Separation

When someone dear to you passes away, you never ‘get over’ it.  It’s a ridiculous concept – ‘getting over’, the loss of someone.  You can’t ‘get over’ it.  It’s not possible.  What you learn to do, is live with it.  You find that even though you may think about them everyday – remembering them becomes less painful.  Your eyes don’t sting with tears as often.  Your throat doesn’t constrict as frequently, with the pain of needing to swallow back the sobs of grief.  At the time of their loss, you don’t know how you will carry on, how you will survive in the world without them.  Everyday is a miracle though – because somehow you do.  Somehow you make it through and you manage to carry on.

When you least expect it though – you are taken by surprise, and the memories and the grief come shooting back with a vengeance – and there you are, back to where you were, the pain as fresh and raw as ever.  You realise, ‘I hadn’t got over anything.  I’d just learned to live with it.’

Let me put things into context.  31 years ago, my father passed away when he was just 33 years old.  No one in my family has ever been able to ‘deal with it’.  Don’t get me wrong – we all function perfectly well.  We love each other, take care of each other, are there for one another at the drop of a hat.  We lead professionally successful lives, we are happy, positive people.  BUT – each of us, still finds his loss unbearable and challenging to deal with, in our own ways.  At times, we can look through old photographs, share anecdotes – and it’s ok to that.  Other times – no one can even say his name.

This week, we were dealt a blow, that our Mashi’s husband had passed away on Friday.  Mashi, in Bengali, is your mother’s sister.  My thoughts immediately leapt to those left behind. They are the ones who need support – they are the ones who need someone to look after them and feel like they’re not alone.  My mother’s family are all in India, so I needed to be there for my mum, making sure that she was ok, because even though her family are thousands of miles away, grief is still grief, and I knew that more acutely than anyone else in the world, she would know what her sister was going through.

Throughout all this, my husband kept checking on me – ‘Are you ok?’ He kept asking.  My response was the same each time.  ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me, I’m fine.’  My thoughts were occupied with other people – not myself, and I genuinely believed that I was fine.  We were caught up in the routine of our jobs for the weekend, and what we needed to get done.  And I genuinely believed that I was fine.  Every so often, I was checking in on my mum through texts or calls, making sure that she was ok.  I was fine.

And then we sat down, after our dinner, after sending the girls to bed, to watch an Indian singing programme that we are huge fans of – and I was still fine.  Everything was fine.  Until one of the contestants, a beautiful, angelic, little girl started to sing a song…and I realised that I was absolutely not fine.  The pain and sensation of my heart breaking all over again, was something that I simply had not expected.  It was the innocence and purity with which she sang those words, that made my heart ache, the agony was unbearable.

As I have done in previous blogs, I’ll write the original lyrics and then translate:

Tumse Milke
Aisa Laga Tumse Milke
Armaan Huey Purhey Dil Ke
Aye Meri Jaan E Wafa
Teri Meri Mere
Teri Ik Jaan Hai
Saath Tere Rahenge Sadha
Tumse Na Honge Juda

Which translates to:

Meeting you, it felt as though all the wishes of my heart had been fulfilled.                            Oh love of my life.                                                                                                                         Yours, mine, mine, yours, it’s one life now.                                                                                        I will always stay with you.                                                                                                             We will never be separated from each other. 

As you can tell from the lyrics, this is a very simple and very beautiful extract from a love song.  The lyrics describe the simplicity of falling in love.  The innocence of falling in love.  There is nothing complicated about this.  You fall in love with someone and you realise that this is the person that makes you feel totally fulfilled.  Everything about them makes you stop looking for anyone else in the world.  This is the person for you.  And you promise that you will stay with them forever. And you will never leave them.

And I cried, and cried and cried.  I’d heard this song so many times in my life before, but never really paused to think about what the words meant.  The agony and the pain that the lyrics caused me yesterday, was the fact that no one can actually make that promise to anyone.  You can’t promise anyone that you will never be separated from them, because unfortunately, that is not in your hands.  There is a greater force out there – our own mortality, which we have no control over – so you can’t make promises to people that you’ll never be separated from them – because it’s not up to you.  Although this was a romantic love song – the promise that you will never leave someone that you love, applies to so many different relationships – not just romantic ones.  The bond between parents and children; siblings; friends – you all hope that you will never be parted from one another.

