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Thursday Thought: Loneliness

December 6th, 2013by D

A month ago I head Jeremy Vines BBC Radio show which was dedicated to the elderly who go for weeks without seeing anyone, and the only voices they hear are the ones through the radio.  I was really moved by the show, because with so many people living on their own, with no one to care for them, how do we know when they are no longer breathing? Only when the postman can no longer post letters through the letterbox?  Or when bills go for months unpaid and the debt collector calls on them to find no answer? Or in extreme cases, when the stench of their rotting body escapes their home and causes neighbours to call the council to deal with it.

Many older people are left alone to care for themselves, placed in retirement homes with few or no visitors. Some pay for private care out of their small pensions.   Why is this? Where are their families? Where are their friends? Why are these people alone? Have they chosen it? Are they are unpleasant people to deal with, that they have driven everyone away from them? The scenarios are endless, and many of the scenarios have a solution.

elderly ladyMany years ago whilst my mum was working in an old peoples home, I used to go and read to an elderly lady who had no visitors.  I would always ask my mum if anyone had been to see her during the week because I could not believe that no one would visit their own mother.  Surely they didn’t just put her in a home and get on with their own lives? Well they did, and I just found it cruel, I still do.  This lady had no visitors in the entire time she was in the home.  She was left there to be taken care of by non relatives and left to die.  When she died, family started appearing out of the woodwork to sort out ‘her estate’.  The only happy thing for me in this situation was the lady, who turned out to be quite wealthy, decided to leave 50% of her estate to the home which had taken care of her, and the other 50% was left to a cat charity.  Her family got nothing; and quite rightly so in my opinion.

Over the last 7 years I have been reconnecting with my natural father, someone who had not been part of my life since the age of 4 on a daily basis, and only in my life every 3rd Saturday of the month until the age of maybe 12.  Before I left the UK for Egypt, I read an article that haunted me.  It was about an old lady who had died alone in her London flat.  She had been dead 3 months before her body was discovered.  It started me thinking.  Was I going to get on with my life, whilst my father lived alone and possibly died alone? Could I do that to him, just because my mother chose to divorce him? The answer was no.  So  3 years ago, I asked my husband if he would be willing to have my father come and live with us.  We spoke with the boys and we all decided it was the right thing to do.  He was going to come and live with us in Egypt, but having lived within a 20 miles radius all his life, it was a very big move, one that even I was finding difficult.  So it was decided when we returned to the UK, my father would come and live with us.

So the time has come whereby I find myself living with my dad.  Our journey over the last few weeks has been interesting.  It has also been one of patience on both sides.  Adapting to each others way of life, and creating a new way of life.  We are committed to making it work, not just for him, but also my boys.  They will get to learn many things from him, and he will also get to be a granddad, and a dad.  No longer will he be lonely.  He is part of a family again.  I am learning where I get certain personality traits from, such as my creativity… and my stubbornness! My dad is no longer alone and he will not die alone.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, because I don’t want people to be alone.  Loneliness is horrible and unnecessary when you consider how many people there are in the world.  So please ask yourself if there is someone you can reach out to.  Is there someone you can visit maybe once a week for an hour? Is there someone you know who would benefit greatly by joining you for dinner once a week? What can you do to help reduce the loneliness of others in your community?  The best gifts to give are humanity and companionship, and they cost nothing.. other than a little time and selflessness.  Be kind.  Be thoughtful.  Be human.

Make The Right Choice

September 19th, 2011by D

A few months ago, I started teaching in a Language Centre here in Cairo. It was not one of the most prestigious centres such as the British Council or Berlitz, but it had many centres around Cairo, and a couple in Alexandria. It was apparently affiliated to the University of Cambridge and was able to offer low cost courses to the lower middle classes. The ‘interview’ went well, and even though they did not pay me the salary I was asking for, I was happy to work there. Everyone seemed pleasant and I was told I would probably be the only English person many of the students would meet. I loved the students that I met and had the privilege to teach.

In the beginning, I was happy. The compliments I received were uncomfortable but tolerable, but then after a month or two, the comments from the man who made tea and did ‘odd jobs’ about the place started to make me uncomfortable. Being asked to take a walk with him along the Nile, visit a hotel with him and being showered with comments such as “you are beautiful”, “I love your eyes” could no longer be tolerated. It was sexual harassment. It had to stop. I approached the manager, but instead of the man being asked to leave the company, he was just moved to another shift so he wouldn’t bother me. His behaviour continued with the other female members of staff on the early shifts, and as the management have failed to remove the man from their employ, they are just going to have to deal with it. Nice, I don’t think.

