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Post January musings

So, we are already halfway through January. Time seems to fly by so quickly recently and it emphasises the need to truly embrace decisions and changes however difficult that is to do.

For me January meant a change of job. New career, new people, new location. I’m still in training mode at the moment so things may change but I have some initial thoughts.

Normally, I would describe myself as pretty outgoing, someone who talks to anybody. However in a job with new people, it does take me a bit of time to work out my place in the team. By that, I don’t mean whereabouts I am in the management hierarchy. Instead I mean identifying at what point can I be myself. Sometimes it takes longer to gel with some people than others. I have quite a sarcastic (or dry!) sense of humour which some can take the wrong way. I felt very strange during the first few days of my new job, a bit out of place and desperately missing my old work colleagues who I had developed friendships with over the past five years.

Roll on 2 weeks and I still miss my old work friends. I’m still determined to keep in touch but I’ve realised something. I want to stay in touch not because they were my work friends. I want to stay in touch because I like them. They made me laugh. They hugged me when I cried (or made me laugh to stop me crying). I could be myself with them.

There are a few new work people already where I can see friendships forming. We all seem to be quite chilled out and friendly and I’m eager to see where my new job takes me both personally and professionally. But I know I’ll have a base of people I’ve collected over the years who will be there for me no matter what. I can add to that base hopefully.

Review of 2017

It seems a little premature to write this. After all there are still 4 days left of 2017. However, tonight is the night I am a little reflective meaning tonight is the night I write my review of 2017.

2017 has been a mixed bag. Personally it was shaping up to be a positive year or at least more positive than previous years.

I have become a car owner once more. This makes me happy because it enables me to be more independent. I have an amazing husband who will take me wherever I need to go, however there is something so positive in the ability to make that choice to go and visit friends and family when I choose to. I have reconnected with a few friends and hope to continue to reconnect with friends who are so valuable to my life but who I have neglected in 2017.

Until today I hadn’t lost anyone to illness. Today I say goodbye to my great uncle. A man who I didn’t see often but when I did, gave the best hugs and who I remember with fondness and love.

I don’t deal well with change but 2017 paved the way to a new job. I’m still a little shellshocked although I am grateful for the opportunity. Although I love my job, 2017 was the year I thought about a family and ultimately a job where I commute for 2 hours a day isn’t viable.

A family. I have written often about the pressure and obligation to become a mother. I fluctuate between knowing it is what I want to knowing that now is not the right time for me. But a new job will pave the way in time.

I want a career and I want a family but I have chosen to get settled in my career first and a family will follow. Some days I may say different but I am content with the decision I have made.

I have reconnected with friends and, somewhat sadly, lost touch with others. No big fall outs, no arguments, just a gentle silent acknowledgment that perhaps our friendship has changed. And that’s okay.

Others have become my constant friends. Those who are there no matter what. On WhatsApp at whatever time and who I can just be me with.

And through it all my husband. My family. Words cannot say how 2017 made it their year when they stepped up. Social media may show the rosy side of marriage. Marriage is hard. It is difficult. Around July this year it became particularly hard for me and my husband. Partly due to the fact I choose the self destruct mode every once in a while. He was there. He is there and I don’t write on social media about what he means to me because that is for me to know.

2017 has shown the worst side of humanity with the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. It has shown the terrible effect of a fire. It has also shown the best.

So 2017. A year. I am hopeful 2018 will be better. And I will remember 2017 and learn from it.

Change is good but difficult

So, this week I discovered that I had a new job offer for the New Year. I am not a person that likes change. I cope with change but I don’t embrace it, I don’t like it.

I probably project a person that embraces change and life in general, you might think I’m optimistic all the time. The truth is I don’t like change and being optimistic is hard.

Yet earlier this week, I had a chance for change. It was difficult in one sense because I love my job, the people, the actual job. I wasn’t actively looking for change until one difficult commute too many. Then an opportunity to apply which I took. Then an interview. Then an offer.

The truth is though that when I stopped thinking about the job and the people, the decision was relatively simple to make. Closer to home. No more 2 hour (minimum) commute. Opportunities for growth and progression. A company that I’ve wanted to join since hearing my auntie speak about the company decades ago.