And that’s the ultimate pain of losing someone in your life.  If it was up to them – they wouldn’t leave.  If it was in your control – they wouldn’t have gone.  But ultimately, that’s what happens to us all.

So, what can we do whilst we are here?  We have to spread so much love and affection, that even when it’s our time to go, it will cause pain, but in the quiet moments, when people remember, and think about us again – they feel warm and comforted.

Ultimately, I suppose the lyrics, ‘We will never be separated from each other,’ means that even when we are not physically together anymore, our memories will always be there in someone’s heart – and that promise still remains fulfilled…

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Good enough!

I don’t think there is a profession in the world, where the ‘must do better’ culture does not exist.  Every person I speak to, regardless of position, profession, part time, full time – the factor that is in common between us all is – striving to be better all the time.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask?  Absolutely nothing at all.  Nothing! How does anything ever improve if people are always doing what they have always done, in the same way, never questioning, never analysing, never reflecting on how things are.   And it’s certainly the culture that I was brought up with, both at home and in the workplace – have goals, strive to do better, achieve more, smash targets etc.

The one area – that I feel, the ‘must do better’ culture isn’t helpful – is parenting.  In fact, I was fortunate to sit in on some training at school, about ‘Attachment Theory’, and the impact this has on children in the very first few months of their lives.  How babies are treated by their parents, at the very beginnings of their tiny lives, goes onto shape their behaviour and how they form relationships with others as they grow bigger.  It comes as no surprise, that the children who display a lot of ‘unlovable’ behaviour, need the most love, and the psychologist who was training us, explained that if you remember nothing else – ‘connection first, then correction’.  Which meant create a connection, a relationship with those children who present challenging behaviour first – then correct their behaviour.  For those of us who have been teaching for a long time, or have worked predominantly with children who can present quite challenging behaviour, this came as no surprise, although it was nice to have that soundbite to take away; ‘connection, then correction.’

What was particularly refreshing, and actually blew my mind a little, was when we were learning about attachment theory, and the significance of the first few months of a baby’s life, the psychologist called effective parenting, ‘good enough parenting’.  I was stunned when I heard it.  I repeated those words again and again in my mind.  Good enough parenting.  Good enough parenting.  Not good parenting.  Not great parenting.  Good enough.

This meant that as a parent, you were doing what you could to respond to the baby’s needs – be that milk or nappy change or sleep or comfort – you were trying to solve the problem.  You might not get it right every time, but at least you were trying.  You are being good enough.  You’re trying your best.  You are good enough.

In many professions – it’s not ok to be ‘good enough’.  You have to be the best!  That’s all I’ve heard since I was tiny – aim high, reach for the stars, be the best.  But the hardest job of all – parenting – it was so incredibly refreshing and calming to hear – if you’re doing your best to meet your child’s needs, even if you don’t get it right each time – you are good enough.  And you know what?  I’ll flipping well take that!  I’m happy to be good enough as a parent.

One of the things that causes me the most amount of concern, is am I giving my own children enough opportunities to do things out of school?  Do they go to enough clubs?  Are they getting enough exercise?  Are they learning enough instruments?  Do I need to teach them some languages?  Should they be going on more playdates?

After that training – I’m now thinking to myself – are they fed?  Do they have clothes to wear?  Are they getting to bed on time?  Are they reading and doing their school homework?  But most importantly – are they loved?  Are they loved? Are they loved?  I can categorically say, yes to all of those questions.

And I am happy to say, that I pronounce myself bloody well good enough!  All the other stuff – it doesn’t even matter.  If I want my children to remember two things about their children, it’s that they felt happy and extremely loved.

What more could anyone ask for?

I’m fine!

