The other day.

Just the other day, we were out window shopping when we got-on-a-flight-and-went-to-melbourne-and-returned-a-month-later-and-flew-out-to-muscat-for-the-weekend-and-signed-the-kid-up-for-school-and-found-an-apartment-and-got-into-a-super-intense-interior-decoration-mode-and-HOLYSHIT-I-FORGOT-ABOUT-THE-BLOG.

I’d apologise for my absence, but then I’d have to apologise for my insolence in assuming that my absence was felt. (Except for you lovely ladies; thank you for checking on me. And I’m sorry.)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been back home to Melbourne and back home to Kuwait, I’ve found a house to make our home again, my hair is blue-er and purple-er and turquoise-er, I got another tattoo, I’m finding my way out of the darkness, and I’m not much wiser than I was three months ago.

But I have been scribbling down incoherent sentences in disconnected places. Maybe at some point in the next few months I’ll be able to unpack my life and regroup my thoughts. Until then, these are the things I think of when the lights go off.

lights-go-out

  1. Meeting old friends is an emotional rocket in your pocket. Must do often.
  2. As Mufasa* wisely taught Simba: “It moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place in the path unwinding. In the circle of life.” We go from school cliques to relationships to jobs. Before you know it, you’re attending weddings and helping friends move into new homes. And divorces. Then cribs and sleep training, and right back to school cliques. Whether you’re ahead or behind, you’re always in the circle.
  3. Moving homes/ jobs/ across the globe is a massive change. But as long as you’re doing the same old things in a new place, you haven’t moved at all.
  4. Forever is a cop out. Don’t promise to love forever. Promise to love every day.
  5. Anxiety is very real. Very lonely. Very scary. Very get-over-it-ed.
  6. Screw promises. Just get shit done.
  7. Life is hard work. Literally. It’s actual work. When you’re under-appreciated, under-valued and ill-treated, some mentally check out, some quit. Best bet is yourself. Be your own boss. When you figure that out, partner with people who make you happy and help you grow by helping themselves.
  8. Sometimes you need to go back around the world to see where you need to be. Other times, you need to go back around the world to see that there was always a happy place, and there always will be.
  9. You aren’t a bad person for wanting both – a safe home for every child, and a vintage chic yellow settee to go in your new living room.
  10. Me-time is not necessarily for self-discovery. It’s for mentally checking-out and checking other people out. Self-discovery mostly happens at peak stress levels, and perhaps on either side of me-time?
  11. Resentment truly is the poison they all say it is. But it isn’t as easy to let go off as they all ask you to do. Leeching is the way to go. Stick a proverbial worm on your self, let it drain out the bad blood, and don’t try to pull it out too soon. It is slow, painful and puts you off resenting anything for a while.
  12. The cliché, cheesy self-motivational quotes that you stashed away in your teens – DIG THEM OUT. Put them on your wall, mirror, desktop, phone screen. Read them every day.

Less ramblings and more coherent-ish thoughts from the next post on. I promise.

No, wait. I take it back. No promise. No deal. Next week is moving week and pre-kindy for the little guy. There will be no coherence of any sort.

 

*Disclaimer: I’m one of the 3 people in the world who never watched this movie. Luckily, Google.

Melbourne: chockers full of life.

Try to read something on Melbourne, and you’ll see the recurring topics – laneways, trams, heritage buildings, culture, food, secret bars. You’ll also see that every article begins with the disclaimer that it will ooze the same gooey self-love and unabashed pride.

I don’t know the complete history behind the city, and who our founding mothers and fathers were. But I’m sure they were funny. And kind. And self-depreciating. And just plain awesome.

Because heritage and culture aside, I reckon it’s the people who make Melbourne the most liveable city in the world.

The Melbournians.

Faces.png

Source: Melbourne street art

Like the tram driver who entertained us with his commentary on everything we rode past. He spoke about people, buildings, restaurants, and even suggested skipping work for a day at the beach. Most of us put aside our books and phones, to listen to the man who was trying so hard to make us smile. This mundane morning hero turned every passenger into a happy bug that he set loose into the city.

