Life Beyond the Womb

That would be my own womb. You see, today marks six months since I underwent a complete hysterectomy and bid farewell to my uterus and ovaries. It has been an interesting journey so far and I felt the need to share it with anyone who cares to read.

I’m going to start by saying that life has never been better. Do I still have bad days? I most certainly do! I get bad news from a friend and that wrecks my whole week, I still can and will get my heart broken, and I did have my Uber break down on the highway leaving me stranded with luggage in the middle of the night. But when I compare that to all the good that’s going on in my life, I can say with complete honesty, life has never been better.

I wake up every morning feeling stronger than I did the day before. I have a new sense of purpose every day and a new dose of motivation driving me. I wake up energetic and ready to face almost any challenge that comes my way. I say almost, because I’m just trying to keep it real.

I also wake up each day feeling happy, and I carry that intoxicating feeling with me all through the day. I am no longer in pain, I no longer feel like crap all the time and the brain fog has lifted. I spent years thinking that something was wrong with me mentally. I couldn’t figure out why, but I just didn’t want to do anything.

Nothing excited me, I had no drive and no energy to get through my day and I thought that I was being lazy and selfish. What I didn’t know was that the problem was physical and physiological. Because of endometriosis I was experiencing heavy bleeding both externally and internally and it was draining me. I could have been severely anaemic for years without knowing it.

Something was clearly wrong, but it was within my body and not my mind. I was well and truly sick. And I was raising two young children, no wonder I was tired all the time and my brain was a mess. I feel so much more compassion for myself now, knowing what I was actually going through.

Of course, it took the diagnosis of a thrombosis in my portal vein for me to start piecing things together. It was that harrowing experience from last year, that brought to light the state of my abysmally low haemoglobin levels and prompted further action by my doctors. Yep, I now had a team of doctors, I felt so important (not). Tough decisions were made and my baby making apparatus (as I lovingly call my parts), had to go.

Which brought me to that faithful day six months ago. I remember lying there in the recovery room waiting to be wheeled in for surgery, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I suppose major surgery can put the fear of death into anyone, but when you’re a mother with young kids, it is them that you are afraid for and that makes it so much worse.

To stop myself from going completely insane with fear I started to talk to my body. I told her (yes, she is female), that she had to get through this, she had to be strong and she had to heal. I said, girl, there’s no room for complications here, you just have to hold it together and wake up when this is over.

I also prayed. I prayed to the Father, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. I also prayed to the Archangel Raphael, the angel of healing, and while I didn’t see any flashes of green light, it was very therapeutic. Just before I went under anaesthesia, I finally surrendered to a sense of peace. The heavens be praised, I did in fact wake up at the other end.

Six months down the line, and I have found a brand-new appreciation for life and for myself. My body took a good three months to heal, but she did it! I saw my haematologist a couple of months ago and he fist-bumped me, so yes, things are looking good there too. My haemoglobin levels are normal for the first time in who knows when, and while I still have to take my blood thinner daily, I can lead a completely normal life.

I told the doc that I’m putting on weight and he said that I could start working out. My big fat PVT is going to stick with me for life, but as long as I take my meds like a good girl, I won’t have any complications.

On a personal and emotional level, I have healed too. These days, most of the time I feel deep gratitude. I know I have the most wonderful friends, but the support network they provided when I really needed them, completely blew my mind! I also found the wounds of bad relationships healing and I am able to give thanks for what was good and learn from what wasn’t.

Not getting my monthly period is just totally awesome, but I now deal with daily hot flashes. Hooray! My children find innovative new ways to drive me up the wall every day. But I still can’t help the feeling of mild regret that creeps up when I realise that my childbearing days are gone for good. I’ve started working out again; lots of walking, a little running, and of course, I dance all the time.

I work a job that requires me to do copious amounts of reading about anything and everything, and churn out at least 3,000 written words each day. OMG, I love it! I’m meeting new people, making new friends, and tolerating a whole lot less bullshit. Like I said, life has never been better, it’s far from perfect but I’m loving every glorious and not so glorious moment of every day. It is good to be alive!