Recently, there’s been a wedding in the family and it truly was a joyous occasion. I love weddings.  I love the optimism they bring.  The happiness in everyone’s eyes.  The good wishes that everyone automatically feels.   Two people – out of all the billions of humans on planet Earth – find each other – and decide that they don’t want to be with anyone else in the world – they have found the person that has inspired them to feel, ‘I don’t want to be with anyone else – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’

For lots of women and some men, the most exciting part of the wedding is the glitz and the glamour, ‘What’s the bride going to wear?’ ‘What’s the venue like?’  ‘What are the wedding favours going to be?’ ‘Is the food any good?’

I’m not bothered by any of that.

My favourite part of every single wedding, that I’ve ever attended – are the speeches.  I remember the day that I got married, my brother’s best friend’s father came up to me and said, ‘Normally, I don’t enjoy weddings, but I loved the speeches that I’ve just heard.  They really helped me to get to know you better.’

I suppose it was after hearing that, I paid attention to speeches more at other people’s weddings.

One of the recurring themes that men often talk about, is how marriage is hard!  Oh cautionary tales of experienced men, talking about their wives, and explaining to the groom that they’ve got all this to look forward to!  Marriage isn’t easy.  Several times now I’ve heard men advise the poor, unsuspecting groom, that if a woman says she’s fine – she really isn’t and all hell is about to break loose.  This gets the same response each time, the knowing laughs from both sexes – everyone knowing that this is absolutely true.

Those of you who know me, know what I’m like – sometimes I hear things – and I start thinking.  I don’t find that advice funny anymore.  I actually don’t think it’s fair on men.  I used to do that a lot, at the beginning of my own marriage.  I’d be seething about something – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s the matter?’ and I would freeze him out, with a steely response of, ‘Nothing! I’m fine!’  And he wouldn’t know what had actually happened, why I was boiling up like an angry volcano…..but most importantly – he didn’t know how to fix things for me.  He didn’t know how to make the situation better.

Now, I’m making my husband sound like a saint, aren’t I?  I was the angry, ice-maiden wife, and he was the poor, innocent husband, just trying to make me feel better.  Well, neither of those caricatures are accurate.  If I was angry or hurt – there was a reason for it.  What would happen was, both he and I would have to wait until I could talk about things, and then the fallout would happen.  By this point, both of us were angry, both of us felt hurt, both of us felt like the other person didn’t understand us – and it would be really sad and unpleasant.

The thing to bear in mind though – is something that I referred to earlier, when you choose to marry someone, you have decided that you want to be with this person for the rest of your life – and the next – and the next – and the next….

So, even when we were furious with each other – that didn’t mean that we didn’t want things to work out.  We did.  These were teething issues.  Neither of us had ever lived with anyone before.  It’s actually a really big deal!  To go from having your own space, doing things in your own time, only having to think about yourself – to having to think about the other person and having to create a new routine, a new rhythm to which you both need to dance to.  Compromises have to be made.  Both of you – not just one.  Sometimes you don’t want to have to make those compromises – and then what happens?  Resentment builds.  Resentment turns to anger.  Anger makes you vicious.  Then?

We always remembered that we never ever wanted to be with anyone else.  We always remembered that we loved each other more than words could ever explain.  We always remembered that despite everything – we’d never met anyone else that made us feel as happy.

One day, I felt a bubble of anxiety about something brewing up in my chest.  I recognised it instantly.  I knew what was going to happen.  This bubble inside me, was going to grow larger and larger.  It was going to transform from a bubble and change into a rock.  This rock was going to grow heavy on my heart, and the more I thought about it, I would be feeding and it would grow and grow – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I would say, ‘Nothing!’ and the rock would become a boulder and increase in size until I couldn’t breathe or function anymore – and I would explode…

I recognised it.  And I did something revolutionary.

Before that bubble could grow and try to engulf me, I spoke to my husband about what was bothering me.  I was calm.  I was able to explain rationally what was wrong, how I was feeling and could he help?

I think that was the day that I became a true adult.  In fact, both of us did.

It was incredible to be able to talk about something that was bothering me, without that build up of resentment or anxiety or anger.  I just needed to talk through it when it was small.  Not allowing it to consume me.  And not having to pretend that nothing was wrong.  And my husband?  Well, he was able to help me feel better, or fix whatever was worrying me at the time…and you know what is so brilliant?  I don’t even remember what I was upset about!  I don’t even remember – because it wasn’t allowed to grow.

