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Thursday, 25 May 2017

STAND TOGETHER


People keep asking me if I’m okay over here in England (in light of recent events in Manchester). And my answer is always the same. Yes, of course, why wouldn’t I be? My answer perhaps seems too matter of fact for some, but I refuse to give into fear.... Fear of spiders perhaps… fear of guns and Monsanto and the destruction of our planet… but fear of terrorism, no, never. I wouldn’t give the extremists a moment of my emotion. 

Obviously these are tricky, complicated times for a variety of reasons - most of which have very little to do with terrorism; And the world feels like a different place (Then again, is it?? Cause merely explaining to the King the other day why Henry VIII was holding this wife's head in an illustration, well, it dawned on me that the world has always been a savage place on many levels, especially to women!) But I have a numbers brain (although I suck at math, go figure), and as long as the statistics fall on my side I will still go out and live my life.

The thing is, events like this are designed to inspire fear, division, and hatred. And not just by the perpetrators. The media, our governments, ahem, our President... even one’s neighbors all take part in fueling this fear machine and I simply will not add fuel to the absurd fire. Now more than ever it’s time to stay together and choose our words and actions wisely. Because it’s far too easy to let the hysteria grow; this morning on (right wing) talk radio alone, you can hear the battle cries for internment camps, and military on the streets and you quickly watch the hysteria build (and our rights as citizens go out the window). Not to mention, the very people crying that our world is under attack, are the same people naïve and close-minded enough to judge a person by their skin colour (trust me, my husband is brown and mistaken for being every ethnic group out there and you quickly see how judgmental people can be).

As I’ve said many many times, I live between a mosque and a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood and I have never felt safer, never felt discord and never felt like I should fear for my safety. As I pointed out to my husband the other day, I am vigilant, I always have been. I live in a city. I’m a woman. I’m vigilant not to get mugged, I’m vigilant not to walk down a dark street alone, and I’m vigilant to not lock my bike outside with a flimsy lock! Am I scared about an extremist blowing up my local pub? No, because basic, glaring statistics are on my (and your) side and you simply won’t convince me otherwise.

The other diatribe you hear constantly is that the Muslim community as a whole should do more. They should denounce these attacks (They do, I assure you, it’s just not publicized cause that’s not a good news story. WE need a villain after all). They should kick and scream and drive the extremists out. And yes, to a certain respect, like any of us, if any one of us hears about extremism, then by all means, report it. But does (and should) the blame fall on them as a community as a whole? Of course not. Are all men responsible for those of their gender that rape? (Cause I can tell you this, every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted and there are a lot of men out there doing SOD ALL about it) Are they reporting on their male brothers (ahem, nope, in fact, the collusion, especially on college campuses is egregious especially in the world of athletics). Are Christians responsible for the rampant pedophilia problem that has existed in our churches for years upon years? The same issue that has been covered up and even deemed a ‘transgression’ that can be cleansed with confession. So agree with me or don’t, but don’t tar and feather 1.6 billion followers of a faith that all clearly do NOT support extremism. 

Because, I won’t be scared. I won’t be divided, and I won’t treat the King’s teacher, dentist or my husband’s colleagues any differently because they are Muslim. (In fact, word of advice, if you don’t know people of other faiths, go make some friends and broaden your horizons. It will quell the hysteria in your brain to humanize things).

What took place in Manchester the other night was appalling, ghastly, and unthinkable. And it makes you want to react, to fight back, to kick and scream and shout for justice, but to give in to fear and hate is a sign that they are winning.  And I don’t know about you, but I refuse to let that happen.

Friday, 21 April 2017

GRIEF 1, 2, 3


Here’s the funny thing about grief  (I never knew there was anything funny about grief to be honest) it always surprises you. It is not (and I repeat) NOT a one size fits all emotion. And anyone that tells you differently, well, just turn and walk the other direction cause they don’t know what they’re talking about.

At my age, I feel very confident that I know who I am, and more importantly, how I will react to certain things that life throws in my path. I am practical, I love a good challenge.. and yet I tend to be sensitive at times, (soft and gooey on the inside and all that). And of course when the situation demands it, I can be pretty tough and unrelenting. But when it comes to death, I won’t lie; I have always been terrified of it. It’s finality, the unknowing, or lack of control over one’s mortality. And I love control. Oh how I love it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, hence the many things we cling to in this life to somehow soften the blow of what's inevitable. 