Being a Woman

Before I go any further let me warn you that this post is about periods, ovaries, a uterus, and that sort of stuff, so if these things make you uncomfortable, stop reading right now.

I have endometriosis, a condition where the inner lining of the uterus grows out of the uterus and around the surrounding organs. And like the inner lining of the uterus the extra lining also responds to the monthly hormonal changes and sheds itself every month. But unlike the menstrual blood that makes its way out of the body, this blood collects on the inside and starts forming cysts.

The cause of endometriosis is yet unknown and the only real treatment is laparoscopic surgery to remove the cysts and clear away the extra tissue. There is a hereditary element to the condition, so mothers and grandmothers can pass it down to daughters and granddaughters. I inherited the condition from my mum.

I came to know that I had endometriosis way back in 2004 through pure chance. I had a mysterious fever and while being examined by the physician, he found internal swelling in my lower abdomen and had me get an ultrasound done. And boom! Less than 24 hours later I was being taken in for an emergency laparoscopy to drain a ginormous cyst on each ovary.

I was in my twenties and unmarried so the docs did everything they could to make sure that I would be able to go forth and multiply like the Lord intended. And I did. Over the next few years my main focus was starting a family and I brought two amazing little girls into the world.

I was fine for a while and the two pregnancies actually sent the condition into remission for a while. Then in 2012 the cysts were back. It is only because I religiously got an ultrasound done every year that we were able to catch it early and monitor the situation. I underwent a second laparoscopy and this time the cysts were removed along with a lot of the excess endometrial tissue. I felt so much better after the surgery and was ready to take on the world.

Let me interrupt the series of events here are backtrack for a bit. Intense period pain or dysmenorrhoea is not normal. Some amount of mild cramping and discomfort during periods is fine but unbearable pain is a cause for concern. My mother would get terrible pain during her cycle but her whole young life she was told that it was normal and grew up believing that.

When I hit puberty and started experiencing unbearable pain as well, guess what? I too was told that it’s normal and was given a hot water bottle. By the time my mum’s condition was diagnosed it was already too late and the tissue had become malignant. Any abnormally growing tissue in the body will turn malignant eventually. And yet, I continued to believe that my period pain that completely incapacitated me was “normal”.

So ladies; young ladies, older ladies, mums and mums of teenage daughters, I implore you, don’t ignore the pain. If it’s too much to bear get yourself checked up and get your daughters checked as well. I got lucky, but sadly it was too late for my mum.

And we’re back: Early last year (2017), I knew that the endometriosis was back. I got an ultrasound done and my instincts were right. My gynaecologist started me on a course of treatment which was brought to a grinding halt by my portal vein thrombosis (PVT) diagnosis. The endo was not life threatening so treatment was stalled till the PVT was brought under control.

Of course it was just my luck that the condition would only worsen. Several doctors, treatments and a blood transfusion later we arrive at the present moment. I have a large painful cyst on my right ovary, a smaller cyst on the left, multiple cysts all over the place, two uterine fibroids and a damaged fallopian tube. But it gets worse; because of the blood thinner I am on for the PVT my cycle had gone completely haywire and my bleeding off the charts. Every few months I find myself severely anaemic with no energy to get from one room to another. Thankfully we have finally reached the end of this story.

In two days from now I will be undergoing one last and final surgery for endometriosis. This is the only real cure for endo and it requires me to bid farewell to these parts of my body that made me a mother. These ovaries bore the eggs that created life and this uterus nurtured and carried my daughters to full term. I have nothing but gratitude for my body but the time has come to let go of what no longer serves me.

It is the end of an era; a journey that started almost thirty years ago, and it is a very emotional time. While I had no plans of having any more children the finality of it all takes some getting used to.

This post is not to gain your sympathy but to create awareness, pain is the body’s way of letting us know that something is wrong so don’t ever ignore it.

I am a survivor and I will get through this. It’s all about getting better from here on.