I was blessed.  My husband had asked me to do that so many times before.  He had asked me to speak to him as soon as I was feeling, whatever I was feeling, and then he could make things better.  I was fortunate that he meant what he said and kept his side of the bargain.

He was also blessed.  I stopped being that wife from everybody’s speeches.   I spoke to him when problems were small.  That way, nothing had to escalate, nothing had to become a drama, and now, whenever he asks me, ‘What’s the matter?’  I absolutely take the time to tell him.  Without anger directed at anyone.  So we have a peaceful life.

My message to brides – and women of all ages – you are allowed to not be fine!  When your husband or boyfriend or partner asks you, ‘What’s wrong?’ Do the guy a favour and tell him.  Tell him!  Learn to recognise triggers in your own body, when something is bothering you, how do you feel?  Speak to him before it grows bigger.  Speak to him without anger…And if he doesn’t listen, or tells you you’re irrational, or tells you that you’re just imagining things! Or responds to you with rolling eyes and sighs of, ‘Here we go again?’  You have to start thinking – is this person good for you?  Is he really the one for you?

And men – be patient with the one you love.  Women are trained to tell you that everything is fine, when you know and they know that nothing is ‘fine’.  Explain that you can take honesty – and you will listen and help when you can – and expect the same standard of behaviour in return!

Hopefully, if men and women work together – then we won’t need words of cautionary advice during wedding speeches, warning men of the complicated, double speaking beings that women are.  Instead – people can advise each other that marriage and relationships are not easy – but life is a lot easier if you tackle all your problems through talking about things when they are small.

And everyone?  Start teaching your children that they don’t need to bottle their feelings up.  They don’t need to ‘Keep calm and carry on!’ It is ok to be sad or angry or anxious or worried – let those emotions out of your body by talking about them and getting help.  It’s perfectly fine, to not be fine!

The dirty word

‘Immigrant’ is a dirty word at the moment.  Mind you, it’s not a new thing.  When I was growing up, I’d often hear, ‘those bloody immigrants, coming over, taking everyone’s jobs’ etc.

But then, during the nineties and noughties, there was a time of peace.  Respite.  People learnt that that wasn’t the case.  It wasn’t kind to shout at people of colour to ‘Go back to where you came from!’.  It wasn’t fair to blame the financial state of the country on immigrants.  In fact, people began to realise that many people who were immigrants, added so much to the economy, were aspirational, hard working.  So, being kind to people, being considerate of others, ensuring that people – regardless of colour, gender, age, ability – this became ‘a thing’ labelled as ‘political correctness’.

You’ve got to see the funny side of things, haven’t you?  Whilst I was growing up in the 80’s – the colour of my skin was a major target.  Fair game, you might even say?  Sexist jokes about women was also – fair game.  This is the 80’s I’m talking about, things were different then.

I’ll never forget an incident, when I was younger than 10, I was walking to town with my mum and sister.  We used to have to walk along a street called Far Gosford Street.  In 2018, this street is quite trendy and studenty.  It’s been gentrified and urbanised.  There is now a cool, hip section called ‘Fargo Village’.  But then, it was just a long, never ending road, that we used to have to trudge along to get to town.  I remember there was a huge Lloyds Bank on the corner, where Mum would pop in to pay her bills, there was an interesting music shop, which displayed keyboards and an array of acoustic and electric guitars in the window.  There was a regular newsagents that for some reason, we never went into.  And a large shoe shop.  Sadly, I forget its name.  But this is where the incident took place.  The shoe shop no longer exists now, but when I was little, it seemed incredibly huge to me.  It must have been built by two shops being knocked together to make one.  There were rows and rows of shoes in the inside – all black, I seem to remember.  None of the colourful, beautiful designs that we have now.  And in the entrance were wired bins, full of discounted shoes that presumably nobody wanted.

