Have you ever had someone look at you
Like you were the sun?
Beautiful and fiery.
Passionate and addictive.
Our love was fast and hard.
Explosive and tender.
It erased who we thought we were and made us new.
It made us one.
It connected us, vessel to vessel.
I am reaching out, and I fit perfectly.
I think of him, and I no longer feel alone.
We are one. I am a part of him, and he is a part of me.
Not only through physical intimacy,
but our souls, our minds and our hearts
embedded onto the blueprint of the other.
Although a comfortable pace and routine remain now,
the fire still burns.
I feel it. I know he does, too.
I don’t need him to live and breathe.
He breathes life into my spirit.
He does not define me.
My heart’s love for him is defined by who he is.
Knowing he is living and breathing on this planet,
even apart, makes me feel safe.
It makes me feel that all is right in this world.
He is the moon to my stars.
The sky to my sun.
Exceptionally wonderful together.
Yesterday I met a woman.
This woman was me in many ways, except for the reasons she wasn’t.
She was a woman who had to survive many painful obstacles; prostitution, abandonment, unemployment, living on the streets, and many other social ills.
Our struggles differ, but our desire to overcome them is the same.
I saw something in her: a stranger I have never met before and will probably never meet again.
I saw a fighting spirit.
Things I thought I had lost in myself, but her yellow-stained eyes reflected it when I looked at her.
This woman stood before me with joy, a smile, and hope in her heart.
Like many others, she had to sacrifice a part of herself to get through life and reach this point, where she stood in front of me with a smile so broad I couldn’t help but smile too.
She speaks about the life she used to live without shame and her life now with pride. She embraces every challenge she has endured to get to where she is today.
We don’t share the same skin colour or the same mother tongue.
We don’t have the same economic standing or have the same employment status.
We don’t enjoy the same opportunities or possibilities nor are we the same age or grew up the same way.
But it is precisely those differences that make us the same.
The spirit of a warrior woman, one who doesn’t give up.
One who doesn’t have much but still gives.
Someone who doesn’t know it all but continues to learn.
This woman that I met yesterday;
A loved one.
This woman is me.
This woman is you.
She is all of us.
This post was orginally written and published in June 2018
My tears are not hot and dry
they are not hidden behind my eyes
or stuck in my throat
They are an overwhelming ocean
a riptide of emotion
My tears are powerful and visible
for all to see
They dare not hide
My tears are ever present
I am never without
My tears are worthy of
accolades and applause
My tears are not forced or fake
They are real and organic
ravaging whatever stands in its way
My tears have a life of its own
Ever present and commanding
Causing you to turn your head when
they make their presence known
I used to sit on my mother’s lap
Out on the balcony
Watching cars go by
Talking about nothing and everything
She used to stroke my hair
With her aging hands
Or clean my ears with a bobby pin
I could have sat there for hours
I miss being her child
Her youngest daughter
My sisters would tease me, saying I’m spoilt
And her favourite
I would frown, scrunch my nose at them but
It brought me pure joy
Now I am a motherless daughter
With a daughter of my own
Needing my mother
more than I ever could have ever known
I miss her
I miss my mother every day
I swallow tears and try to ignore the lump
In my throat
Sitting there like a constant reminder of what I lost
I guess it is true what they say
Grief never leaves you
You don’t outgrow it
You simply grow around it.
To the woman sitting alone in her empty house
Full of memories and mementos, wondering where it all went wrong,
I was you.
To the young girl crying her eyes out in the office bathroom, staring at herself
In the mirror, not recognizing the person staring back at her
With bloodshot eyes and tear-stained cheeks,
To the tired mother, using her last strength to dress and feed and play with her kids
When she hasn’t eaten or had a decent shower in days,
I have been there.
To the friend that needs comforting and can’t control the tears from flowing,
Feeling as if everything is falling apart,
You will be okay.
