How much more there is to love!

Not too far from where I live in Sri Lanka is a home for children and adults with physical and cognitive impairments run by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s sisters. “House of love” or Daya Nivasa gives a loving home to around 100 young girls and women. As part of my second class challenge in girl guiding in 2008 I chose this place to spend a few hours each week for three months. The first day I went there, I was not comfortable at all. The second day, I knew a few people by name and in a month, I was already looking forward to Saturday. The hours I spent there lengthened and soon I was not only spending my mornings there, but also my evenings, and past three months I was still visiting them. After a few more months, school got in the way and I couldn’t go there all that often.

Last summer when I went back home, I went back to visit them seven years after my last visit. I’m writing to share with you all a story about a girl I met. A girl called Malika.

I was assigned to the Joy class, and the moment I entered, there was a girl who caught my eye. She smiled and walked up to me, took my hand in hers and touched me as if afraid of my skin. Being not too good with my words, I only smiled back. She lead me to a poster and pointed at her picture on it, and pointed back at herself and said “Malika”. That’s when I learnt her name, and that’s when I learnt that it’s never too hard to love yourself.

The task for the day was painting, and I, along with the kind hearted teacher, and the two volunteers from Norway and USA helped the girls out with it. Their fingers were stained with paint of all colours and their aprons a mess of wet paint. I had a couple of spots of paint on my fingers, if that counts. The girls formed a line to wash their hands once they were done painting and I stood at the back watching them. The same girl Malika walked up to me, took me by my hand again and excused us to the front of the line. Then she asked me to wash my hands before she took her place at the back of the queue. That was when I learnt that you can always love someone, or put someone ahead of you, even if you don’t know who they are. There is always space for love in life.

Not too long after that, she sat in front of me and asked me a  couple of questions that I will never forget in my life. She asked me if I have a mother, and then she asked me if I have a father. When I replied yes to both she told me she doesn’t have either. Truth was like a brick wall on my face and she said it in a way that left me speechless. Then she told me what happened, how her family did not love her. That was when I learnt there were so many more things I could be thankful for. That’s when I learnt that life was handed over easy to most of us, and we appreciate it a lot less than we should.

I was about to leave, talking to the Sisters who are some of the kindest people I’ve seen, and I was expressing my gratitude to them for letting me be experience love first hand when the girl walked up to me again. She hugged me from the side and told me not to go. That’s when I learnt that you could mean nothing to someone, but you could also mean everything to someone else. You could be destroyed, but you always had it in you to stay strong. You don’t have to be loved to love someone back.

I took home a lot more than I took with me that day. I leanrt more about life from them than I could ever teach myself. We spend so much time caught up in the hustle and the bustle of the world that we’ve forgotten how to love someone and the peace and silence it brings to us. Maybe we could all use some time with the people who deserve our love; with people like Malika who teach us time and again that love and humanity are the only things that keep us alive.

 

Letting go of a long-held anger

This Father’s Day marks five years since my dad died.

Five years and I still haven’t worked out how I feel about my dad and his early demise.

During the strange period when we knew he was going to die but during which I was ignoring the issue to finish up my undergraduate degree and take my final exams, I was forced to talk to a counsellor by my university. I hated every minute of that consultation but the counsellor said one thing that stuck with me. He pointed out that I refuse to talk about my feelings unless I’ve had time to properly evaluate them and can give them a comprehensible label. But, he said, emotion doesn’t always work like that.

But still I don’t talk about my dad much because I can’t explain the way I feel. Instead I read article after article about good dads and bad dads and all the really truly awful dads who put their families through hell and I try to work out where mine falls on the spectrum of paternal success.

Because here’s the thing – my dad wasn’t a bad man. He certainly wasn’t anywhere near the truly awful dads and my childhood was far from any kind of hell. But he wasn’t a great dad either. The truth is that he was distant, removed, uninterested in me or my brother. He lived in our house but he was more like a stranger who shared our space but not our lives.

It wasn’t always that way. I have great memories of my early childhood, family days out to the railway or the science museum and a proud father beaming over a glowing report card. But something changed around about the time I went to high school. I developed opinions of my own, wanted to hang out with my friends at weekends and lost interest in the things my dad cared about. As a result he lost interest in me.

From that point on I have few memories of my dad. He came to school events and I know he was always very proud of me but I felt more like a walking report card than a living, breathing person. He drove me to school every day and dread is the wrong word but I certainly never looked forward to our stilted conversations or the awkward silence as I racked my brains for a topic of conversation to which we could both contribute. Sometimes I tried to draw him on the bigger issues in life – his family and childhood (which I now know was always going to be a sticky point), his life outside of work and the biggie – my future. None of these topics got me much beyond a couple of lines.

