kindness, helpfulness, reliability, integrity, ability to keep your promises…these are not transient attributes. They don’t simply come and go. These qualities, if you have them – they are there for life. Why aren’t these people given the most amount or respect? Because if they were – our world would be a different place. Certainly not the brutal mess it is at the moment.

I have met people who have been cruel. Who have been unkind. Who have done their best to break people around them, destroy their confidence, stamped out the light inside others. Often, it is these types of people in power. They treat their subordinates in this way. Many leave. Some leave before too much damage has been done. Others leave after they have been completely destroyed. Those who stay they emulate this behaviour once they get into power because they admire and respect this style and believe that this is the best way to be.

There are those of course who have wealth, power and position, and are absolute gems of human beings. Those people are few and far between.

I will say this – we are on the brink of a new year. 2019. 2018 has felt extremely drama filled and tumultuous when you look at events on a global scale. At the moment, the world doesn’t seem like a particularly kind, safe place to be living in. On the Earth at the moment, the best people are actually primary school aged children. They are the ones who are the most idealistic people, wanting the world to be a better place, treating each other with kindness and calling out others who do not behave correctly. They often show patience to those who are different, and won’t tolerate unkindness in others.

What the hell happens to them? Why do those incredible qualities that they are born with, because children are inherently good and kind, why do they get battered out of them? When does respect for goodness and kindness become substituted for money and power?

I don’t know. What I do know is that we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and reflect on our own behaviour. If we want to live in a more peaceful and happier world, we need to re-evaluate as a society who and what we give respect to.

I know, I know, I’ve laboured the point enough… but I’ll leave you with this…

We make choices all the time. Our choices have consequences. If we choose to give the wrong type of people respect – the repercussions are horrific. We cannot blame those in power for their behaviour, if we are the people who put them there and crucially, keep them there in the first place. Let’s start taking responsibility for our actions, and slowly but surely, let’s start changing the world.

One can only but hope.


Step back in time

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the app ‘Timehop’, most of you probably have it.  If you don’t, I’ll explain what it does.  You can link it to the photos on your camera roll, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox etc, and everyday it gives an update of any photos, or Facebook statuses, or tweets you may have written on that day years ago.  I love it.  Everyday, it shows me memories of photos and videos of my little ones that I or others took and I marvel at how small they were.  I marvel at videos of them when they were only 18 months old and how I could understand them perfectly at the time – but I look back at their broken English, and attempts to communicate, gesturing and nodding – like a game of charades – and I think how nobody else would probably understand what they were trying to say, but my husband and I did.  

Yesterday, as is my daily ritual, I opened Timehop again, and saw a series of photographs and videos that physically hurt my heart.  It reminded me of a time when I desperately wanted to be in control of my life – but nothing could have been further from it. 

Let me digress and travel off track a little.  On the BBC at the moment, there is an advert that has caused a bit of a controversy amongst some viewers.  The advert shows a teenage boy and a fraught mother.  It’s Christmas time and the mother has to work – she can’t spend the time that she would have liked to with her son, and her son resents her for, as he sees it, putting her job before him.  As a viewer, you can see the conflict in both of those people.  Mum has to work.  The son probably gets that too – but he wants to spend some time with her.  The mum is also torn in half, she needs to work, but she also wants to spend time with her son.  We see shots of them both struggling in their different settings, both angry, both frustrated.  Finally, the mum runs out of work, races to be with her son and they spend the perfect evening together, reconnecting.  

Why the controversy?  I wondered why people were outraged.  I wasn’t.  I got it.  Having felt that way many, many times in my life, I understood how that mother felt.  I never wanted my own children to feel that way about me.  You see the objection to the advert was that it was a woman.  Why do women have to feel guilty about going to work and having a career and leaving children at home?  I think those people are misguided.  The advert wasn’t trying to say that.  My interpretation was, in a world where we seem to be living to work, instead to working to live – there are times when we need to take a step back, revaluate what is important, the times and moments that we will never get back, and grab those moments so that we can live without regrets.  

The photos and videos that I referred to earlier, was my eldest’s very first Christmas play, when she was in Reception.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t go.  I didn’t bother asking my boss at the time, whether I could go because…because I didn’t want to put anyone out.  It was alright, I convinced myself, my husband would be going, she would have one parent there to watch, that would be ok.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t go.  That’s what I told myself.  

