Turning T&Cs into TLC

I walked passed a store recently which had a sign saying ‘free goody bags’; a sign which of course piqued my curiosity as someone who is a shameless lover of free goods. But when I paused to read further I saw that it only applied to those who spent a certain amount in the store- £60 or more.

I perceive life to be like that too; with terms and conditions (T&Cs) attached to every decision we make. Will the decision cause our financial hardship? Will it cause us mental or physical harm? The problem is- we don’t always know what those terms and conditions are until we living with the decision we have made.

This is something I’ve come to accept recently since I tend to be overly cautious with decision making. Simply because, I don’t want to live with easily avoidable regrets (but then again, who does?) But something occurred to me recently- there’s something to be learnt in every regret we have- or rather, every instance that caused a regret. Seeing regrets as learning curves changes things dramatically; for one it helps shift our perspective. Wade through the shame, embarrassment and self-resentment that your regrets have burdened you with and find a learning point you can take away from it. Maybe the lesson is to appreciate those in your life more, to leave fewer words unsaid, or maybe it’s to make more time for the things you love.

That learning curve will hopefully prepare you for a future situation and when the time comes; you will be thankful you went through that regretful situation.

 

An Honest Review: American Son

Hey Guys,

I decided to mix it up a bit and write a film review today.

American Son poster
Image source: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/81024100

Quick Synopsis: At the start of the film we meet a concerned mother (Kerry Washington, best known from the show Scandal) who is waiting at the police station to enquire about her child. Later on, the father (Steven Pasquale) joins the picture and together they wait to find out the mystery of where their child is. It’s worth noting before I start my review that race matters in this film. Kerry’s character is a black psychology lecturer married to a white FBI officer, and together they have a mixed-race child.

My Thoughts:

A lot of ground is covered- but beautifully so in this film. It’s easy at first to think of it as a 3D case study of police brutality. But more lurks beneath the surface; through the husband and wife interactions more is explored regarding the intricacies of interracial relationships, being mixed race/ black in America, discrimination and parenthood.

What makes this film quite unique is that it doesn’t have a big cast (only around 4 actors) and the location is the same throughout. So from a distance, it would be easy to assume not much is going on. However, we learn an awful lot about the characters as time goes on and it’s those revelations that shape the film and (fairly slow-moving) plotline. Ultimately, whilst distracting us from the hanging question ‘what happened to the son?!’.

I was in awe of the acting, you could feel Kerry’s character’s pain which helped to amplify the tension. It might sound dramatic but your heart does hurt several times throughout the film for her. Also, the push- and pull nature displayed between the spouses throughout the film, made an intriguing watch.

Overall, I would give this film an 8.5/10. A tense watch (not sure I would handle seeing it on the big screen) so perfect for Netflix, which it is available to watch on.

 

 

Listen, listen carefully

I remember a while back I called a friend of mine to catch up. As we spoke it became apparent she was having a tough time in many ways. After hearing her speak I resorted to giving her advice (from the top of my head) and some tips on how I thought she could deal with her issues moving forward. She then got angry stating to me that my tips were things she had already considered/tried and that she wasn’t seeking my advice. I quickly apologised after and we shortly ended the call, with confusion still hanging in the air on my side.

woman in teal dress shirt sits near wall
What does true listening look like? (Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com)

Although my initial emotion reflex was to get angry and annoyed I later realised my friend had unknowingly taught me a valuable lesson through that interaction. Sometimes, when people pour their hearts out to you, they aren’t looking for resolve or an immediate solution, they just want you to listen. It’s a simple observation and one that feels oh so obvious but yet, something even I have much room for improvement in.

Nowadays in my interactions with people, I find myself wondering what true listening is/ looks like. There’s one thing I can tell you in regards to this.

It involves empathy and seeking to understand the feelings being shared with you. Depending on whether the situation calls for it it may involve; giving advice or rather it may involve a simple hug or show of affection. Following up with questions is always good; it shows you are listening,  interested and have a grasp on what is being relayed to you. ‘How did that make you feel?‘, ‘What can I do to help?‘ or sometimes a ‘thank you for sharing that with me‘ may be called for in the aftermath of the most difficult of confessions.

The first line I write with consideration because there are times when you may not relate to the nature of the problems people you listen to are going through and that’s okay. The worst it means for you is that you can’t say ‘I know what you’re going through, [insert personal story of how you relate here]’. I say this particularly when you come from a different world from the person you talk to.

For example, if a person of colour (POC) meets a white person and the former starts talking about racial discrimination they have faced; as white person from a working-class background it is not suddenly called for you to go ‘I can relate because as someone who grew up on an estate blah blah blah…’ Such things can be done with the sincerest of intentions but are, in my opinion, the wrong course of action to take. Rather, take the opportunity to properly listen to the POC and understand their experience. Use it, if you like, as a learning experience. This applies in regards to numerous oppressed or minority groups you may ever encounter; from travellers to the LGBT+ community. Only when such things are taken into account can dialogue between groups and/ or individuals be effectively done.

