Worn out obsession

As I devour a peaceful moment  with birds, the river, wild flowers and comforting wind and with B fast asleep, I can’t help but notice and think about these well-old, well-worn trainers that I bought 11 years ago. I’ve got many a pairs of worthy trainers, converse and shoes at home, but these are my go to and will be for a while. They’ve seen me through my uni days, jobs, travelling through Asia, and now walks with the little one. I won’t ever want to part with you my worn out obsession.

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Challenge of the day

Cold rainy day, early morning blood test appointment, greasy hair…I don’t know which is worse. As I arrive 15 mins early for my appointment, I think of the challenge my other half has demanded of me- get myself a coffee on the way back. Sat in the car for a minute trying to figure out whether to nip down before the appointment to save time or go afterwards. Decided to go afterwards due to my irrational fear of being late even though cafe was right next door and I was 14 minutes early. Mask on, I pressed the buzzer for the reception; they let me in upon answering ‘no’ to cough and all the other enquired covid symptoms. As I entered the door, I seen a man waiting to exit..I tiredly smile through my mask, he greets me and I melt. I go  in and get pricked a few times but I dont fret cause of 2 sweet words a sweet random man said: ‘hi sweetheart’

Disclaimer: I never did complete today’s challenge but indeed completed yesterdays: write a blog post.

I will react

Recieved a remark about the content I posted yesterday which unsettled me. Wont divulge any details but I will write an elaborate version of my answer that I gave to the person.

1): During a visit to india 10 years ago, when I was out, some of my male cousins’ friends (not knowing who we were) eve teased us. I reacted. When I got to my aunts house afterwards, I was told girls dont react. It’s normal for boys to do such things but if girls react, thats when the problem starts.

2): 7 years ago, I went home to Belfast after my degree. I was applying for jobs in my room when an egg lands onto my laptop through the opened roof window. I see a young boy going back into his house when I looked out. Raging, I march downstairs. Parents tell me to leave it. I dont. I call the police. They come around, take details and go around to the house at the back. They come back up n say that theres no evidence that it was the people right behind us who did it. Walking towards our backyard with his torch, inspecting the potato plants, questions what they were. Dad says theres nothing theyd do about these stuff after the police leaves. It’s better not to react he says.

3): 6 years go, in a shopping centre in Belfast, a white man in his late 40s calls a young black girl ‘black bitch’. A white young boy who was with her says nothing, the staff say nothing, the young brown girl watching this, desperately wanting to react, doesnt react.The young girl reacts: ‘im black and proud’.

4): 4 years ago, while waiting to pick up my husband at the ferry port who was travelling back from Belfast, I see an older African man asking the police why they want to search his bags when the Belfast police security searched every item in his luggage. When he continued ‘reacting’ ,1 among the 5 police officers with him said they will arrest him if he “resists”. The brown girl, knowing the mans distress, wanted to react. She couldnt react. Even when she knew how it feels everytime her brown husband gets profiled when he comes through the port.
Fast forward to 2020, a family circumstance required us to take weekly ferry trips to Belfast for few weeks. As usual, my husband always gets stopped on the way back. The no of times i desperately wanted to ask the no of whites they have stopped, the no of immigrants and the no of immigrant criminals they have caught so far. I dont ask. I did however ask the  Police officer who once questioned where I was going (Ferry only goes to Belfast!!!!) whether hed like to see my British passport (ferry never checks ids, even if they do, it doesn’t have to be passport). Checking my passport, his face now red, he asked what I did for living and made a remark about social work being hard. It is hard I said, esp when fighting injustice and prejudice. He awkwardly smiled. I kept my stone face n walked away proud: I finally got profiled and I reacted.

Moral of the story? There is no moral. Racism happens. Profiling happens. Some want to react but cant react. Some learn to react but gets interpreted as “resisting”.Lives get lost as a result.

I write stuff because it brings me clarity. I share it cause it gives me the hope that if any of these can make atleast one person think, it’d be a victory. Do not provoke me if anything I wrote struck a cord with you whether you’re a friend, family or a stranger. I’m not the once-young-girl who’ve been told not to react. I’m learning to unlearn and I will react. End of.

‘I can’t Breath’

I seldom have nightmares, quirky and weird dreams yes, but not nightmares. But I did yesterday. Dont remember the context but I do remember some strange thing happening in the dream and my life was in danger. Petrified, I tried to tell my sister and mum who were in my dream but they just wouldnt have any of it. Things were getting tensed, I was panicking.
I couldn’t breath.
I couldn’t get out of it. I screamed.
I guess I actually screamed which woke S up and he woke me up from the dream.
Thank goodness it was a dream.
I can breath.