Design my Life

Today I was craving orange juice so I did the unthinkable and gave into my cravings. Now I know that it’s not really that big a deal but for some reason we have been programmed to believe that giving in to our cravings is a bad idea. However, of late what I’ve been craving is something a lot more basic and if there was some way I could fulfill that craving it wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing.

You see this year, personally, has been fraught with bad health and all I truly crave is to be strong and healthy again. I have been weak and in pain and just finding the energy to get though the day is an arduous task. And so, I crave something better.

What I decided was that the first thing I needed to do is to change my story. Which brings me to this moment where I design how I want my life to be; I’m done with the illness and the pain and being tired all the time and here’s what I’d much rather my life looked like:

I’m just going to put it out there that I would like to have a month long holiday, all by myself, knowing that my kids were in good hands and I had nothing to worry about. At said holiday I would sleep peacefully every night in a queen sized bed (which someone else would make in the morning), and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated to take on the day. The day would involve an on-demand supply of full body massages and perfectly blended Mojitos. There would also be all the delicious food my heart (and taste buds) could possibly desire from the finest selection of cheeses, meats and seafood, to crunchy salads with perfectly balanced vinaigrette and broccoli and mushrooms seasoned and sautéed to perfection. Platters of fresh fruit; washed, peeled and deseeded, would complete the feast because of course a banquet needs to be graced by all of Nature’s bounties.

But, life wouldn’t be all massages and gorging on delectable treats, I would be bursting with energy and have access to the most marvelous of swimming pools to burn some of it off. I would go trekking in the forest, hike up a mountain and splash around in the sea, let’s add picnics in a beautiful countryside to the list because that would fulfill a long cherished childhood dream. And this, ladies and gentlemen would be all I would do for a month.

Then there’s the story of my hair which could use some tweaking of its own: anyone who has known me long enough knows that I have (or at least I had) these long, luscious curls. Sadly for about the past year or so my beloved curls have been falling out uncontrollably and in clumps, and all I am left with now is a few undecided whether they are wavy or straight strands that cling desperately yet feebly to my scalp. Rewriting this story is simple enough; I just want my curls to grow back strong and healthy, the hair doesn’t even have to be as thick as it used to be just as long as it stays attached to my head and is decidedly curled.

I have seen a doctor for my hair and I did start treatment but had to stop when my other medical condition surfaced and treating that took priority. Maybe treating one will help cure the other or at the very least once my thrombosis is a thing of the past I can start concentrating on doing everything it takes to regenerate my hair growth, but for now I should do whatever I can to get better and be patient and loving with my body and encourage it back to health and strength.

The month long vacation might be a little out of reach at the moment, and I am strictly off alcohol while on treatment but you know what, every now and then I’m going to go get myself a full body massage and eat something delicious and even go for a picnic. Life is too short to not give in to those cravings, or at least sit with them and ask what it is that the soul truly desires and then try and fulfill that desire.

Today I stopped for a while and put some thought into what I would like my life to look like, just thinking about it made me feel good and I think everyone should give it a go even if it’s just for a laugh.

What Do I Do With the Pain?

Not what do I do about the pain, that is the easy part but what do I do with it? I’ve already written about my illness so I won’t go into details again here; no, this post is about how my pain can be useful to me, or at least that’s what I’d like to find out. I got the idea from the title of an article that my cousin posted on Facebook; something about artists making use of their suffering. I never read the article so if what I write here overlaps with that in any way it is pure coincidence.

So, making use of pain; this would have been easy if I was a song writer, I could translate my physical pain into emotional pain and write a moving song about heartache and loss. Things would be a breeze if I was an artist or a sculptor because I would just have to paint or sculpt human figures with contorted faces and tensed muscles (I’m feeling better already), and express my pain through my art. But, I am a writer.