So, the New Year will bring an opportunity to support people into work. It’s something I feel strongly about because I’ll be helping those who want to work but have barriers to accessing employment. Working to me is more than just a job. It’s the social element, coming into contact with people I would never meet otherwise. It’s the knowledge I have my own money to do what I want with. A job is there to provide security if one day my husband figures out that I’m a nightmare to live with and it shouldn’t be this difficult.

I’m really excited now and maybe change will be good.

Turkey travelling

I had low expectations of Turkey. When I decided it would be a good location for our 10 year wedding anniversary celebratory holiday, it was pretty much on the basis of going to Istanbul for a couple of days during our week long visit to a hotel in Antalya, on the south coastline of Turkey.

Now, having returned, I can’t wait to go back. I had a vision of Turkey being very beach-centric but I had not appreciated the wealth of history and beautiful scenery.

Turkey has been described as a place where “East meets West” and I think that is an accurate description. The food is amazing, the people are friendly, yet not too friendly and overall I could feel all tension leaving me during my very short week holiday.

We spent roughly one day relaxing in the hotel, the rest of the time we were out either on organised excursions or through road trips. Seeing Antalya, with plentiful waterfalls, ancient walled cities and market places. Seeing Alanya with historical castles and coastlines. Seeing Kemer with a historical park showing what it was like 200 years ago complete with rabbits and goats wandering across the path.

I hadn’t realised the influence of mythology on Turkey and how much there was to do. Now I do and I can’t wait to go back. When I first decided to go, some were surprised. Turkey feels safe and it is an amazing wonderful place I feel sad I judged it,

White Privilege and Amplification

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for a while now. Ever since I read about Munroe Bergdorf, the transgender model sacked by L’Oréal for writing a ‘racist’post. I have put ‘racist’ in quote marks because what Munroe actually said was something along the lines of ‘All white people are born racist’. She also said a number of other things within that post and commentary has been written by better writers than me about the other points she raised but here’s my take as a cis white female.

When I first heard about the post, it was uncomfortable to hear. I’m a white person so I was born racist? Then I did some reading around the subject and I agree. It’s really uncomfortable for me to write those words because I never want to be associated with racism but the extended reading around the subject makes it clear that Munroe wasn’t saying that all white people are racist. She was saying that white people inherently have a tendency to be racist due to society unless they are surrounded by other factors.

I know I am privileged to be white. I think some people think that by supporting people like Munroe, that means that you are apologising for your whiteness. I don’t think acknowledging my white privilege is being apologetic about it. After all I can’t help being white. However what I can, and do, apologise for is that society does, and I hope it is better than it was, place certain value and privilege on white people. Which is wrong.

Munroe’s article said that not being racist is not the same as being anti-racist and she is right. I consider myself not to be racist. I hope that if I see a racist act I will speak up always because nobody should be judged on their skin colour. A few months ago I went to an event which talked about women and amplification. Amplification is about not being afraid to join together as a group of people and using influence to change other people’s opinions and thoughts. There are so many beautiful, intelligent PoC writers out there who manage to say things more eloquently than me but sadly some people will take more notice of me as a white person. It’s a really sad fact and I do get angry about it but more than that I want to continue writing and signposting to those articles, because they say more than I ever could. I don’t know what it is like to feel unsafe because of the colour of my skin. From a societal perspective I’m pretty ordinary, I am in a heterosexual relationship, I identify as my biological gender, I’m white. I am a female which is probably another blog post but ultimately I’ve been given opportunities that sometimes I forget about. I’m not perfect and I’m not racist but could I improve my amplification to support non-white females? Definitely. Men as well!

Remembering Mum 25 years on

I’ve been thinking about writing this post all day today. The title says it all really. 25 years ago today, my life changed forever. This post isn’t about seeking ‘I’m so sorry that happened’ messages because I’ve heard a few of the sorrys over the years. It’s about getting some of my thoughts out in the open.

25 years ago today I went to a playscheme at a local youth club during the summer holidays. Earlier that week I had asked my mum to let me go to the playscheme rather than go with her to her job looking after children. She reluctantly agreed that day but I was really excited because the playscheme had organised a painting session to create a Chinese dragon which would be then used during a family summer day. I loved painting.

That day I kissed my mum goodbye before she went to work. I think I said love you to her but can’t be sure. An hour or so after I got dropped off, one of the playscheme leaders came and got me saying I needed to go with her. She looked a bit upset but I thought nothing of it until I saw my brother with the police. I remember them saying mum had been in an accident and they were taking me home. At some stage I asked someone when I could go see my mum in hospital and at that time I didn’t know she had died on impact, walking out in the road to get to work and hit by a motorbike. I remember lots of crying and spending the first night, that night at my aunties, my mum’s sister.

