What we can learn from the Serengeti…

I was watching ‘Serengeti’ on BBC 1 the other evening. A wildlife programme about how the animals in the wild interact with each other. A lot of people hated it because it was edited to be more like a film than a wildlife documentary. I let the outraged keyboard warriors on Twitter, whose part time occupation is to be permanently angry, think what they like. I enjoyed it.

There were several parts that stuck with me. There was a lioness, Kali, who had given birth to cubs and was kicked out of her pride because the cubs had not been fathered by one of the males in her pride. As a single mother, she has to now protect her cubs and feed them, facing dangers all on her own. Another narrative was about a pack of hyenas who were led by a strong and intelligent matriarch – who sacrificed her life so that her daughter could survive. She then became the new, reluctant leader of the pack – cowering under the responsibility of this new role.

People’s criticism of the programme was that the ‘stories’ weren’t real. That it was the equivalent of a Disney programme because of the anthropomorphic nature of storytelling. I saw what people meant – but I took a different message away. I looked past the contrived nature of the programme. I looked past the anthropomorphism. What I saw was two mothers, fighting against all odds to protect their children. That much was true. That the instinct to protect the children that you have given birth to, is the most powerful instinct of all – regardless of whether you are a human or an animal.

You see, watching that programme I was thinking about the choices. Some people go through life thinking that they have no choice but to stay in the situation that they are in. Often they are bullied into believing that they are worthless, disgusting, disappointing – that their only option in life is to remain in a situation that is damaging to them.

Choices are more difficult to make when you have responsibilities on your shoulders. Children. Mortgage. Mouths to feed. Bills to pay. Not much money to play with. The fact that people in these circumstances stay and rise up to face their responsibilities full on, without backing down, without backing away – they feel that they have no choice. But the truth is – they do. They can walk away. They can lead their own life and do whatever they want to do. But the choice of doing that – and the consequences of what would happen, are unthinkable.

When I was watching ‘Serengeti’, two of the male adult lions were about to tear the tiny lion cubs apart. They had been fathered by another lion. They didn’t belong in the pride. A code had been broken. The mother, Kali, had a choice. Watch her children die, whilst she remained in the safety of the pride – or fight. As soon as she saw that her cubs were threatened by the menacing lions, she reacted with such ferocity – willing to fight both of the lions, willing to lay her life down for her cubs. It was a choice – but an instinctive one. One that she had no choice over. One that that she made before she could even think. By making that choice, she was exiled. Leaving the security of the pride, she had to leave with her cubs and survive – somehow.

We make choices in all aspects of our lives. The choice to remain in employment in places where we might be treated badly, unappreciated and undervalued. We sell ourselves the narrative that ‘it’s like that everywhere’. It’s not. You’re making a choice to stay in a situation that is destroying you. It’s not like that everywhere. You might tell yourself – it’s not that easy at my age to move on. Nobody else will want me. I’ll just see out my days here…. Well how do you know that? How do you know that nobody else will want your experience? How do you know that your personality isn’t exactly what somebody else needs? You’ve been sold a tale – and you’ve believed it. How do you know that’s true? Why do you accept that?

What inspired me whilst watching ‘Serengeti’, was the fact that within us all, there is a fight, there is a will to survive. There is a will to protect ourselves and those that we love.

Within the story of the hyenas, the matriarch sacrificed herself for her daughter. The daughter, Zalika, then had to step up to becoming the new leader – and to do this, she had to gain the respect of the pack by fighting against other predators and crucially, bringing back food for the pack. There was an opportunity for her to find food for her pack. However, she lost her confidence and let the opportunity pass by. As she was about to give up, she looked back at her pack, saw their eyes on her – understanding the responsibility that was on her shoulders, she went back and fought again to snatch the food away and was victorious.

Each of us, is the hero of our own story. We aren’t so different from animals in our need to survive. In our need to protect the ones we love. As you are the hero of your own story, behave accordingly. Don’t tolerate people putting you down, or treating you as though you are a lesser being. Don’t put up with being someone else’s second choice – and treating you that way. Move on. We lose confidence in ourselves – I know that better than anybody else. But that is a feeling that you have to fight against. We can never let ourselves believe that we don’t deserve to be treated well.

Finally, the most incredible thing that I saw was what happened when Zalika, the hyena, wanted to give up. She looked back and saw who was watching her. And that alone drove her forwards to fighting on. Think about who drives you. Who do you see when you look back and makes you realise that you can’t give up? Look at yourself through their eyes. How would they want you to be treated? Are you being treated that way? If so, wonderful.

