The Inner Baby and Tweetaholism

It seems I have been singing so many qasidas* lately that new depths of my own vanity, ambition, immaturity, wounded pride and overall silliness are being clarified, like ghee simmering over a low heat.

Firstly there are the ambitions that don’t seem to disappear no matter how many steps closer I come, no matter how many achievements trickle into my life. It seems I’m not content to be the mother of three utterly hilarious beautiful creative inventive intelligent healthy beings (ALHAMDULILLAH!), nor that I am a writer as I’ve wanted to be since age 6, living in a beautiful place with no drizzle, and a community of amazing open-minded people who occasionally provide amusement with their bizarre antics.

No, there is always something else, always some other challenge that sets my jaw a-champing…and like a blindfold hamster believing it is going forward to some wondrous destination I am still always looking into an imaginary future where I’ll finally feel fulfilled by this, that or the other accolade.

Digging into this curious state of affairs I am finding that there is a very deep, childish sort of wound still being nursed by my unconscious being that lies behind my need to ‘be better’, one which goes back so far it has no visual clues to it, only a vague, pervasive, unsettling pain. My mother tells me that after my sister was born I refused to let her hug me for two years, just going all stiff (I was two at the time – I hasten to add that we have since become very close loving sisters, although it did take 22 years or so to get there).

It’s not like I was a neglected child – I was a longed-for baby who (according to my mum) received all the attention and adoration she could lavish on me, which was perhaps why it was such as shock when I was no longer the littlest one of the family. There is a photo of my mum holding my baby sister, aged 1 day, with our dear late grandmother cooing over them, and me in the foreground grimacing into the camera. She still bears a tiny scar on her cheek from where I was meant to kiss her as a baby but scratched her instead.

Could it really be that such an ancient, primary experience as losing first place in my parents’ affections has stayed with me all this time, morphing with age and accreting defenses to hide behind? Seeing how intensely my children react to seemingly small things like one getting 5 minutes more on the iPad than the other (these are the times we’re living in), I can imagine it might.

The emotions of children are all the more intense because they have no easy means of expressing themselves, other than through screaming or throwing things. The difficulty for us Brits is that such behaviour is generally totally out of the question, even if you’re 2. I suspect a lot of us have bottled up these pre-verbal angers and upsets, which have fermented over time and now provide a rich vintage of putrified infantile ire.

This then spirals forward into the present, either being channelled into other angers (xenophobia, racism, hating on Jeremy Corbyn…whatever’s the fad of the moment) or laying the foundations for a sensitivity to any similar kind of hurt (abandonment, isolation, criticism…).

Which makes me wonder this: is our collective attention-seeking, expressed through social media, merely an adult expression of the primary infantile experience of the loss of the mother’s adoring gaze, bathing her newborn in total love and devotion, making it sense that it is completely cared for and – well – interesting? Is this the root of the neediness that compels people like myself to perform, to ‘share’ compulsively, including on confessional blog posts like this one? Are we really just longing for the primordial breast??

So that is the resumé of my thoughts tonight. Facebook should be renamed Breastbook. The end.

*Sufi songs of love and longing for God, like the ones found in this book, which you need to buy: https://ianwhiteman.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/the-diwan-a-new-translation/

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Incredible Hug

Me Being Really Good at Hugging

When I was about 12, I made this very fervent and slightly pathetic little prayer:

“Please please please Allah, make me really good at EVERYTHING.”

I was in the PE changing rooms at school, after a particularly useless attempt at playing hockey, waiting for a shower under the eerie eye of the lesbian PE teacher who everyone said would whisk the shower curtain away while you stood there, trembling and naked. This was back in the day where lesbians were considered, to small children, more terrifying than vampire banshee ghostbats.

There I was, shivering in my horrible red and thoroughly un-Islamic gym knickers with scrunched up eyes, praying to the Doer of All Things Good Such As Reminding You To Bring Your Gym Kit So You Don’t Have To Wear Something Skanky Out Of The Lost Property Bins. (That’s beside the point. Stick to the point, Medina.)

So I have been pondering this one recently, the frustrated ambition (not the lesbian ghostbats), being as I currently am about as capable of launching a successful creative career as a piece of old chewing gum squashed into some tarmac. To give you a bit of context, my main classification of success these days is not walking out of the door with baby poo on my trousers, or cooking food that tastes like something scraped out of an archaeological dig.

Not long ago, while mindlessly surfing the net with a sleeping baby attached to my boob on afternoon (as one does), I stumbled across Hyperbole And A Half, a blog of such staggering hilarity that I spent my entire glorious hour of peace while the whole rest of the house was asleep poring through the blogger’s archives, by turns breathless with laughter and despondent at my own comparative lack of creative direction.

OK, so it wasn’t just envy at her marvellously witty illustrated posts, but also at her 3600 something followers. Yowzers. How does one get so well read? Is it really just a case of being great?

I tried to put the baby down so I could go back and read; she grabbed on tightly in her amazing sleep reflexes (don’t drop me out of the tree, mother squirrel). I tried to sleep, having gone to bed at 1am and getting up with two somersaulting kids at 6am after very broken sleep, and by this time was a gabbling lunatic, but I couldn’t. Tried to get up, but every movement out of our hug made Cavebabe flinch in her sleep and threaten to wake up with a caterwaul.

So I lay there, feeling about the emotional equivalent of an over-microwaved MSG chicken flavoured Pot Noodle, as creatively inspired as a blob of factory-made cheese (not even the interesting stinky stuff) that had been squashed into the underside of someone’s sock, depressed at not being amazing enough.

Then it struck me: why did I need thousands of blog followers to be classified as amazing? Why couldn’t I just be amazing at something basic and human – like hugging? Cavebabe didn’t need a super-fantastic famous blogger mother. She needed a really amazing hug. Surely that was far more useful, in that exact moment, than having a vast glittering presence in the murky depths of the blogosphere.

Where did this insane need for mass approval come from? At school, I did amateur dramatics, I sang, I played guitar, performed my songs, danced, took part in gym displays. I was an all-singing, all-dancing, straight A success machine. Apart from being crap at outdoor sports, that is.

But I no longer have the shadow of exam grades, University requirements or competitive friends to keep this creeping phantasm alive, the will-o-the-wisp of worldly success, the eyes boring into my back declaring whether or not I am SOMEBODY based on what I have achieved. I would like to start dedicating some serious time, instead, to something far more important: the art of hugging. A real hug is, after all, what would pretty much solve all of the world’s manifold ills.

Imagine, for a moment, the warmth of arms encircling you, transmitting their owner’s tenderness and care in a sort of infrared love-wave, water in their cells dancing with desire for your wellbeing, their dance inviting the water in your own cells to join in, passing on their infectious ease, correcting the kilter of your subtlest movements, healing every invisible wound.

The impulse to kiss bare skin must also come from this same primordial touch-balm; your lips are where your skin is thinnest, where the tingle of love crosses the barrier between people most easily, benevolence crossing the semi-permeable membrane of your talking apparatus and silencing it.

This is where I really should be striving for excellence, in making my arms available for limitless loving, in offering all hurt beings a truly incredible hug.