Storytelling

Standing

signs

The same shit on a different day. The same issues,  the same frustration and the same old nonsense. It’s been said time and time again…the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again whilst expecting different results. Its crazy but yet we all do it. We have the exact same fight, we choose those self-defeating actions that we have tried before even though they didn’t work then and they most certainly aren’t going to work now. Why? Automatic behaviour? Force of habit? We can’t help it because its our subconscious taking control? More than anything else, I think the real driving force behind all of it are two things. Anger coupled with fear. We get angry because he is saying things that hurt and are one-sided. We become fearful because we think that walking away from it will make him right, will mean defeat, he wins. So much history, so much blame, so many feelings. Adrenaline kicks in and it all goes pear-shaped.

And that was just chapter one. It can go on, giving birth to many parts, all shapes and sizes and the aftermath is draining because she has walked this path so many times, she gets bored, she is also tired so they sweep it under the carpet and make up, promising that the next time they will do it differently, telling each other that it was the last episode. A week passes, fun is had, they feel close and then out of the blue, it happens again because he is grumpy or she didn’t get her way. Nine out of ten times, its something stupid and definitely not worth the strife but there they go again, on the bloody merry-go-round of stupidity. Then the thoughts come rushing in like a bad trip, challenging her and reminding her of all the things she put her word to.

“You said you wouldn’t do this…He is irritating me…Take it…He said he wouldn’t do this…Never mind…I can’t let him get away with it…Walk away…No, he is shouting and raising his voice…You are bigger than this…What about him?…What about you?…Why should I be the one?…Because you can break this…I’m angry…Turn it around…How?…Stand!

And so she stood. She spoke calmly, “I am not going to do this. Please, don’t talk to me like that” Then she walked away. Immediately, something happened. She started making different choices, one after the other and with each new choice, she became stronger and calmer. Pride replaced the shame that use to linger and cut deep. She felt wise and happy. She took control and she won over the situation. She wasn’t faking it or pretending. It was real and solid. I did it.

Just one new ingredient and the recipe changes and the outcome is different. It can taste better or worse but if it didn’t taste great in the first place, then why keep using margarine instead of the butter? It’s there in the fridge after all, maybe just on a different shelf, behind the milk.

When you make a stand, people take notice and the energy that comes with taking or making a stand can be so striking that it cuts down all the fluff and hypnotises onlookers. They follow you. They too are snapped back into reality and sometimes, a shift can occur that changes everything for the better. Once you taste that kind of empowerment, you will never be the same again. You will become addicted to the freedom that choice gives you and you will affect everyone around you in a positive way. Especially when it is required of you.

When I do stand in my life, in all the different ways that are possible, I try not to close my eyes from all those feelings and emotions that come rushing through, I open them wide and take it all in. I watch on and am always humbled at everyone else who is standing with me.

Never again will I point my finger or wait for someone else to stand first.

“If its to be, its up to me” 

Change at Faversham

My younger sister and I went to the same boarding school and for years, we would take the same train from London Victoria to our destination. Sometimes, there would be arranged journeys where boarders from all over the world would return from escapades in their respective countries and we would congregate at Victoria where our teachers or house-mistresses would be waiting for us after a long half-term. The two-hour journey would be one where we caught up and found out about each other’s adventures and stories, reluctantly settling in to the idea that school was now back in session. Soon we would be into the routine of “lights out” early in the night and the dreaded morning wake up calls. My house-mistress would have this great big bell which she would clang loudly, screaming, “Good morning, rise and shine” in a shrill voice, opening the curtains and letting the sun in, stinging our eyes.

There was one particular end of term where I would not be going back to boarding school because I had finished and it was time for A-levels at a private college in London where we lived. My mother insisted that when it was time for Ariana to go back to school, I was to make the trip with her and return on the night train. She was fourteen at the time and I was just seventeen. I didn’t share the same idea as my mother. I thought that it was about time for her to make the trip herself. Keep in mind that this wasn’t an organised trip and that she would be making it on her own. The both of us had done this many times already. My sister was extremely sheltered when it came to getting things done for herself. I was the one who always did it for her and my parents expected that of me. It use to upset me but mainly because I felt that she would never learn how to take care of herself if I continued to do it for her. At times, I would push her to do things, like buy tickets or go to the shop on her own. It was a gradual process and so I thought the time had come for her to make the journey back to boarding school on her own. After all, we had made the same journey at least four times a year for the past five years. How could she go wrong? It would be a piece of cake and my mother was just being overprotective.