I’m not going to write about my pain; well, technically I am but I’m not going to describe it for you, or tell you if it’s constant or increases and decreases like labour contractions, or if it’s radiating from front to back or back to front; I’ll save all that boring stuff for my doctors. I like to think of myself as a creative writer, so, I plan to get creative with my pain. Here goes;

If I were to write a song it would not be about my pain but to my pain and it would be the anti-love song; this is how it would go:

I can’t wait for the day you leave me, it would be the best day of my life                                 Oh, Pain go away, don’t deceive me and take with you your sister Strife

Hmmm. Maybe I could write a little story:

Once upon a time Pain came to visit Jacqueline. Jacqueline  didn’t like pain at all. They did do a lot of things together, like sit down, lie down, walk about really slowly and throw up but they still could not get along. Then one day pain went away and Jacqueline lived happily ever after. The End.

How about a joke?

Pain and Jacqueline walked into a bar….. Nah. OK, wait I’ve got it: Jacqueline walked into a bar….. and then she was in pain 😀

While I’m at it I might even get philosophical and try to understand the deeper meaning of all this, what is my take-away form this whole experience; I need a minute to think about this. Oh yes, I did come up with a cool hashtag: #beingsicksucks, and yes, my pain did teach me that.

There is however one thing that I have learnt during my illness and that is that my closest friends have a very high level of tolerance; here is some of the stuff they’ve had to deal with:

Friend: How are you feeling today?

Me: Terrible

The next day:

Friend: Are you feeling better today?

Me: No!

And one of my favourites:

Me (at an extremely low point): I can’t be friends with you anymore (or something like that)

Friend (promptly): Dafuq?

Having decided to get all philosophical and all, I did in fact attain a life lesson from this whole experience; even during my lowest of low points I still have much to be grateful for (yes, it’s kind of a theme with me but it’s a good one), and true friendships is right up there at the top of the list.



Health, Happiness and the Things that Matter

A couple of Sundays ago I found myself in such excruciating, unbearable pain that I had to be taken to the emergency room of Holy Family Hospital. Three more days of debilitating pain and couple of tests later, I was admitted in hospital with a condition called complete thrombosis of the portal vein. It is a very rare condition, the cause is unknown, and of course it had to happen to me.

Not many people knew of my state simply because when one is in that much pain or any other situation that completely knocks the wind out of your sails, it’s hardly a selfie moment and the furthermost thing from your mind is updating your social media statuses. The only people who did know were my immediate family (obviously), and a small handful of my closest friends. I wasn’t seeing any visitors because the first few days were an unending cycle of crying in intense pain and then drifting off into a deep sleep once the painkillers rendered their sweet numbing effect. After a few more tests I was finally started on a course of blood thinners which started taking effect in a few days and reduced the pain considerably.

I was in hospital for ten days and guess what, the world survived. Life went on and my children were looked after and the house was still standing when I returned. And all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude for these absolutely wonderful people I have in my life who stepped in and took charge. Most of my closest friends and my brother and sister in law were not able to be here physically but they would message every day and call whenever I was well enough to talk, and kept me well entertained with silly YouTube and Instagram videos and in one case a very scary selfie that took my mind of everything else. Bangalore, US, Australia, I love you guys from the bottom of my heart and am so grateful to have you in my life.

There were a few people who I did ask to come see me, two of whom were my greatest support during this time. These two amazing ladies took care of my kids like they were their own. Every time my dad had to come to the hospital one of these two was always available to keep my kids for as long as necessary; breakfast, lunch, dinner, outings were all taken care of and dad and I knew that we had absolutely nothing to worry about on that front. These two are the sisters I never had and I love them to bits. I am ever so grateful for my other sweethearts who came and sat with me in hospital and when I came home, their company made me ever so cheerful. My fellow committee members of my school’s ex-student association stormed heaven on my behalf and being a firm believer in the power of prayer, I have no doubt that my healing process has been sped up thanks to them.

No matter what I needed from toothpaste to coconut water, my aunt and cousin were always there. Every evening after work they would show up bearing gifts and give me back rubs, my cousin even stayed over at my place the entire time to help get the kids ready for school in the mornings; two more people who gave me the peace of mind to just rest while I was hospital knowing that everything was being taken care of in the outside world.

Unfortunately during this whole time my husband had just started a new job and was traveling for part of the time. Literally being two weeks into the job it was impossible for him to get leave.

