The Mistaken Kindness of a Stranger

The Kindness of Strangers

Epilepsy means bruises. A seizure involves an inevitable fall. Sometimes those falls are on to another person, making the bruises appear like finger prints. Other times hard surfaces are given the opportunity to paint my skin with an array of colours.

Once I was sat in a Coffee Shop waiting for a friend to turn up, late as always, when a complete stranger came and sat in the seat directly opposite me.

“You don’t have to live with it”

I had absolutely no idea what this woman was talking about. I began to scan her face, hoping that I would recognise her in some way.

“There are people that can help you”

Her kind caring eyes were piercing into mine as I desperately tried to string two words together. I was beginning to wonder whether she’d mistaken me for someone else, but there was such confidence along with the compassion in her voice that I dismissed this as a possibility.

It was at this point that she reached out her hand and rested it on the top of mine. This was getting uncomfortable. I was in a state of complete confusion looking at this woman’s hand and trying to process the sentences she was approaching me with.

“This type of relationship isn’t healthy for you”

My eyes lifted from her hand to her face.

“No one should do that to you. You don’t deserve it”

And suddenly it clicked. The Bruises. I had a particularly violent array of bruises on my arms, chin and cheekbone from a harsh unlucky encounter with a concrete step during a seizure. She had looked at these purple, brown and black patches and assumed that I was in a violent relationship.

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. But she didn’t give me a chance, instead she started rummaging around in the bag she had brought over with her.

“Listen to me, you don’t need to live like this”

By this time she had retrieved a pen from her bag and had begun to scribble on the napkin on the table between us.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk about it here with me, but call this number. People can help you through this. Remember you don’t deserve it”

She handed me the napkin, now covered in digits, left the table, left the empty coffee mug from which she had been drinking and walked out of the café.

This woman, a complete stranger to me, looked at the marks on my face and felt as though she could help me. She tried to help me.

This compassionate, caring stranger still has no idea that I am epileptic. She must still assume that I am or was in an abusive relationship.

But nevertheless, without any confirmation, this stranger came up and cared.

The phone number was a helpline for Victims of Domestic Abuse.

If I was one of those unfortunate individuals suffering at the hand of another, maybe she would have helped. Maybe she would have made the difference.

Mistaken in her conclusion, but still encouraged by pure kindness.
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Youth throws the Greatest Curve Balls

Curve Balls

So often I am surrounded by girls aged between five and ten. Constantly individuals say things or ask questions that widen my eyes in surprise. I have been a volunteer within these groups for around five years, and yet still I am so regularly surprised by the words that emerge from such young mouths.

After all these years I have come up with two potential reactions to such questions or words;

  1. The casual reply of nothingness, playing down whatever shocking thing that has just come out of their mouth, instead of emphasising it.
  2. The simple, yet occasionally necessary question of “Where did you hear that?”

Once a five year old girl came up to me with innocent eyes, and asked this question simply and plainly;

“Ladybird, what’s a Spinster?”

The confidence in the question highlighted to me that this was a genuine. Now that is quite outdated archaic terminology, and so not something she would have readily come across in her Primary School Syllabus.

Choice – Option two

However I did get an unexpected and unknowingly harsh reply –

“Because my mummy said you’re going to be one”.

It always seems to be a solitary word that shocks.

Another example would be one girl’s response to two others hugging.

“They are like Lesbians”

It was shocking that at seven she was able to both understand the term to some degree as well as put it in to a relevant context.

Choice – Option One.

Though one of my favourites still to this day is a picture. Simply because of the innocent ignorance that inspired the piece of artwork, compared to the deeper meaning visible to the group of fellow volunteers around me.

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“Ladybird, would you like some men?”

Yes, I am single.

 

 

A Maid’s Goodbye Gift

Antique Antics

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This may look like a simple Butter Knife.

But, in fact, it is the best Butter Knife in the kitchen.
However, it hasn’t always lived in our particular kitchen with me.
Instead it has a history, and has made a home for itself in numerous locations.
This eighty-seven year old knife was given to my Great-Grandmother as she finished her service as a maid. Having fallen in love with the fairly modern equivalent of a Footman, she was unable,  due to regulations of the period, to be in a relationship with this gentleman whilst under the employment of the household.
Instead she was made to choose. And she did. She chose him.
In 1929 my Great-Grandmother was given this ivory handled knife as a parting gift from her employers. At the time an item such as this, in perfect condition, was viewed as valuable as well as desirable.
And so it began it’s life with my Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather.

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Then my mum appeared. Living with her nan throughout her late teens and quite a portion of her twenties, the knife was constantly disappearing into her bedroom to peel and slice apples. Still comically associated with this knife in my mum’s mind, her nan’s voice bellowing a single phrase up the staircase revealed that her thievery had been discovered.

“Where’s the bloody butter knife?!”

After she passed away the knife ended up in my mum’s hands and so into our kitchen drawer. It has been spreading butter on crumpets, jam and marmalade on toast and coating sandwiches with pickle for years since the transition and rehoming.