Soon the agreed hours were changed from the agreed 3 days a week, to the alternative 3 days per week, then to every day except Friday. I was never offered the full 6 hours per day I was promised in the interview, but I made it work. Like I said at the beginning, I loved the students that were coming into my classroom. They made the job worthwhile.

Then at the end of a course during Ramadaan, the Holiest of Months for Muslims, something very upsetting happened. I was asked to lie about exams results just so that I could get paid. I had done the work I was asked to do, and more besides. I had taught the twelve two hour sessions, and thanks to God, and very willing students, they all passed. But I was not ‘allowed’ my wages. Why? Because the accountant decided that he was going to become more important than he is, and demanded to see the student’s marks. He refused to pay me unless I told him the exact marks of the additional exam paper I had prepared for the students, something NONE of the other teachers have done in the centre before, something I did in addition to the course material to ensure a full understanding of the material. When I pointed out that I had done the work, passed the students and wanted my money, the accountant became very aggressive, waving his finger in my face and insulting me. I became very frightened and decided that I was not going to leave without my money, but I was also not going to accept this behaviour from him, or anybody. Never has a man ever spoken to me like he did, nor will they ever speak with me in this way again. This man is obviously not used to strong women standing up to him. When he started to ‘square up to me’ I slammed my hand on his desk and told him that I was not leaving until I received my money. At this point, the receptionist came into the office, due to the shouting that was happening between the accountant and I. When she asked what the problem was and I told her, she asked me to leave the office whilst she spoke with him. Something I was happy to do, as I was shaking like a leaf. I was afraid. Was this man going to hit me? What would I do if he did? I couldn’t sue him; I have no protection from the police, the government or anybody here in Egypt. If he had his way, how would I get the money that was rightfully mine? I took some deep breaths and asked Allah for help. The receptionist came to me and explained to me that if I wanted to get my money then I should “just make up the results”. I couldn’t believe it! This person I had foolishly trusted to help me, was now asking me to lie about my students results just to get my wages. Upon hearing this request, I stated that if I was being asked to lie about the results then I would never work in the centre again. Her response “I am not asking you to lie, just to make something up so you can get your money” Mubarak’s legacy obviously runs very deep within the country. I was so angered by this behaviour; my moral code was confused, shaken and deeply disturbed. Here I was working with Muslims, during the month of Ramadaan and being asked to lie about student’s exam results. I couldn’t do it. I went back into my classroom in a flight of fury, sat down at the desk and tears started rolling down my face. How could they listen to Qur’aan, wear hijaab and grow a “Sunnah beard” and then ask me to do this at anytime, let alone during Ramadaan? I sat down, prepared to mark the exam papers until 12:30am if it meant getting paid. But I was not allowed to stay at the centre to mark the papers; they all wanted to go home. I had to make a choice. So against my better judgement, I wrote the grade I expected the students to get in PENCIL, obtained my money and left.

When I returned home to my husband, I was so shaken and upset. I explained everything to him and told him that I could not work in a place that asked me to lie. I just couldn’t. Thankfully, to some degree, the receptionist had explained the situation to him whilst I was still in the centre because her English isn’t that great and she needed to use Arabic to explain the situation. Knowing the situation from the accountant’s point of view, the receptionist’s point of view and mine, my husband had a full picture. I knew that if I was over reacting, he would tell me to get a grip on myself, stop over reacting and just go back. Thankfully, he completely understood the moral dilemma and how it had pressed my ‘integrity button’. He told me to spend the next couple of days thinking about what I wanted to do, and he would support my decision, even if it meant me not returning to teach in the centre. I spent the next few days thinking over what had happened. I wanted to go back, because I wanted to teach the wonderful students that I had met. I enjoyed their company as well as their minds and eagerness to learn. But I could not return. I could not accept this dishonest, aggressive and corrupt behaviour of the individuals that work there. I could not be in their company knowing how they had behaved, what they are willing to do to “get what they want” and I could never work with them again knowing they had asked me to lie about something as serious as someone else’s exam results.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, because we all have a choice. We can accept corrupt behaviour, or we can refuse it. We can be part of it, or we can choose to not be part of it. I chose to walk away from it and not accept it as part of my life. To have stayed with this organisation would be equal to condoning the behaviour as acceptable, and it is not. I am not proud of myself for having written the ‘made up’ results, even in pencil. I did what I did to be able to obtain what was rightfully mine, and to be able to leave without further aggressive behaviour towards me. I pray God will forgive me for what I did. I also pray that the students I had the honour of teaching will understand why I had to leave. A few of them said during our lessons “It is not enough to have a revolution within Tahrir Square, we need to revolutionise ourselves” How very correct they were. So here I am, standing against corruption. I am sure I will teach adults again privately soon, but this time I will offer them an official qualification from the British Council and the University of Cambridge, not simply use the logos and pretend to meet their requirements. Stand firm. Be Honest. Stand for Justice. Be the change you want to see in the world. Make the right choices in life, even if it means you lose something in the process. Honesty, Integrity and dignity must be retained… keep yours intact; (And don’t do what I did, even if it was with a pencil!)

