by Miriam Islam
Let me start off this post by confessing that I won’t be sharing any writing tips, insights or anything about my writing journey during this period as I haven’t done anything. I haven’t written anything at all, new or old. I hang my head in shame, considering this is a post on a Writers group… but it’s true.
I had been hoping time in Lockdown would change the way I use time, but unfortunately it seemed to have the reverse effects: I became mentally exhausted and sick of trying to achieve a writing goal. In fact, I developed the belief that its not worth writing my story – I don’t believe in my ability anymore – therefore I should just stop trying. However, something else surprising happened. I lost hope in my previous tale but I regained something else; a new idea to write about. A reason to write.
Taking several steps back to how I got to that, I need to relay my mindset during lockdown… It was very different having the kids at home all day every day. Challenging and riddled with setbacks; losing my job, and my children all fell quite ill, and I had to deal with every one of their symptoms and emotions whilst suppressing my own fears and anxieties. It was a very uncertain new way of living
Eventually, we got through the worst of it, and that lonely feeling of being a ‘leper’ dissipated as I realised we were all fighting the same battle. Nothing else mattered, because my kids were now healthy and safe – with me – at home.
Sure, I wasn’t the best teacher, and couldn’t develop a regimented timetable at first, but I loved reading fairy tales with my children and watching their favourite films with them. We devised stories and theories of our own. I tried commenting (constructively of course) on their work, and revisiting basic maths concepts, and failing miserably with ‘some’ shape names and metric conversions, much to their delight and my mortification. Yes, I wasn’t the best artist or a crafts person, nor good at baking, but we muddled our way through making different Pies, wraps and desserts, and decided upon a time to pursue a long neglected passion of mine: painting.
Thus, we planned, discussed, sulked, disagreed on boundaries and tech times, but we, and they, became closer as siblings and thus, slowly, slowly my guilts as a parent eroded. So every night was Movie night, and every day I was a wannabe teacher, and a new chef trying out different dishes. I was also an ‘uncool’ embarrassing mum who spoke to their teachers, did silly dance moves and wrestled with them, ruffled their hair, and planted huge kisses on them, which they would wipe away with surprised smiles.
It was through Lockdown that we created ‘us‘ moments and significant memories. We came to an understanding about each other, and what the new reality was. And, dare I say, that a quiet sense of peace and happiness descended upon me. I was actually enjoying this new, slower pace of life as it provided the perspective and breather that I hadn’t realised that I needed.
As horrifying and painful it was to hear about the constant deaths I was too relieved about my own children pulling through to give too much thought about the thousands who had been directly affected by death, and I cocooned myself into my own happy bubble. But there was one thought that didn’t quite leave me: the moral injustice to society and our civil liberties being stripped by the very persons who advocated and violated them.
Many unjust atrocities occurred before and after the scandal of Dominic Cummings; people dying without their loved ones unable to be present, families torn apart, domestic violence, child abuse and divorce cases rising sharply, and last but not least the George Floyd murder and Black Lives matter movement. Many truths were emerging. People were kind, people cared, people gave, and were willing to help the needy, but the people were enraged. People misbehaved and became like caged animals and reacted to every situation. Was it out of fear or anger?
It got me thinking about a very fundamental concept: Power. The imbalance of unspoken rules passed from top to bottom. I can, you can’t. Why? Who said you could? How was it granted? Who created the power? The powerful or the overpowered? I’m trying to understand this: What gives one more power over another? Surely it can’t be knowledge or status alone. Who or what gives one person more right to exert power over another if both are of same composition i.e. flesh n blood
The questions were driving me mad. Where did such concepts originate from? And so I had to break it down to the most individualistic, simplistic form: Childs play.
‘I want your toy, and I am going to take it.’ ‘My doll is better than yours.’
Inner School politics. ‘I’ve got Nike trainers. I’ve got an iPhone… I’m not on school dinners…Well if you want to be like us…’ The exchange of looks; the narrowing of eyes, laced with disdain and contempt. The wounded looking downcast at their shoes, wishing they weren’t who they were. It’s a cruel tale of suffering to someone close to my heart.
So, where did this Us vs Them arise from? What enables or spurs on a young child to think that they should, and can take someone else’s toy just because they want to? There is no acquiring of education or wealth here, is there? It’s simply the feeling of entitlement. So where does that arise from?
And that’s when my dormant literary light bulb burst into flames. I suddenly felt compelled to write a story – a children’s story – about the beginnings of power imbalances between people. I had even thought of a simple title: ‘I want your toy’ but… I don’t even know where to start, and how to write or what to write… * sigh* …but I honestly hope I can write it, one day.