Not a psychotherapist but I have always been fascinated with dreams and their interconnection with your subconscious feelings.I guess my brain really wont let me off unless I stop running away, reflect and write about my feelings and process them.

Past few days, I purposely steered away from all the posts and news about George Floyd and protests because I knew I couldn’t  afford to think about what he must have felt before he was murdered, what his family and friends are feeling right now, and what the world is feeling. I did however look up photos of him when he was alive, read about his life and his tragic death, and it’s been enough for me to say that I’m affected. I’m truly and painfully affected and I cant not write about it.

Being an ethnic minority myself, I know my fair share of what prejudice and racism can look like. I’d also be lying if I dont say that I’ve recieved far more appreciation, curiosity and relatibility towards my culture and ethnicity than prejudice or illtreatment.

What George and millions of others recieved and continue to receive is not that. What they recieve is hatred, abuse, biased thoughts and beliefs. Bad illustration this may be but when you see the white and juicy insides of an apple, your brain conveys it’s good and you consume it. When you see an apple that’s black and mouldy, you frown and throw it in the bin. Unfortunately, its not just food that we associate black colour with bad.

I sadly cant do much for George Floyds departed soul or anyone affected. At the very least, what I can do is try and be honest about my own feelings and reflections.

‘Do you have any inhibitions, fears or challenges with any particular type of people?’, asked my practice teacher during our group reflective exercise in my final year social work placement. Uninhibited , i said black people when it was my turn. He enquired why. I said its because of the unwanted attention I’d been getting from international Nigerian students during Uni. After the exercise,  he shared that now that we had an awareness of our said challenges, we can stay stay reflective and aware of our own biased thoughts and feelings about people and the impact of it when working with people.

What I didnt say or figured out that day was what lied deep underneath. It wasnt the guys’ interest in me that bothered me, it was the fact that they were Nigerians. Had it been any other nationality, the teenage me probably wouldve enjoyed the attention.

I can point my finger at media or my culture that either mocked or feared someone with black skin tone. But the truth is, I had it in me (or may be still have it in me). I’m aware of it. I tried (may be still try) my best to not let it ever affect anyone in anyways. I truly wish that the police officer/s who took George’s life had a reflective practice session like I did before he went into policing. An innocent soul wouldnt have been lost. I also sincerely hope that every other police officers and people of different skin tone can have an uninhibited reflective thinking about their own innate biased feelings so that no other innocent lives would be lost or no one else would have to say ‘I cant breath’

#Icantbreath
#Blacklivesmatter

I know I’m not the only one!

My heartless alarm went off at 8.40
Demanding that its time to get up for work.
My sleep deprived  body however
Conveniently ignored the alarm and snoozed its way upto 9.20am.

Marched downstairs in pjs and house robe to the study
Seen my ‘co worker’ working away
Checked my emails; No children or families in crisis.
Time to go back up to shower and get ready.

Time: 11:00
Feeling:Meh
Time for daily team check in on virtual video chat
Nope, not today, will tell everyone I’m sitting this one out.
As I realise its 11.10 and see none of my teammates online
I feel a lot relief and slight concern
I knew I wasnt the only one

I look ahead and see the vision board I cheerfully created 2 years ago
‘Its physically and mentally exhausting’
‘Make it happen’
‘Stop yourself from stopping yourself’
Tears start rolling down
Tears turn into sobs

My coworker turns back into co-partner mode
Logical as he comes, gets confused and asks ‘what’s wrong’

Whats wrong?I ask myself
Nada!
You do feelings and emotions for a living
Help people verbalize trauma and complicated emotions
Yet have no explanation for your own random outburst of sadness?
I look as confused as my co-partner.

I’ve rested, cooked, baked, cleaned, garden-ed, read
All the stuff I wanted to do but couldn’t before
Why do I still feel Meh, not have an appetite or cant sleep at night?

Grief.
‘That discomfort you feel is grief’
I see the title of an article sent to me
Grief that the world has changed
The loss of normalcy;Fear of economic toll; the loss of connection.
The collective grief in the air and the anticipatory grief.