We traveled on the tube and I got her to the station and bought her the tickets. I went through the entire route and instructions with her umpteen times. I must have said, “Remember, change at Faversham” about six times throughout our journey from our front door to Victoria Station. My sister nodded and said that she had got it but in all honesty, we were both rather pensive about the departure. Also because it would be her first time on her own and we were so close that being apart was difficult. I took her to the platform and put her on the train after I hugged her and kissed her goodbye. The doors were closing and I saw her face. She was worried.

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“Change at Faversham!” I shouted. The train started moving and I ran alongside it waving at her. My heart sank and I had a lump in my throat, immediately regretting not going on the journey with her. All the way home, I kept thinking of her and praying that she would be alright and telling myself that it was about time that she did this sort of thing on her own. She was fourteen and it was a journey that she had made over twenty times in her life. I always worried and stressed about her. She was like my child even though, I was still a child myself.

I was watching a show on television, keeping an eye on the time. She was to call me once she got into school. They were going to pick her up from the station at a specific time. The call didn’t come and so we started panicking. My mother started telling me off and saying that I should have gone with her. That she couldn’t do this sort of thing on her own. That she wasn’t like me. I argued back and said that she had to learn and that if they kept sheltering her, she would never function normally in society. Inside, I was dying. Half an hour later, the phone rang but it was not my sister. It was the school, telling me that she was not at the station and that the train had arrived without her on it. I immediately felt sick. My mother was ranting and raving in the background. We waited.

The phone rang again and this time it was my sister and she was crying on the other end. I tried to calm her down, wanting to break down myself.

“Where are you?”
“I’m at a pay phone” she said, crying. “A woman found me and took me here so that I could call you”
“A woman? Which woman? Where are you?”
“She is going to take me to her house”, she added, sobbing.
“What? Let me speak to her. Now!”

After speaking to the woman, I found out that she would be taking my sister to her house in order to wait for her husband who would then take Ariana to the station. They had a boy who was Ariana’s age. She told me that she found my sister crying on the side of the street at a phone booth that wasn’t working and so she offered her help. I also learned that Ariana did not change at Faversham and instead continued on the train to another destination and eventually decided to get off the train when it started to look unfamiliar. I wanted to scream but kept my composure even with my mother running around in the house like a headless chicken.

This was a time where mobile phones were rare. When you made arrangements with people, you showed up. There was no last-minute ‘short message service’ or call to check on where the meeting point was.

The lady that found my sister was an angel. She took her into her home, fed her with warm milk and cookies and when her husband got home, he took her on the train and delivered her personally to the school’s caretaker. We got the call and everything was alright. When my mother asked my sister for the name and address of the family that helped her so that she could send them something as a thank you for saving her child, Ariana simply said that she didn’t know their names nor their address. Till this day, my sister is convinced that they were angels from heaven. I think that they were the finest examples of humanity and I send them love and appreciation wherever they are.

And It Burns

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Blogging 101, Day Sixteen: Make a Prompt Personal

Needless to say, the prompt from April 30th invited Johnny Cash into my head and the tune is on a loop. As I write this post, I can hear him, with his signature voice, doing his thang so I’m just going with the flow and using that as a spot of inspiration too.

ID-100129642Call me the Queen of Spice. Not just spice but hot spice. I love it and I cannot do without it for long. I add chili powder to my eggs in the morning, to my pasta whenever I can and of course when I am making a curry, besides the cumin, coriander and cinnamon, chili is a must for that extra kick. My mother makes this saltsa made of pureed fresh red chilies and tomato. Prawns and cluster beans are added to the dish and you eat it with  plain or coconut rice. We spread that chili mix on some bread and make sandwiches with the leftovers. I have an Irish cousin who didn’t do too well with chili when we were kids. My mother would always make sure that if we were having Asian food, then he’d have a special non spicy dish prepared for him. He’d be happily eating his food and enjoying it but if he saw so much as a red tomato in it, he’d start fanning his mouth and downing glasses of water. So one day just to call his bluff, I made one of those sandwiches for him and told him that it was jam. He took one bite and his face lit up like a red light bulb and he was running all around the kitchen like he was being chased by a swarm of bees. So I was wrong but I had to know. Plus, I thought it was really funny, at that time.

As you can see, I’ve been eating hot spicy food since I was a child so my stomach doesn’t react in a bad way to it. My brother-in-law however, who loves spice and my cooking, always feels the need to tell me about the morning after and how his bum was on fire. He thoroughly enjoys shocking people with the things he says. He loves winding people up and always succeeds with his mother. She reacts which only encourages him. I have this deadpan look whenever he tries with me and so he gets bored and moves on to the next victim.