If not, what are you going to do about it?

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Saying thanks

I’ve never worked in retail before. I’ve not experienced working in a shop, dealing with the general public, working the tills, seeing different faces all the time. My job is very different, you work with a group of children, day in, day out. You help them to the best of your ability, you build relationships with them and their parents, at the end of the year, you receive lovely cards with extremely kind messages from both the children and the parents, sometimes gifts and you feel overwhelmed by the love that you were lucky enough to receive. People thanking you for doing your job.

Retail isn’t like that. Retail is a very different type of beast. And that’s only something that I learnt once I met my husband. My husband travels around the country, delivering training and providing further professional development to people in optics. He loves his job. He loves the travelling, going to new places, meeting new people, seeing people benefit from the help that he gives. But for years, he worked in a testing room – day in, day out, meeting patients, giving them the best service that he possibly could.

He talks about his work a lot to me and I like hearing about a world that I’ve never experienced before. One of the training sessions that he delivers to people is about communication with patients. In these sessions he talks about how it doesn’t matter what time of day it, whether it’s first thing in the morning, you’re feeling tired (you’re not a morning person, or you’re feeling under the weather, or you’ve had an argument with someone at home); or 15 minutes before closing time (you can’t wait to get home, you’ve got things to do, you’ve had a really hard day) and a customer has walked through the door to have a quick browse. It could be that you’ve had 3 customers complain on the trot, you’re short staffed and you’ve had the day from hell – the next patient/customer who walks through the door needs to be treated with the same courtesy, energy and enthusiasm as the first patient of the day. They deserve to be treated in such a way that makes them feel valued and makes them want to come back. Basically treat others in the way that you wish to be treated. It’s not hard is it?

It really resonated with me because I work with children. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling inside – whether I’m angry or tired; whether I’m feeling heartbroken or ecstatic – I always try to treat them with care and consideration. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling inside – they deserve to be treated fairly.

When he used to work in the testing room, I remember the number of times when patients had been so delighted with how he had helped them, my husband would receive letters and cards of thanks, emails sent to the customer care teams mentioning his care and professionalism. Boxes of chocolates, gifts for our daughters. People just feeling really grateful for the help that he had given them and wanting to show their gratitude somehow.

It always stayed with me, how happy he felt, just being recognised by someone for just doing his job the way it was meant to be done.

Obviously, before I met my husband, when I was out and about I would always recognise good service when I saw it. The people who go above and beyond to help you, and do it with a smile. It occurred to me that we are so quick to complain when things aren’t right, when we aren’t happy with the service that we have received. Why aren’t we equally as quick to thank people and give recognition to those who have done their job well? I suppose people do that in restaurants – the size of the tip that you leave is one way of showing thanks. Whilst shopping, I’ve now started approaching managers to let them know about members of staff who have been really helpful and courteous, I’ve started tweeting to publicly thank and show recognition for those who have been incredibly helpful.

Today there was an incident in a bookshop where I was served by an incredibly joyful, enthusiastic person, who knew their stuff and made time specifically to help me even though she was really busy with other customers. I thanked her, then spoke to her manager about what a delight that particular member of staff had been. I know this sounds incredibly corny but the manager became really emotional and thanked me for my feedback! She explained how refreshing it was to hear positive feedback because usually people only approached her for complaints. I could see the relief and happiness written all over her face, and I felt really emotional too. Which is what inspired me to write this blog. People shouldn’t only ever hear what they are doing things wrong. That is not the way we should be. We absolutely have to make the time to let people know when they have done the right things, when they got it right!

I don’t flourish in an environment where my faults are picked at and exposed all the time, give me praise and tell me what I’m doing well and I’ll work even harder and better for you. Children are the same. So why don’t we adopt that approach to all aspects of life? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t complain when things are wrong. What I believe is that the same amount of energy should be put into acknowledging people when they have done their job well.

Angels

Last month, it was my youngest daughter’s birthday so we had a party to celebrate. As the children were quite young, a few of the parents stayed to keep a watchful eye on their child, whilst others went and did the inevitable Saturday morning chores that everyone has to do. After all the running around, racing through the obstacles in the soft play area, dancing in the disco, taking pictures in the photo booth, it was time to eat. All the children settled down to tuck into the party grub. And that was when it struck me. I took a step back, looked around and was astounded at how many dads were there, all making sure that their child had enough food, making their children laugh by telling silly jokes and making funny faces, making sure that they were eating enough food, and swiping the food off their child’s plate to help them out. It was actually really beautiful to see. I mention it because a) normally, it is mothers who stay at the parties; b) a few years ago, you would not have seen so many dads be so ‘hands on’, in this fashion.