This should make sense
But it doesnt
Nothing makes sense
Not this
Not the death of the 13 year Ismail Mohamed
Not the disconcerting words of my bedridden elderly neighbor

Nothing

I know I’m not the only one

The fallen leaf

A mundane cold october morning, nothing in the diary apart from a loose plan to drop by the senior citizens group that I developed 2 years ago. Respecting my lie-in-day privileges, I woke up after 8. Succumbing to my sluggishness, I decided to skip the group and indulge in a Friends and duvet day instead. Albeit Friends is still Friends when you watch it back-to-back for the 50th time, you still need a ‘break’ (if you get it, you get it) so I watched ‘Same kind of different as me’ – I laughed, cried, reflected, planned. Thoughts crowded my head, so I decided to get away from my habitat, go for a drive, taking ‘Becoming Michelle Obama(cause you know, I love it) the Primal Wound (cause I have to), Cecilia Ahern (just incase), my journal and grateful journal and a pen with me.

Largs. A drive through the mountains which eventually opens up the view of the sea on the left hand side, rocky mountains on the right hand and the blue velvety hills up ahead.

My eyes and brain were going crazy- so many breathtaking things to register. Blue and pink sky, hills, sea, seals, ferry boats (even though mind did wonder about the possible impact this causes the sea, welcome to my environmental conscious brain!). But driving around looking right and left is not the way to go about in life, so the task was to find a spot. Having failed to pick a new spot, I retracted to my usual spot, parked the car and went upto sit on the bright blue bench near by with my blanket, music and books.

Braveheart song starts playing in my ears when two lil black fur babies, out of nowhere, run up to me excitedly. Although freezing cold, their playfulness, fight for my attention, and the good 20 mins chat with their owner warmed me inside. Went back into the car after they left because you know, hypothermia is real.

Didnt read, didnt write, didnt do anything else apart from sitting in the car thinking of the time when I caught sight of a little fallen leaf that was stuck on the cobwebs. A leaf that serves no purposes. But when the wind blows, it dances. It danced to the tune that was playing in my car and provided me with right entertainment during the red light.
A fallen leaf that became the dancing leaf. Huh.

The fallen leaf that became the dancing leaf for me made me smile then and it made me smile today thinking about it.

Nature, rather generous in her offering, gives us plenty to see, feel and enjoy but our eyes often fail to see them. With that thought, I decided to head back home. After about 50 yards, I see a couple in their 70s probably walking slowly on the other side of the road. Arm in arm. Nothing unusual. But then I take another look. The man has shades on, a walking stick, taking fearful smaller steps, relying heavily on his partner to be the eyes for him. To be the eyesight he lacks.

I am a Woman

I grew up in a country where palm lined beaches and backwaters along with the beautiful misty hills earned it a title ‘God’s own country’, Kerala. A place with 100% literacy where my hair colour, choice of clothing and not having children after 4 years of marriage concerns the general public much more than my basic right as an individual, as a woman. Although Kerala is much more liberal compared to other parts of India, its still a patriarchal society where women and men have different set of rules.

I spent 2 weeks in Kerala last month and I came across different types of men who stood out to me during my trip.

1. A man who is terminal, who has fear in his eyes, who had made a lot of wrong choices in his days pushing people away yet the love he has, love he had, connects all those near and dear to him.
2. A man who has no fear in his eyes, who is making a lot of wrong choices by drinking and smoking everyday and withering away bit by bit.
3. A man who followed 3 girls (2 of which under aged) back from church, in the dark, and parked his fancy bike in a dark corner and started helping himself and said obscene things.
4. A 17 year old young man (who was meant to accompany the girls on the way back from church) who ended up blaming it on the way the girls looked and behaved upon hearing the incident involving the man from point 3.
5. A 33 year old professional man who married his college girlfriend and has a child with but somehow thought it was OK to behave inappropriately towards his 15 year old cousin-in-law after having couple of drinks

Some of these men I’m related to by blood, one is a stranger who decided that he had the right to be ‘himself’ when in the dark and thus violate the rights of others (of women!), latter is someone who is married to someone dear to me. All these men have something in common. Choice. They all have a choice or had a choice. A choice to be yourself, a choice that may or may not cause (or have caused) harm to yourself, your family members or strangers. A choice I or the majority of the women don’t have.

I am a woman. A woman with rights, with skills, with desires and ambitions. Being able to walk anywhere without fearing anyone or without a male family member accompanying and not getting harassed is not my pride, my ambition or my arrogance, it is my right. My basic human right. But I’m denied that right. And when I do voice my dissatisfaction with that, I’m ‘sushed’ from left and right by own kind, the females.

After effect? Immense amount of anger built up for the innate inability to not do anything to those who misused their choice. You get affected by the incidents; angry for not having a choice to react, for not having a voice. But then out of nowhere, it occurred to me, I’m demanding a choice and a voice from others, from strangers and not from myself. I may not have the innate inability to react to others misusing their choice and my right, but I do have the choice and right to react in a way that does not give them any more power. Mulling over what had happened and being affected by someone’s perversion is still giving power to the perpetrator. The days where the woman gets sexually abused in the Indian movies and her life is distraught till a good Samaritan guy decides to ‘give her a life’ is over. Its not needed any more. Reason? She is a woman.