I came to resent his distance and the wall that existed between us. Who put it there I can’t say since there came a point where I was as guilty of coldness and remove as him. And towards the end I know he did his best to break through but by then I was too well defended and was having none of it.

The truth though is that I’d always imagined that one day in the future me and him would mend our bridges. Maybe once I was working, once I had a mortgage, once I had kids, one day we’d have something in common, something to talk about, something to break down the walls. When we were told his cancer was terminal the doctors said to expect we had six months left and with my summer holidays coming up I thought I’d have more time. Something I wasn’t looking forward to but hoped would heal a few wounds. Sadly he didn’t make it to six months, he barely lasted six weeks and spent most of that in a twilight world where he didn’t know any of us and deep and meaningfuls weren’t really possible. So I never got to tell him how I felt.

I have a lot of anger and resentment towards my dad. I feel like he didn’t really care about me as a person and that his interest in me was purely academic. But that doesn’t make him a bad man, or a bad dad.

When I hear stories about some of the horrendous things some men put their families through I’m truly glad that my father wasn’t like them. He always came home at night, put money on our table and never once raised a hand to any of us. There are so many worse parents in the world that I should be grateful for the one I had and I am. But at the same time he wasn’t the great father that so many seem to be. Today Facebook is full of people extolling the virtues of the wonderful men who are always there to support and advise, brimming with their unconditional love. I didn’t have that and I’m angry about it.

But today I’m letting go of that anger. There’s no way that I can put things right now and this anger isn’t helping anyone so today I say: my dad wasn’t great at being a father (any more than I was great at being his daughter) but I forgive him. Instead of the things he failed at I’m grateful for the things he succeeded at. There’s one memory in particular that I’ve only recently recovered, I think I was hiding it because it doesn’t chime with the picture I’ve painted of him in order to hold on to my anger. My memory is of the one day that he came to meet me at university. We went for lunch and then for a  coffee and then for another coffee, circling the train station with neither of us wanting that one good day to end with him getting on a train and riding out of my life again. Against all my expectations I enjoyed that day, I enjoyed having my dad back for that one afternoon and remembering that time I can remember that I did have a dad that loved me and who tried, in his own way, to be the best father he could be.

Gone Awhile, Back Again

Hello Readers.

Things have been pretty quiet around here. It’s a shame really, because this project is something pretty cool I think.

Of course, it’s easy to start something, but not always easy to see it through. Most of us have busy lives. We have families, jobs, friends to see, school, books to read, TV to watch, creeping on Tumblr to do, scrolling through Facebook…the list could go on and on. There are a million and one other things that for some reason or another have taken us away from our goals here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start again.

This morning I put 15 notes in the books I was returning to the library. I hope they will spread some smiles and lead more people to spread our idea. I’m starting again.

Who’s with me?

Blog 14: Maybe someone needs a smile today

Hello everybody, I hope you all are doing well. I realized that there hasn’t been much activity here recently so I thought I’d share with you something that happened to me today.

I’m a believer… in second chances, in love, in forgiveness… and sometimes I feel like the only person who still believes. But there’s always those moments once in a way where you realize you’re not the only one. That someone out there is trying just as hard as you to put a smile on someone’s day, to share their dose of happiness.

This year, I decided I’d try even harder to do just that. To share a smile, to say hello to a stranger, to leave a few MORE notes for someone who might be reading my favorite book, to be a little more humane than I have been. Maybe I don’t know but someone needs that smile more than I do. I started off when the clock struck midnight and the New Year dawned by walking up to an elderly woman selling cotton candy to the kids who had gathered to watch the firework display. I went up to her and when she stood up to make one for me I asked her if I could have a  picture with her. Maybe I’ll never see her again, maybe it never mattered to her but right then when everyone was holding hands with loved ones, I wanted her to know she had someone to hold hands with as well. I wanted her to feel a little less lonely, I wanted her to know she mattered to the world… and the smile she wore on her face as she wiped away tears of joy and hugged me and kissed my cheek – that expression was worth everything for. See, a little act to show someone worthy of something could be all a person needed in their life.

I’ve been continuing to try and give people smiles but I didn’t realize what it was doing to me. Took me 21 days to realize that every time I gave someone a smile, mine grew as well. Often we think that when we give away something, we lose it. The truth is, when we give someone something, the supply only grows larger. This is the biggest thing I learnt through this.

This is how one of the biggest surprise came to me.