It doesn’t matter how strong you feel you need to be or how tired you are and
How many times you need to start over, I want you to know that
This too shall pass.
Author : Jessamine Chan
First published : 2022
Okay, this book was difficult to read. As a mother and as a woman, I found myself gasping, cringing, feeling sad and heartbroken, feeling angry and frustrated. I experienced disbelief and a whole lot of other emotions that caught me by surprise. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up this book but what I found was definitely not it.
This book was also on Barack Obama’s favourite book list for 2022.
Without giving too much away, I’ll provide a short summary.
Frida Liu is a young mother accused of neglecting and abandoning her young child. She is then sent to a school which is meant to retrain ‘bad mothers’ into becoming the best and most attentive mothers in human existence. (I’m being a bit sarcastic here and once you read the book, especially if you are a mother, I’m sure you will understand why.)
The training and exercises these mothers at the school go through are something else; I found myself frowning and saying “huh?” on many occasions while reading.
‘I am a bad mother but I am learning to be good’
There is so much I can say and want to say about how this book made me feel; when I got to the last chapter, I was in tears.
In a way this book highlights the unrealistic expectations society has when it comes to mothers. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood and children are a gift for women who want it, but it’s a very difficult journey to be on.
In the book, mothers are expected to always be aware of everything around them, never turn their eyes away from their children for a second, be able to soothe their babies by using the correct language and words and physical affection, be able to effectively comfort their children and provide quick, healthy meals and stimulate their minds all the while not losing their own heads.
In a nutshell; it’s a lot.
The thing is, mothers can do all the above but unlike the children in the book, we are not robots. We need a break and we are not always emotionally available for our children or spouses or partners. We won’t always cook healthy dinners and sometimes we want to shut down and be left alone and that is perfectly normal and should be acceptable.
Our own kids are 6 and 8 years old now; they have an abundance of energy which I don’t. There is always something that needs to be done. Laundry needs to be washed and folded and packed away, school lunches need to be made, shopping needs to be done, toys have to be picked up and put away, children need to be disciplined. All the while you are trying to think of the 20 things you need to remember, you are thinking about work, you are checking the time, you are trying to engage in conversations, you are trying to be a good wife and then you need to remember to take care of yourself; have a bath, drink your coffee, fall asleep.
You will fall short somewhere.
We were never made to be perfect.
The guilt and pressure mothers are put under is also a prominent theme in this book; not only by society but by family and surprisingly other mothers too. The pressure can become so crippling, that it becomes life-threatening.
As a mom myself, I’ve been judged, criticized, told what I’m doing wrong, what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I’ve also compared myself to other moms and it made me feel like the worst person in the world. I’ve been told to plan ahead, prepare dinners, clothing, activities, grocery lists, an endless number of things that I am meant to remember and take care off. Being a parent is difficult but there’s a different kind of hardship that comes with motherhood. Sometimes it’s unrealistic and you have homes where there are two parents and both contribute equally but I think as women, we tend to put ourselves under pressure and that pressure is amplified when you become a mom. Especially when you have a full-time job, a side hustle, a marriage, children. When you do catch your breath long enough to tick something off your to-do list, it feels like a miracle, that’s if you remembered to write your to-do list!
Yes, I know. It sounds like I am venting and maybe I am a little. Reading this book might unlock feelings on the inside of you, that you never even thought you had. Some of those feelings you might not be ready to face.
Something else which stands out for me in this novel is how different the ‘bad fathers’ are treated at the school, which I will call, ‘parenting rehab facility’
The differences are like night and day, which again angered me a little because moms are not always extended the grace which they deserve.
I think the overwhelming message in this book is how one small mistake can change your entire life. The book is about a mother who needs to make decisions which are painful and difficult but she makes them and she doesn’t always make the right ones.
It’s also about regret and how it can hold you back but its also about forgiveness; forgiving others but also forgiving yourself for mistakes you made when you didn’t know better.