I stood there feeling happy that at least times are beginning to change. I imagined that a lot of the fathers standing there, making their children laugh, joking about, actually looking like they wanted to be there, not that it was a horrendous chore being at the party, were also the types of dads that would have helped willingly with the nappy changes, the night feeds, the endless sleepless nights. Whether that was reality or just my imagination running wild, of course I don’t know – but that was the impression I got anyway.

I often marvel at the way my husband is with our daughters. We might be watching a film, or a programme at night, deeply engrossed and interested. Suddenly, he’ll press pause on the remote, rush out of the room and race up the stairs to where the girls are sleeping. Why? He will have heard a noise (that I didn’t hear), and he just wanted to make sure they were ok. He takes pains to cook what they want; he spends time making them laugh and joking with them; nowhere is too far to drive or travel to take them to where they want to go. He’s the one that instils in them the drive that they should ‘never give up’. He tells them how strong they are and tries to instil the discipline of tidying up and putting things away. (That’s still work in progress by the way!) And they adore him. He’s the fun one that they want to spend time with. He’s the one that they want to rest upon and snuggle up to when we have ‘Movie Night’. He’s the one that they want bear hugs from, who lifts them up in the air and swings them around and up onto his shoulders, whilst they scream with delight. Do I feel envious of their bond? A pang of jealousy perhaps? Absolutely not. For me, there is no greater pleasure than watching the three of them together and I’m grateful that he is the way he is.

Those of you who read my blogs all the time, know that I write about this a lot – but my father passed away when I was 11 years old. You never recover from something like that. Never. I would always watch other fathers with their daughters, and it would feel like someone had placed huge bricks of concrete on my heart. The pain would feel as if I was being crushed. Unbearable. Of course, I just got on with life. You don’t concentrate on your pain, you concentrate on the tasks that lie ahead of you, you get things done. You feel like you’re coping, you feel like you’re getting on with things, when suddenly – BAM! The smallest thing might happen and the pain resurfaces, as raw as ever.

I remember when I was about 14, I had a dream that my dad hadn’t really died. In all the years that have passed, that was the only dream that I’ve ever had about him, so I remember it vividly. Honestly, it was like watching a film from the 1970’s, it had that type of filter, he was wearing a dark chocolate brown waistcoat, over a long sleeved white shirt, with brown flared trousers. We were on a bright, white yacht, sailing on the sea, my dad and the rest of our family, and he explained that he was sorry that he had had to fake his own death, but he had had no other option. We were all going to sail away together to start a new life somewhere else. I woke up convinced the dream was real, he was alive, everything else had all been a terrible nightmare… Of course when I realised that everything was still just as it was, I was devastated all over again – but a part of me was so happy that even for a few seconds, even though it had been a dream, seeing him again had felt so real – I hadn’t lost him after all. A part of him was there with me…and always would be…

I believe there have definitely two times in my life when either he, or another angel was there to look after me when I could have possibly died – or at the very least, been badly hurt.

Once, was when I had just passed my driving test, and was driving back home one evening. I was extremely confident and cocky about my driving skills, driving faster than I should have been, braking later than I should have been. Overestimating the control and capability of myself and my mother’s ruby red Ford Escort, that she would let me drive. So there I was, driving a lot faster than I should have been, approaching the roundabout that people often call the ‘Ribbon roundabout’ in Coventry, due to the sculpture of a huge blue ribbon, in the middle of the huge, grassy mound. A nod to the days when Coventry was a famous ribbon making city. I could see that the traffic was slowing down, but I foolishly maintained my driving speed. All of a sudden the car in front of me, which had seemed quite far away, came to a abrupt stop – but I was still hurtling towards it. I panicked. My heart was thumping. My palms were sweating. My breathing, fast and shallow. I don’t know why but I closed my eyes. I was convinced. This was the end. I was going to smash into the car in front of me. I pressed the break pedal with my right foot – but I felt it go down deeper, much deeper under my foot. The only way to explain it, was that it felt as if the brake pedal had a mind of its own. It had gone down much further than I had pressed it because by this time, panic had made me lose a lot of the strength that my legs normally possessed. The car had miraculously come to a halt. Tentatively, I opened my eyes. My car had stopped just in time, and the traffic was moving again. With so much gratitude in my heart, I drove home safely – and have been a careful driver ever since. I know many of you won’t believe me, and a lot of you will scoff – but I know that I wasn’t in control of the car when it managed to break without hurting anyone. I was just immensely grateful to be alive.