Strange that being coated in ivory transforms a blade into a symbol of thanks and appreciation.

Ironic that a potential weapon is exchanged when love is pursued.

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Bookworm – Commercialised Liking

Bookworms

Current book from the Book Club – Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Tenth Word – LIKE

I thought, when I Google Image searched the word ‘like’, I was going to reveal lots of pictures of smiling, happiness and love.

I didn’t.

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Instead I found a collection of Facebook Like Logos.

It was looking at all those blue thumbs that I realised something.

Suddenly the word ‘like’ has been stereotypically commercialised.

Suddenly it’s thoroughly judgemental.

Now if we ‘like’ something it’s computerised.

It just means ‘like because everyone else has’, ‘like because it made my face twitch a little bit for some reason’ or simply ‘like because I probably should’.

To ‘like’ doesn’t really mean anything anymore.

We aren’t really ‘liking’ it, are we?

We’re ‘clicking’ it.

So… Click?

Childhood Ends with Realisation of Repercussions

When Childhood Ends

What is Childhood really?

I look around me and I see the Age of Innocence. That is how I classify the time in your life labelled ‘Childhood’.

However there is another part of Childhood that I witness regularly in the kid’s groups I run. It’s an occurrence that often makes me laugh, even though I’m sure I shouldn’t. Two six year old girls arguing. It is meaningless. Give it a week and the pair are unlikely to even remember what words they actually used.

This is the difference between Childhood and ‘Adulthood’.

Thinking back my first realisation of this difference occurred in my opening year of university. You’d have thought moving away from home would have emphasised a transition away from childhood. But it didn’t. Not really. Instead it was the girls from the flat below in student halls.

Each flat had twelve bedrooms. Mine was rarely, if ever, completely full. Instead, for most the time, it was myself and five guys. The floor below consisted almost completely of girls.

One evening, coming back from a late seminar, I went into our oddly large kitchen to get a drink, and discovered two of the guys I lived with and around five or six girls from the flat below. All medical students of one sort or another , they were getting ready for a night out.

A blonde girl, sat on top of one of the tables with a drink, asked me whether I had seen the latest episode of a certain soap opera. It’s strange that I not only remember her hair colour, but also the amused facial expression she was wearing as she casually asked that question.

The answer was “no”, which seemed to encourage sniggering from the others in the room.

I went back into my room confused and googled the soap. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the TV show was beginning a childhood epilepsy storyline, which had begun in the previous night’s episode with a seizure.

I had told the guys that I lived with about my condition, as I felt it was only fair. I wasn’t expecting it to be a topic of conversation amongst everyone around us. And so it was a question there and then whether or not to go back into the kitchen and confront not only her about her insinuation, but also the two guys for telling them.

It was whilst I weighed up the pros and cons of potential courses of action that I realised that I wasn’t a child anymore, and that this wouldn’t be a tiff at the school gates.

Instead I was an adult.

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Childhood.
It means verbal arguments with others are met with a harsh reprimanding from those older than you, potential grounding or temporary removal of possessions. Just generally being told off for a bit.

Adult
This means that verbal arguments are much more harsh and personal, that they linger on and on both in your head and between the pair of you. Any relationship is permanently damaged. Hatred or ill feeling will always exist between you. Inevitable.

Leaving childhood behind is the same as leaving behind those who gave you a dressing-down.

The day that you become your own scolder is the day Childhood ends.

 

Surviving the Norm

Survival

Through biographies, autobiographical films and TV shows, we are introduced to people that have been through horrific life experiences and managed, through sheer willpower and determination, to come out the other side intact.

However, although the amount of pain, both emotional and physical, is extreme in some if not all of those film and TV-worthy cases, it is not something I can relate to personally.

They survived. Now it is my turn.

I live an ordered solitary life, without wanting to.

Unable to work due to my medical condition, I partake in voluntary work, join Book Clubs and go weekly to Art and Craft Groups.

However the friends I make there are at least double my age. Not a plus-one for a wedding. So now, even though I do come into contact with others, I often feel alone. I get told constantly – “You never know what’s around the corner”.

But I do.
Nothing.

Perhaps these feelings have all come to head because my best friend has just given birth to a beautiful girl. I am so pleased for her, because she is happy and she deserves to be so. Whether or not I approve or disapprove, the little child, currently nameless, is now in the world and I am an honouree auntie.

However, myself and this friend had such plans to travel, to see all the wonders that Europe offered. This will not happen now.

When she goes to Paris now, it will be with her daughter and her boyfriend. It won’t be to see the Eiffel Tower, it will be a trip to Disney. It won’t be with me. I know these thoughts are selfish, but I can’t help it.

Her life has changed forever. And, with no knowing malicious intent, so has mine.

So now I am trapped, allowing Facebook to show me stories of acquaintances from university and school travelling, getting engaged, getting married and having children. It’s impossible not to feel trapped and lonely.

I am trapped in my home country, in my home town, in my childhood house, in my childhood bedroom.

Trapped.

I have to be sensible. I have to try in every possible way to be optimistic. I have to carry on.

I have to survive.