 

 

Life is but a stage

At the end of day and at the end of this life

When the last tear has been cried

and our last song sung

We just want to know

that we became someone

Numerous events throughout this year have made me continuously reflect on how fleeting life is. Attending a funeral service. Reading in the paper recently of a bride that died on her way to the church to get married. Walking to the station in West London and seeing the looming presence of Grenfell Tower under the night sky.

It can be scary mainly due to the unpredictability of it all. From apps that predict menstrual cycles to apps that display weather forecasts, bus times and TV schedules – access to information that predicts things happening before they actually do is usually right at our fingertips. Death, unfortunately, has never been one of those things and can pierce through our lives like lightning- violent, nosy, sudden and always unwelcome. Another unpredictable aspect is who it will happen to. In Macbeth Shakespeare likened life to a stage- with everyone in life having cues on when to enter but also on when to exit. But how do you know when the play is finally over and it’s your cue to exit?

It sounds quite depressing to ponder on but it should actually get us thinking and fill us with urgency. I’m always reminded of Beyonce’s song ‘I Was Here’ when it comes to legacy- the lyrics appeal to the fundamental part of everyone that wants to leave a positive imprint on Earth before they die. Not necessarily so that they’re remembered because of it but rather so that they can die with the peace of knowing that just one life was bettered through their existence.

Reflecting on it all, I’ve decided I want to be known for love. For loving people fiercely. That may take different forms- since God himself is love and reflects it in different forms. From defending the oppressed and campaigning against injustice to simply just being there and listening to people; letting them know I see you. I want to be the one that embodies all those things. It’s a tall task but one I feel I’m called to. And in the end, it may not get me named after a community centre or charity foundation but a big legacy is not always the most meaningful. Holding an intimate place in the heart and minds of a few loved ones is more than enough.

Have you decided what your legacy will be?

In the moment. In the now.

I miss you, yet I see you every day.

Is this how it feels to be so close to someone

yet so far away?

Disclaimer: I write this (as with all my posts) with no malice. In fact, I may sometimes be guilty of this myself so I’ll keep that in mind throughout.

Is it only me or do people find it so hard to be in the moment nowadays? By that I mean just savouring the present moment and appreciating what you’re doing and who you’re with. I can sometimes be with people and see they’re with me but actually quite distant all at once. Distracted by their phone either pinging with messages or simply not strong enough to resist the momentary urge to scroll through social media whilst you are talking. And that can be quite a frustrating state of affairs; firstly because it set a precedent for the whole evening and secondly, it means they may not have heard something that you felt was really important or took a lot of courage to share. In fact, it can be quite rare I find to be with someone I know and just be within a moment where you’re both talking whilst filled with genuine appreciation and joy at being with that particular person. With no one else. Or anywhere else. But there. I have a friend that will always tell me off for being on my phone and insist I put it away when with her. As a true phone addict would, I used to be annoyed at that but after some reflection and observation of my own social situations in the past few months I’ve seen the logic behind what I thought was once madness on her part.

It may not be intentional but being on your phone indicates you’ve only half-heartedly pushed time aside for that person. That you’re physically present but mentally you’re only half present here and God knows where else. The greatest sign of care and love is when you’re sitting opposite each other or walking side by side and you’re friend puts their phone away and looks you square in the eyes and says ‘talk to me’. That’s the cue that says to me (supported by action) that, I’m here for you, I’m listening and I’m all yours. The exclusivity of time is one of the benefits of a relationship and should definitely be taken more seriously. It may feel more intense without your phone there to buffer the awkward moments if they arise but at the end of your time together- whether long or short- you’ll know and love each other that little bit more. Because you’ll be reminded all over again of why you love that person and keep them in your life.

Cutting through the noise

You’re enough. You’re blessed. You’re fabulous. In fact, you’re pretty darn amazing. You may not see it from time to time and sometimes the negative thoughts become like a dark haze, causing your amazing-ness obscure from view. But trust me, it remains a fact- so never forget that.

I write these words for anyone who is going through a rough patch and needs to hear it. But I also write these as a note to myself. Recently feelings of self-doubt and insecurity have been slowly flooding the walls of my mind and it has honestly felt quite tiring and unbearable at times. But insecurities are like that, they can end up silently leeching your energy and you won’t even know until you have none left. A good visual image to imagine how it feels is a cliche film scene where the female character enters the bathtub and submerges herself in the water. There’s a deafening pause as you wonder if she will arise again and choose life. And she always does. Gasping for air and slightly panicked, but she always does.