So in light of watching death, actually watching someone dear to me take their last breath on earth, I have been utterly mystified by my reaction to it. In the moment, like I had always imagined, the grief was palpable, visceral even. I thought to myself, there is no way my brain can digest what I’m seeing, feeling…it’s simply too much. And yet, there was a stillness there and peace unlike anything I’ve ever seen or felt; in simple terms, an organic surrender that even I couldn’t fight; and that was this person’s unknowing gift to me. Watch this, see that I’m okay, and put the fear aside (at least for now).

And perhaps in that moment, that very monumental, surreal moment, my mind told me that it was enough to merely witness it… and yet to feel it on that profound level was simply too much.  So in short, I have subconsciously (or very consciously) put it somewhere.  I can see it, sitting up there on the shelf, and I know in time, I will get it down and open it and feel what comes pouring out, but for now, I will just let it inhabit that place, knowing it is somehow keeping me company, but not overwhelming me. 

The interesting part in all of it is how people expect you to respond or more to the point, assume they would respond (and trust me, I’ve been guilty of this myself, always assuming what the post loss response should be) and in turn, you feel somehow defective for not responding in that precise way. Or in some cases, proud you are somehow able to hold it together. ‘Yay, look at me go, I’ve showered.’ What I do know is that grief has surprised me (and I don’t surprise easily). It’s profound presence and yet lack of feeling has shocked me to my core; it’s quietness, it’s patience, it’s ability to live inside you, and for the time being simply remain silent until it feels like screaming from the rooftops like an unhinged lunatic.

The other revelation of this journey has been the amount of laughter one can find in the most sobering of moments. I know, shocking, right? But in the pain, through the pain, there are so many moments that one (depending on the person or group of people) can see the humor in, or find things that simply are so poignant or revelatory, you can’t help but fall on the floor in hysterics. In short, an outlet is an outlet however it seeps out of you. I suppose it’s also the psyche’s way of preventing you from coming apart at the seams.

So I suppose the reality is that grief wears many masks:  some loud and garish, some crippling and meek, some furious and dripping with rage… and yes, even one lurking behind a quiet, thoughtful smile… and I’m telling myself, at the moment, that it’s perfectly okay. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

IN MEMORY OF...


My mother used to read my blog, and she was always one of the first to write back with a comment, nothing lengthy, but enough to let me know that it made her laugh, think, or peer into my mind just a little bit more (I think she understood it was a very crowded place!).

So, in honor of her, this is a very small testament to who she was - as it’s always hard to encapsulate a person in mere words.

‘Anne I Can’… this was my mother’s moniker. Anyone that knew her would know how fitting this was. She simply could, and DID and of course she made it look utterly effortless, usually dressed to the nines and bejeweled, without breaking a sweat.

She taught us so many things: dignity, grace, elegance, and of course as children, how to wear a silk scarf as a belt.

The night before she passed we were all in the kitchen giving her a chance to rest. She said to my sister: “why on earth are they in there, they should come in here.” Cause that was Anne, total sense. So my four sisters and I went in the room and gathered round her bed. We surprised her with a small cup of wine in an espresso cup. She took one look at it and said “Are you mad? I want it in a proper glass!” That was also Anne. No small measures and propriety always reigned supreme. Then of course we poured her an inch and again, we got that look that only Anne could deliver, “Is that all I get!?”

That night we laughed, and cried and shared memories of our lives together and it is a night I know that my sisters and I will never forget. The next morning my mother's first words to me were about how much the previous evening meant to her, how it put life in perspective. Not long after, she passed on, peacefully and with such grace. 

‘Anne I Can’ was such a unique, enchanting, beautiful force of a woman. When people met her they always had a story to tell of how she left her mark on them; sometimes it was simply being a recipient of her charm, or how she made them feel like they were the only ones in the room; for others it was marveling at her elegance and dignity in the face of life. She was curious and direct to a fault. She was fiercely private to the point that most people did not know even know she was sick. She would laugh till she’d cry. She could hold a plank longer than anyone I’ve known (at 74!). She came to love her leopard print almost as much as her art. She would leave you an accidental 5 minute voice message as she could never get her car phone system to work: “Amanda, HOME. Amanda HOME, Cancel. Expletive!” You could smell her vanilla perfume before she entered a room and the click of her sandals. She had a five-tier yawn. She was loyal, and discreet, and had a light that truly emanated from within. And she had a million dollar smile that you simply could not forget.