And finally enter my Superhero; this man is hands down the most amazing person I know and could not be prouder to call myself his daughter. My dad completely owned it! From seeing to my kids when they woke up in the morning; their breakfast, making sure they got ready for the day and finally dropping them off with one of my friends, to being with me in the hospital and seeing to my every need, he did it all. He would show up every morning with a fresh set of clothes for me which he had washed and dried himself, he would buy all the medicines and other things I required and he would just sit with me whether I was in a position to talk to him or I would just fall asleep, he was always there. He’d get home in time to get the kids off the school bus and start seeing to them once again, cook, load the washing machine and always on the ready to come back to the hospital should I need him. The tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this because the amount and love and gratitude that I feel for this man is overwhelming. I am not ashamed to say that I am a 39 year old mother of two and I don’t know that I would do without my daddy.

I could not possibly end this post without a shout out to all the doctors, nurses and other staff of Holy Family Hospital; despite everything I was going through, I knew I was in good hands and the food was bloody excellent! It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that the hospital serves one of the best fish curries I have ever tasted! The only drawback was that there was no mirror in my room/bathroom and although my tongue had been feeling a bit sore for a few days, it was not until a few hours after I got home that I finally looked at myself in the mirror and realised that it was completely ulcerated. So, within hours of being discharged I was back in hospital much to the surprise of the nurses. I made them laugh by telling them that I was missing them too much and then stuck my tongue out at them. Luckily the sweet young resident who looks like he’s still in college, was on the floor and was able to take a look, he prescribed a couple of meds and for the second time that day I bid farewell to what had been my home for a full ten days.

I have been home for two days now, I still have complete thrombosis of the portal vein, or in English; the large vein that drains the liver, spleen, etc. is completely blocked up with blood clots, I am on blood thinners and painkillers, and while the clot itself will take time to dissolve the pain is almost completely gone. As my discharge card says; the patient is stable.

Prayers are welcome.

Meditation and Mindfulness

As clichéd as this might sound, I received the inspiration for this post during my daily meditation, probably less clichéd is the fact that I was meditating at some random hour in the middle of the afternoon and it was the act of meditating itself that gave me the idea of what to write about. So, here I am writing about what meditation means to me, my journey with meditation and everybody’s favourite buzzword these days; mindfulness.

It all started in 2013 when Jon Gabriel, whose newsletter I am signed up for, was organising a free twenty one day guided meditation programme for weight loss. Each ten minute meditation was available for free for twenty four hours during which time you could listen and be guided through a visualisation. Because of the twenty four hour deadline, I made sure to religiously listen to each meditation every morning as soon as the kids had left for school. So effective did I find these guided meditation tracks in helping me get organised that after the twenty one days I started to look for more guided meditations on YouTube and found several types for everything under the sun. I picked out a few I liked and started there.

What guided meditations do is they get you to focus on what the guide is saying; try to get you to first relax your body in the hope that your mind will follow, and then guide you through a visualisation of sorts mostly involving streams or rivers. There is usually some soothing music playing in the background and if done well the whole experience can leave you feeling incredibly relaxed and with a clear mind. Free guided meditations run from about ten minutes to even up to three hours and there are hundreds to choose from.

Moving on; in time I eventually settled on one track that I really liked so I downloaded and meditated with it every day for almost two years. With practice, I was now able to first relax my mind and my body just cooperated, and I loved the ritual more and more each day. When I meditate I do not clear my mind, I have found that to be quite impossible, but what I do do is calm my mind and quieten the chatter; I focus my mind’s eye on one visual like a stream or clouds passing over head against a brilliant blue sky, and I let all other thoughts fade away. Every now and then one thought will refuse to pass and nag me a bit, so I give it a minute, think it and then let it pass (thoughts do love attention). I meditate for no more than ten to fifteen minutes a day but when I’m done I have the mental equivalent of a desk or shelf that has been cleared of all the junk and ready to be organised neatly with just the important things. And into this clear mind I lay out my plan for the day and on those days that I do manage to do this first thing in the morning, those days I run like a well oiled machine. But I don’t have a fixed time of day to meditate, I do try my best to do it in the mornings but more importantly I just try to get it done every day.