I called him the other day.

“Hey. was wondering if you’d like to come over for dinner on Friday?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be there!” [Enter my mother-in-law in the background and he addresses her] “What? What did you say? It’s Juliana…What? Don’t talk about her like that Mama. What? No, don’t worry, she won’t be coming over…”

I was laughing on the other side of the telephone because I knew what he was trying to do. My mother-in-law however was getting really worked up and telling him off, saying things like…“Don’t say rubbish like that, she’ll think its true…” I wasn’t falling for it, not for a minute. I think deep down inside, she knew better but I find that sometimes, the idea of pausing for a moment after stimuli and choosing the best response is difficult and easier said than done. He knows all her buttons and he pushes them regularly.

He does this dance for me. There’s even some kind of twerking in it. He sends us all into stitches when he does grace us with his repertoire. He has threatened to do it in a g-string. A leopard patterned one. It was all talk of course because he would never go to those lengths but again, just as I did with the sandwich and Aedan, I thought I’d test him out too. For one of his Christmas presents, I bought him that g-string as a laugh and when he opened up his present, the whole clan was there and he was incredibly embarrassed. For once, we didn’t hear a word out of him and everyone thanked me profusely!

 

ogging 101, Day Sixteen: Make a Prompt Personal

Haunted House

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Our family home was huge. It had seven bathrooms to it and a garden the size of a small field. We had maids and a gardener, guards and drivers. My father was a self made man and he worked very hard to build his little empire. He had an architect help him design and build the house we lived in.

I remember that we had to rent another house for a couple of years in order for the work on the home my parents designed to be completed. The newly built house was beautifully done with wooden beams and warm lighting and different levels and parts to it which was excellent for entertaining. My father being a businessman had to do a lot of that. We had people coming from all over the world and staying with us too.

The contractor that was working on the house was a very superstitious man and after studying the house plans, he told my father that there was a tree in the way and that he would not be responsible for cutting that tree down. He believed that there was a spirit that lived in the tree and that if we took it’s home away, it would disturb the balance of things. He suggested building around the tree instead. My father who thought it was all poppycock, took it upon himself to saw the tree down one evening. When we sat down for dinner that night, I asked him, “What happened to your hand Papa?” There was a deep red scratch that ran from the lower part of his arm all the way up to his shoulder. He looked at me and said, “I was sawing down the tree and this hand with long thick nails came down from it and scratched me” I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds and just stared back at him whilst my Mum and he laughed out loud. He then told me that he was joking and that it was just an accident whilst he was out there in the back garden with the now felled tree.

When the contractor returned the day after, he was mortified. He said that it was a big mistake and now that spirit will have to find a new home. Our home. My father brushed it off and told him to get on with things and let him deal with the rest.

We had that house for about 20 years in all. We didn’t live there throughout those years because all my siblings and I were sent overseas to boarding school and further education at different stages. Nevertheless it was still one of our homes.

Most of the disturbance or haunting took place in the early years. After that period, it died down a lot with spurts here and there. The spirits weren’t malicious or evil. Just playful. There was this one room which started off as Maria’s and Talissa’s room, then later was passed on to each sibling at different stages of our lives there. I had it for a very short time when I was 12 years old. I had a slumber party there with my girlfriends one night and whilst we talked throughout the night, the lights were being played with and later when we fell asleep our legs were pulled, awakening us abruptly. We were very brave because we were a big group I guess and unlike those stupid movies, we stayed together, huddled and protected. Also, it was my home and it was familiar to me. Whatever scares I did experience melted away within a few days of the incidents. Besides I was always more afraid of wicked people and what they could do then a few restless spirits.

I know that room had some negative energy because any one of us who would stay there for long periods of time would become introvert and reclusive as if we were being sucked in by some dark force. After all, there use to be a tree that stood at the very center of that space.

When we sold the house to a large family who paid a lot of money for it, they stayed there for 6 months and then sold it again. That kind of pattern ensued and families came and went. The house still stands as is but was never a home again. It’s now an office for a production company and they use parts of it for filming apparently.