On the day of the incident, Mum, my sister and I, were waiting at the bus stop opposite Lloyds Bank, wearily waiting for the bus to arrive to take us into town.  The shoe shop was on the same side as us, but we would have needed to cross a narrow road in order to get to it.  Whilst waiting for the bus, I was scanning my surroundings, people watching, wondering if anything interesting might be happening…and I noticed an extremely tall man, with long shoulder length brown hair, walking very speedily and jauntily in our direction, the opposite direction that we were intending to head.  My eyes fixed on him because I’d never ever seen anyone walk with such a spring in their step before, this man seemed to be holding the secrets to all the joys in the world as he strode merrily along Far Gosford Street, with his hands swinging by his side and a broad grin on his face.  I looked the other way in order to see if our bus, the number 13 was on it’s way, when all of a sudden, I heard an almighty smack, a scream of anguish and alarm, and a huge bellow of laughter – the whole cacophony of sounds seemed to echo along the street, which up until this point had been quite relaxed and sleepy.

Startled, I looked at the shoe shop where the noises had just emerged from.  A slim teenager, with porcelain white skin and long curly red hair, had been bent over the bins at the shoe shop, organising the contents of the baskets, when the joyful man, who had seen her backside bent over, decided to that he had the right to smack her as he strode past her.  He didn’t even flinch, he didn’t even miss a step, he simply smacked her backside, really hard, and carried on laughing with mirth, as she screamed in distress, and began to cry instantly.  Another lady who worked at the store leapt outside, the young red-head just crumpled into her arms and wept.  Even though I was so young, innocent and small at the time, I was hugely aware that she had been violated, and I was so confused.  Why did that joyful man do that?

The man walked on, remorselessly.  The girl was sobbing, devastated.  Mum, my sister and I were sat, like statues, at the bus stop, frozen.  What on Earth had just happened?  I looked at my mum in confusion.  She was staring after the perpetrator, eyebrows furrowed together in disgust, shaking her head.  She saw me looking at her questioningly and simply said, ‘You just have to be careful!  There are so many baje maanush (bad men) around.  You have to be careful.’

This was the 80’s.  Where casual racism, sexism and verbal, physical and sexual assault was rife – just a bit of fun.  During the 90’s though, I noticed a palpable shift in attitude.  Suddenly, it was not alright to call people names.  It was not alright to touch women inappropriately.  Political correctness kicked in.  I don’t know how many people must have fought and got hurt to make others realise that you had to behave like decent human beings and treat each other with respect.  And I began to feel safe.  And free.  For the first time in my life, I was able to walk down any street feeling like the world belonged to me.  This feeling of safety and being carefree carried on, well into the noughties too.

And then it happened – the recession – the double dip in 2008.  And things started to change.  Let’s not forget that the recession was caused by bankers.  That always seems to be forgotten, or not deemed to be important anymore.  Austerity kicked in.  People were losing jobs.  People lost their houses.  The living wage became a joke.  Prices of everything began to rise.  People – ordinary people were struggling…and the blame…not bankers.  Immigrants.  Those bloody immigrants.  People who advocated political correctness – or just common decency, were now liberal lefties or ‘snowflakes’, who got offended by everything.

Just when things seemed to be have been getting better – it all fucked up.

Hate  – that’s what drives the agenda now.  Hate.  And things feel like they are going back to the 80’s.

Immigrants and immigration – words that conjure up grasping, layabouts – who simply take and take – give nothing back.

I will say this – my parents were immigrants.  My father arrived in the 1960’s and my mum in the 1970’s.  I can’t even imagine what they went through, when they first arrived – my dad is not around to ask, and I don’t want to bother my Mum with questions like this.  But I do know that they were a generation of silent fighters.  Keep your head down and work hard.  I’ll never forget how many times both my Mum and Dad would tell me to value my education, how I was blessed to receive free schooling and that I should work really hard and get to university to make something of my life.  And I did.  I worked so hard.  And when I was old enough, took on whatever part time jobs that I could, so that I could help to pay my way, whilst I studied.  It’s probably why I became a teacher, because I know that education makes such a difference to people’s lives.  I’m living proof of it.

It’s too easy to give in to the ‘hate’ agenda.  That poisonous agenda that makes scapegoats of groups of people, whilst the real perpetrators – the bankers, the rich, the politicians who supply arms to others – get away scot-free.