The second time – and this one – I can’t believe that I made it out of the situation unhurt and safe – I was at the Pool Meadow bus station in Coventry. It was a Sunday night. I was a student at the time and I was returning home after a friend’s wedding that had taken place in Wolverhampton. I had had a terrible time getting home. I had caught a train from Wolverhampton to Birmingham New Street, but there were only replacement bus services to Coventry. I arrived at Coventry station quite late, but felt really unsafe as there were no members of staff around, and there were a huge number of unsavoury types, who were clearly drunk, yelling aggressively at each other, I knew I had to get out of there. There was no real time to use the phones at the station to let my mum know the change of plan. She had been due to pick me up at about half past 9 from the station. Another woman, who could see that I was feeling distressed said to me, ‘I’ve ordered a taxi, jump in with me and get off at Pool Meadow, you’ll be safe there.’ I was so grateful to receive some kindness when I was feeling so frightened and vulnerable, I immediately agreed.

Her cab arrived and we both got in. I realised my mistake as soon as sat down and the doors were closed. She knew the cab driver. They were arguing. My brain just shut down. My head ached. I was so tired. I just wanted to get home. Why had I got into a car with a complete stranger in the first place? She began asking me questions and I answered mono-syllabically, trying to muster the calmest and friendliest tone that I possibly could. Carefully, I scanned the route that we were taking – hoping desperately that the roads were leading to Pool Meadow. When we finally got there, I thanked the lady and the driver and ran out of the car as fast as I possibly could. Racing into the station, I hunted for the telephones. There they stood, in the middle of the empty, deserted station, a cluster of phones that would let me hear a friendly voice once again. I grabbed the receiver of the nearest phone, shoved in some coins and tapped the buttons to call home. To my relief, my brother picked up the phone, he relayed the message to my mum that I needed to be picked up from Pool Meadow now. She leapt into action, and I continued to talk to my brother. Whilst on the phone, I saw a figure, not much taller than me, walking towards me. It stopped directly behind me. I turned and saw a man, with a strange look in his eyes, staring straight at me. ‘I have go to now,’ I whispered to my brother, as I placed the receiver back on the hook. I remember hearing him cry, ‘Wait! What’s the matter?’ But there was no time to explain. I knew I was in trouble. I looked at the man, straight in the eyes – then I heard a clatter on the floor. I looked down. By his feet, there lay a kitchen knife. The type that you use to chop vegetables and cut meat. I looked back at him. Everything happened in slow motion. I grabbed my things and ran to the nearest door. I didn’t scream. I couldn’t. I didn’t look back. My arms and legs felt like lead. I wasn’t running fast enough, I couldn’t make a noise. I needed to get out. Outside to safety- where I would be able to breathe again.

I reached the door, pulled it open, saw some cab drivers and stood hovering near them. I couldn’t tell them what had happened either. My mind couldn’t quite process what had just happened. A man, with a knife, had been standing behind me. His knife had dropped – and I left. What if the knife hadn’t clattered to the floor? What if the echoes of the sound hadn’t reverberated around the hall? What if I hadn’t run away fast enough? What if? So many what ifs? Eventually, my mum’s pulled up to pick me up and I sobbed all the way home. Not able to speak. Unable to explain what had just happened. All I could think was – I could have died. But thank God, I didn’t.

Several months later, after I was able to process what had happened, I realised how incredibly lucky I was. I was grateful to God, to the angels who are there to protect you, to my Dad, who I felt was always there looking after me. I don’t know who saved me, who protected me, or what forces were in action to save me on both occasions. All I know that I was blessed and incredibly lucky to come out unscathed on both occasions, and that it makes me feel comforted that even though he physically isn’t here anymore – perhaps my father played a part in making sure I was safe and ok, just as he would have done, had he been alive today.

Strong!

There is a lady that I sometimes see in passing. A mini-celebrity you could call her. She has gone through some incredibly hard times. Through heartbreak and hardship. Bereavement. And she pretends that she is strong. Her social media suggests that she is strong. She tries to inspire others through giving hope and using her own life circumstances to make people understand that things can get better and you can overcome adversity. Better times are possible if you change your mindset.