The day of the performance finally arrived, and all I could think about was making sure that she was ok.  I hugged her and explained that she was going to be brilliant and that daddy was going to take lots of pictures and videos, so I wouldn’t miss a thing.  From an extremely early age, she has been incredibly emotionally intelligent, so she just smiled and said that everything was fine.  With a heavy heart, I drove to work.  Now the play was starting at 1.30 in the afternoon, and my husband had to pick his parents up from Heathrow that morning.  A completely straight-forward job.  He was keeping me updated about the flight and his arrival time and all was going well – until the flight was delayed.  The airport was about 2 to 2 and a half hours away – and we were in trouble.  Chances were that he wasn’t going to make it back in time, and our little 4 year old was going to have no one there to watch her in her first performance.  

I felt anxious anyway about not being to watch her, but knowing that we had promised that Daddy would be there, and for her to not see anyone in the audience was too much for my heart to bear.  Feeling distraught, I went to my head and explained the situation to her.  I’m not sure how articulate I was, but she could see the distress that I was in, she was completely wonderful and let me go.  

I made it.  I made it on time, to watch my daughter play the part of a sheep, singing her songs and doing the actions that she had spent hours at home learning and perfecting.  All the other parents were sitting together, they all seemed to know each other, I found an empty seat somewhere in the crowd and suddenly there was a bustling of excitement as the play was about to start and the children were walking in.  

Looking back through the photos, I remembered my daughter’s face, so wide-eyed with amazement as she took seconds to process the fact that I was there!  Mummy was there to watch her.  And then she waved excitedly as I blew kisses and waved like a crazy person back at her.  

The play began, and I sat back in my chair wondering at the might of God.  Even though I thought that this was an event that I was destined to miss – the Almighty had other plans.  Genuinely, it felt like a Christmas miracle.  My husband didn’t miss out either.  20 minutes into the performance, he arrived and saw the rest of the play too.  Both of us had tears of both pride and joy and relief in our eyes…

Although it pains me to look back on those times, I’m also extremely grateful that I was able to make life choices and decisions that helped me to redress the imbalances in my life.  I’ll be honest, a few years on and I had forgotten about that time.  But the photos and videos brought everything back to me, like a jolt of lightning.  

One of my mantras in life is to have no regrets.  Life is short and unpredictable, so at times, we have to make life choices that may seem bizarre to others – but are right for us.  I am grateful to God every day for being with me, and helping me to not live a life of regret.  And I will never forget the day that I was not supposed to watch my daughter’s play – but God had other plans.  And for that memory, I will be thankful and grateful forever.

The Santa Debate

I love Christmas time.  I love driving home in the dark, seeing people’s houses lit up with the most cheerful and intricate displays.  I love walking through shopping centres, with their shiny, glittery decorations, colour everywhere, lights everywhere and I marvel at designers who have such amazing ideas.  As I write this, I am beginning to realise that it is the cheerful, colourful lights that brighten up the dark winter nights that make me feel so joyful. 

And of course there’s the build-up.  The process of carefully choosing and buying gifts for loved ones, and hoping that when they unwrap their gift, it brings a smile of surprise and joy to their face.  All very lovely!

Christmas has always been a magical time for me.  I still marvel that approximately 2018 years on, we celebrate the birth of a tiny baby born in a stable.  This baby’s incredible kindness throughout life and sacrifice at the end is a beautiful story, and one that I love.  But for many people, Christmas isn’t really about this little boy, it’s about a completely different person altogether….known by many different names around the world, this person is of course Father Christmas.  

I was under no illusions when I was a little girl, that Santa Claus was not real.  That myth had been dispelled for me from a very tiny age.  I had been told he was not real and that was that.  It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of Christmas one little bit.  We still enjoyed the warmth, the happiness, the special food (all different types of delicious curries for me, not a roast dinner), the presents (which are no way as extravagant as they are today – we belonged in an era when we were delighted to receive a selection box of chocolates!).  It was still an incredibly magical time.   I remember my sister and I trying really hard to stay awake every year on Christmas Eve to see if we could hear Santa and his reindeer on their sleigh, racing through the inky black sky – even though we knew he wasn’t real, a tiny part of us wondered if he just might be! 

