Keeping Secrets

I’m always reflecting; be that on world events, personal circumstances or our general existence my mind is always a whirl with thoughts. This week I came across a picture on social media that made me think about how some of us are so compelled to share absolutely everything, the good, the bad and the devastatingly awful.

When Crissy Teigen chose to share the pain filled photo of her grief so many questions ran through my mind. I’ve been in a similar position to Crissy before, I understand that in sharing we can find the strength to move forward, to cope, to heal but at the same time we are putting ourselves in such a place of vulnerability in a world that can be a cruel place. However, in saying that, sharing every minute detail of our lives has become the norm. It’s as though the social media powers have brainwashed us into thinking that it is perfectly normal to announce that you had toast and a coffee for breakfast with a side serving of chemo pills. We consume other people’s lives day in day out to the point we don’t even know what is real anymore.

We question our choices; we can’t wear an outfit unless it’s been on Debbie Le, can’t make a financial decision without consulting The Break but at the same time want to live it up like we’re on Beyonc√©’s budget. Our houses aren’t clean unless we’ve used Mrs Hinch’s methods and clothes can’t be put in a bag without thanking them for their service. We are plagued by the losses of our favourite celebs and humoured by the misfortunes of others. We rally around making sure that our favourite Instagram couple are still on track but our best friend’s relationship could be in tatters and we only bother to check in if her WhatsApp status is concerning. We spend so much time smiling down at our phones that we pay little attention to what is going on around us and we forget special occasions unless Facebook sends us a reminder.

Of course we aren’t all living in a social media bubble some of us are pretty good at switching off and paying attention to what is going on in front of us but I have personally lost count of the amount of times I’ve had someone ask me to repeat something because they were too busy watching the latest TikTok dance to hear what I’d said.

It might be an age thing, I turn 40 in a couple of days, but I’ve become really conscious of not wanting to be so engaged with phones and consoles that I miss life. I’ve also come to the realisation that some things just need to be kept to myself. Sometimes you offer up too much of yourself and then everyone thinks they have a right to an opinion. I’m tired of hearing unsolicited opinions, they have a tendency to make me question my own mind and in all honesty, I question it enough as it is! That’s not to say I’ve magically turned into a “private person”, I write a blog for goodness sake! I am however a grumpy middle aged woman who doesn’t want to share my relationship status nor my lack of bedroom activity with anyone that isn’t on my phone’s favourites list!

Is it ok to be Vulnerable?

It’s been a while, I’ve been busy making work and life balance exactly how I want it too and so far there is some success.  I’m enjoying my role in school (I’m currently leading writing and have been given the additional responsibility of Keystage lead starting in September), I’m spending time with my family and friends and I’ve even done a cheeky bit of shopping.  The only thing not currently happening for me is travel; I’m itching to jump on a plane again.

I’ve tried to write a couple of times but each time what I want to say either doesn’t quite come out or has made me feel overly exposed.  Funny that, I write this blog with the aim of being 100% authentically me but when things get too personal I pull back and give 0%.  If I was like that in my every day life I’d never get anywhere.  So this post is just a catch up to say hello and perhaps make myself a little vulnerable in the process.

During the height of the pandemic, when gatherings were locked down, restaurants weren’t available and church was an online only event, I spent a lot of time doing not much at all except work, in some ways this was a good thing, it gave me time to do things around the house and make some financial investments however it also left me secluded, I forgot how much fun it was to go out with friends and family and instead got very comfortable with being in my home.  As things have gradually started to normalise my feelings about getting out and about haven’t.  I’ve converted to forcing myself to attend social events because I know once I’m there I’ll have an amazing time.  I’ve even told my friends and family that with my 40th birthday coming up, barring catching a flight, there is nothing I would rather do than stay at home and cuddle up with a hot drink and a book.  This of course has been met with hard resistance and family telling me I have no choice but to celebrate with them.  In my heart of hearts I know I’d probably regret it if I didn’t celebrate but currently my mind is screaming a big fat NO.

I’ve joked at the presence of a mid life crisis but in reality I’m probably just about to step into the best days of my life. Yes, I’m still single and longing for my Boaz to take me out of the barley fields but I’m also glad I didn’t choose to settle out of desperation. It’s easy to look back and think perhaps I missed out on the person that was for me because I wanted the complete package, even though I wasn’t the complete package but in reality they were never for me because I wasn’t ready.

Now I’m ready.

I have an adult daughter and a son who is in his last year of primary school. I have a good job and a decent side hustle. I have investments and savings for the first time in my life and a handful of solid friends who I wouldn’t change for the world. That’s not to say I don’t miss some of the friends that drifted. I’m a very sentimental person and there are people who for whatever reason left my life that I am not afraid to admit I miss. I’ve always said that love is something you can’t just erase, once someone had my love, they will always have it, perhaps not in the same way but love doesn’t just vanish.

So what’s next? God knows. I have plans and dreams to accomplish so I’m going to stay focused and continue to work towards the life I desire.

Is it ok to be vulnerable? Yes!! We have all been there and in those moments you have the opportunity to grow the most.

What’s next for you?

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We’re not racist!

The outraged voices of white Britain have spoken.¬† Even the hint of such an outdated critique on the morals of our¬† Great British soul has us hiring the other, to write reports that defend our covertly racist systems.¬† Though The Comission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, admitted to “some evidence of bias.” It placed the onus on black and ethnic minority stumbling blocks, squarely at the feet of the individual.

Now, this blog post is as diverse as the leaders in the education system or the board of directors in a finance company.¬† It’s diverse in reverse.¬† The people I spoke to are a group of 30+ year old professional women 4 black, 1 Asian and a white woman thrown in for good measure.¬† If you dig deep enough, you might even hear the echoes of a man I spoke to in passing. He’s not quite made it to leadership in my established friendship group, so his voice doesn’t really matter.

