Writings

Not Hiring Single Moms

– “Upper management doesn’t care if you’re a single mother. What they care about is if you’re here, meeting business needs.”

– “I’m not telling this to put you down but you do have the highest number of absences in this office.”

– “Can’t you find a teenager in the neighborhood to watch your kids?”

– “You’ve already used your personal days to tend to your kids. Moving forward, you’ll need to use your vacation days.”

– “Why don’t you go live closer to your parents?”

– “You’ll need to make up the hours you missed when you left the office for your kids.”

– “It doesn’t matter that everyone else here is fresh out of school with no parenting responsibilities, I’m sure they have other responsibilities.”

– “No, we are not able to change your shift schedule.”

Photo courtesy of Tintalee Photography


The popular term ‘working mom’ is a redundant one. Being a mother is a job on it’s own. Annabella asked me about 15 mins ago, “is it hard being a mom?” It is. Of course it is. Being a mom to these two girls though? It’s a dream. Really, it is. I get them to myself for three weeks? Dream.

The quotes above were said to me directly, verbatim, during the times I struggled to be 100% present in the corporate world and 100% present for my children. What I learned was: it isn’t possible.

I often spent my rides on the TTC after having these conversations, sobbing, huddled into myself, wondering if I’d ever stop feeling like a failure. Until one morning I literally could not get out of bed because of the heaviness. I knew if I continued on like this, killing myself to get to an environment surrounded by negativity and uncompassionate behavior, that the light inside of me would burn out.

I chose motherhood. By choosing motherhood it meant also choosing myself. If I am mentally and emotionally unavailable for my children, being there physically is meaningless.

I had to evaluate myself, inside out, head to toe and decide to heal so my daughters can look at me without evaluation and say, “We love you mama. You’re the best.”

Tantrums, tears and tattle tales are rough, however feeling worthless is worse.

Short Stories

Daydream

The sun softly blinks into our bedroom to let us know it’s almost time. Then she slowly makes her way inside, sprawling out gently on our bed. I blink back and see a beautiful pair of brown eyes smiling into mine.

“Good morning my beautiful Jaan,” he says with his throaty Sunday morning voice. “Great morning my beautiful Ji,” I say back, lifting my hand to brush his scruffy beard. I breathe in the scent of his body and let my eyelids fall back down. Happiness exudes through each exhale as we both inhale the other. The universe has been good to us and we are therefore in a good place. Living in our dream home, all of us, together, in a gentle and calm neighbourhood. What makes this place a dream is not the purchase price of it or the square footage, but the simple fact that we are all in it and we were able to make these walls, shingles and bricks into a home.

The economy is booming, we both love what we do, the weather isn’t scary anymore. The stars have really aligned.  Of course, nothing is perfect, because that ideology no longer exists. Social media now serves as a support system for all human beings who may need it. Materialism, fake lives, narcissism, that’s all over. No one compares and despairs anymore. Even corrupt government has been abolished. World news is mostly headlined with the good that continues to circulate from country to country. War is a thing of the past. As is most suffering.

As I inhale him, I also breathe in the aroma of the roses he gifted me last night. Red roses, so cliche, but my absolute favourite. Flowers are still the universal symbol for love. And he gives them to me all the time without reason or obligation. Just because. We are best friends; mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and there is no one else on this planet that can break such a powerful form of devotion. We are not insecure, we have no doubts. There are no questions. We worship one another. We are who we are and we are us. We are true.

I used to believe that marriage was a facade, an evil institution that society placed on a pedestal to bring humanity down. Weddings, money and monogamy were always celebrated and everything else was questioned. Most humans hid behind the shadows of their marriages as liars, cheaters, cowards and fake hashtags. They were missing honest to goodness truth and purity. Now I believe that love is real, it’s tangible, it’s not a facade. It is life. It is the very air I breathe. And I am breathing him in, into my lungs, stomach, brain. Even my fingertips.

