Being a bully is not cool


A dear friend has been struggling with envy. From a close family person. Who one has supposed in being older and a parent and from a generation that is known to have been inclusive should have been at the very least a neutral presence.

The friend in her wisdom and compassion decided to be the ‘bigger person’ — finding reason to either excuse or overlook the older relative’s foolhardy, provocative and hostile behaviour and expressions — written and spoken.

A couple of days ago, when the older relative decided, unilaterally, presumptuously and inconsiderately to heap some more unwanted responsibility on my friend’s head without once checking with her, my friend decided, appropriately that enough was enough.

And she confronted the relative with plain speak about the series of unfair and unkind decisions that had been made over her head, requiring her work, involvement, time and energy. That she in her civility and maturity she had so far put her head down and just got done. For her own sanity for the sanity and safety of her children.

And she said, ‘no more’. And somehow, the newness of it — her changing tack, the unexpectedness of it, and the obvious injustice of the situation so far, together made the relative ‘turn a new leaf’. Or so it seems. The relative acknowledged, by not saying anything in response, that what had happened so far was indeed unjust and that the way she had conducted herself was, to put it mildly, a shame.

Sometimes it seems that the only thing bullies respect is just this — a loud refusal to cow down to their bullying. For people like my friend who are mild-mannered, peace-loving and not interested in contests, the need to have to do so seems an unnecessary drain on their energies, time and grace. But this episode to me proves better than anything else that sometimes we need to reach outside our propensities and fight the good fight to say no to bullies, no to habitually presumptuous behaviour and no to arrogant entitlements from those who profess to being close without a clue about the responsibilities that accompany it.

A mother’s lament – life’s unfinished business


There is something fundamentally different in your world view when you become a mum (and from what I can see in my mother, a grand mum.)

I remember being rather cocky, stupidly cerebral and over-confident in the face of illness (especially of course rather cruelly when it concerned someone not so close) and the associated although often unstated thoughts and fears about death.

Now that I am a mum, I relate entirely and horribly completely with my own mother’s sorrow and fear of passing away – too soon (when are we as children ready anyway?); but unlike me, none of her fears have to do with her fear of death itself but the unfinished business of helping me raise my little girl in the wonderful, loving and mindful way that she and she alone has made possible, nurtured and protected; and of being my strongest source of support and irreplaceable, steadfast friend (‘what will happen to my girl when I’m gone, who is she going to have?,’ is what she told her beloved niece, my cousin).

To her face, of course I want to be positive, strong and stoic – I find myself saying we are going to the doctors because we want to know what is wrong – and no matter what they find, even with the heart, there is something we can do to help it feel less strain to help it do its work better.

But after 6 visits to the doctors in so many days in the searing heat, I understand her weariness and exhaustion.

Tests done so far confirm the heart is carrying a load and in all probably will need help of some kind; that the days of being ad-hoc in terms of treatment for various closely related conditions are over. And yet hearing doctors tell her that her heart of all things has been affected is hard to take – for someone who has prided herself in never having to medicate herself for anything other than the flu or minor conditions, I understand it feels like a horrible shock to have to face being told that your most vital organ needs careful and regular looking after.

And yet, I want to believe we are going to come through — for her sake, my sake, my little girl’s sake and the family’s sake – and that this is just the beginning of much deserved, greater attention to her for the first time in our life as a family and her life as a mum and grand-mum.

Happiness


A patch of green right in front of our flat getting cleaned up. The insistent roar of lawn mowers. A group of bored looking maalis laden with sacks of dark earth, seeds, planting equipment. Quietly busy for days on end. Coming in the mornings, leaving in the afternoons, shifting wordlessly the heavy, long pipes spouting stinky, untreated water – the only kind that can be used so generously in our part of the city for non sentient beings or so we believe.

Six cheerful neon coloured benches parked in various spots.

And already, flower beds blooming. Purple and magenta heads bobbing in the breeze and an entire swathe of smiling yellow heads – the ever cheerful sunflowers. A few bushes ringed with clutches of white, red and pink flowers with translucent petals and long, bendy, fragile stems.

The local cricket team graciously opting to play on the other side of this now fertile part.

The sun shining down, pleasantly warm. It’s occasional sting eased by a wonderful breeze.

A fraying carpet no longer too loved to always have to live the good life, now used as a picnic mat.

Little T, mum and I waiting for my friend and her girl to come.

And in the interim, a sort of march past of nearly all the neighbourhood families we know – stopping by, asking after T – our block of flats’ only or in any case most adored little person; remarking on the lovely weather, the picnic mat, while she does circles around me, soaking in all the warmth, giggling, half falling, rising, smiling.

Finally, after a seemingly eternal wait, our little troop of picnickers arriving.

T and her friend quickly getting ready with their plastic pails, picking grass, showering the flower beds with ‘grass rain’, picking up stones, coming to us each time they find an especially spectacular one, our gossiping in the snatches of minutes we get between their sojourns to us; proud, happy, ‘beached whale’ mammas.

Fearful fever


I used to say I prefer a raging fever to the debilitating and hugely irritating common cold.

But I dont anymore.

Especially not when it concerns little T.

For with her, the fever comes, as it must do with most children, in the middle of the night. Always. And always always horribly high. And often, even the prescribed dosage of paediatric paracetemol doesnt ease the heat or discomfort or pain.

So I and my mum end up sitting next to her, dabbing her hot head with room temperature water while worrying whether the coolness of the water may cause a worsening of her sore throat and cold.

When she is awakened by the need to cough, she angrily pushes away our hands, protesting that she doesnt like the feeling of a wet rag on her head. But we ignore that, wait for her to sleep and then start again.

Often, while her head is hot and she is moaning with the discomfort of the fever, the cold and body pain that stupid viruses bring, her hands and feet are icy cold.

So we take turns to cover them with a bedsheet until little T pushes it away and we wait for her to settle down and repeat the same motions.

While doing this last night I was thinking how necessary a removal of your self is to raising a new young life.

And how this reveals itself so clearly during illness.

It isn’t necessarily the end of your self but it is certainly a postponement and removal.

And I can say almost quite certainly that none of us who enter parenthood had the faintest idea that this is what it is about. In a pretty fundamental way.

Not only is it not for the faint hearted. But also that this is probably one of the best kept secrets of all times.