P.S. The exam results were only 1 or 2 marks out per student, so I wasn’t far off. Not that it makes it right of course.

What makes a marriage work? (14th April 2011)

May 26th, 2011by D

Whether you write your own vows, use the same vows as most others within the ‘tradtional’ Western Christian vows, make your declaration of love to one another in the modern partnership form, Islamic, Humanist, Buddhist, Jewish, Taosist or spiritualist form, you are making a declaration to each other, to the universe, to the rest of humanity that you belong to one another, straight or gay, you are a couple for life.  But does this mean you promise fidelity with one another? Do it mean you promise to support and encourage one another with all your hopes and dreams?

I am currently reading For Better (for worse) by Tara Parker-Pope, a divorcee who wanted to figure out why her own marriage failed and looked for answers everywhere, and having a scientific mind looked to see if her marriage failed due to scientific reasons.  So far this book promises to be a great read.  The distinctions she has found through various worldwide researches from some of the world’s prominent scientists, therapists and social anthropologists are turning my head upside down and back to front.  Needless to say I love it! J

I picked this book up to see if I could find some answers to some of the issues within my own 15 year marriage to a man who I never wish to be without.  A man who inspires me, challenges me, loves me, respects me, frustrates the hell out of me and makes me feel so wonderful, so special, so loved and so wanted.  Moving is said to be one of the biggest stresses a person undertakes, so moving overseas to Egypt from the UK following years apart due to work, only experiencing treasured moments every 2-3 weekends has proven to be a test that has seen immense highs and real lows.  From my own homesickness and the uncertainty our two little boys have felt, feelings of insecurity of what is going to happen in our future and Egypt’s future, coupled with neither of us working and being ‘stuck’ in an apartment that is not ours, we have been tested in ways neither of us have ever been tested before.  Maybe this book will offer us both solutions to cope with the pressures we are facing.  Being apart is not an option, running home to the UK is not an option being together until we are old and wrinkly is the only destination either of us have in mind.  We value our marriage and before ‘real’ problems show their ugly faces, we confront them head on.  Always have, always will.  As with most things in life, the more knowledge you have about things, the better you are to deal with situations if and when they arise.  So understanding the chemical processes in our brains and bodies, genetics and all things cultural, it is time to take a new lesson in love.

Around us, friends are either about to get married, going through a divorce, happily divorced or being pressured to get married.  Some friends are happily married and others are nowhere near the point of committing to one person.  Regardless of where we are in our life’s journey, marriage always comes up in conversation somewhere along the line.

I always knew I would get married.  I used to pretend I was a bride with my mother’s net curtains by placing them over my head like a veil.  I knew the kind of guy I wanted and I knew I had to be married by the age of 21 for the goals in my life to pan out as I wanted them to.  Some would say this is too young, others will say this is too much pressure, but by being focused on my goal and knowing what I wanted, I found the man I knew I would spend the rest of my life with at the age of 18.  I had a couple of special guys who I will always have a special place in my heart for, but they were not to be the ones I spend the rest of my life with, they were not my soul mate, my partner in crime, the ying for my yang.  They were not the ones I wanted children with, they were not the ones who could help me achieve my dreams or support me whilst I fulfilled my potential; and certainly not the ones who would put up with my crap for the rest of their lives! Trust me when I say I have sent my husband grey.  I can be a bitch and yet this man loves me regardless (but hey, I love him when he is being a bastard so all’s fair in love and war right?!)