Or the train driver I’ve had the honour of travelling with a few times. He talked to us about his day, and rhetorically asked us about ours. He then painted a glorious picture of going back home, to warmth, dinner, family and love. If there was a delay, he stood with us in impatience and cynical humour.

More than once, I’ve walked into the ladies’ room to see the janitor getting a hug and thank-you for the splendid job she was doing.

There was the time I shared my tram seat with an elderly woman and her granddaughter. It was her first tram-ride in thirty-odd years. From the moment she took her seat, until I had to tear myself away from her, I regaled in her stories of tram-rides in old Melbourne. Of friendships, loves and teenage escapades in another era.

Another time, my friend and I jumped up to offer our seats to a pair of vivacious older women. “Oh my God, we’re seniors!” one said to the other, between mock disbelief and can’t-fight-the-giggles. Goals.

Boys.png

Source: Melbourne Street Art

They’re everywhere, these good people.

People at work who genuinely want to get to know you.

People who compliment your shoes, shirt and hair without any hesitation.

Retail assistants and checkout persons, who ask you how your day is and actually listen to your answer.

Every place I’ve been, people want to be somewhere else. Look at me. I’ve always gone somewhere else. But mostly, people want to leave where they are. Melbournians always want to come back. Not in a “it’s home” way, but in a “Fuckme. How lucky am I to be here” way.

Baby Guerilla

Artist: Baby Guerilla, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Everyone has a good word for you, about the weather, weekend or book you’re reading.

A smile and a nod are the norm.

A sense of humour is appreciated.

A “how’s it going?” is all you need to break the ice.

Fintan Magee

Artist: Fintan Magee, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Ah Melbournians, love yer work.

Confessions of a smug new mama

Just over two years ago, I was a new mama. Not much later, I was a smug new mama. And here’s why I’m now eating humble pie behind closed bathroom doors.

For a few weeks after my son was born, I was tethered to the bedpost like a cow to a milking post. I envied the cow for all the time she got to graze around freely for the rest of the day.

I was sore, sleep-deprived and so in love. And no matter what the woman kissing her child in the meadow says, the love didn’t make the rest of it ok – at least not until it was in hindsight.

So I pulled the plungers off me, brushed my teeth for the first time in weeks and decided to sleep train the little guy.

5 days of letting him cry it out (Put the phone down. Child services are sick of this call. Besides, 2 minutes of crying isn’t going to hurt them. Neither is 5 minutes, apparently), 5 days of learning how to duck if he squirms when I’m in the 3k radius, 5 days of absolute sleeplessness and heart-steeling.

5 days later, I had the whole thing down pat. Feed-Play-Sleep. No “snacking”. Proper nap times, only in his cot. Let him fall asleep on his own, do not give in to big eyes.

And I was free. 5 days of hard work for pain-free parenting. Or so I had planned.

See, my whole theory was: I’m not very maternal. I know this. But I’m feeling a bit maternal now, and I know that feeling’s not going to get any stronger. I know I’ll want to go back to work at some point, and I want to do all the right things before I introduce him to popcorn for dinner in front of the TV. So while I’m home on my maternity break, I’m going to be the maternal-est mother there ever was.

I followed his routine to perfection. In one and a half years, I hardly ever switched on the TV. I never showed him the phone or iPad. I only fed him homemade, sugar-free, salt-free food. I even baked.

Early motherhood is a time when everyone lovingly tells you to look forward to sleepless nights and cold meals, if you ever have the chance to eat.

Oh I slept and I ate. I also caught up on all the Netflix that Netflix had to offer. In my son’s first year, I was up-to-date with Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation and New Girl. I re-watched parts of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock.

Hey, don’t hate me. I was working against the clock (and I got one o’ dem sleeping babies). Once the feeling wore off, there was no saying how far I would run.

I was smug as a bug in a smug-land.