All in all, it was an amazing read. I could probably write pages and pages of analysis but I want you to experience this book and make sense of it on your own.
Throughout your life you will probably hear phrases such as,
“A woman brought you into this world and she can take out of it”
“You don’t lay your hands on a woman”
“Be respectful toward women”
I can give you a whole list of things that you will hear but I will let you be surprised and experience it as you grow up.
All those things are correct, you never ever touch a woman in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable.
You never cross a line that has clearly been set out for you.
You do not hunger after a woman’s body as if she is something to eat.
You do not say things that will kill a woman’s confidence or shatter her character.
You never do.
Do not intentionally break hearts or lead a woman on.
There is no pride or glory in breaking a woman’s heart.
It only brings you shame.
If you do not love her, tell her.
Leave her with the truth rather than loving her with a lie.
Never assume that you are always right and never make a woman feel ashamed for what she is feeling or thinking.
Make her feel comfortable enough to express herself to you and make an effort to understand her instead of admonishing her.
You need integrity and compassion and the ability to love unconditionally and you need to have respect for everyone around you.
In order to respect anyone else, man or woman, you first need to have respect for yourself.
If you don’t have a certain standard to which you hold yourself then how you treat others will be a clear reflection of that and then that would mean that I have failed you as a mother,
And I, my dear boy, am not planning on failing.
I want you to be a man that loves woman but loves them in a pure manner.
Love how they are nurturing and caring.
Love how versatile they are.
Love and respect their intellect and be a man that provides a safe space for them to unearth their potential.
Love how they make you feel on the inside, how they make you fall in love.
Be a student of women and find out what makes them tick without ticking them off.
Pray for women and pray that you gain the knowledge and wisdom on how to treat them as a good man should.
Love your sister unconditionally and protect her with your life.
Fight for the causes of women and always be available when one needs you but never let any woman take advantage of your heart or your kindness.
Your heart will most likely be broken by a few girls in your lifetime and that cannot be stopped but never use that as an excuse to hurt another woman in return.
One hurt does not fix another.
Love is all there is and love is all that matters.
A woman is not your possession, you do not own the person you love.
A woman is a free spirit that will come into your life to teach and to be taught.
She will make you fall in love with life and she will enhance your vision for your own life.
She will make you want to succeed and she will push you until you do.
You cannot be a man without having had a woman touch your life.
Please remember, women brought you up,
Your school teachers,
You have been surrounded by beautiful women all your life and you will continue to be for the rest of it.
Be sure to treat every girl or woman you ever come across with the highest level of esteem and admiration because at the end of the day if it wasn’t for the fighting and equally loving spirit of all the women in your life, you would not be who you are today.
Be an example to the many men who will follow you throughout your life and be part of a generation of men that will never again take a woman by force, break her spirit or leave her blue-eyed and crying.
I beg of you baby, be different.
Be secure in your faith.
Be loving and compassionate.
But most importantly, be forgiving.
Do not let the hardships in life stop you from finding the beauty and romance that there surely is and sharing it with everyone you meet.
I hold you to these standards because I know and I believe you have it in you.
Female nurses healed you back to health when you were too weak to stand on your own two feet.
A female pastor dedicated you to the church.
Female doctors delivered you from my womb.
You are not above a woman.
She stands next to you, not under your feet.
I can only give you these guidelines but it is up to you to decide what kind of man you are going to be and maybe someday, what kind of man you are going to raise.
I know you are young now but someday you will understand this.
And if you don’t understand,
Ask a woman.
I see you.
I see how hard you work and how tired you are. I see how you sacrifice Friday nights to go and be a good influence to young boys who aren’t your own, how you offer your time to anyone and everyone who needs it, except yourself.
I see how you laugh and smile and how you look at me when you come in for a kiss. How you play with our children, without any inhibitions and so carefree, causing loud belly laughter I can hear from the other side of the house. I see how you love to make me happy; how it brings you joy to see my own.