We can’t give in to hate.  We must rally against the age-old ‘divide and rule’ agenda, that serves the people in power so well.  We, as a society have to be smarter than this.

I will say last week – on two separate occasions, I was in two different supermarkets recently, with my Mum, and both times, complete strangers, came to help me and my Mum when we needed it.  One helped us to get something that we were too short to reach.  Another person gave a yelp when he realised that my Mum was about to leave her handbag in the shopping trolley that she was putting away.

This is the Britain that I know.  This is the Britain that I love.  The one that supports people, regardless of colour, age, sex, ability.

We cannot, cannot, must not lose our way.

Saints and sages…

Being bilingual, and almost trilingual (I can understand and read Hindi – but far too embarrassed to speak it), the advantage is, that a whole new world of literature, poetry and perspective of the world opens up to you.

There are some things that sound incredibly profound in one language, but sadly when it’s translated, it loses its impact.  Sometimes you hear some lines of poetry, or a saying, or a line from a song, and at the time it means nothing to you – then you hear it again, and you feel as though your mind has been blown, almost as though you are hearing things for the very first time.

That happened to me yesterday evening.  A piece of poetry that I had heard many times before, I suddenly encountered again, and my heart felt like it was going to burst, my eyes filled with tears and my throat felt like it was going to explode with pressure of having to choke down the sobs that wanted to escape from me, but I just wouldn’t allow.

I’ll share the original lines, and then the translation:

Har sant kahe, sadhu kahe; sach aur sahas hai jiske mann mein, anth mein jeet uski rahe….

All the saints and sages always say; those with true and courageous hearts and minds, in the end, they will always win…

I don’t know why those words had such a profound effect on me when I heard them again.  The words were being sung with such immense passion and pain…I couldn’t help but feel moved.

So many times in life, you feel misunderstood, you feel that you know what is right, you know how things should be – yet no one listens.  No one tries to see your point of view.  Everyone is so busy looking at things from their own perspective, like Atticus Finch describes in ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’,  “you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them”.  People don’t have time for that, do they?  More importantly, many people don’t have the inclination to do that.  So many people are caught up with how life is so tough for them, how they do everything for everyone and no one does anything for them, how they are hard done by.  You are expected to understand everyone else’s pain, suffering and troubles – people assume that you have none of your own.  You do what you can to make the other person feel better, you listen, offer support, try to make them see reason – but sometimes it’s just not enough.

So what happens?  In life, you have choices – either let yourself be brought down by the negativity that surrounds you, OR, think about the lines of poetry that I shared earlier, which simply say this; live your life truthfully, be honest and courageous – and you shall prevail in the end.

You cannot make everyone happy.  I’ve said this before in other posts and I am not ashamed about saying this again – no one is bothered about whether you are happy or not.  People only care if they are happy.  This is the truth.  So, if this is the way things are – then what should we do?  Sacrifice, or compromise your values, beliefs or happiness for the sake of others?  You’ll be a fool if you do.  Why?  Because it will never be appreciated. No.  What you do is be fearless.  Be courageous.  Be truthful.  Be honest to yourself.  Avoid people who manipulate, emotionally blackmail or threaten others.

This doesn’t mean ‘never do anything for anyone else’; or ‘disregard those close to you and only ever do what makes you happy.’  That’s actually a pretty terrible way to behave towards others, and quite an unfulfilling way to live.

What I do mean, is live a good life, live a happy life, help others if you can, do good unto others if you can – but there are times when you can’t do that.  And when you can’t give anymore; when you can’t do anymore – you can’t let yourself, or others make you feel bad about that.

People are complicated, relationships are even more complex – I know that.

Ultimately, all you can do is live your life truthfully, with honesty and courage – and know that that will be the best choice for you, in the end.

Despair

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt such rage, so much anger that every cell, every fibre, every tiny, miniscule part of your body feels as though it is on fire?  I don’t often feel like that.  I try not to get genuinely angry about many things.  Whilst I was teaching my class stories from Buddha once, I came across a story where Buddha was explaining to someone that holding onto anger was just like holding onto a burning piece of coal, nothing happens to anyone else, you are the one who is affected by the pain.  So, I try not to get angry, and if I do, it’s more akin to a fizzy bottle of lemonade that’s been shaken, I rant, then the anger subsides almost immediately.