Which brings me to mindfulness; interestingly enough, it was a head massage that got me thinking about mindfulness, albeit in a less mindful moment. What meditation does, is it improves focus and mindfulness (for me at least) is being focused on what is going on around you in the present. Back to my head massage; I was thoroughly enjoying it and then my mind began to wander, I have trained myself to notice wandering so I steered myself back to focusing on my massage so that I could enjoy it more fully and all of a sudden I realised that I was being mindful. There is some research that claims that the wandering mind is our default state and it will happen naturally unless we are actively trying to pay attention to something, what mindfulness training does, is it allows you to recognise when your thoughts have drifted and to bring them back if needed. Although if a wandering mind is in fact our default then it very likely serves an excellent purpose and we should also find time to let ourselves be.

As I switch between active thought which I convert to words, and staring at the textured wall in front of me, I know that I have found a comfortable balance at least for the moment. There are days when I stare into oblivion for far longer than I should because I really ought to be working and there are times when I’d much rather think about nothing in particular but I keep obsessing about an unfinished to-do list, but most of the time if I need to focus better, a mini meditation of four to six deep breaths always puts me back into equilibrium.

Pleasure done Right

In my attempt to put up a blog post once a week, I have decided to leave nothing to chance and look for inspiration wherever I can find it; last week I wrote about work and today I decided to do something new; a book review. This isn’t a new book; it’s been out there for well over a year, but for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, here’s my take on it: The book is called Pleasurable Weight Loss, written by Jena La Flamme, and it is not a book about diet and exercise.

Jena’s philosophy is simple, beautiful, and based on hardcore science; what it states is that we as humans are pleasure seeking by nature and to deprive ourselves of things that make us feel good, goes against the very purpose of our existence. And guess what, science agrees. From an evolutionary point of view every species is programmed for survival and how does a species ensure that every generation does what it takes to survive? It makes survival pleasurable, and the things that could destroy us unpleasant. When we find something pleasurable, we have a greater desire to seek out more of it. The simplest example is sexual desire and pleasure; this simple cycle of the desire for the pleasure which in turn leads to a greater desire, has guaranteed the procreation of the species for millions of year.

From the time of our earliest ancestors, eating foods that were high in protein, fats, and carbohydrates brought about the release of our happy hormones, thus making the act of eating healthy food so enjoyable that they were drawn to repeat the action. Living in large groups was favourable for safety and survival and so till date we enjoy being sociable and spending time with other people.

At the very core of it, our bodies are animals and the primitive, instinctive brain which is the oldest part of our brains always has the final say. And this “boss brain” is all about survival, aka pleasure. In the book Jena is not referring to guilty pleasures like finishing a full tub of ice cream or an entire bag of chips; she talks about true sustainable pleasure that comes from deep belly laughs in the company of good friends or dancing to your favourite music and feeling the rhythm course through your veins, this is real pleasure that leaves you feeling good long after you have experienced it. It is this type of real pleasure that is conducive to weight loss; that makes us feel good about ourselves and puts out bodies in the right state for fat burning and healing. And when we feel good about ourselves we want to take better care of ourselves, we allow ourselves the wonderful comfort of a good night’s sleep and avoid those foods that make us feel lethargic or bloated an hour after eating, we drink enough of water and enjoy moving our bodies; all leading to better health.