The days all merge into one after that. Nobody ever taught me how to grieve, how you showed grief, how long and what form it would take. I remember being numb, then angry, then numb, then angry. I think people would call me well adjusted. I would say a combination of being able to hide my feelings and then, later, utilising coping strategies got me through.

Every year I enter a dark period. This year it started earlier but finished sooner. I don’t know why grief changes. It just does. I could say I think about mum every day. Unconsciously I do but it’s not often I allow her to creep into my conscious. It happens at moments when I least expect it and I’m unprepared often.

Sometimes I am prepared. Like my wedding day. I knew that my mum would be on my mind. I am forever grateful to my bridesmaids who were there with me during the getting ready process. They had been in my life since I was 5 so knew my mum and it really helped having someone who knew her there.

Someone said to me today, you must have some great memories of your mum. I do. Some are for me and otherwise I share with people. Like her reaction when I picked her favourite rose by accident (caught on camera!). When she spent hours on a Maid Marion outfit for the local parade in the village. When she had a loose tooth and insisted on referring to it as ‘Fred’. As it was hanging on by a thread….

I remember her hugs and her smile. I remember not being very impressed when she cut her hair into a cropped bob. One of the main reasons why I can never imagine cutting my hair. I remember her going to the pub with my dad on a Friday night. I remember her laugh and her kindness. I remember getting incredibly jealous when the children she looked after called her mum by accident.

Bereavement sometimes makes people forget that the people who died weren’t perfect. My mum wasn’t perfect but she was my mum and she was amazing. I look the spit of my mum and that makes me happy. At least I know what the future holds!

People say my mum will be proud of me and I think she will have been. I still get upset and it’s true that the feeling of loss can be pretty overwhelming still at times. I’m just better at showing it now. People tell me I’ve coped well and the façade sometime works. Sometimes I slip though and I rant. I’ve said ‘why me’ on a number of occasions. When listening to friends talking about arguments with their mum, on some occasions I have thought ‘at least you have a mum’. When people post things about their mum on Mother’s Day but add in ‘thinking of those that have lost their mum’ part of me thinks ‘really? are you not just thinking about your mum’. I make no apologies for my thoughts even though it’s unreasonable and I don’t expect people to stop talking to me about their mums.

Because that’s life. The only thing that is certain in this life is that we are born and then we die. The bit in between is the bit that changes. I wish I had my mum for longer but then that length of time would never be enough. I’d still be saying all of these things if she had lived for another 10, 20 years. I surround myself with people who are there for me. My husband, my family, my friends.

My mum’s name was Linda. She never had a middle name and this upset her for a long time. Her maiden name was Adams. We joked she was from the Addams Family.

Looking for a ladder

The title for this blog post is perhaps one of my more bizarre blog post titles but bear with me.

A few years ago I sought some help with my mental health. Thankfully I have a supportive family and a supportive manager/work colleagues so the process was perhaps less painful than anticipated even though overdue (purely on my part).

Every year I enter a period of time from mid July until mid August where I would quite like to hide away but instead seem to fluctuate between making lots of plans to regretting the fact I have made lots of plans. It can be exhausting. It’s not surprising to me in one sense as I know the trigger, my mum’s death, but in another I am surprised because it’s been a long time since it happened.

This year it will be 25 years since my mum passed away. Quarter of a century. I think about all the things I’ve done during those 25 years that she missed out on, going to uni, travelling, getting married. My emotions fluctuate between sadness and feeling pretty angry.

This Saturday I’ll be celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of my aunt and uncle. The last family occasion with my mum that I can remember. Perhaps that’s why I feel like I’m struggling a little. I forget that other things can trigger.

The difference is that now I am aware. I envisage myself right now in a big black hole. I need a ladder to get out. I know who can help provide the ladder but more importantly I know there is a ladder. At one point 5 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine a ladder long enough to help me out and now I can.

I’m still sad. And angry. Upset. Frustrated. But on Wednesday I made a conscious decision not to go to a course because I knew that I needed to just stay home and watch reality tv and have a quiet night.

I know that this month will be tough. I don’t expect you to offer support because I know I’ll be able to ask for it. That was the toughest thing to acknowledge.