The plan was that by the time the maternal cloud moved on and I was back at work, he’ll know his bedtime routine, he’ll have a healthy eating habit and will be quite independent. The awesome people at the Early Learning Centre can take it from there.

Except, we changed the plan. We decided to move countries and jobs and lives and routines.

We decided to take a well-settled 18-month old and turn his life upside down.

Now, 3 time zones and 4 different homes later, he’s slept in a portacot, toddler bed and our bed. He’s eaten at the dinner table, on a couch and in a car. He’s played with his elder cousins’ toys, grandfather’s toolkit and in dirty puddles.

That’s our new feed-play-sleep.

See, what I missed was that all the training and routine works only for responsible adults. Not for us, gypsy folk.

Not that it failed. Oh no, I wish it had! But it worked and that’s what’s screwing me over.

Sleep train, and they’ll go to bed and wake up like clockwork. So when I sit up till 2am to eat chocolate, blog or reply to emails, he still wakes up at 6am saying, “Minish seepin!”(that’s “finish sleeping”, for the unacquainted). I’ve only slept for 4 hours.

Teach your child to eat independently, they said. He’ll never depend on you to feed him, they said. But THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE DECENCY TO TELL ME THAT HE WILL ALSO CHOOSE TO NOT EAT A DAMN THING FOR 3 DAYS STRAIGHT AND REFUSE TO BE FED, BECAUSE I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E.

“Use your words” was probably the first thing my poor, military-raised child heard from us. And uses his words, he does. For a little guy who isn’t sure what life without a suitcase is, he’s figured out that M & I are his only constants. He adores his gramps, uncles, aunts and cousins, but he needs to know one of us is around. I’ll let him have that. He’s only 2.

Here we are now, 9 months later. Semi-back to semi-reality. And he’s semi-not-having-any-of-it.

M started work last week and the tears were out of control. But the promise of me being there softened that blow, and our independent son clung on to me.

Until I got a freelance gig (oh yeah, I got a job! Yay!).

After 2 years of trying (and miserably failing, at times) to be the hands on, stay-at-home, maternal-est maternal mum, I’ve realised that a toddler who misses bedtime is a crazy party animal, co-sleeping is addictive for adults, eating chocolates and junk every now and then is still the best, and the smart device can save your sanity.

Another important lesson: mollycoddle them, helicopter-parent them (whatever that is) or military train them, babies will be babies.

On my first day at work, I got a call from my breathlessly teary little boy. He used his words.

“Only daddy work. Mama no work.”

 

o

Old is the new New

2016, going on 1993.

 

In early 1993, I boarded the flight back to Kuwait after the Gulf War with such excitement that I thought I would be sick. My cousins, uncles and aunts came to receive us at the airport with loud squeals of joy and big jackets (we were travelling from 35 degree Indian spring to 15 degree Kuwait winter). I took in all the squeals and hugs and familiar Kuwaiti air. I shrugged off the jacket. I wanted to feel everything.

Through chattering teeth and quickly-freezing toes, I asked all the important questions. Were KDD juice boxes still available? Was Funny Face chips still the best? How soon could I get my hands on a Snickers bar? Were Hardee’s burgers still as big as my face?

Yes, yes, right away, yes.

I swear, I did not blink during the ride home. The water towers, Kuwait Towers, my school, our first home. They were all there.

We were all home, together.

q8

Photo cred: As always, m @rnanoj

When the war chased us out of our homes and lives that fateful August day, we thought we’d be back before the summer ended. That was innocence.

A few months into our refugee life, we accepted that was going to be our future. That was adaptation.

Two years later, in the middle of all the excitement that glorious cold, winter evening back in Kuwait, I knew that wherever my past or my future took me, I would never let go of the heart-aching happiness in that moment right there. That feeling of being exactly where I should be.

That was conviction.

Since then, I’ve loved Kuwait and hated her, I’ve left her and scrambled back to her, I’ve missed her and avoided her. I’ve moved, married and made a baby. But I never let go of that memory.

I went looking for new, and came right back to old.