The converse is also true, when we lack or deny ourselves pleasure we go against our natural programming and consequently put our bodies in stress. Stress and pleasure are mutually exclusive; one cannot exist in the presence of the other. All the good things that happen to our bodies when we are in a relaxed pleasurable state stop, and things that are not beneficial to our health in the long run, take over when we are stressed. Stress too plays an important role in our survival but it is more like the life raft that we climb into when the luxury cruise ship is sinking, it’s supposed to be a temporary solution to keep us afloat in extreme situations. Our ancestors had to run for their lives when faced with dangerous animals, or their bodies had to store fat in times of famine or extreme cold and so we developed two types of stress modes; fight or flight, and freeze or famine. During both these phases all our happy hormones are replaced with stress hormones; adrenaline, as in the case of fight or flight which gives us that extra boost to either fight the adversary or run as fast as possible away from it. Or cortisol, when faced with freezing temperatures or famine conditions, which causes fat storage among other things. Now, as far as our cave dwelling ancestors were concerned, fat was extremely beneficial and crucial to their survival, the extra layers of insulation not only kept them warm during the long winters but also served as a reserve for food during times of scarcity. In our present day we are rarely in situations where we have to escape from a wild animal or have to face the freezing cold for months on end with no access to food, but our primitive brains don’t know that, and any type of stress is interpreted as either of these two types. Since most of the time we’re not engaging in energetic physical activity when we’re stressed, the body is tricked into believing that a food shortage is impending, and starts storing fat. And when summer never comes or the famine never passes, we go into a mode of chronic stress that completely messes up our systems.

How do we break the cycle? You guessed it, with pleasure, get out, have some fun and let our animal bodies believe that the time of warmth and plenty is back and slowly we can reverse the chronic stress and get back to health. Pleasurable Weight Loss is full of great advice on how to do just that and how to live a thriving, healthy life. The target audience is women but I don’t see why guys can’t take a peep at it too. I enjoyed the book, I took my time with it and made lots of notes; it’s bold, unconventional and what every woman really needs to hear.

Of Reading, Writing, and Editing

The plan for this year was to read more and write more; in fact I had been quite decisive that I was going to put up one blog post a week. However, sadly things didn’t quite go as planned. Now it’s not all bad, I have finished two books this year already, and made some headway into the third and I did get more blog posts up in the last three months than I had in a while before that but I couldn’t keep up the winning streak because something came up. To be more precise, work came up. This in itself was not completely unexpected, to be honest, it was very welcome, but the nature of the work was not quite what I was used to. I am a freelance content writer and I usually enjoy what I do, I’m good at it and I get it done fast, but this time around I was asked to be a content editor.

The brief was straight forward enough; we send you this number of articles a day you make sure they’re grammatically correct and not plagiarised and send them back to us, shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours…. It sounded good, so I accepted but I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

The first lot of articles came in and they were fairly decent; add a comma here, change the voice there and I was done and then the next lot came in. I was aghast! Now be very clear, I have nothing against these hapless writers personally but I do wish that some people just don’t attempt to write in English. While I can’t of course share entire articles here, I will add a few excerpts to give you an idea of what I was dealing with; one line read: “to make most of this outrageous opportunity do not tarry and register to steadfast your career”. Another line I encountered probably started off as, “our skilled trainers will guide you”, but after a series of synonym replacements eventually became; “our lord trainers will navigate you”.

No doubt, all this gave me fodder for some rather humorous tweets but as you can imagine, by the time I was editing the tenth file which had companies leaving a blemish and a flaw (I’m sure they meant mark), on cities, I was ready to tear my hair out and bang my head against the wall. I too struggle with my commas and semicolons sometimes, but why do people who can’t string a few words together to make a coherent sentence, apply for jobs as content writers?!! Do they actually believe they are good? Or do they just hope that their work is passable enough for them to get paid? I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know the chances of any of them ever reading this post but in the slightest possibility that one of them does, my advice to them would be to find something they’re good at and try and make a living doing that.

And so it goes that after cleaning up some really crappy content, I had completely lost the will to write anything of my own. The excessive amount of time involved deciphering some of those sentences and rewriting them in English also left me little time to catch up on my reading, on the bright side I did manage to negotiate a raise 🙂

Well, the really bad content is over and done with and now I get stuff that is actually editable and doesn’t need complete rewriting. Of course you will always get people who can write in English but still believe that the late 1900s and the late nineteenth century are the same thing and can be used interchangeably, and that one writer who confidently states that Singapore is the capital of Malaysia, but those mistakes are easy enough to correct. And when I change also to too because it reads better, then I’m just being snooty.