I don’t even know the point of this blog post but it feels good to get it out there. Thank you for reading.

40 before 40

I missed the time to write a 30 before 30 post. To be honest, getting older doesn’t scare me. Seeing people I love die as I’m getting older scares me but the actual part about me getting older, not so much.

Having said that, I feel recently like I’m a little lost and need some focus/goals in my life. So that’s the reason for this post. 40 things to complete/achieve before I’m 40. I’ll be editing as I go along but the aim is to complete the list by the time I’m 35 (October this year). So read this post, comment or let me know some more ideas.

1. Complete a half marathon – because I’m not the most physically fit person in the world but I’d like to improve my health and fitness.

2. Stand as an MP.

3, Complete the 3 Peaks Challenge

4. Start a family

5. Learn British Sign Language

6. Buy my own house

7. Dance in a thunderstorm

8. Watch a sunset in another country

9. Meet my friend in Texas and meet her family

10. Meet my husband’s family

11. Do a skydive

12. Swim with dolphins

13. Get a tattoo

That’s it for now! I need 28 more things!

Fasting, thinking and reflecting

Yesterday I took part in #ukhousingfast. It’s an initiative which aims to reach out all those who work in UK housing and asks them to fast for the day and make a donation/raise awareness of food poverty. The main charity at the heart of the initiative is the Trussell Trust who govern the majority of the foodbanks in the UK.

I work at a housing association. I am also married to a Muslim man currently fasting for Ramadan so it made complete sense for me to fast. I tend to fast for one day a year to show solidarity to my husband who fasts every year.

Yesterday was the first time I fasted whilst working. I have a lovely team around me who were extremely supportive by not offering me drinks/food etc. I got through it okay because it was one day.

As dusk fell, I was lucky enough to have my husband go out, get some lovely food and bring it back to me. When I ate it, it made me think. There are some people where fasting isn’t an option, an opt in moment. This is real life for a lot of people in the UK and around the world.

I hear a lot about “we should look after our own” when people talk about the aid we provide around the world. Yes, we should look after our own. Yet that should not be at the expense of looking after those who are unable to eat because of the country where they happen to be born. We should be able to look after our own as well as those who cannot look after their own. We are one of the richest countries in the world and the fact we still have children and families living in poverty is shocking and sadly not surprising.

There are days like yesterday that bring it all into focus. I could feel despondent but actually things like the recent election results and the response after the Manchester and London attacks just strengthen my resolve. There are good people and it’s good that people understand and empathise. Empathise and not sympathise with those who are unable to provide for themselves and their families. People who use foodbanks are not those who you see on the tv screens who choose to live on benefits. People who use foodbanks work or are unable to work. It’s actually a minority who tv choose to highlight. They are actually just trying to make their lives a little better and it’s not about them and us. It’s about people. Humanity. Because that’s just what we all are in the end.

So next time you see a homeless person, don’t judge, buy a coffee, fling a smile in their direction. Donate to foodbanks if you can. And hope for a world where homeless and foodbanks are a thing of the past. I believe it can happen, do you?

Self destructive mode

The title says it all really. Every now and then I attempt to self destruct. Not myself literally. Just everything around me. Mainly my marriage.

Tonight was a partial self destruction. It was only partial because my husband is now so well tuned in to me that he chooses to give me space and time to calm down and realise that self destructive mode is not helpful or wanted.

Having a self destructive self is something that has been bubbling under the surface for some years now. I managed to hide it for a while pretty successfully. My self destructive mode stems from my mum I think. Being scared that something really good and lovely can be taken away from me in an instant therefore I attempt to destroy it before that happens. It doesn’t take a psychology degree and hours of therapy to work that out.

After the self destructive stage comes the self loathing stage. Trying to convince myself that my husband would be better off without me. Then the self pitying stage which is where I currently am at. Well I would be if I didn’t have a well timed message from a friend.

Some days I can convince myself. That my past and losing my mum hasn’t affected me. That I’m strong and ‘with it’ and coping well. Then I have times like today where I’m not so sure. Self pity is not a world I enjoy spending time in. It is grey and bleak and empty. It is full of tears and sadness and regret. It is being in a big deep hole with no ladder or footholds or way out.

I can hear my nan telling me to sort myself out. She is guiding me to those footholds with my mum. I will.