Some time last month, someone hung a navy blue t-shirt at the lobby noticeboard. Attached was a note that read (I’m paraphrasing) “This flew onto my balcony. Please reclaim.”
Regrettably, I didn’t take a photo of the t-shirt and note; but I cheered the effort and honesty of the person who put the t-shirt and note there. And sincerely hoped The Management didn’t throw the “unapproved notice” out before the t-shirt was reunited with its owner.
Two days later, this appeared:
My heart is comforted by these simple, human acts of kindness.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my previous posts (or anyone who knows me) that Mother’s Day is not my favourite day. It is, in fact, a difficult occasion for several reasons.
There are cheery signs, cards and gift ideas everywhere, whether online or in stores, telling us how we can make it a special day for mum, and these are difficult to look at. I have no intention of sending chcolates, cake, jewellery or hugs; nothing would have been received with grace or civility, and the act of gifting would simply be fodder for more of the endless smear campaign. In the midst of the first Covid lockdown, I’d sent food baskets, only to hear from my aunt that my mother had to stopped from throwing the food out. I spent this morning sending messages to my friends who are loving, and loved, mums instead.
There are images everywhere, too, of happy families smiling away, shrouded with an invisible cloak of maternal bliss. I turn away because these families are a deeply painful reminder that this is not my reality. Sure, there are snippets of happy moments in my memory bank – childhood moments where my mother and I had gone on walks, or did homework together – but I have to stop to ask if these are real or simply figments that I want to cling desperately to. Then come the many recollections of having things thrown at me or having to listen to my character flaws listed in public or having everyone I know turned against me, including my father. What is real is the life I have built with my own family (yes, I have a daughter) where I have tried to NOT BE the mother I had, if that makes sense.
I do not want to spend time ranting about my past; it serves no purpose. Rather, I wanted to explain how I’ve accepted that something as precious as a mother’s care is not a given in all families. There are children who learn to navigate their way into parenthood on their own, and who have learnt to use their past as a how-not-to manual. There are women (and men) who reject parenthood because they fear repeating the behaviours they were exposed to. And there are those who will go on to be poor parents because they have no clue how to be any different.
My past has taken its toll on my health, both physical and mental. Growing up with someone who is likely suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (my mother has never acknowledged the need for a psychiatric evaluation even though her doctor recommended one years ago) is painful, and healing from it is a long, long process. I find it supremely ironic that I’m the one who ended up in therapy, but I am so grateful that I did.
I have not really communicated with my mother for years. “No contact” and “grey rock” are terms that I am now familiar with. I understand that my actions are a form of breaking an “inter-generational curse” of behaviours because I refuse to ever let my daughter be in the position I was. To do that, I must never become my mother. If going no contact makes me a healthier and better mother, then I am doing something right. And I treat each day away from my mother and the memories as a blessing.
While I want to wish all mums reading this the happiest of days, I also want to say to those who are struggling with this day (and possibly other occasions that may trigger unhappy memories) that you are not alone. It is a difficult day because it strikes at the core of who we are meant to respect, love and honour. But their failure is not ours.
This month, I had the privilege of responding to a bullet journaling prompt by @reflectwithraksha on Instagram – “What can I say no to?”
It was a privilege because it was more than just a prompt; it became a prod to examine my life, my choices, my habits, and even my own character and beliefs.
The process of writing down each answer made me pause to think, and rethink, about what mattered more or what no longer held any value in my life.
It made me question why certain things even once mattered. It made me ask myself why I didn’t say no before. I didn’t always like my answers. I didn’t like having to acknowledge that I’d been saying “yes” because I didn’t dare say “no” .
I’ve realised that saying “no” is not necessarily an act of defiance. Sometimes, it’s about setting boundaries, and having the courage to protect those boundaries.
I am grateful this prompt made me examine myself. The path to self-awareness is never smooth but it is one journey that can end with less baggage than when it started.
It’s been almost a year since I last wrote about an act of kindness in my neighbourhood.
I know there must have been loads of kind acts all over in the interim but, with the lockdowns and stay home orders, these acts remained unobserved.
Well, I was out today and this is what I saw:
An elderly lady was sitting on some steps outside a shopping centre entrance. She was sipping out of a water bottle, and there was a cane and two shopping bags beside her.
I was inside a shop and, as I watched, she tucked her bottle away and reached for her cane to stand. She appeared to have difficulty getting to her feet; she struggled to balance her weight on her cane while trying to pull herself up using the railing.
Even as I prepared to head out to offer to help, a man and woman stopped. There was a brief conversation then the man bent over at his waist to her height – he’d offered his back for her to push herself up. The woman picked up the cane and the bags. A second man stopped and supported the elderly lady as she rose.
It took several minutes before the elderly lady was on her feet. The two men helped her down the steps to the road level. The woman handed her her belongings and the four of them went their separate ways.
Me? I felt too much.
First of all, the elderly lady could have been my mother – the one I cannot be in the same room with. Despite my issues with her, I hope she gets help when she needs it.
Second, the elderly lady was alone. I don’t know her story but I can’t help wondering and worrying what might have happened if the three people hadn’t stopped to help her.
Third, it warmed my heart that total strangers helped someone in need, never mind the Covid restrictions.
Fourth, I regret not hurrying forth to help. Just as I regret so many things I could have done in my life that may, or may not, have mattered to someone else.
Realistically, the others would have reached her before I arrived. I tell myself my instinct was to help. That will have to be enough.
Thank you to the three heroes. You helped a stranger but you showed this stranger that there is still kindness out there.
There have been some adjustments to life since my last post.
To begin with, I have opted not to return to work for now. Why?
Mostly because I had a medical calamity last year (which I’ve written about as The Event); while I’ve completed my rehab and been certified fit to resume normal activities, within reason, the thought of the usual busy-ness of work is now daunting. And since the local library has restricted its opening hours and limited the facilities available to users, there is no need for volunteers at the moment.
Staying at home and using the time to take stock of life After The Event seemed a timely thing to do.
So, here is a spread I made in my bullet journal that reflects my plan. My January theme was Alice In Wonderland.
This is my vision and my mission for 2021. I have the word ‘Declutter’ on every daily entry, and a space to fill in what I did.
Know what I found around the home? Expired food items, forgotten coupons, and 62 pens, of which 22 no longer worked!
Why did we keep these pens? Because they were gifts? Because they represented memorable hotel stays? Yes, some of the labels conjured up wonderful family holiday recollections but the point is, the memories have been there all along. We didn’t need to hold on to a stationery item.
Know what else I found? Decluttering takes time and more than a little courage. It isn’t easy to let go of some things: it feels like cutting loose a part of your past. But letting go can also be therapeutic precisely because it is cutting loose that which might have caused pain, damage or which simply no longer work. And that includes relationships.
Medication and rehab may have physically started the healing process. But emotionally healing a broken heart takes longer, and the process causes as much pain as it seeks to heal.
I have a long way to go in healing myself. But I am marching forward, one decluttering act at a time. And, yes, I am OK if there is a day where no decluttering took place.