Today’s anger will stay with me though.  Right now, I am not boiling over as I was earlier.  I’m not stomping around the house with horrific thoughts of revenge and vengeance.  This anger though – it’s mainly a feeling of ‘impotence’ – incredible helplessness.

I was reading an article in ‘The Guardian’, about a case in Afghanistan.  A case about a 35 year old man, who had strangled his wife to death.  Let me share with you, the bare bones of this case.

The ‘wife’ was a 9 year old girl.

Her father sold her to settle a debt of approximately £10,000 that he owed to the 35 year old man.

She was sold 2 years ago,  when she was 7 years old.

When I read this, I wanted to vomit.

How the hell is this world still operating?  Why are girls lives worth so little?  Although, marriage of girls under the age of 16 is illegal in Afghanistan, underage marriage is still commonplace and rife.

Everyday.  Every single day, I read something on Twitter, or one of the newspaper apps, that horrifies me.  I’m not desensitised to these crimes.  Children being torn from their parents arms – many, never to be reunited again.  The abuse that takes place at these detention centres.  Aid workers travelling to areas of the world in desperate need – to pay for sex with vulnerable people.  Not a single day goes past that I don’t despair at how humans behave towards each other.

One simple solution is this – I stop reading the news/newspaper apps.  I stop watching the news; interestingly, my youngest who is only 5, was watching the news with me last week and asked, ‘Mummy, is the news always about bad things?’

Honestly, it took me a while to think of a suitable reply.  I’m so used to the news only ever being about bad things, apart from a jokey, light-hearted section at the end.  Seeing the news through her fresh eyes – I understood what she meant.

Even though I’ve never watched it, I understand people’s obsession with TV shows such as ‘Love Island’.  There is so much dreariness, sadness, bloody bad news in the world, why wouldn’t people want to escape for an hour every night and watch the trials and tribulations of some singletons who have offered themselves up for the entertainment of others.

I get that.  I understand that.  That need to escape.

The problem is – so many millions of people around the world never get to escape.  They are trapped.  They are cornered.  They are imprisoned.  They have no choices.

So, what can we do?  What can anyone do?  Every single place you look, every nation has their own set of problems to deal with.  My question is also, how messed up is the circumstances you live in, for you to rack up debts of £10,000, and sell your tiny daughter, like a piece of livestock, to a murderous, raping paedophile?

The spiritualists out there would tell you not to judge, don’t get angry – you’ll only hurt yourself – but what can be done?

My anger is directed at the people in charge of the world.  Yes I’ll say it – mainly men.  It is predominantly men, who are in charge of many areas of the world, who have no value for life – money and power is all that they care about.  Money, to do what?  Power, to do what?  Corrupt.  Desecrate.  Murder.  Destroy.  Because the way I see it, no good is happening for many millions of ordinary people in the world.

Is this anger, is this rage futile?  Probably.  Hence the feeling of helplessness.  What can I do?  Blog?  A handful of people might read it, many millions won’t.  And so what?

All I can think is that eventually something has to change.  Things have got to get better.  As lame as that sounds.  Surely?  Surely these types of atrocities against children have to stop? People have to do better?

I don’t know….

Time to live

It is the first day of my summer holidays, and I’m delighted.  I had a lie-in. Woke up feeling relaxed.  It was finally here.  The day that I’d been waiting for, for weeks on end.  The hallowed first day of the summer holidays.

My husband has known me for over 10 years now, and he knows things about me, that I forget about myself.  How I need to drink water after a shower because I get dehydrated; when I’m feeling tense or drained, I need to get to the gym because the weights and the cardio make me feel a thousand times better……and he also knows how difficult I find the last day of the school year – even though my body may have been crying out for it for weeks…

I have just finished working with the most amazing group of children, (every year I feel like this about my class), and this year it’s such a wrench saying goodbye to them all over again.  The amount of love I’ve received from these children has been phenomenal, and I’ve absolutely adored them.  Everyday this week, I’ve come home, my arms laden with gifts and cards – some handmade, some bought – all equally precious, thanking me for what I have done for them. And I’ve been immensely grateful, some of the unexpected messages have touched my heart, and I’ve found it difficult to switch off.