As a teacher first, then as a parent – I keep the magic of Santa Claus alive.  When the children hear others whisper ‘Santa’s not real!  It’s just your parents buying presents!’ I laugh it off.  ‘Of course Santa’s real!’ and move on.  I enjoy listening to the extreme lengths that parents will go to in order to make it seem real that Santa did come – the apps tracking Santa’s journey, the icing sugar footprints on the carpets and floor, the half eaten cookies and carrots that were left out for Santa and the reindeer, the dressing up as Santa and putting presents in rooms, the notes from Santa and Rudolph.  I even have an app on my phone where Santa can actually call up my children and talk to them on the phone!  All of this brought me immense delight until I read something that made me think twice…

Somebody has posted a satirical article about how annoying those children are, you know the ones, whose parents have told them that Santa Claus is not real, and they then proceed to tell everyone on the playground in superior voices what they have learnt.  (I was not that type of child when I was little, I will hasten to add!)  Often, the most interesting part of an article for me, is reading the comments section and as usual I was scrolling down to see what people had written.  Most people had written comments agreeing with the article – but one comment in particular made me start to re-evaluate and question my own thinking.  This person had posted how potentially harmful the lies were about telling your child that Santa Claus is alive and delivering presents, even though we know he isn’t alive anymore.  That children look to their parents as people who will tell them the truth about the world – and if we maintain this façade – and when they realise that Santa Claus isn’t real after all – won’t they start questioning what else they were told and wonder if all that isn’t real?

I’ll be honest – my mind was blown!  I’d never thought of it in that way before.  And I reflected on my own childhood – Christmas was no less special because I had been told that Father Christmas was not real.  I was fascinated with this character, and wanted to know the origins of his story – but I knew that ultimately Christmas was actually about Jesus, so the existence of this jolly man in a red suit didn’t really matter.  

I also pride myself on being the one that my children can come to, for the truth about life – if they have a question, or a concern, or a worry – they can come to me and I will tell them.  Having said that, my five year old discovered that one of her teachers was pregnant, and she asked ‘How did the baby get there?’ – I diverted her attention away  from that query faster than snow melting in the Sahara.  

I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  I suppose the lesson learned is – don’t read the comments sections of articles – it will only lead to you feeling bad about yourself.  But more than that, I’m going to have to have a real think now.  My feeling is that I do nothing drastic.  I will neither encourage nor discourage the belief in Santa Claus for now – but if my own daughters ask me the dreaded question,  ‘Is Santa Claus real?’  I’m going to have to share his ‘origin story’ and explain that he was real – but isn’t alive now. AND that they don’t need to share this information with everyone because lots of children still believe in him.  

Meanwhile, the little girl inside me still loves films like the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, and will always believe that there is a Santa Claus out there, spreading his seasonal magic in some way.  As Dorey Walker says in that film…’Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to!’

And whether you believe, or whether you don’t,  ‘Merry Christmas one and all!’ 

Stardust

Yesterday was a gloomy, dark afternoon but it didn’t matter to me.  My mum had invited her children around to hers to celebrate albeit belated, Diwali.  The house was full of noise of the grandchildren running, laughing, yelling at each other in excitement; the bustling in the kitchen created by my mother who had cooked a feast for us all – 3 different chicken dishes, (whole chicken curry, chicken jalfrezi and a tandoori chicken starter),  a separate chicken dish for the children, dall, aubergine curry, rice, puris, jelly for the children for dessert.  As soon as we pulled up to her house, my daughters screeched in delight as the aroma of Nani’s cooked drifted towards us.  ‘Yayyy!  Nani’s cooked chicken curry!’ The only time they were quiet was when they were eating, refuelling like racing cars, ready for the next bout.  

Whilst the children were eating in my mother’s cosy kitchen, my brother and I decided to escape to the front room and put on a film in the hope of achieving five minutes of peace.  The film we opted for was ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings’.  Enchanted by Cate Blanchett’s voice, my brother and I left the sofa and were gently transported into Middle Earth, reliving the epic tale of how the rings were given to the elves, dwarves and men to look after and protect their realms.  We watched how Isildur had the opportunity to destroy the one ring that ruled them all – but his greed for ultimate power overcame him and he refused to destroy the ring.  Instead, betraying all who had fought with him, he kept the ring for himself – but the ring’s power weighed heavy on him and would lead to his ultimate destruction. 