You know it’s every girl’s dream to have a rose given to you, and even though I’ve never really liked roses for how they are overrated, I tagged along with my two friends to a rose market because they were so fascinated by the colours and varieties. And while they took pictures of themselves with bunches of roses, I was looking at the vendors wondering which one I could possibly walk up to and ask if I could take a picture with him or her. Finally I found this one person I thought wouldn’t mind a picture but when I asked her with hand gestures (because I still can’t speak Georgian!), she refused. As I walked back, a man whose name I’ll never learn spoke to us. He pulled out the biggest bunch of red roses he had for sale and handed it to me and asked my friend to take a picture. He didn’t know it was him I was more interested in than the roses and after managing to say that he stood with me and my friend for a picture. I couldn’t thank him enough but it seemed like he wanted to thank us. He picked two long-stemmed yellow roses and handed one to each of us. We were confused, surprised and when we asked him why, he said (from what I understand) “It’s a small thing, you can take it and go.” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to appreciate his kindness. I didn’t know how I could tell him that he was making the world a brighter place. So, we simply took the roses and came home.

It may never occur to you how much the little acts of kindness mean to people. This reminds me of a vegetable vendor I’ve met who I’ve said “Gamarjobat” (that’s Hello in Georgian) every morning for about a year, who once stopped me on my way home to force a bag full of vegetables and fruits into my hand. That bag of vegetables weighing no less than 2kg must have took her a lot of time and energy to earn but it seems that a friendly smile and a hello from a girl whose name she’ll never know was more important to her. Money can buy you a lot of things, but we all need more smiles, friendly hellos and humanity to survive.

I’m not the best writer but I’m trying to convey a message here. I’m trying to tell you how a little act of kindness can change someone’s day. I’m asking you to do something that would change someone’s day… offer someone a smile, ask an elderly person if you could carry their bags to the eighth floor, feed a cold kitten on the street, leave a note inside a book.. you’d be surprised by the things you discover.

What 1 Thing You Must Absolutely Believe In

The Better Man Project ™

motivational quote, life quotes, happy quotes, inspiration, magic, success

Yourself.

You must absolutely believe in yourself to achieve your dreams. Because if you don’t think you can do it, well, it will simply never happen. Life is going to continue on with or without you. You might as well start believing that you are capable of amazing things.

I have battled many times against not believing in myself. In fact, I would say singlehandedly that the greatest enemy of my goals and dreams is myself. You could compile as many inspirational quotes as you want. You could read on how to be the best man you could be. You can study the most famous people in the world…but if you don’t have it inside you will never even make a dent. You will burn out and recede back into the darkness.

The key to success can be found within yourself. Yes there are others who you can learn from…however…

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Blog 13: Love Your Parents

I wrote this for my blog and I wanted to pass the message “Love your parents no matter what… because they love you no matter what.”

They say the most powerful love is mother’s love and no person can love you quite the way she does. They say that your mother went through a lot of pain to bring you up, that your father worked every day to feed you. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really true. I mean, if it is then why would there be so many parents killed and so many people running away from home? But I can’t deny the fact that I’ve wondered how it would really feel like too. To know there’s someone out there who’d love you no matter what you do or jump in front of you to save you from something. I do have a mom… and a dad. I see them everyday, speak to them too but I’ve never heard my mom speak to me or tell me I look good. I wonder if my mom stopped caring about everything else in the world when she saw me like all mothers do… or did she not care about me at all, just like now?

Every time I visit my mom, she smiles. She smiles not at me… she smiles at her friends. And I don’t even know who these friends are. Day after day she’d smile as if she’s having the best time ever. Sometimes I look at her and I feel a terrible sense of jealousy. I wish I could smile like her too… wonder what I could or should do to wear a smile like that every day. To have as many friends as I want even if no one else sees or hears them. Maybe my mom can’t see me… but if she doesn’t, then why does she try to jump out of the bed with a look in her eye as if she wants to tear every bit of me into a million pieces. Maybe she’s still so mad at me for being born. Not an hour goes by without me wondering how different her life would have been if I had never been born.

I can’t just pretend that my mom’s here because of some mysterious disorder that no one knows how it occurred, or because she has a disease from which she’s slowly dying but can’t do anything about. It’d be a lie if I say that. I know why she’s here… and she’s here because I was born. You might have heard about the many types of depressions after childbirth but that’s not what happened to my mom. She had been a schizophrenic but the symptoms did not occur till I was born. Before she could look into my face she had had a mental breakdown. She didn’t care about the boy that was just born, but started to speak to thin air instead. My dad says that she was taken into the psychiatric ward immediately, and he followed her. My first breath was not eventful, my parents were too busy in the psychiatric ward and they both forgot me. Dad had come back for me a few hours later and he says that his tears were the first thing of family I really saw. He says it was almost as if my arrival to the family had taken away another. Once I asked him if ever he felt mad at me for being born. He brushed my hair out of my forehead and told me that I’m the only reason he’s holding on. I wanted to say that he wouldn’t have had to hold on if my mom never got sick and I wasn’t born but I’ve heard his reply only too often… that things that were meant to happen would have happened anyway.