We landed in Kuwait on a cold, wintery morning few days ago (M got a job! Yay! We’re working members of society again). All of the cousins and uncles and aunts were at work, but the phone calls were loud with squeals of joy. I took the jacket this time. Adult.

I got home to my KDD mango juice. Funny Face only comes in a multipack now, the only way to eat it (them). Snickers are not a rarity anymore, but I scoff one down, all the same. Hardee’s burgers are now as small as my palm. Budgets.

We’re all home together, again.

We left Melbourne in search of a new adventure, and I cannot think of an adventure greater than a second chance. Here we are, where I was born and raised. I know the people, the roads and the life. Now, I get to put aside everything I know and do it better and do it with my own little clan.

And if there’s ever a sign of weakness, I’ll always have that moment in ’93 when I sat on my uncle’s couch, shivering with excitement and from the cold.

Just like back then, I’m unsure about the future, but can barely conceal the blind faith that it is going to be the best days of my life.

Christmas on the go!

   
It’s a Christmas without turkey, ham or inebriation. No presents (it’ll just be extra luggage), Santa’s visit or pretending to enjoy eggnog. 

But it’s our most exciting Christmas, yet. Full of dreams, hope and adventure. Family, new beginnings and old memories. 

And we’re keeping the Christmas spirit alive, while in transit.
Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays! 
Happy happy 🙂

Yeah, about that deadline…

Another year is drawing to a close, and I’m another year closer to cancelling my backup plans.

Plans made for the “by the time I’m at the ripe-old, very distant age of 35” kind of deadline.

I should’ve travelled at least half the world, become super successful in my career, gone to a Backstreet Boys concert, be married.

Ah the all-important cliché, if-I’m-not-married-by backup plan and the subsequent and much more fun, backup friend.

To blame our baseless desire to be married young on society, movies, parents or fear of being alone, would be weak. It was cool to have a backup and be a backup. That’s the absolute only reason.

Backup

(They worked, but they’re also fictional.)

It was like flirting a little but mostly for the future, with someone you didn’t want to give your A-game to right now.

For the life of me, I cannot remember my backup. The person I chose (after not much deliberation) to throw away what would be left of my life with. Clearly, it was a match made in lazy heaven.

Good thing I got me my M, or I’d have to rummage through my memory and send out some embarrassing emails. Or you know, not desperately marry the ol’ trusty friend who I may have had a heart-to-heart with on a sad day.

And trusty friend he must have been. How else did I feel so free to propose marriage to him – and for him to accept – under the conditions stipulated?

Maybe that’s why people publicly renew their wedding vows, to send a message to the backup friend that their pact is off.

Luckily, I wasn’t solely relying on Prince Charming to infuse meaning into my life. I even set a deadline for career goals. I was meant to be at the top of my game right about 2 years ago.

Backup plan? That I suck. I should just give up on writing and go back to being a Civil Engineer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not my calling. Right now, I want to keep writing. Maybe later, I’ll want design school bags. Or be a nurse. Who knows!

There will be no “giving up” in any case, just dreaming some more. If we give ourselves the freedom to change personal styles and whom we love, then changing dreams shouldn’t be called giving up, just growing up.

I haven’t travelled the world, either. My backup plan was to drop everything and leave.

Um, no. And um, yes.

We did drop everything (not so much drop as plan and ponder over for 4 months) and jump on this little adventure to move overseas for a little while. It’s the married-with-kid version of dropping and leaving.

Besides, I’ve moved around a lot and I’ve fallen in love with different cities. And I’ve realised that there’s no deadline for travelling. I’ll get there. But right now, I’m kinda in the middle of a pretty big adventure.

I barely recognise the girl who made this list on my sister’s PC several lifetimes ago. She was a few months shy of turning 20 and knew nothing about being an adult in the real world. She wasn’t sure about what she stood for and what she was capable of.

But she had heart, I’ll give her that. Something that hardened with time, with heartbreak, loss and failure. But those are the things that strengthen resolve and make tough, badass women.