She loved us girls fiercely and raised five strong, assertive, curious, vibrant women that will proudly carry a part of her within us forever. She will simply be missed beyond words.









Thursday, 2 February 2017

MARCH ON


I got in a debate the other day (Of late there has been a lot of debating) about the Million Women’s March. The most surprising and sobering part of it was that the disdain was coming from another woman. She, like many critics of the march, said it was simply women complaining, “whining” as she called it about the fact that they didn’t like the result of the presidential election.

I have to admit, I was taken aback. I know there are critics out there, and I know the president elect received a large majority of his votes from white women, but it’s hard to stare at another woman in the face and have her fail to see the greater significance of such an event.

I suppose my question for those dissenting voices is, if the march didn’t resonate with you, as a woman (and I’m not sure how it doesn’t), doesn’t it make you question who did it speak to? What human being that shares your gender felt it necessary to take to the streets to be heard? Do you know any? And were you really listening to what they were saying? 

For those of you that didn’t march, and dare label us with such derogatory language as "moaners, whiners, victims, and sore losers." My response to you is this… we are not victims. That march was not about victimhood.... That march was about power.. those daring to speak up and challenge and not accept what is going on in today’s world, in our country, in the election; it was a reaction to the grave affront on our civil liberties (if you think you are immune to this, wake up, because attack on our rights affects us all) and the glaring religious persecution that is happening before our very eyes (again, it might not be you this time, but who will speak up for you when it does). The march was the beginning of a movement, an awakening, a reminder of our first amendment rights to speak, be heard, and not lie down anymore. (And btw,  the women’s march did not just involve women, it involved men, children and spanned countries all over the world). This movement is bigger than just a group of people unhappy with a result. It was a worldwide statement that our leaders have to be accountable for how they speak and act. The words they use to discriminate and subjugate women or the handicapped, people of colour, creeds, and so on. 

And on that day, we were the voice for the voiceless. 

As I see it, isn’t that the one bridge that links us (those that voted against the President elect) with those that voted for the him – That fact that we demand to be heard, we won’t be silent, we want change. Moreover, if Trump ran a platform on the forgotten, the apparent voiceless, then aren’t those 3 million women marching part of that group? Or because we didn’t vote for the President elect, does our voice somehow not matter anymore?

If the march showed those in power anything it was the fact that we can galvanize quickly and we are not going away quietly. We will stand up for our environment, for our education, for our children; we will stand up for our rights to be paid equally, treated equally and to say loud and clear, language of assault, objectification and oppression is NOT okay. You may not agree with it, but it is our first amendment right to protest peacefully, so deal with it. Moreover, the world is rife with women, perhaps not yourselves, who are paid less, objectified, assaulted and have lived lives of hardship because of their gender. So if you don’t know any, open your eyes and understand that you do not live on an island.

Most importantly, any woman out there that condemns peaceful protest is forgetting a very essential thing: you obtained your very rights through protest. You can vote because women marched. You can drive…marry (anyone of any ethnicity or gender) because people marched. You can hold political office because people marched. There is advancement in the workplace because people marched. It didn’t come for free. People put their lives on the line so you are now able to sit in your comfortable home and enjoy those hard fought for rights.

So, instead of mocking your fellow woman, THANK HER.

And if it doesn’t resonate with you and you still don’t understand it, ask the woman next to you at work, or in line at the coffee place, the quiet one that may have a different skin color than you, or come from a different financial background, or different religion, ask her if that march represented her voice.

You may be enlightened that not everyone sits in the same position that you do.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

WHO ARE YOU?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes us who we are, our beliefs, principles, and yes, our politics (which obviously are shaped by our beliefs and principles). In light of what’s going on today (from where I sit within in), I don’t know how to move forward without doing this. I think for most, the recent events have brought up a wide array of emotions and many are struggling to find their way through them… without losing their sh*t or drinking whisky at 9 a.m. But the overreaching realization is that there is a enormous chasm in the world (the size of the Grand Canyon) and we better start looking for solutions, or else.