Our daughters dance into the bedroom with our fluffy, jovial puppy and the eldest says, “good morning mom and dad! Shouldn’t we get breakfast started?” The youngest one jumps onto the bed in between us, squealing and snorting with laughter.

Today, like every Sunday, we take our food truck to the local park and feed as many hungry bellies as we can. He cooks, of course. I’ve used my creative skills to design everything, from marketing to menus. The girls love helping out and being part of the team. Giving back, sending gratitude into the universe in spades. We also speak to youth in different schools about addiction and mental health, every month. Which reminds me, I really need to organize this month’s talk: learning how to love yourself.

As our daughters and pup pile themselves onto the bed and into our arms, I think back to a time when all I could see was darkness, and all I could feel was pain. But the sun always has a way of shining through even the thickest, bleakest, heaviest wall of despondency. She extends her rays of light around all of us as we embrace each other, leaving me with the warmest, most delicious delight I have ever felt.

Short Stories

Diamonds for Dinner

He’s in the shower.  My mouth and throat are like sandpaper. My hands are clammy. My eyes are stinging. I was up late last night writing my final letter to him. The pounding in my chest is harder than usual. Or is that my head? The baby starts to cry in her high chair. Oh, shit. The cereal. The water has been boiling, what’s wrong with me?

“Mommy’s coming, baby! Here comes your num-num!” I tell her, as I mix the Gerber baby cereal with her little pink spoon.

“Foh me too, mama, foh me too?” my toddler’s voice is suddenly looping around the kitchen. “Of course, sweetie!” I tell her, grabbing another bowl. This stuff smells so good, it reminds me of when my mom used to make cream of wheat for us. The thought of eating now makes me nauseous. I hear the bathroom door open. He’s coming out. I rush out of the kitchen and into the living room, which is also our dining area.

I’m blowing on the cereal softly and can see him from the corner of my eye, stepping into the bedroom, and shutting the door. Baby is opening her mouth, waiting for her breakfast. Toddler’s got her eyes fixed on the TV, watching what’s-her-face on Treehouse. Dory? No. Dora. Do you have to explore so loud today, Dora? Shut up!

“Sweetie, remember to eat your breakfast!” I tell her in my trying-to-be-calm-but-not-actually-calm voice. I can’t believe this will be our last time eating breakfast here. My phone buzzes. New message. I turn it over. My throat feels even drier. Do I even have any saliva left? The bedroom door opens. Fuck, he’s coming.

“Yummy, num-num, baby!” I say in my sing-song voice, spoon going in. Baby smiles, cereal all over her little pink gums. Am I really ready for this? Yes. Yes, obviously, you cando this and you willdo this. I hear the jingle of his keys. He’s getting ready to leave.

“Sweetie,” I whisper to toddler, “go say bye to daddy.” She obediently gets up from the mini-table that he built for her, and runs to the den. “Byyyyeeeeeeeeee dadddaaaaaaa!” He’s lifting her up, hugging her. She gives him a kiss. My vision gets a little blurry, but I blink it away. He comes around to kiss baby’s head. As always, I’m invisible. The front door closes, and the lock turns.

I quickly pick up my phone and type: ‘He just left. Come up in ten minutes to be safe.’ Should be enough time so they don’t pass each other in the elevator. I hop over to the bedroom and open the closet door to start grabbing empty bags and see his long-sleeve, collared shirts hanging there. I’m transfixed on them when I hear the lock on the door turning again. Oh no. I scramble back to my chair next to baby and pick up the cereal bowl with trembling hands. He’s back. He marches into the living room.

“Where’s the car seats?” he asks, looking directly at me now.

“Oh,” I manage to say. I never was a good liar. “I brought them up to clean last night. There were milk stains,” I say, trying to maintain eye contact with him. He doesn’t seem convinced. What if he knows? Please just leave.

As if he hears my thoughts, he walks back towards the door without another word. Leaving a trail of fire behind him that I cannot put out. Not this time. I grab my phone again. New message: ‘I’m here. What do I do?’