I wholly subscribe to what she says. I totally believe in what she preaches. There isn’t a part of me that doubts her intentions. Yet, when I see her, if I ever look at her in passing, I see etched on her face, a look of grief, of unspeakable sadness that I don’t think she is even aware of. Her mask, her smile, that glowing positivity reserved for the adoring public, subconsciously slips off and the real her is revealed for all and sundry to see…..that’s if they are paying attention in the first place.

Public persona versus private demons. We try so hard don’t we, to control what people see of us? We try to control people’s perceptions of us. However, try us much as we want, during times of stress, or sadness and even happiness, we leak who we really are. The mask will always slip and we reveal glimpses of who we really are or how we are really feeling – even if we don’t want others to know.

Whenever I see this lady, looking anxious, looking sad or preoccupied – I feel incredibly sad for her. For any ordinary person, it’s horrible to see another human being in pain. I see her battle. Wanting to be strong. Presenting herself as an accomplished, successful woman, doing her best to make a positive life for herself. Inspiring others to feel better about themselves.

But quite often, she just looks broken, lost and alone.

I wish I had the courage to go up to her, strike up a conversation with her and ask her if she was ok? I don’t have the guts. She’d probably think I was a massive weirdo. But I think to myself, if a non-threatening, friendly stranger (which is how I see myself in this scenario), came up to me one day all of a sudden and asked if I was ok – I think initially I would be shocked, but then I think I would be grateful that someone had taken a few precious moments out of their life, to see if I was ok.

It’s just not done though is it? To ask people you barely know, how they are, if they are ok. It is way more acceptable to watch or not even notice people struggle from afar and then lament afterwards – I wish I’d reached out. I wish I’d taken the time to do something.

I suppose there are two things that I’m getting at in this blog. People are never as strong as they pretend to be. They are definitely not as strong as how they present on social media. And the other thing I suppose is a rhetorical question -what do you do when you see someone you don’t know very well, appearing to do their best, holding everything together, not giving up, being a role model for others – but you can see that they are finding life tricky?

I don’t have any answers. I only have observations.

Finally, if you get the chance, please read the writing on the photo I took when I visited Baddesley Clinton recently. The lady who wrote it, explains how she communicates so much more easily through writing, than she could through talking with someone face to face. Struck a chord with me….

Thunderstorms

I still laugh at some of the things that we used to think and believe when we were little. I remember being about 7 years old, I was at school, it was very close to home time and the skies became really, really eerie and dark. My friends and I were tidying up, getting ready for home time and then we heard it. A slow, guttural rumbling sound coming from the heavens. A flash of light. A mixture of fear and excitement. A thunderstorm was about to begin. A few of the children screamed every time they heard the thunder. I didn’t. I’ve never been afraid of thunderstorms, or lightning. Their yelps of fear simply confused me. How could you be afraid of something so beautiful? So rare? So powerful and awe inspiring?

One of the boys in my class noticed that I was standing still, transfixed, listening to the rumbles in the sky. He sidled over to me and nodded sagely, clearly acknowledging a kindred spirit. ‘It’s God moving his furniture around in heaven. That’s what’s making all that noise!’

I thought carefully about what he said. It seemed like a perfectly plausible explanation to me. ‘Yes,’ I agreed. Then decided to add my own spin. After all, why should he be the expert on thunderstorms and I be left out? ‘Yes, he’s moving the furniture around but he’s also angry. That’s why there’s lightning!’

I’m not sure how long our conversation continued but both of us carried on adding to the story that we had begun about an angry God, moving his furniture around, getting cross in heaven. I remember other children trying to add their own twopence worth into our story – and depending upon whether we liked them or not, we either accepted their contributions, or derisively rejected what they said. Another child mentioned that the sound of thunder was actually the sound of God’s stomach rumbling. I remember looking to see who had dared to offer their own alternative explanation, and I was pretty sure that it was one of the screamers from earlier. How one of them had the audacity to offer up a theory after their performance, I did not know. Neither my friend or I gave that theory our stamp of approval. Because we had become the official experts on why thunderstorms happen, nobody dared to challenge our authority…

To this day, I still have a fascination for thunderstorms. I pride myself on being able to predict when one will happen. I feel a pressure in the front of my head which only eases when the storm has passed.