So, I have always thought that change, or introspection shall we say, begins at home, with that one face you wake up to every single day and have to reconcile with. (Obviously these are not light questions and one can fall down the rabbit hole of what is identity, preconceived notions/ideals vs. reality etc. but you get where I’m going with this). Of late, I’ve been pondering my worldview; what has shaped me, and influenced how I approach and interact with the world around me? I truly urge anyone and everyone to do this, if you’re not deep in this exploration already. They say, the only way to truly understand the people across the proverbial aisle is to understand yourself first, and remember we are all human who have arrived at a belief system, however that was shaped. And trust me, I might not understand your beliefs, or agree with them, but I am going to do my best to understand how they came to be (this is my intention anyway, some days I fail miserably at this). I think if more of us did this, we wouldn’t be in the total sh*t we are in.

So, what has shaped my worldview? Here it goes (keep up, cause I go quickly and jump around)….

I live in one of the most cosmopolitan, diverse cities in the world; I am an immigrant within the country that I live. My flat resides between an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and a predominantly Muslim area (and yes, we all get along just fine) – yes, I am literally between a temple, a mosque, a park, and a pub… I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere, but why digress.  I have dated and have friends that span the gamut of religions, races and ethnicities; I am married to a man that is mixed race. I have homosexual friends, heterosexual friends, and even a few transgender. I used to bake cookies with the downstairs neighbor when I was little, living in Idaho. I learned early that it didn’t matter if you loved a man or a woman, if you gave me enough chocolate chips; you were fine in my book. 

I grew up with money, but have never let that define me (or have tried very hard not to). On the contrary, the town where I was raised was a ridiculous disparity between have and have not, and I quickly appreciated and embraced the difference. I am the child of immigrants (Middle Eastern/European, Canadian, British, and so on). I am married to a child of an immigrant (Polish/Caribbean/British)… so in essence, my son is the definition of melting pot. 

I have had more jobs than I can count (that have truly run the gamut, from nanny to PA to someone who threw bagels when angry) and have moved over 19 times (in London alone). I am also a writer, which means that not only does it mean you're open to the world and all it has to offer (everything is a writer's fodder) but your job is never safe or secure (and well, don't get me started on the amount they want you to do for free). If you're not up for the hustle, find another job. 

I grew up in nature, surrounded by the most awe-inspiring vistas that left me with a profound appreciation for the planet. Tree = friend. It's the closest I come to a religion. Just leave me in a forest of Redwoods and it will render me speechless (this is not easy, my friends will tell you). 

I depend on the National Health Service in my country (and love it dearly). When I was in my twenties, I dated a man for over two years who had pre-existing conditions that made him uninsurable from birth. He has had over forty surgeries (the count may be higher, I lost count) and he is in debt up to his eyeballs just to try and maintain some sort of quality of life. I watched his emotional/physical/financial struggle day in and day out as he tried to make a living and not be consumed by the hand that was dealt to him at birth. I also had close friends with many who had to choose between fixing their car and getting a pap smear, in short, their health or their livelihood (without a car, getting to work in LA was not an easy feat).

I have been the victim of assault (to be very clear, not rape, but non consensual, I’m going to take you and kiss you and you have no say in the matter #notmypussy) by a man much older than I was at the time and have been in an abusive relationship where I thought I deserved no better. I have known many who have survived abuse, molestation, rape, and assault (and a few who have not). I have been involved in an incident with a handgun that greatly shaped my formative years considerably (and many around me). I have been robbed, but never mugged.

I have lived in 5 different U.S States and have been lucky enough to travel to many countries around the world and experience different cultures (if you are able to, do it. It's essential in opening your eyes to the world around you). I read voraciously and think everyone should. I am not religious - I was raised Catholic, but left the flock - but do my best to respect the fact that many people are. I believe in your right to choose, express yourself, and live your life how you choose (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone).... but not to bear arms, because that affects humanity, and I'd like to have a say in whether or not you can have an assault weapon. And admittedly, I am utterly shocked by those who think they can dictate how I should live mine.

So this is me, in a very small nutshell. All of the above has shaped who I am and why I believe what I believe…

My question is:

Who are you, what shaped you? Can you answer that? And when you start to ask yourself questions, if it gets uncomfortable (or more importantly, feels myopic), ask yourself why? Then look outward and ask yourself, these people I fight against, that I don’t understand, who are they? What has shaped them, and most importantly, where is our common ground?

At this point, I am hoping upon hope that we can all find some… 



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