I respond back: ‘Wait a few minutes. He came back.’ Now I rush over to the window to see his blue Nissan leave the parking lot for the last time.

Trying to remember to breath, I open the front door and look towards the elevators down the corridor. She’s here.

My mom looks terrified. She quickly walks over to our unit, pushing a trolley of empty suitcases. We’re too nervous to even hug each other. Once she’s inside, she hugs and kisses the girls.

“Do you think he’s going to come back again?” she asks me, quietly. I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I hope not. Let’s get going.”

Within a few hours, we’ve managed to pack up the pots and pans, some dishes, all of our clothes, and the girls’ toys and books. I had already packed shoes and other things over the past few weeks and hid the boxes, knowing we wouldn’t have much time today.

“Whey we goin’, mama?” little toddler asks, looking around the condo unit as it quickly gets emptied out. “Just on a little trip,” I tell her, “just us girls!”

“Yay!” she cheers, hugging her stuffy to her chest.

Once the movers have taken the last of the luggage, I sneak into the bedroom and place the letter on the dresser. I take my engagement ring, and then my wedding band, off my finger and place them next to the letter.

“What? You’re not keeping your rings?” mom exclaims.

“No,” I tell her, exhaling for the first time in a long time, “not keeping them.”

I can still hear his voice, slithering into my ear, telling me, “as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do what I want to you.”

Definitely not keeping the rings.

At long last, we are leaving. I look around and exhale again. I’m breathing. I’m actually breathing. As I lock up, I realize that I didn’t get around to cooking dinner. Oh well. He’s got something else waiting for him tonight.

Short Stories

Cut Free

It started out as just a tiny knot. The wide-tooth comb, at first, was gliding right over it. Then it was getting caught. Now some of the teeth had broken off. The rest of her silky raven hair cascaded down her back like a light laced wedding veil. Except for that tangled web on one side. She was usually so careful and took great care of herself. Except for the past summer. She began to let things slide. She hadn’t known it could get this bad.

The mess of knots was so close to her scalp that it was weighing the one side down. She was getting migraines again. It had taken forever to get rid of those. She wore her hair like it was the most precious of crowns. No one had touched it in years. Until recently of course. She began trusting too soon, far too soon.

She knew the tiny knot was there, and she continued to comb over it, hoping she had gotten it out. As time went on, the little bead of a knot became a ball, and then an intricate web, as if a spider had been living in it, catching its prey.

It was getting out of control.

This was not her. And only she could fix this. She could either try to painfully comb through it or cut it off immediately before it worsened – even if it hurt her to do so. Her pride, ego, appearance would all be affected. What would people think of her? But she could simply no longer cover it up and lie about it.

She had to forgive herself for letting her guard down and for allowing it to get this bad. But she had to let it go. There was no turning back now.

With trembling hands, she picked up the scissors and brought them up to her face. But her fingers released them, clattering against the counter. The same hands grabbed the electric razor instead. The buzzing lulled her into a numbing trance and as she rid herself of the agony directly at the root, she smiled at her gleaming reflection.

Poetry

Waiting

She wakes at three
in the morning
sweaty and confused —
Heart rapid fire
feeling black and blue

Plunges her hand under
the pillow
to check for her phone —
Head wrecking ball
feeling alarmingly alone

No missed calls
or messages
capsized by her panic —
Hands earthquaking
feeling episodic and manic

blue alone manic
rapid wrecking earthquaking
waiting waiting waiting
plunging into fire
capsized
into blue panic

Heavy heart
Heavy head
Heavy hands

 

Writings

Vomit Journal – II

Day 382 of depression, round 5.

I’m sitting on a tall, cold, wooden chair. My feet don’t touch the floor, not even close. I’m facing a very large window, so I can actually see a bit of civilization. The sky is beautifully blue, and the clouds appear to be swimming slowly across it, like watching a snail slide across the pavement.