Marriage for me is a sacred promise.  No one should take it lightly.  No one has the right to interfere with it, and trust me, any woman who tries to interfere with my marriage I will rip her face off so she will never be able to look in the mirror again, and any man who tries anything I will kick him so hard in the crown jewels, he’ll wish he’d been born without them.  Marriage is something that will push you to your limits; it teaches you to be co-operative, to negotiate, to put yourself last as well as first.  It is one of those special promises that you make to one another based on you both being honest and open with each other, and whilst you should expect everything from one another, you should also accept neither of you will be able to deliver everything.

Making the vows of marriage, of a lifelong partnership is to declare to one another you will enjoy a lifetime of monogamy, but do you promise each other fidelity?  I know I could never have married a man who could not promise me fidelity.  For some couples they are happy for infidelity to exist within a monogamous marriage; and understanding the difference may save many marriages.

For other marriages, where one partner, mainly the man, works long hours to provide the kind of life the woman demands, this proves too much.  Either the man has enough of being seen as a bank account and strays for someone who loves him and not the money he can earn or the wife starts to feel lonely and strays.  Surely in the case of the woman straying, she should really understand what is most important, a lifetime of living with the man she promised herself to, or the material things she ‘needs’ to prove herself to others, she is a worthy person to know.  Give me cuddles and a husband for life than material objects any day.  I have seen far too many women moan about the hours their husband works, and yet they want designer bags, expensive holidays, cars and homes.  I even know of a man who worked himself to the ground to give his wife everything she wanted and then she had an affair because he was never around.  He lost her, his children, his home and soon afterwards due to his depression and bewilderment of why, when he had given everything she said she wanted, he lost the business he had built up and became homeless.  He had no friends left once his money was gone because they too were shallow like his wife.

There are other marriages that suffer from the controlling husband or wife, others where there is no give and take, no willingness to be humble and admit that maybe ‘it is me that is wrong, not you’, there are no apologies, no willingness to learn from past mistakes, no willingness to allow each other to be the person we are destined to be.  So many find themselves in a marriage where the person they married no longer wants them, or allows them, to be the person they were when they fell in love.  Other marriages are the ones that were arranged for status, wealth, convenience or simply arranged as in some customs.  These have their own fair share of problems, as well as successes.

Whatever the agreement was when you promised to be with each other when you got married, think about that promise.  Think about the integrity behind it.  Did you agree to love and support one another for better or worse? Did you promise to help them to achieve their potential and goals in life? What did they promise you? Are either of you fulfilling your end of the agreement? Are you both growing together, acknowledging that you both change with every new day, with every new challenge and experience, or are you behaving like a spoilt child who wants everything their own way?

Both my husband and I have changed dramatically over the years, as we should have over 15 years, and we believe in each other.  We are both passionate about so many of the same things, freedom, justice and equality.  We are both activists, driven, focus and argumentative.  We love debate, love stepping out of our comfort zones and our marriage is not something we take lightly.  Many friends who we had not seen for years were both surprised and yet not surprised to find us still together after so long.  These are the ones who have seen or heard us row and when we do, we do it with passion and gusto.  As Eminem says “maybe this is what happens when a tornado meets a volcano”.

Our marriage is not one for the faint hearted, but it is our marriage, and one we both treasure.

For all of you out there considering marriage, divorce or wondering how on earth you ended up where you have, just remember what you want in life, what you want from your partner but most importantly what you are willing to give and give up.  If you are not willing to give up being right all the time, or give up a part of who you are so the other can flourish, then consider whether you are right for any relationship, not just marriage.  If you are someone who is controlling, think about why and get some therapy.  If you are willing to make sacrifices to be with someone for the rest of your life, make sure you work together ALWAYS, because once you make that promise, if you break it, you’re a liar and no one likes a liar.

Enjoy the journey together, whatever terms you BOTH agree to.  Encourage, support and love each other with all your heart and soul.  Give up being right all the time.  It is the only way to a successful marriage.  Love, honour and respect each other always, share the journey of a lifetime taking time to step back and re-assess where you are and where you are going.  Remind yourself and each other why you love each other, and acknowledge who the other is.  Apologise if you get things wrong, and for every wrong done to you, remember how many wrongs you have done to them.

Enjoy your lives together so you can look back at an incredible journey mapped through good times and bad, happy and sad, but most importantly look at who you have helped each other become and treasure the moments you are alone caught up in a lasting embrace, because one day it maybe your last.

Welcome to the world of Talkin’ Sense … an art lost to many

January 10th, 2011by Rev ramO

Hi

This be the Talkin’ Sense Network Blog, the really interesting ideas are posted at the member authors’ individual blogs:

Think, snot illegal, happy reading :)
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