Every time I watch that particular scene:  Isildur is travelling back home, weary after the terrible war in which he managed to defeat the evil Lord Sauron.  His faced is etched with an immense feeling of tiredness – you can tell that he is completely spent.  He is an incredible warrior who should be jubilant that he has just saved the world – but he isn’t.  Why?  Because the ring of power – the ring that corrupts – the ring that doesn’t belong to him weighs heavy around his neck.  Every time I watch that scene – which is only a few moments long, I am so impressed with the actor’s acting, and the director, Peter Jackson’s sensitivity about how incredibly powerful and dangerous this tiny ring of gold is.  

I made my brother stop the film at that moment to talk about it, because even though those few seconds had a huge impact on me, I’d never had the opportunity to discuss that particular part with anyone before.  Unfortunately, for my brother, he was a captive audience – either listen to my musings, or help supervise the children as they eat – I knew which he would choose.  

We are Hindus and although from an outsider’s perspective, it looks as though all Hindus do is worship different forms of God and have many, many celebrations – it is actually more complex than that.  Hinduism is an ancient religion – the oldest in the world and yet it still survives to this day.  That’s because it’s not just a religion – it’s a way of life.  At its very core is the fact that we are a part of nature.  We are made of the same substance that every other matter in this universe is made from. 

The Hindu priests create astrological horoscopes that chart periods in your life, based purely on the date and time of your birth.  They study the alignment of the stars, the positions of the planets, and they can determine the period of your life when you will marry, when (if), you will have children, when you will be going through upheavals in your life, when you will have a steady, prosperous period in your life.  In the old days, the priests would have used paper charts to help them.  Nowadays, technology has moved on and they use computers.  If you are going through a tough period, they will tell you approximately how long this phase will last and why you’re going through it.  And invariably they give you the most incredible, sage advice.  You’re going through this period because you need to go through it.  There are lessons you need to learn.  Learn those lessons.  This time will pass and you will get through it.  Have patience – and learn.  The phases are determined by the positions of the planets in our solar system.  

Sometimes, the priests can offer more advice.  They can tell you that there are particular stones that you can wear to help you through some of the tough times.  Emeralds, yellow topaz, jade, sapphires, moonstones, pearls.  They tell you whether you should wear them with gold or silver.  They tell you which finger you should wear your stone upon, and they tell you to ensure that the stone actually touches your skin.  If it’s not touching your skin – it won’t do any good.  

It is believed that the stones generate an energy.  All stones generate their own energy – and this energy can either do you an immense amount of good – or – affect you in terrible ways.  

I love amber jewellery.  I love the fieriness of the stone.  I love how amber changes in the light.  It always looks as though a fire is glowing inside it. I have amber necklaces, rings and earrings.  But wearing amber has the most terrible affect on me.  Even if I wear amber for an hour or two, I can feel myself filling with rage.  I feel out of control.  Stressed.  Unable to manage my emotions.  This is not how I feel normally and I hate feeling this way.  So despite loving this particular stone, and admiring it from afar – I will never wear it.  I know that the energy that this stone emits, is not good for me.  

I have seen other people wear other stones and it has done them a world of good.  Helped them to achieve success in their careers; helped them to keep calm and regulate their emotions; helped them to improve their health.  Different stones have different properties.  Different purposes.  Different energies.  However, they will only bring positive outcomes into your life, if they are meant for you.  

Looking at Isildur, weary, drained, riding back home on his horse, and ultimately dying before he could make it back – it reminded me again of how powerful these metals and stones are and the effect they can have on us.  

I also started thinking about diamonds.  Diamonds, we are told, are a girl’s best friend.  You’re engaged to the love of your life – and you’re expected to purchase a diamond for her.  But diamonds also emit an energy.  They are no different to the rest of the stones on our planet.  So what if diamonds are the wrong stone for your fiancé?  There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to stones.  So why do we assume that every woman who is about to be married, should have a diamond?  Retailers have told us this is what we should do – but what if she would actually benefit from a sapphire?  Or an emerald?  Or a ruby?  Or a pearl?  