Of course, as an adult I know why thunder happens. I understand why we see the lightning first and hear the thunder afterwards. I know how to count the intervals between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder to ascertain how far away the storm actually is. Despite knowing all the science behind storms, when I’m actually at home, in my back room, listening to the rain drops pelting against the glass roof, seeing the unexpected and unpredictable flashes of light and listening to the furious, unpredictable claps of thunder, I revert back to my 7 year old self. Wondering silently to myself, what specifically had made God angry this time?

One of the other reasons why I absolutely love thunderstorms is because it is one of the times in my life when I am absolutely, genuinely fearless. I would be happy to go outside, stand in the middle of the rain, feel the violent drops of rain pierce my skin, look up to the heavens and marvel at how small, insignificant and helpless we are compared with the might of nature. We humans, we’re so used to being in charge aren’t we? So used to controlling all aspects of our life. A thunderstorm reminds us there are forces more powerful than us – and it is good for us to remember that.

However, the best part of the storm is…watching how magically everything goes back to normal again. There is a calmness and sense of relief – as if the anger, resentment, bitterness that had been causing the conflict – all just drift away. We start afresh. The fear has dissipated. We go back to our normal business – as if nothing had happened at all….

Mothers

Throughout my teaching career I have seen all types of mothers: loud, quiet, worried, over-protective, overwhelmed, stressed, guilt-ridden, frantic, peaceful, relaxed, abused – a whole spectrum of women, all trying to do their best by their children.

Because I teach primary aged children, I see the delight in the children’s faces when their mums come and collect them from the school gates at home time. It doesn’t matter how much of a brilliant day we’ve had at school, I get a huge satisfaction of seeing children race to their mothers’ arms and be enveloped in a huge hug.

Whenever I get the chance to pick my own daughters up, I’m almost knocked over by the ferocity of their hugs. They are so pleased to see me. Even now, whilst I’ve been writing this blog, I had to stop for a while because my eldest just wanted a cuddle.

But I know that open display of affection doesn’t last forever. A few years later and it will be uncool to let your mum know that you love her. I have two daughters so I’m dreading the hormonal clashes. The teenage rebellion. Being at loggerheads with one another. I will remember how I felt at their age – not being an adult, but feeling like one. Thinking that I knew best. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn’t.

It’s definitely not something that I’m looking forward to.

However, you come through that too. In the teenage years, you take your mum for granted, you don’t realise how much she is doing. You don’t realise how much she is hurting inside. You don’t realise that she’s so used to protecting you, that it pains her to see you trying to push her away. I saw a card in a shop yesterday, on the front cover it read ‘Dear Mum, I get it now and I’m sorry!’

Eventually, there comes a time when suddenly – you’re not fighting. Suddenly, you realise that you actually need your mum – and she’s there for you. Just as she was when you were little and needed a cuddle. Just as she always was there during your rebellion. You just never noticed.

My blog is actually for those adults who are lucky enough to still have their mother within calling distance. Be that at the end of a phone, or a text, or a drive, or even a plane ride away. Call your mum. Make amends if you’re angry with her. Say sorry if you upset her. Just put yourself in her shoes for a moment and think about what she has done for you, for you to get where you are now. Is an annual, obligatory Mother’s Day card and birthday card sufficient? Would it hurt to send a text just to see how she is? In fact, video call so that she can see your face, and tell you that you’re not eating enough, that you need to take care of yourself more, and do you want her to cook your favourite food for you…would that not be a better way to communicate if you can’t visit?

If you’re a parent and you don’t make the time or the effort to spend time with your own mother, what message are you giving your own children? That they can discard you when you are older, and no longer need you too?

The problem…the fact of life is, that people are not around forever. Having already lost one parent I can tell you that losing him was one of the hardest things in life that you never get over. Perhaps that’s why I hold onto my own mum a little bit tighter than I need to. If I’m sad – she’s there, offering moral support, telling me that everything that happens for the best, telling me not to worry. If I’m happy – she’s pleased for me, telling me that she had been praying for me and willing for things to go my way. There isn’t a day that I don’t count my blessings for her still being here.

There are those, whose mothers have passed away. One thing that I truly believe, a mother’s love is so strong that she is always there for her children, even after she had passed, as a protective shield. It’s no consolation for those who have lost their mothers though. I know so many people who would do anything in the world to be able to talk to their mother one more time. To hear her voice one last time. To be scolded by her once again. To be held one more time.