I see how you lay your head on my shoulder when you’ve had a long tiring day, but you don’t complain. I do it on your behalf. How you dream about our future, how passionate you become about the life you want for us. I see how you encourage me when I am down and when I am having a hard day. How you put your hands under my chin and say, “Listen to me, it’s going to be fine”
At times, I see how you look at me when I’m feeling self-conscious and how you say to me, “You’re so beautiful”.
Sometimes I can even see myself through your eyes and I must say, that makes me smile.
Husband, I see how you love people. I see your kindness, how you share, how you give. How you care for those you love and how you respect those who can’t do anything for you. I see how you love to make others happy.
How you make people laugh with your easy going but sometimes corny jokes; I see how you enjoy seeing them smile and how you continue doing it without much effort. It simply comes naturally to you.
I see you when you play your guitar, how you lift your head to the heavens with your eyes closed and how your own melodies transport you to another place. I see how happy it makes you. I see how happy it makes others to hear you play and how you know just what to say with every song.
I also see how frustrated you get sometimes; how your body at times just gives in. I see how you lay your head on your pillow and sleep immediately, sometimes peacefully, other times fitfully. I see how you shed tears, how your feelings are written on your face and even though others can’t see it, I can. I see how you sometimes sigh and squeeze the top of your nose, shake your head and smile in pure frustration or even exhaustion.
But I see how you carry on.
I see how you carry others.
I see how you love,
I see how you pray.
I see you and I love what I see.
I wasn’t ready to lose my mother when she died in 2020. I was 28 years old; still figuring things out, finding my feet, unbeknownst to her; hiding and finding comfort in her bosom. Even at the age of 28-years old, I was very much a child. Today at 30, in many respects, I still am.
God knew I was not ready to lose my mother. He knew and still knows that I needed correction, discipline, and sometimes those things only come through tragedy. God had other plans. He thrust me into this place where I find myself today, being shaped and molded and, at times, scolded by other strong women.
I’ve realised I took advantage of the role my mother had in my life. I fought her a lot; especially as I grew older. I was hardly ever willing to learn from her because as we know, young children and young adults ‘know everything’. A wall was built between us which, until the day she died, could not be penetrated. I think I will always live with that regret.
So here I am now; finding myself in a place where I am being humbled through correction. Internally and externally. It’s a convicting feeling.
It’s painful to be honest. It forces you to break out of the mould you created for yourself with all the things you thought you knew. It brings you face-to-face with yourself and that is not necessarily a comfortable experience. In fact, it can be downright excruciating and frustrating. At times you find yourself biting your lip and digging in your nails, just so that you don’t scream out in agony.
No one wants to be told when they’re doing something wrong but we don’t always see that correction, if done right, is almost always done in love.
Help and correction won’t always come freely though. The hard part comes when you have to ask for it. When you have to admit that you need help, that’s when the walls really start to come down.
I have been battling with my season of correction; it’s been extremely frustrating at times. Other days, I take it on the chin, I humble myself and say thank you, I needed that. Other days, I roll my eyes and think to myself, ‘I already knew that’
Not only have I been receiving correction from people around me, God has also been working in me and with me. Reminding me when to hold my tongue, helping me to keep a lid on my complaints, opening my eyes to see people the way He sees them, teaching me to be patient, helping me understand that my journey is not that of my husband’s or my colleagues or anyone in my inner circle.
When I think about correction or being shown the error of your ways, I think of it in terms of when you know better, you do better. You change when you are corrected, you can decide to become better or refuse the change and stay the same. Its all about your attitude when you are in the process of receiving correction; you can stand back and roll your eyes and stay in your ‘I know this already’ mindset or you can pay attention, take notes and humble yourself to those who are trying to show you a better way or different way.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT CORRECTION
Here are a few verses from the Bible that speak on correction. There are many more but these are the ones that stood out for me.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Proverbs 12: 1
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
You might not see it now but when you look back in a couple of months or years; you’ll notice that you have better habits, you do things in a different way than before. You do better because you know better. It’s hard to see the finish line when you’re still in the early stages of the race but you need to know, the finish line is there.
