choice

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” 

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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.

Little Miss Scarcity

Do you know her? She’s not part of the Mister Men or Little Miss clan I’m afraid. I loved them when I was growing up. I thought they were so cute and interesting with all their different personalities and characteristics. I never questioned their dissimilarities, They were exciting and unique. I was innocent and very accepting of the world around me. Everything was about discovery and nothing was impossible. I remember that when I was ten, I had the idea that I could be a doctor in the morning and a lawyer by night. Nobody ever told me that I couldn’t so I only ever knew that I could. Then I met reality and her very sharp teeth.

Another stage was born in my life and I only learnt about how difficult and tough things were. How I had to work really hard for whatever money that I would make. How life could be painful and full of disappointment and that’s when I learnt how strong I really was because I fought. I refused to give in and accept that kind of pessimism. My friends would tease me and call me ‘The Optimist” but they did it in jest because I think secretly they wanted some of what I was having. They didn’t want to feel as defeated and low as they sometimes did. They would occasionally ask me, “Are you high?” And I’d reply, “Yes. I’m high on life!” I became the agony aunt for many of them. I soon realised that the majority just wanted to hear themselves talk. They weren’t really looking for a solution. They just wanted to be dramatic and be the center of some attention. They continued to do the same things in their lives and feigned helplessness. I didn’t understand it and it became frustrating and energy draining. I started to become what I was surrounded with. I guess that’s why they the say, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”.

Then something magical happen. I was made aware of two tools that would change my life forever. I learnt about perception and choice and all the power they would bring into my existence. It was liberating. I no longer had to feel angry at the traffic. I didn’t have to say yes to doing something that I didn’t want to do just because someone thought I ought to do it. I learnt how to say no and be okay about it. I didn’t have to do anything. I had a choice. I could choose and I became a phoenix, rising up from the ashes. It was as if I was given wings.

This was the part in my life where I came full circle and I realised that reality didn’t have to bite. That I had the power to create my own world and that it could be anything that I wanted it to be. I became a little of that child again and the possibility was limitless. Sure I am not the doctor by day and lawyer by night but I truly believe that it is that way because that is the way I want it to be and not because I can’t achieve that. If I wanted it, it would be. Sometimes I still get teased and I’m told, “Well, I want a Ferrari!” My answer to that kind of statement is usually, “Well obviously, you don’t want it badly enough” And then we laugh.

Perception is everything. Not to make Choice jealous but really it is. I wouldn’t have created a new relationship with choice if it weren’t for perception. To further illustrate, I want to introduce the star of this show. Little Miss Scarcity. She is a lovely girl and she has a warmth about her that no one can deny. However, she is also very afraid and insecure and because of these elements, she can be infuriating. I coined the phrase for her because I understand that her reactions are based on one main thing and that is that she feels there is just not enough. And so when someone feels that way, they become greedy or stingy and she is almost manic about it at times and over such petty things.

One evening, after a dinner she had cooked for us, her mother and I had decided to clear up and dish out desert. When I opened the freezer to get out the ice-cream, there were several tubs in there and her mother caught a glimpse of one particular flavour which took her fancy. “Oh I’ll have that one” she said excitedly. Sadly, her daughter quickly answered, “No, you can’t have that one!” Her mother looked disappointed and a little taken aback, “Why?” Her daughter replied, “Because that’s the good one” and her mother looked at me and shook her head with disbelief. I ignored the whole thing because something like that coming from her was not surprising. Fancy telling your mother that though? That saddened me. Especially because her mother is one of the most giving women I know.

Another incident was when I was cooking dinner for them. She called me up and left a message about an hour before they were meant to arrive, saying that she wouldn’t be coming because she had to finish some work that was overdue but that she would send a container for me to prepare a “doggy bag” for her. It was more like a bucket. And yes, I filled it to the brim and when my sister asked me why I had done that, why I didn’t just put in her portion and leave it at that? I smiled and calmly said that it wasn’t a big deal and that it was only food. She then told me that I shouldn’t have because she wouldn’t have done the same for me and that she was just being greedy. After all she even wanted some of the dessert they had brought along for the meal and sent specific instructions to bring some back. Her boyfriend told me that if he didn’t bring some back that he would ‘be in trouble’. I ended up giving whatever we hadn’t eaten back. I understood the frustration that my sister had felt and how ashamed she felt for Little Miss Scarcity but I told her that it didn’t matter what she would or would not do for me and that I do not do or give in accordance to what others will do for me or give back to me. The important part in all of this was that this is who I am. Never mind about her. My legacy is much more important to me. And my sister gave me a hug and was silent. I knew she understood and that she got it immediately.

I do wish that Little Miss Scarcity would get that there is enough. That you don’t have to take so quickly from your neighbour. That taking in that way will ultimately perpetuate her feeling of emptiness because I can see that she is unhappy but pushes it aside and pretends that all is well. There is obvious imbalance in her life and a lot of fear. If only she would change her perception and free herself from the prison of desperateness she has created. She is essentially a good person. Would it be naive of me to say that I actually think that essentially we all are? Flawed definitely but also good. I know that eventually life will teach her that people do not gravitate towards takers. That sharing and giving is so much more rewarding. In the mean time, I will continue to love her and if she ever asks me for my opinion, I will tell her outright what I think but until then I will send her joy and peace and be the example. One day she may be inspired and reinvent herself with a shift in her perception too. After all, it starts with just a little twist in thinking and then everything starts to unravel and life can change dramatically for the better or worse. That is part of our power and ultimately, we choose.