Thinking about a group of children everyday, thinking about what they need – teaching isn’t just teaching – you’re counselling; you’re nursing; you’re caring about their aches, pains, cuts, dry skin, fall-outs with friends; home-life issues; sharing stories; knowing when to be sympathetic; knowing when to be humorous; knowing when they’re hungry or tired or grumpy or just too plain-old-hot.

So, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed everyday.  Giving myself pep-talks – come on, you can do this!  Three more get-ups; two more get-ups; one more get-up; final day.  And then I come home.  Drained.  Physically and emotionally.  And I realise that I won’t have to care for that set of children everyday anymore.  And it hits me – like a lead balloon – every year, without fail – and like a fool, I never see it coming.  I’ve been so preoccupied with my own tiredness and needing to get to the finishing line – I forget how sad I get when I come home, knowing that ‘that’s that’, for another year.

But it’s not just incredible, loving children that I’ve met this year.  I’ve encountered some phenomenal adults too.  Once in a while, you meet people who are absolute beacons of strength and positivity.  People who have suffered loss or illness in their lives, have had to make life changes, and haven’t let life beat them, get the better of them – instead they walk around, head held high, as an inspiration to others.

One person I met recently, was really successful in her job, running half marathons, working hard, playing hard, never resting – then her world came crashing down as she developed ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’.  From being a hyper, energetic, high performing individual – she described the pain she felt when she couldn’t even put one foot in front of another to walk.  In order to recuperate, she had to make substantial life choices – give up the job that she was doing, concentrate on healing her body and getting back to a position where she could function again.  She’s in a much better place now, but as it’s a condition that will never go away, she has to be careful not to overdo things, to know her limits, slow down before things spiral downwards for her.  Whenever she sees me though, she’s always greeting me with a massive hug and a kiss, making sure that I’m ok, telling me not to work too hard – and I feel humbled.

And then I met another incredible, phenomenal woman.  I only spoke with her for 7 minutes.  But I don’t think that i will ever forget her.

My friend introduced me to her, and explained that she wasn’t well.  I felt confused.  In front of me sat a petite woman, I guessed in her 40’s, with glowing mocha coloured skin, shiny black hair cut into a bob, sitting quietly and still – just an immense sense of stillness about her.  She opened her mouth and in a very matter of fact way explained that she was living with cancer.  Bewildered, I didn’t know what to say, but the fact that she was so open, made me feel that she wouldn’t mind if I asked her questions.  I was right, she didn’t mind.  She explained that she had breast cancer, but the doctors were not able to operate because the cancer had spread to her spine and ribs.  The doctors were incredible with their treatments, and she had carried out a lot of research to support their treatments with a massive lifestyle change and using alternative remedies too.  She explained how cancer thrived and was most comfortable in bodies with a lot of acid.  The acid was in processed foods and food that contained a lot of pesticides and growth hormones.  She was having a mainly vegan diet and only bought organic food to reduce the amount of acid in her body and make the conditions in her body, more alkaline based.

I asked if stress caused more acid in the body, she replied most definitely.  It’s so important to eat well and avoid stress as that helps your body so much.

If it was up to me, I would have carried on talking to her for as long as I could. But I had to leave.  But she and her words stayed with me.

Both women made me think that we – everyone – we have to slow down.  We must slow down.  We are a world of people pursuing money; having the nicest houses; having the nicest cars; having the best holidays; leading the high life – but does any of that matter if you don’t have your health?  Mental health?  Physical health?

I, for one, am going to slow down.  Love life.  Love people.  Not stress.  Not worry.  Eat well.  Be happy.

Life is too short, and on the flip of a coin, circumstances can change within a heartbeat.  So I will avoid those who enjoy drama, those who enjoy competition, those who revel in the misery of others, those who are there to make life harder for others.  And I pray that I meet more people, who inspire me, who remind me of what life is really about – people who make the world a much better place.