Think of those people.

If you are lucky enough to have your mum around – for your own sake, take the time to reach out and spend more time speaking and communicating with her. I’m not saying mothers are perfect, easy to get along with, angelic creatures. What I’m saying is – you only get one. One who carried you, nurtured you and made you capable of standing on your own two feet.

If you do nothing else today – reach out…

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Forever 28

My birthday is next month. Not far away at all. Inexplicably, my sister, brother and I all share one month for our birthdays. First is my brother, we get his out of the way, then it’s my sister’s, after that – the ‘grand finale’ if you like, is my birthday. Although I’m not sure that my siblings quite see it that way!

When I’m with my brother and sister, I feel that we immediately regress to how we were when we were children. Mischievous, arguing with each other, making up, tag teaming against each other, all (mostly), in good humour. And then I look around – we have responsibilities, houses, careers, my sister and I have children – and the frivolity and carefreeness is replaced once again with the necessity of being adults.

I don’t feel old. Not on the inside. In my head, I’m stuck forever at the age of 28. I’ve had this conversation with others before – some people I know feel like they are 16 or 18. I suppose in your head, you’re stuck at the age when you felt the freest, or strongest, or happiest. That was when I was 28. The world was my oyster. My friends and I ruled the world. I travelled at will. Bought what I wanted. Answerable to none. No responsibilities. The most confident that I’d ever been. In my head, I will be 28 forever.

That’s all very well. How wonderful. Good for me. Forever 28.

But I’m far from 28 now. I don’t look the way I did when I was 28. Heavier, slower, wider, bigger. Having children changes your perspective on the world – I am humbler than I was when was 28. Life made me realise that not every problem can be solved so easily, everyone is different, there is more than one way to do things, one size does not fit all. My way may not always be the right way. Learning that is a tough call. I’m heck of a lot wiser and more accepting of others than I was, when I was 28.

So what is the point of this post? Well, I suppose there’s an anger in me that is seething and gently simmering away. The wiser part of me tells me to not be bothered by what I am frustrated with, the other revolutionary part of me wants to set fire to the world. So what if I’m older, so what if I’m not in the first flushes of youth? Does that make what I have to say, or what I have to offer any less valid or relevant than someone in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Because from where I stand, the world seems to belong to that age bracket. Anyone who has stepped over that threshold, may as well be dead.

You may think that I’m over-exaggerating? Being overly sensitive? Well, you’re entitled to think that. However, you only have to look at the entertainment business to see how rife ageism is – particularly when we focus on women. How many actresses, singers, news presenters, sports commentators over the age of 40 still get regular work – compare that to men over 40. When they are spoken about, it is their physical appearance that is constantly under scrutiny. Don’t they look young? Look at how slim they are? OR, God, she’s let herself go! What happened to her? Women are not allowed to age – no grey hair, no fine lines or wrinkles, no weight gain. We must be the same and look the same as we did in our twenties.

I know that I have to fight harder to get my voice heard – being female, a person of colour and now older! The endless battles, when I know what I’m talking about, that I have the life experience to know that my point is proven and valid, that I have to shout a bit louder to be taken seriously – it becomes tiresome. If I was wiser, I would probably put my head down, not worry and focus on other things in my life. Sadly for me, I’m not as enlightened as I should be yet. So, as Dylan Thomas says, I ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’.

I will never grow old. Not in my head. Not as long as I have all my faculties working and am physically able to do everything I need to function. I still have unfulfilled ambitions in life – desires that one day I hope I can fulfil.

People often think that ageism is associated with pensioners and much older folk. I disagree. I think that ageism begins to creep well before that. You’re viewed as past your sell-by date way before that. Particularly if you’re a woman.

Be that as it may, I refuse to be patronised or over-looked. I refuse to be under-estimated or not taken seriously. There are so many things I want to do in life, so much I still want to learn, so many places I still want to visit, so much I still have to offer. I will not grow old gracefully. I will not bow down and be passed over meekly.

If anything, with age I have realised that in order to achieve anything in life, you have to be a force to be reckoned with. As I grow older, I become equally more patient and more ferocious; more able to compromise and equally more belligerent; more able to see which battles are worth fighting for, and which things just don’t matter in life anymore.

I want to end with some inspiring words. Something that might aid other women, who also, like me, feel overlooked and undervalued simply because of their age. The only thing that I can think of is: Don’t the bastards bring you down.

I think that pretty much sums it up.