I am too.
I am a woman who made the choice to spend time with the man who may not have a lot of time. The reason for my visit.
I am a woman who feels angry when a man turns to alcohol or other substances and do not tap into his inner emotional strength,
I am a woman who said ‘F you you a******, go F your Fing mother’ when I caught a stranger masturbating in the dark,
I am a woman who said ‘Blame it on the way a girl walks or dresses, not the way a man behaves inappropriately’ to the 17 year old who blamed her for ‘looking nice’,
I am a woman who used careful words to the 33 year old man to let him know that he is not invincible,
I am a woman who knows a man no 6, who lets the woman be a woman, a real man. I married him.

I am also a woman who chose to focus on the above points and nothing else or no one else. I have rights. I have choices. I do not give men any power or control. I fixate on my choice, not their wrong choices. I am a woman.

Thailand and it’s tiny blue lotus flower

‘Where are we?’ Panicked me asked touching my legs.
‘We are in Thailand!’

Part of the conversation that took place in the middle of the night last night.

As it was a hot night, I slept with my shorts on but I somehow woke up in the middle of the night started touching my bare legs and panicked not knowing where I was.

I usually dissect my dreams and analyse what they mean. This was my analysis: I’ve been putting up pretty pictures of Bangkok on Instagram and people have been asking me how I found Thailand. I brushed this question off by saying ‘it’s ‘good’, ‘busy’, ‘pretty much like Kerala’ etc. But…like one of my friends reminded me yesterday..I’m deep..and nothing ever stops with ‘fine’ or ‘Good’ for me. My water runs deeper than that.

I knew what I felt about Thailand and Sterry shared the same view. But sometimes it’s easier to just not get into the ins and out of things when others ask your view. I suppose that left me feel a bit conflicted subcosciously hence the dream. So here’s my real view on Thailand:

The fruits, flowers, climate, and people all reminded me of my much loved home land Kerala. And it was a piece of heaven to come to a hot country after being in the freezing cold for 2 weeks.

There’s a lot to see, a lot to eat,a lot to buy..and..well… a lot of ‘sexpats’ too.

Thailand has gained an international reputation among travellers from all over the world as a sex tourism destination. Albeit not recognised as legal by Thai government, it has brought in an approximate revenue of 6.4 billion in 2015.

I was accustomed to this fact before entering Thailand and knew what it looked like in theory. However, after being a tourist in Thailand for few days, I got to find out the extent to where this has affected Thailand.

I’ve always supported Maslows arguement that sexual need is one of the primal and fundamental need of a human being. And I know that when you don’t have intimacy in life, it might be of a struggle. Therefore, whenever I saw a sexpat with a woman similar his age, I never looked look twice.
I also smiled and greeted all the fellow tourists when we bumped into them.

But what I forgot is that sometimes just sometimes.. this fundamental and primal need of a mankind turns us into animals with greed and without rationale. I started seeing 70 year old men holding hands and being inappropriate with girls younger than my younger sister, walking around enjoying the sights. These men were old enough to be the girls’ grandads and it left me feeling an unusual feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t able to shake off.

If that wasn’t enough, all the men I smiled at and greeted along with the others weren’t looking at me as a fellow tourist. It was lust in their eyes that interpreted my genuine friendliness/acknowledgement of their existence as an invitation…an invitation to appease their lust or lack of intimacy in life.

Consequently, my friendliness quickly turned into anger, disgust and quite frankly a stare competition. They look at me with whatever they were looking at me with and I with pure animosity.

But what I have to remember is that a coin has 2 sides and you choose which side you want to look at. We were lucky enough to stay in an area where locals with warmth and hard work resided. I’m going to try and choose that side of the coin and embrace that experience over the other.

As for the tiny blue lotus flowers I encountered, I tried putting myself into your shoes imagining how things would be if I was you which probably was why I got that dream. I really cant do much for you except hope that you will bloom into a wonderful blue lotus one day and realise that you’re beautiful now and then.

Goodbye Thailand, people of Thai and blue lotuses.

Backpacking across Asia part 1

Its been a week since we left home in UK seeking snippet views of a few handpicked countries in Asia that we have always fantasized about. Having covered 3 countries so far, living out of a backpack weighing 6.9kg or our inablity to verbally communicate were not the major challenges we encountered; the hardest challenge yet for me has been keeping up with the intensity of the experiences and the ‘moments’ each countries offer. For a person whose biggest insecurity is her memories, I find myself desperately trying to capture every corner of the places we visit through cameras and retrospectively record every feeling in my travel journal.