The wind is blowing the leaves on the branches of the trees quite forcefully, but it isn’t cold. I walked all the way here, so I know. Even with the wind, the sun felt warm on my back. I feel content about this, because I truly despise winter. Summer is almost over and soon it will be fall, and everything will be cold again. At least right now there are still colourful flowers in bloom. The leaves are still bright green. Nothing is fading yet.

I was fading for a while. A long while.

There was a generous sprinkling of magic over the summer which lifted me out of that heavy fog. Surrounding myself with family members, keeping a busy schedule, not allowing myself to stop. Always on the go. I was present. I was there for everything. I took my daughters everywhere I could. They have the photos to prove it.

Most importantly, I opened myself up to someone. After almost four years of solitude, I lifted myself up out of that dark hole and into a bit of light. And once I had a taste of that light, I began to soak it up. Every ounce of it. It was like coming out of years of underground hiding and finally feeling the rays of the sun again. Thinking, was it always this bright?

For almost a year, I’ve been kept myself wrapped in silence. In my own cocoon, only I wasn’t anticipating a butterfly transformation. One day, I decided to risk it. Break out of the cocoon and maybe, just maybe, I’ll survive out there.

I did it. I survived the summer out of my cocoon. I was a butterfly. I had wings. Every weekend, I opened myself up a little bit more than the last. I wasn’t numb anymore. There was feeling inside of me, all over me. In my veins, on my skin, in the strands of my hair.

Today is the first Saturday in many that I am alone. I sat on the futon. I wrapped myself up. I listened to the silence. Until all I could hear was the thumping of my heart under my fuzzy, pink robe. I needed to get out. So, I put on some clothes, brushed my teeth, placed my fuchsia ear buds in my ears, slung my floral bag across my back, looked at myself in the mirror, sighed loudly, and headed out.

So here I am. Avoiding silence and loneliness. Desperate for human contact, for voices other than the one in my head. The one that keeps telling me, “the light is going out, Taneet. It’s not going to last.”

Sometimes I believe all the noise in the world wouldn’t drown out that evil voice.

Three weeks ago, I looked at my reflection in the steamy mirror, got really close to it (I didn’t have my eyeglasses on) and said, “everything is fine. You are okay. Everything will be okay.” I said it out loud. I felt silly. But I did it. I figured maybe the voice coming out of my mouth will shut down the voice between my ears.

But it’s back. Or maybe it just never went away.

My hands were trembling earlier. Maybe because of my anxiety, maybe because of the meds. I just needed to get away from myself.

What would I hear if I could jump into this coffee cup? Would it only be the swirling and the swooshing of the warm liquid? Would I drown and blend into the sweetness, with only the powdered grains of cinnamon melting their way into me? Would it be silence?

Or —

Would someone place a lid on the cup? Taking away any hope of light? Making me go under? Unable to resurface?

My hands are trembling again. Its starting to get cold.

Poetry

Ruminiscent

“Tell your father he needs to stop drinking,”
the mother told her daughter.
The daughter wrote a note to her father
and taped it to a bottle of rum.
It read, ‘daddy, please stop drinking.’
When the little girl checked the bottle
the very next day,
the note had been torn off —
only the corners with tape remaining.

“Tell your daughter-in law to take out her husband food,”
the father in-law said to the mother in-law.
The daughter in-law placed her husband’s food
on the table, and asked him to eat.
The husband ignored her
Dropping cubes of ice into his glass —
Clink, clink,
the rum poured over the ice,
into the soda
Swirling into the same shade of brown
Behind the mist in her eyes.

“Tell us mommy,” the daughters said, “is daddy sick?”
The mommy looked at the daddy
laying asleep on the bed,
skin thin and yellow —
a papery sheet over his diseased liver.
She looked back at her little girls,
Into their curious, warm, brown
eyes
And saw herself in them.
She reached out,
extended her arms and embraced her children
for a long, long time.