This may sound crazy to you, but this is our lived experience.¬† We are used to being the only ‘ethnic minority’ in the room, or for some, the only woman¬† at the table.¬† When the colour of your skin grants you privilege, you tend to forget that not everyone has access to life in the same way you do.

The report suggested that, “we have a reluctance to acknowledge the UK had become open and fairer.” This leads me to wonder who did they actually speak to?¬† Every one of the women I interviewed led with the fact they acknowledged things had become better from when they were younger, they were no longer subject to having abusive language freely thrown at them as in their 1980s and 90s childhoods, yet being told, “I hope you catch Sickle Cell or Thalassemia.”¬† Was a reality for one of them.¬† Sophisticated use of language that might be missed by the more liberal of society, has become the new way.

Us women are the first to admit that the breakdown in families plays a part. It seems stupid to ignore the fact that slavery ripped our men from the family home and created a damaging mindset for both men and women.¬† Our women are used to being ‘Strong, independent,’ doing things for ourselves.¬† We don’t need men.¬† But of course this is not true, we know that the more successful of our children are those that grow up in well rounded households, something that the report agrees.

A couple of the women I spoke to questioned the use of stop and search and suggested that it was more used to assert dominance than to actually impact on knife crime.¬† Why if police are stopping and searching more, are our young men still being killed 24 times more than their white counterparts?¬† It’s not that they are apposed to stop and search, they just want to see a correlation in the number of searches and a downward trend in knife crime.¬† The report recommends a ‘reconceptualised idea of stop and search.’ Of course we will have to wait and see what that actually entails when¬† the time comes.¬†¬† What we want are to know our children will be safe walking the streets.

We agreed that access was a key stumbling block and although the report states that there is no evidence of systemic or institutional racism, it does highlight that the doors to opportunity, although open, are still only half open to some and the “snowy white peaks at the top of private and public sectors” don’t do much to indicate lasting change.

The most Impactful thing I did get from my friendship group is that all of us wanted to see change, all of us want to be a part of that change and all of us recognise that the change must come not just from the way systems operate but also from an individual level.  What are we doing to grow our communities and push through the media blackout when it comes to our successes?  What are we able to do to ensure our youth are not wrongly prejudged before even lifting a hand to knock the door? 

We call “bullshit” on the idea that systemic and institutional racism doesn’t exist in Britain and yes it does exist alongside geographical, family, socio-economic, cultural and religious issues but our experiences are not to be swept under the rug because they are not understood.¬†

What we need is meaningful discourse that doesn’t wipe out our truth like the history books entwined in our outdated education system. We need leaders that aren’t afraid to push for the black man or woman because they’ve worked to hard to get in position.¬† We need representation that lets everyone know that we are an integral part of this country’s success.¬† We need people to stop gaslighting us as though we don’t know what racism is and we need to “self govern, protect, teach and nurture,” in order to become the community we desire to be.

Our rebellion does not have to be armed with weapons meant to kill or harm, our rebellion will be one armed with knowledge and wealth to promote change.

Single and Sharing

This could simply be a me thing but I find when I’m single and by single I mean not claiming anyone as my man, the left side of my bed tends to be occupied by books, devices, confectionery, anything other than a man. I read somewhere once, that you should prepare for what you want; set an extra plate at the table; leave a space in the closet etc and for a little while I actually did this madness. It’s no wonder my favourite ex used to tell me I was book smart but not street smart. In fact he would go as far as to say, “You have no sense of the common kind.” God rest his soul.

There is always so much pressure on a woman to fill that side of her bed. Either to have children, help raise existing children or generally just have a help mate. I get it, all of those things are important, if, you want them. What they do though, is impose a false narrative that without them you can’t be fulfilled. They make men feel empowered because they are needed, yet make some women feel a sense of desperation causing them to settle for way less than they deserve.

In 2019, I was in a long distance relationship with a guy I had met on holiday. I had insisted on the no sex before marriage rule so he was putting on the pressure to come and stay with me in the UK. When I told him he’d have to get a hotel or stay with friends he got very upset.

The offers of marriage had been flooding in from him and had I been back in my 20s, I probably would have agreed. He started getting possessive and wanting to know where I was and who I was with every minute of the day. I get that long distance it can be difficult but I didn’t share the desire to know his every move and at this point, I decided to call it off. His response, “You’re never going to find anyone like me who’s willing to marry you.” Strong words, which after hearing my response he soon retracted, but the fact he had the nerve to even think it, was everything that is wrong with the way society empowers men to think they are better than women.

Beyonc√© put it best when she said, “I can have another you in a minute…”

What men fail to understand is that we don’t have difficulty getting a man, men are always ‘available’. Most of us could have been married 3 times over if we chose to settle. What we do have trouble with is finding a man who is committed and doesn’t view monogamy as a straight jacket made to stop them ‘living their best life.’

I refuse to idolise anyone’s relationships because we all know that behind closed doors anything could happen but I do love some of the wisdom that comes from the mouths of men like Steve Harvey, he recognised his woman as an asset, his best one. He teaches woman that as misogynistic as it may seem, a man should profess you are his, provide for you and protect you. There is a lot to be said for this.

So whilst my bed might be taken up by chocolate wrappers and the latest self help guide to a better life, I’m going to enjoy my freedom and fill my time with friendship and laughter and maybe the next guy that comes along will be at a stage where their community cat days are over and they recognise the value that a good woman has to bring, perhaps they’ll even buy me another bedside table for the left hand side of my bed.