That’s where I find myself now in life; being corrected, almost on a daily basis and its hard but I know sooner or later I will appreciate the correction. I will appreciate the molding and shaping because it has made me a better person.
I started this post of by speaking about my mother. Reason being that I wish I had been more open to my mother’s correction. I wish I had listened to her more, asked her more questions because now I realise I need her more than I ever thought I would. Now that I’m in this place of becoming, I need my mother and I need her to reassure me or guide me when I make a decision. I need her to make me laugh when I’m feeling frustrated or show me her feisty and fierce character when I feel uncertain. I needed her then and I need her now.
WHEN YOU’RE THE ONE DOING THE CORRECTING
Sometimes you will find yourself doing the correcting and I’d like you to think about the following when you’re in that position:
- Correction come with patience just as learning comes with patience.
- Correcting someone can’t be done with aggression. Not everyone responds well to being spoken down to; in fact I don’t think anyone does.
- Correction can’t be done with arrogance; you as the person trying to teach another are also still learning in the process.
This month I celebrate my 30th birthday. The last 30 years seem to have gone by in a blur but there were some hard and necessary lessons learned. As I enter my 30s, allow me to share 30 things (out of the thousands) I’ve learned before turning 30-years-old. My 20’s were for learning. My 30s will be for putting what I’ve learned into practice.
1.Everything is a blessing from God if you choose to see it that way and if you can’t see it as a blessing, see it as a lesson.
Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
2. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration if you choose not to focus on what others think of you.
3. Time with family is more precious than money.
4. Its not just okay to live as your authentic self, its absolutely necessary.
5. Gratitude opens up the door to opportunities.
6. Comparison is just another form of ignorance.
7. Grief never goes away. You simply learn to live with it.
8. Patience, persistence, preparation and prayer, these things will get through hard times.
9. Rest when you need to. You are no good to anyone when you are operating on fumes.
10. Inspiration is not something to be found. It’s something to be created.
11. To get through anything, you’ll need patience. You’ll find yourself waiting a lot. Waiting in queues, waiting for transport, waiting on people, waiting for signs and miracles. Work while you wait. (I wrote this part while waiting in a queue at a clothing store)
12. Always have a book with you. Whether its a reading book or a note book. You’ll either read something worth remembering or write something worth sharing.
13. No one will and no one should believe in your art more than you.
14. Prayer will guide you and conviction will save you.
15. You need to have honest conversations with yourself about who you are and who you want to be. You need to dig deep into your heart and that will hurt sometimes because you won’t always like what you find.
16. Marriage and love are beautiful thing things. Despite the fact that many people will make you think love is painful or marriage is pointless, once you find it and experience it at its purest essence, you’ll understand the beauty of it.
17. You children will never do what you say. They will do what you do. Make sure you do the right thing.
18. The world is full of bad things but there are even more beautiful things to be discovered.
19. Set goals for yourself, have a plan. Do not go through life rudderless.
20. Take care of your finances. Be smart about your savings and where and how you spend your money.
21. Mind your business but make it your business to care for others.
22. Read and study your bible. You’ll find all the answers you need.
23. It’s okay to ask for help. It does not mean you are weak.
24. Your mind can become a battlefield, you need to protect it at all costs.
25. Be grateful for the hard times. Grapes are pressed and crushed to create wine.
26. Change is scary but sometimes it takes a big change to move you into action.
27. Being kind doesn’t have to be a production. Sometimes its a sincere word, a hug or just a smile.
28. Not everyone is out to hurt you. Some people simply want to get to know you and love you. It’s okay to trust people.
29. Don’t make social media your life. Make time to live in the real world.
30. Love sincerely and wholeheartedly and never regret giving someone your heart, even when they break it.
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been” – David Bowie