I am strong, and it has served me well.

But now I want more heart.

More trust and faith and love. More fire and less give-me-that-job passion. More affection and less xoxo. More care and less duty.

I want to feel so much affection for a friend that I can ask them to be my backup in another lifetime.

I want to let myself express so much love for my husband, child and inner circle that they think I’m being borderline creepy.

I want to feel happiness without cynicism, and kindness without a cause.

So I’m putting only one thing on that deadline list today with no backup plan.

I want to have more heart.

Got some change?

For those of you who’ve been following my blog (Babe? Are you still reading? Ma? Chechi? Is that an echo?) you’ll know that I’m back home with the parents as a pit stop to our next big adventure. When I say pit stop, what I really mean is ‘time to check the map again’. Either way, being here has brought back an avalanche of memories.

I claim to have a photographic memory. I claim it and this is my blog, so I won’t refute it. When I manage to drag myself off the couch and get on a treadmill, I ease the trauma by visualising the streets that I walked through while growing up. Now that I’m back on the streets (not literally! Ok, maybe a little literally), I can see that everything has changed. Where our old home stood is an ugly multi-storey apartment, our little corner store is now a slick car rental outlet and my favourite shopping haunt is now a deserted street half in ruins.

Our new home is better by a mile, the new corner store is a lot like the old one and the new popular shopping mall is an exercise in extravagance. Two out of three, I guess change is not all bad.

In a previous post I wrote about catching up with my friends from high school. On our last day at school, we hugged and wept and promised to never change.

The Backstreet Boys were performing in Melbourne a week after I was flying out; If I hadn’t changed, I would’ve gladly swapped my life adventure for 3 hours of screaming and weeping for 5 gorgeous middle-aged men. Yeah, I’m not entirely convinced about that choice.

Aaaaannyway…

For a very long time after school, I clung on to who I was in the hopes of drawing confidence from the memory. I waited patiently for the right moment to reveal my old self to my new world. It never came, and I found a new self in the process. I instantly hated her. After a few dozen pity parties, I found validation in the form of friendship from the unlikeliest and coolest bunch of people I know, and more importantly, from myself.

That was only the first of many versions of me. Now I’m like Voldermort, looking to save memories of myself in different phases in a bid to live forever. Minus all the killing and soul-splitting.

The main reason I feared change was that I equated it with compromise. To me, I had life sorted out when I was 16. I knew what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live and the kind of person I wanted to be with. Today, I’m not doing what I thought I wanted to do, not living anywhere in particular and not married to a cool dude wearing low-slung jeans and a dog-tag chain, with a catch phrase to reassert coolness. Dogged that one!

The other reason is that I didn’t want to grow up. And sometimes I still say that I haven’t grown up, but come on, 16-year-old me wouldn’t know what to do with a double shot of vodka and Kahlua, and I’m never going back to that! (Drink it all up. That’s the correct answer. Drink it all up.)

When I first heard ‘More than words’ by Extreme, I loved it. I loved the sound and the voices. I loved that it meant love is more than words. That was before I hated it. I hated that it meant you can say you love me till the cows come home, but it don’t mean shit until you take your pants off. Now I love it. I love how prophetic it is about being affectionate and passionate, and not robotically uttering the words.

Cool story bro, right? I have a point, I promise. How we see things – wait, I’m not Deepak Chopra – how I see things is a perception based on my knowledge of the world around me and my acceptance of it. So I now see change as widening my horizons, learning more and living more.

My dreams and aspirations have changed. How I love and want to be loved changes all the time. I’m not flaky, just discovering more about myself every day and making this little ride a lot more fun. I will always love the people I loved, and I may love many more. I’m sure of what I stand for, but they may be enhanced further as I learn more. I still want to be happy, but the how may keep changing.

Now I’ve accepted that change is inevitable, and thank heavens for it. I only need to stay calm and take it as a new happy memory in the making. Slow and easy, awkward stages and all. Somewhere in the middle, I know I’ll find me again.

Change