Today I’m looking at her again. Every single day for fifteen years I’ve been coming to see her and I’ve received the same cold welcome from her. The doctors say she’s too dangerous to go out of hospital and I have no idea how much longer she has to stay here speaking to those imaginary people and loving them instead of dad and me. She’s trying her best to come free of those chains and attack me. I’ve wondered if I stopped coming to see her would make her feel any better but my dad’s said that there must still be a part of her that loves me like every mom does. Dad gives me some time with mom every day and this is when I cry onto her bed. Most of the time she zones out and doesn’t even know someone’s there, but then there are those few times I’ve seen a spark in her eye. A tear maybe, a feeling of love and I’ve wanted so bad to crawl next to her but those episodes have been so short-lived that I’ve had to reason with myself that I wasn’t actually imagining it. It’s with the hope that I’d see that glint her eyes again that I come back to her every day. When father’s not watching I tell her about school. I tell her about my friends, I tell her the homework I didn’t finish because I wanted to spend every minute I could with her. Today’s just the same. No matter how much I cry, no matter what I say, she’s not going to speak to me. I don’t know if she can hear me but she’s staring at the ceiling again.

I want to tell her the truth today. I want to apologise for what I’ve done to her and I want to do it now. I tell her I’m sorry, I tell her that I would do anything to have her in my life. For her to watch me playing basketball in the weekends. To make me my bed tea. For her to hear what I say and not want to attack me like I would kill her if she didn’t. I tell her how dad never gave up on me or her. How the hospital staff got to carry me in their arms before anyone else but how he had come back for me anyway. She’s still staring at the ceiling but I continue to tell her all what I wanted to. I tell her about how I spoke in front of my class for English today… how I’ve become more confident and challenging. I see it again today… that look in her eyes. In almost a year, she’s looking straight at me today. The tears flow down my cheeks and they fall onto her sheets. She watches me without making an effort to stop me from crying but her eyes twinkle with tears. I jump in astonishment. I have never seem her cry, never seen her show any emotion towards me. I reach out and wipe away her tears and she places her hand over mine. I notice how scarred her hands are from all the needles feeding her barbiturates and sedatives. Around her wrists are cuts made from the chains holding her back during her violent episodes. Her face is at least thirty years older than her real age, her hair grey and face wrinkled and a few places where she had dug her own fingernails into her skin are covered in blood.

This is the first time this has happened. The first time I’ve felt the touch of a mother, the love of one, the feeling of home. She’s trying to tell me something but she can’t. She’s in conflict with her words again. They must be stopping her and telling her how I’m a bad person again. She struggles with her words but in the end she manages to tell my name and that’s all I ever wanted to hear from her. She goes back to staring at the ceiling. I hold her hand in mine and watch her stare at the ceiling, her face unaffected by the boy who’s standing there crying his life out into her bare palms. I bend low and kiss her on her forehead and turn away to go so that dad could spend some time with her before visiting times are over. I walk out of the room, my eyes still wet. I avoid father’s eyes and walk outside the hospital.

I break into a run the moment I’m on the road. It’s lightning and the thunder is very loud. I run without direction in the dark and as fast as I can as if my speed can stop my tears and my thoughts. My phone rings in my pocket and all I want to do is throw it at a house where the kids fight with their parents because they didn’t get a birthday present or because they’re not allowed to stay up late. All I want to do is escape this painful life, to see my mother smile at me for one damn minute. I want to forget my mother but I’m too scared to. I want to throw the phone but then see it’s dad calling me. I’ve lost mom already, I can’t lose dad as well. I answer the phone. His voice is calm, calmer than I’ve ever heard it. It is solemn and weird. I stop in my tracks to listen to him,
“Son, come to the hospital immediately. Mom… died.”

I swear aloud and an elderly man winces at me. I turn around and run faster than I had ever run before. My life flashes before my eyes as I run. I never got to be a part of mom’s life but she was always a part of mine. I visited her every morning and every night, every single day. She was the person who I’ve always been able to say anything to. She had always been there without speaking a single word, but there still. I’ll never know if she heard my words but I like to think she did. The only time she has spoken to me was today and that had made me so happy. I even thought for a second that my life was going to turn around… be normal. Vehicles speed past me and faces of boys my age look out the windows laughing at the night lights. It occurs to me how different life would have been if she had been there for me. The tears blur my vision but I run still. Her entire life had changed because of me. She let all of that happen to her because of me. She wanted to tear me apart with her fingers but she was chained. She remained chained for fifteen years… all because of me. On her last day she managed to argue herself out of her mind. She was able to look at me, let me see the tears. She was never able to wipe the tears off my eyes, but I have wiped away hers. She was never able to kiss me, but I did to her. She was never able to be the best wife to dad, but I took care of him. She wasn’t able to hold my hand for fifteen years but on her last day she did.  I love mom and had she not loved me, she wouldn’t have gone through all the struggles to say my name. Just my name. To know my name and to say that to me.