In the same way, when flooded with the thoughts we have to come back fighting. It’s definitely hard, but equally as possible. I believe that for every deafening feeling of self-doubt we have God is screaming even louder the words I started the blog with. Constantly. All the time. We just have to make the active choice to cut through the noise and listen. Over the voices of society or our peers. But most importantly, over the voices of ourselves.

Memories come, memories go…

I was watching a K-drama recently and the male protagonist Jun-yeong said something interesting. Something along the lines of

‘Memories are scary because you can’t control them.’

The more I pondered on it the more I found it to be true. We create memories but over time they can become like muddy waters that were once clear. We see elements of what makes the original thing but can’t grasp or remember the bigger picture. On a more logical note, even things like dementia, Alzheimers and amnesia take away the human ability to rely on our brains to store our memories like living room cabinet’s store china. Untouched, in one piece and always there for reference. I’ve always thought this is what fuels our addiction to various forms of technology- we love those phones and cameras can capture moments with crystal clear clarity that will remain over time. In this way, they have an added advantage the mind does not.

I was thinking about this [the unreliability of memories] as I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming and the sceptical voice in my head kept asking ‘how on earth does someone remember their childhood with so much clarity?’ Even when I look back to when I was such an age I can’t remember everything- which saddens me slightly- as if my mind’s once-tight grasp has loosened on these precious jewels whilst life turned my attention away.

But I am encouraged by what I do remember. The shine of the sun recently for example, randomly reminded me of the Sunday evening rush to the street outside so we could be first in line when the ice-cream van arrived. (You could always hear it before you saw it.) My siblings and I would always order a flavour called ‘lemon ice’ which captured the two-sided sweet-tangy nature of lemon perfectly. And although we may obsess over the specifics, it’s the feeling of happiness such treasured memories give you which is even more priceless.

Ghosts of Friendships past

Friendship is a funny thing. Am I the only one that looks down the long hallway that is my past and sees the floating shadows of many former friendships? These are not necessarily friendships that suffered an explosive ending. Most of the time you try to keep in touch but days pass and the next thing you know two years have gone and you’ve barely spoken.  I do see these friends every now and then but the conversation is very brief and shallow, almost as if you’re back to acquaintance (or even stranger) level again. After all, people do change- and much quicker than we know sometimes. Although the joyful memories associated with them bring happiness, you almost have to take time to grieve that individual as you realise the intimacy you shared may not ever be experienced again.

But as the old ends, new ones begin and such is the pain and beauty of friendship.

__________________

 

I hate that we don’t talk

as much as we used to.

Will I ever meet some someone like you

I often wonder.

The spontaneous singing

The endless conversations

the laughing, the moments.

Heart to hearts

All in the past.

 

 

How it’s meant to be.

Yesterday I had a moment of serenity as I walked down the path to choir rehearsal. I was on the back streets of Notting Hill, the sun shining (weakly, but shining nonetheless), cooling intervals of breeze and Shawn Mendes’ voice soothing my eardrums. Did I mention I was eating a beef patty? Well, I should have, and with every bite, I was more appreciative of the moment at hand. As I looked at the trees ahead fighting for the sun’s spotlight I thought about how everything had conspired for this moment to happen. If I had decided to go home or to a different part of London, or maybe if it had rained instead- that exact moment wouldn’t have happened. That kind of mathematics (i.e. possible worlds and alternative chains of events) I like to leave to God, but it’s amazing to think about every now and then; it gives a new meaning to the moment.

Here’s a poem a wrote to embody the feeling in such moments:

I’m stoppable, untoppable*

as I walk down the street

there is no obstacle

that can slow me down.

The wind is my fanfare and

the sun my spotlight.

My feet tread light but stride confidently.

And my worries are only echoes

My worries are only echoes.

_______________

(*technically not a word but hey ho.)

Free with flowing thoughts…

On the day I should have been writing this post I had been sitting in an Itsu cafe in South London. It was desolate and peaceful. And in my head as I savoured the peace I congratulated myself for finding my little haven in the bustle. Even though I only had half the day off [of work] I really didn’t know what to do. I had piled on my tabletop the various options I had considered; Bible study booklet, current reading book and notebook for creative writing. It’s quite weird having even just a relatively small amount of time on your hands if you’re used to being on the go non-stop. It’s almost like your mind has to (with a lot of effort) tell your body to chill so you properly relax; embrace the moment of stillness.

As I adjusted and became more comfortable I people watched. In the back of my mind, I imagined being in a small and chic Parisian cafe watching busy folk curry across pavements to the sound of sipping coffee.

It was quiet in the shop but a customer sitting by the door inspired this:

 

Mr Anonymous

He plots world domination

one click at a time.

Liking tweet after tweet

twiddling with his headphones and

smiling out of the window

before swiftly disappearing onto the street,

melting into the crowd.