Needless to say, this post is proof that things are looking up. Now if only I can manage to make my kids happy by baking again, then I would have truly figured out how to do it all…… (Well, almost).



Stop, Breathe, Keep Going

2017 is the year that I’m supposed to reinvent myself. An earlier post (Ten Years in the Making) boldly states that this year should see Jacqueline 2.0 and that dream is still alive. I thought I was cruising along nicely and making all the right moves when all of a sudden life as life is wont to do, threw a wrench in the works….

A routine medical check up produced an unexpected result which made things not so routine. No, it is not serious and I am not dying but it does warrant further investigation and a course of treatment or in other words it’s inconvenient. Well, as one very supportive friend put it, I need to “just get it done” (or something to that effect) and I am inclined to agree. But in the meantime it messed with my mind a bit and left me feeling a tad sorry for myself. By this morning I felt like I needed a break so I took the day off, slept in late and kept the kids home from school. And when I did finally emerge to greet the day, I was grateful.

My mind being well rested, saw life with renewed clarity, I had to slow down and refocus my energy on fewer things, I didn’t need to read quite so many things or ask so many questions, I needed to let my intuition guide me and feel rather than think my way forward. I need to relax into the flow and trust myself. So I ditched all the other questions floating around in my head and focused only on one; what would I like to write about?

The other day I was chatting with a connection of mine and his advice was to either write about what I’m passionate about or what makes me really angry. If my earlier posts are anything to go on then I appear to be rather passionate about human behaviour or more specifically why I think we behave the way we do, that seems like a good place to start. Now that I had the what, I needed to figure out the how and when. The when was easy; I’ll be pushing myself to write once a week, preferably on the same day each week. But the how, well that’s the tricky part. My posts thus far have been inspired by random things that are completely out of my control, I’ll be doing something and it will remind me of something else, which will get a thought process going in my head and voila, we have a blog post. These posts can be back to back or few and far apart, so how do I ensure a dose of inspiration every week? For now I’ve decided to actively look for inspiration and parallels in everyday things from the seemingly mundane to the fascinating and I plan to read something new every day.

So in an attempt to revamp my life, I’m going to start with revamping my blog; here’s to a new look, a better focus and most importantly more regular posts. Wish me luck….

The Hand We have been Dealt

I spend a lot of my day alternating from housework to my work from home content writing and often in between to bring myself back to neutral I play a couple of games of patience on my phone. Now, if you’ve played the game enough of times, it doesn’t take you long to realise which move is your last and that given this particular hand there is nothing more that can be done but move on to the next game. And I began to wonder to myself, why is it so hard to do this in real life? Once we’ve realised that a particular job or relationship or bad habit is no longer serving us or has us stuck, why don’t we simply just let it go and move on?

The answer is of course that life is not a deck of cards; habits are hard to break, quitting a job, no matter how tiresome could land one in quite a spot if there is no backup plan and people…. well people surprise you. Unlike the value of a playing card where a ten of spades will always be a ten of spades, people’s values can change; someone whom you had given up on might do something that completely changes how you view them while someone whom you depended on might abandon you at the very hour that you needed them the most. This makes “playing the hand we have been dealt” a rather tricky situation. Real life is hardly a game of cards but more like the staircases at Hogwarts; leading one way one day and another the next, and in some cases changing direction while you are on them.

As a parent I know first hand how much and how consistently children change from being newborns to adolescents, and we as parents just keep bumbling along trying to deal with each new situation as it arises. Sometimes what worked for one child works for the next and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes what worked for one child a day ago  won’t work for the same child today, and I can’t very well say that I’m out of moves, parenting isn’t working for me, let’s move on to the next game….. (just to be clear, I don’t want to).

So we bumble along and try to figure it out; parenting, relationships, jobs and habits. Each day a new direction, a new challenge and we all keep going, playing our cards till their values change and then we start over. My ten of spades today could be an ace of hearts tomorrow which just might help me achieve a victory and there’s nothing for it but to take them as they come.