Interestingly, the priests that I have spoken also said, that if you wear a stone that does not suit you, you will know straight away.  It might make you ill, irrational, unhappy.  But also, if you have been wearing a stone for a very long time and have been happy – but one day you lose it – it means that you do not need it anymore.  If it’s lost, it’s lost for a reason – and if you find it again – you’ve found it for a reason. 

So my poor, unsuspecting brother, who had only been looking for a little bit of peace, was subjected to listening to my ramblings for a full ten minutes or so.  When I had finished, I fully expected him to give me an exasperated look, make a sarcastic comment and continue with watching the film.  Instead, he took my by surprise and said, that all makes sense because we are all made from stardust…

His reaction astounded me even further  because the bookmark that I had only purchased last week said exactly that – which is why I had picked it up in the first place.  ‘We are stardust, meant to shine.’

Whether you believe me or not – it doesn’t matter.  It’s something that I believe and all I’m doing is offering you a perspective to life and stones and jewellery that you may not have thought about before.  

I’d also like to finish with this thought – people who are about to propose to your loved one – ask them to marry you and take your loved one with you to choose their ring.  After all, diamonds may not be a girl’s best friend!

Darkest Times

It’s funny when you have two children, you give them the same upbringing, the same experiences, give them the same values – you expect them to be quite similar in likes, dislikes, personality etc.  It never fails to shock me how different both of my children are.  My eldest walks into a room and can make friends or at least talk to people straight away – a bit like her father.  My youngest – she has to hang back a bit, assess the situation, suss out who is there and then she may or may not interact with others.  I think she must get that from me.

My eldest, will naturally find people, make sure they are ok, look after those who need to be taken care of.  My youngest – is still finding her own way in this complex world of ours.  So this evening I was completely taken aback when she casually mentioned a name that I had not heard before.  My ears pricked up.  ‘Who’s this?’ I asked.  ‘Ohh, she’s a new girl.  She started today and she looked like she was going to cry because she had no friends.  So I played with her and made her laugh.  Now she’s not lonely anymore.  I’ll play with her tomorrow too because she’s a really nice person.’

My heart was almost bursting with happiness with the kindness she had shown, without being prompted, towards another person.  We talked about how being new to somewhere was so hard and not having any friends can be so tricky.  And she recounted how things were tricky for her when she first started school, but then she made friends with other people and is happy.  She wanted this new girl to feel happy too.  The way that she could remember, reason and articulate her feelings astounded me.  I realised that both of my little girls are growing up so quickly, both of them now, are happy to take care of others.

This blog is entitled ‘Darkest Times’ – and so far, I haven’t mentioned anything remotely related to the title –  but bear with me, I am going somewhere with this.

In Hindi there is a very famous saying, ‘Sukh ke sab saathi, dukh mein na koi‘.  This translates to, ‘In happiness, everyone is your companion, in sadness there is no one.’ And this is so true.  If you want to know who your real friends are – you have to go through the bad times.  You have to go through the tough times.  Only then will you realise who is truly there for you.  Who truly valued you.  You realise that the people that you were there for, and would still be there for at the drop of a hat – they just don’t want to know you.  They don’t want to hear your problems, they don’t want to meet you, they don’t want to get involved.  After all, they have ‘enough going on’ themselves – or worse still – you’re not someone they want to be associated with anymore.

It’s almost as though God intentionally gives you the tough times to cull the rubbish from out of your life.  You discover who and what is good for you – and you dispose of the toxic.  People you were really close to, behave like strangers – and you receive support from those you may never have dreamed of.  You go with it though – it may pain you to discover the true colours of some people – but you go with it.  Because that’s life.  You have to keep learning.  You have to keep rolling with the punches.  You will never stop being surprised.

And I suppose that’s why I wrote this blog tonight.  It hurts to feel let down.  It’s extremely painful to want and need support from others and realise that there is none there.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  If we teach our children that kindness isn’t buying people presents; kindness isn’t a simple case of celebrating people’s good news and making a song and dance about things going well.  No.  Kindness is intangible.  It’s letting people know that you think of them.  It’s noticing that something is wrong – and then proactively doing something about it.  It’s letting people know – you might think that you’re on your own – but you’re not and you don’t have to be.  I’m here.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some unkindness in life – but the kindness that I have received far outweighs that.  I’m lucky enough to have children of my own and also work with children for a living.  So I am constantly surrounded by immense kindness.  Children asking me if I’m ok, did I have a good lunch, a good break time, a good day?  They help me – sometimes without me even needing to say a word, and make sure that my life is that little bit easier.  And I tell them – the kindness that they show me, is more valuable than a huge box full of money.  I mean that.  I’m geuninely not being twee – I mean that.  Because if our future generations of children learn that kindness matters – our world can only grow to be a more beautiful place.