One fine day my younger sister, Ariana was out for an event and she was sat at a table with some people in the film  industry and there was this one lady who was relating a story. She said that her staff had gone bonkers and were constantly complaining about their office premise. She added that they say things go missing or are moved and that they can hear children playing upstairs. Ariana felt a rush and goosebumps all at once. She looked at the lady and asked, “Is your address number 43, Biddulph Mansions?” The lady was startled and with a shocked look on her face she replied, “How did you know?” Ariana smiled reassuringly and gently answered, “You should listen to your staff!”

The Petticoat Wars

I have four siblings. One of whom is adopted. She is actually my first cousin from my Mum’s family and after her father passed away in a car crash, she came to stay with us. I remember that day quite vividly because we went to the hospital and he was the first dead body I had ever seen. It was surreal.  He just lay there, lifeless and I recall feeling scared and anxious.

Maria was about fourteen when she moved in and she was a troubled teenager. Her mother had four children, each from different men and when she was younger, she was passed from one house to another growing up. My mother who was her godmother put an end to that when we took her into our family. I was very young when she came to our home. I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought that it was all very exciting and I loved her very much. Of course I didn’t really understand the dynamics of it all. She was ten years older than me and I already had a sister who was the oldest until Maria entered into the scene. They were only a couple of years apart and so they had more in common or so we thought. The truth is my sister, Talissa, was a bookworm and was very different from Maria. She didn’t care much for attention nor was she bothered about boys at that time. It was only later that I truly understood how annoying my sister found Maria and how her becoming part of the family would have an effect on Talissa for a long time after.

I was just a kid with my own issues and growing pains. I remember how Maria would drive me insane with her antics. It was always one thing or another. Believe it or not, we use to fight about petticoats. I know it sounds pathetic but I was a bit of a control freak as a child and I always had things in order. So much around me was beyond my control so I had to have that much. I was obsessive. I remember every dinner where it was compulsory in our household to sit and eat together at precisely 8.00pm, I would take the plate off the table and go to the sink to wash it and dry it before using it. My mother would always tell me to stop being silly and that it was already clean but I had to do what I had to do and so it became a routine that soon everyone was use to. The only time I couldn’t wash my plate was when we had guests so I would usually identify where I would be sitting and do some preparation before guests arrived. Understanding this, you will realise that the idea of someone coming into my room, rummaging through my drawers and choosing an item she liked to wear without my permission was a nightmare for me. That’s when the petticoat wars began.

It was just silly squabbling over nothing really but because of her heightened sensitivity and her deep insecurities, it was impossible for her to deal with me rationally. Everything was always blown out of proportion and she was ever the victim. This in turn lead to handling her with ‘kit gloves’ which would not help her deal with her demons in the long run. We felt bad for her and we wanted her to feel welcomed so tiptoeing around Maria was something we mastered very well. It was only later on in life that things changed and that happened because nobody can tolerate having to be careful and constantly on guard with their own family. We grew up and she had to catch up or be left behind. I soon realised that although I never had any issues with acknowledging her as my sister and it was never something that I debated on, it was a point of contention for her. She had the problem with that, not us. Even though my parents had done everything to ensure that there was no division or difference in their treatment of all of us, it didn’t matter. Her issues were too deep for her to see just how good she really had it. You couldn’t win with her. It was a constant test.

She was allergic to aspirin and I recall one particular evening when she had taken a pill that contained the ingredient and her whole face looked like it had been through a boxing match. I was hiding in the corner of the room because there was so much commotion and our aunts were all around her, getting her off the bed and rushing her to the hospital and for a child, that whole scene haunted me for a while because I didn’t know what was going on. I was petrified that she was going to die and I would see her lifeless body just lying there like her father did on that operating table years before.

For Maria, anything and everything is always about her trauma and her experience. You will never have it as bad as she has had it. Although we were close as a family, these issues would constantly be apparent and more wars would ensue. She harboured a lot of resentment and jealousy towards me, thinking that I always got what I wanted and things always came easy to me. She felt that any triumph or success that I enjoyed was some sort of negative for her. As if there wasn’t enough for everyone to share. There was always some bitterness involved and I let it get to me for a long time.

Maria taught me so much. I learnt that having everyone’s approval is really overrated and that self-love and recognition is the best kind of acknowledgement I could ever attain. She also taught me so much about unconditional love because til this day, I can say that she is my sister and that I send her the best of vibes and buckets of love. I learnt tolerance and acceptance from her too. Honestly, the list goes on but for the sake of a conclusion, I would say that one of the most priceless lessons I gained from having her in my life, is that I would never compromise my authenticity for anyone ever again. I owe that to myself and to the person involved. I am who I am and if you don’t like it, in the words of my marvelous mother, “You can lump it!”