When planning our trip or hearing ‘this is once in a lifetime opportunity’ from family and friends when they eventually found out, I held my ground and kept my emotions in check. ‘My lack of enthusiasm’ may have confused a few but it wasn’t that I wasn’t enthused about the trip but rather my superstitious or anxious self took the better of me about not wanting to ‘jinx’ the trip (I know!) as it indeed was going to be a once-in-a-life-time trip.

When we go high and low looking for authentic places in each country, meet more kind people than unkind people on the way, indulge in delicious and sometimes unusual local delicacies; I find myself bargaining with time to give me one more second. Just one more second to soak it all in. But time is fair but unfair as some say. So I don’t get one more second. All I get is a camera to take pictures, a pen to write down the experiences and the heart to take in as much as I can.

The Japanese have a tradition that when they finish work, they go to the exit door, turn around and bow their head for a few seconds with utmost respect showing gratitude for their job. And Chinese believe that every person they meet are the ones they are destined to meet to bring something to their lives. As I enter each country, I will be on the lookout to meet kind faces that I’m destined to meet and as I exit, I will remember to bow my head in respect to say ‘thanks for this once in a life time opportunity’.

How 2018 has really been for me? A packet of bread!

You open a packet of bread, you see that hard piece of useless bread.. you are not a fan of it but you consume it anyway so you can get to the soft, smooth and normal pieces of bread.

So doing Newyears Resolution was something me and my sisters engaged in for years when growing up. Always hated it- never really worked for me, but did it anyway as a ritual with sisters because you know FOMO. However, this year, I couldnt wait to indulge in NYR and wrote down about 15 NYR and ticked off about 13 (ticked off 2 from my bucket list too! Yus!!!).

As a result, 2018 has been THE best year for me. I have lived and loved so much of it to the fullest extent. A year where I really pushed myself, started new things and counted my blessings with all my heart every day.

(Disclaimer on the bread packet):
The implulsive personality trait in me start things on a wimp and the passionate side of me then pursues it with blood and tears. Plus side of this: go-getter, downside: wouldnt know the stop button. Sterry who knows this about me set out a condition before I started my year, ‘do everything you want to do but the minute you get yourself burnt out and repeat the previous years, that would be the end of all the projects’. I happily signed the agreement by spitting and shaking thinking theres no way im gonna get burnt out this year, my time was spread out evenly and I’m doing everything I want to do.

The hard piece of bread vs smoother pieces:
So in the beginning of the year, I started my new job, my volunteering/social enterprise projects, fundraising projects and taking on more photography projects. It wasnt easy but in time, I was enjoying the smoother breads. I mean why wouldnt I? I was doing everything I am passionate about and enjoyed doing.

Bread meets Stale.
Half way through the year, I impulsively decided to stop eating meat and been pursuing it with difficulty. Id also stopped going for dance due to conflicting commitments. A bit of an unexpected piece of stale bread, but thats ok we’ll just deal with it and move on to the rest of the normal pieces. And so I did. Except there werent much left.

Last piece of hard bread:
Doing things that you love doing leaves you all high but it will also leave you quite dry. I preach about mental health and help people with emotional support for living. But ive been a hypocrite neglecting my own emotional and mental health. For the last 2.5 months, Ive been experiencing a lot of unpleasant changes. Lack of motivation for the things that I loved doing, de-sensitization, secondary trauma, feeling overhwhelmed and burnt out instead of feeling blessed, not wanting to go to the kitchen at all, no appetite, struggling to go into shower after work, struggling to get up early, not going to gym, not being able to pick up my much beloved books and read, sobbing every other night about missing meat (KFC!), taking a day off work, and above all, avoiding family and close friends who noticed some of these changes and advised me to ‘take it easy’ or ‘stop’

Im trained in seeing these things in others and helping them through it yet I failed to do the same for myself. I forgot to see the little signs throughout the year and had to wait till it got to the biggest signs and I was beyond repair. I missed out on a lot over the last 2.5 months because of that. No matter how many ticks you tick off during the year, if you work till you are unhealthy physically and mentally, and you miss out on lifes simplest yet most beautiful offerings, it cannot be considered as a succesful year.

Im working through my last piece of hard bread with great difficulty (a bit of peanut butter on the hard bread) and by trying to be kind to myself . It will not be easy but will be finished before i know it and prepare me right for my new packet next year.

Hope your bread packet has been great this year!