In the meantime – we adults need to take a leaf out of books of the little ones.  Be kind to those who need it.  Notice those who are struggling and be brave enough to do something about it.  Don’t cut those in need loose because it’s inconvenient and annoying for you.  Help others.  God knows, you may be in their situation one day and hope that people will be there for you.  So – take the time to notice and help people – especially during their darkest times.

Ambition

It’s interesting – the word ‘ambition’.  The definition in most dictionaries for this word is, ‘a strong desire to do or achieve something’.  The word conjures up an energetic go-getter.  Hardworking.  Determined.  Lets nothing get in their way.  Ruthless at times.  Focussed.  People to be admired!

Ambitious people don’t understand people who don’t put their careers first.  Ambitious people don’t understand when people have other priorities in their lives and therefore are not motivated by money or promotion.  Ambitious people find those people very difficult to understand – because they do not know what motivates them.

Family, you tell them.  Yes, but everyone has a family, I have a family – what makes yours so important?

And therein lies the difference in perspective.  A career driven person is deemed to be ambitious because they are chasing a desire to be financially successful and achieve status and respect because of their talent – what they do.

A family driven person is also ambitious.  They have an overwhelming desire to have a family life where they can look after their partner, be there for their children, be present and mindful and make their house a happy home.

Sadly – this is looked down upon as a lack of ambition.  But if we go back to the definition of what ambition actually is – then what is the difference?  Following one path will make you financially rich and secure – but it may come at a cost.  What cost?  Not being able to be there for the ones that you love because of the demands of your job.  Not noticing that anything may be wrong with the ones you love because of the demands of your job.  Having to neglect the ones that you love – because of the demands of your job.

Following the other path may mean that you are seen as lacking commitment by your employers because you put your family first.  You may miss out on opportunities for promotion or not even be considered for certain roles because you don’t give your ‘all’ to work.  This may mean that financially you are not as well off as you might have been, if only your thought processes or approach was different.

In each case – neither person is wrong.  It is not wrong to want to be successful in your job, to be talented in an area and want to strive to reach new heights and be good at what you do.  However, it is also not wrong to want to look after your family.  To have the time to tuck your children in bed so that they sleep peacefully.  It is not wrong to refuse to take on additional responsibilities at work, because you know that takes time away from how much you will be able to be there for the ones that you love.  The latter choice is not a lack of ambition – it is a different ambition though  – to have a successful family life.

If we could – we would marry the two up.  Be extremely successful in our careers and have plenty of time to spend with loved ones.  Some people to manage it – at least from afar, it appears that they do…

But the point of my blog today is, let’s not dismiss the homemakers – the people who make a choice to stay at home and look after their families; or the ones that decide that they only want to go ‘so far’ in their careers.  Let’s not think that they are lacking in ambition, are lazy, or just don’t have what it takes!   Let’s dig a bit deeper and realise that their ambition – to create happiness and stability in their family homes is one to be admired as well.  These people that are there to comfort their loved ones, who have the time to ensure that their family is healthy (mentally, as well as physically), and happy  – these people are just as important and necessary and are just as deserving of respect as those who are financially successful and receive promotion upon promotion.

It is important to remember – and this is where I will end really…a job is just a job.  If you love it – that’s brilliant.  I have a job that I am fortunate enough to love.  But it’s the people in my life that drive me.  Not money.  Not finance.  Nothing else.  It is the people around me who look after me when I am feeling sick, or tired, or need cheering up.  It is the people in my life who I share my happiness and successes with, who make me laugh and bring me joy.  Jobs will come.  Jobs will go.  Family and loved ones – we should do our best to keep them forever, and make as much time as we can to be with them.  Money, you can earn again.  Promotions, you can achieve those later.  But once a person that you love has gone, or once your child’s childhood has changed into adulthood – no matter how much you try to turn back the tides of time – you can never get those people, those moments or those missed opportunities back ever again.