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Nuanced November

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Can I just say, straight off the bat, November was the month from hell. Okay fine, I’m being a bit dramatic, but dang, I haven’t had my backside handed to me so many times in such a short period of time in a very very very long time.

The thing is right, this month carried so many of my 2021 highlights – from visiting the Harry Potter studios (yes, again), to watching one of my best friends perform. From attending life changing courses to throwing it back to my teens at a JLS concert. From girly date nights to reuniting with old friends. This month has been wild and riddled with memories that are nestled deep in my heart with people I love (and will continue to love) with every fibre of my being.

But, in the same breath, this month took me back to one of my worst stages in life. For years, I have done well in learning appropriate coping mechanisms for my anxiety – whether it was a toy to fiddle with in my pocket (thank you, pop up peas in a pod), breathing through my nose rather than my mouth, using phrases like “I am not comfortable with this/I don’t have the capacity to take this on”, or having set meal times – these strategies allowed me to not only be a functioning member of society, but also be present and hold space for others. This month however, I felt like I couldn’t breathe in between what can only be called a series of unfortunate events. It felt like there was no grace or adjustment period, or as my work bestie so aptly said “it’s almost like you think life’s given you its worst and then it slides a cherry across the table and says here’s another one for you to add to your tipping cake”.

And the thing is, this series of unfortunate events didn’t happen all at once. Like frogs in water, I didn’t know it was hot until it burned my skin entirely. I didn’t understand the gravity of letting the small things slide or letting others take responsibility where I should never have let go of my own sense of agency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming myself for the position I find myself in right now, I’m just (painfully) aware of the part I had to play in my own misery.

While self-awareness can be a curse when all you want to do is fester in your misery, it is so important. I know I’ve spoken before about the need to divert your own thoughts before they develop further into feelings or actions, this situation is no different. I knew I was falling down the rabbit hole, but I also knew what I needed to do to get out of it. But, it was a case of allowing myself the time and space to do that instead of just shutting myself down and being comfortable in these negative feelings. I needed to recognise the thoughts that were taking me down a negative spiral and remind myself that my thoughts were not facts. They were a product of my feelings and circumstances, and while it doesn’t invalidate my feelings, it reminds me that there is more to me and my life than this series of unfortunate events and I cannot allow my growth to be tainted by a setback, whatever its size may be.

One thing I’m so grateful for as I went through these feelings is the ability to allow my friends to reach out to me. Too often I have felt that sharing my feelings with them would be burdensome and that they already have enough on their plates without me adding to it, but this month, not a single one of them allowed me to feel that way. They were’t overbearing or pushing me to heal or get over things, they simply met me where I was. They continued to love me despite the fact that I didn’t feel so loveable, and reminded me in the small gestures that they were choosing to be present for me.

Here are some of the things they said to me as I was clouded by darkness which helped me see small rays of light:

  • Would you like to go for a walk? We don’t have to talk.
  • Would it be ok if I sat here beside you for a moment?
  • Do you need solutions or would you like me to just hold space for you?
  • How can I be present for you?
  • I know that I can’t take away the hurt, but you can hold my hand if it’s too much.
  • It’s ok not to be ok.
  • This is your am/pm check in. How are you feeling? If that one is too hard to answer, what are you thinking right now?
  • I know you hate phone/video calls, but can I talk through my day with you? I just wanted your company for a little while even if it’s in silence.
  • Please eat this so I don’t need to worry that you’ll pass out on me.
  • I won’t think any less of you if you cry. It’s ok to cry.

Nothing my friends said was groundbreaking, and yet, it was everything. Their kindness and their willingness to simply allow me to grow through what I was going through instead of rushing in to fix things made me feel more at ease than I could explain. So, my friends, thank you. Without you holding out your hands to me, I wouldn’t have been able to see any way out of the darkness and into the light again.

As we move into December, may we find it in our hearts to be gentle even when the world has us in the worst of chokeholds. May we find it within ourselves to hold the hands that are being held out, but most importantly, may we be willing to hold our own hands in the depths of our darkness.

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Ayesha Khanom

Sometimes a teacher, sometimes a student, but mostly caffeinated. This blog is a terrible attempt at writing out my thoughts - think of it as the 'comments, complaints, and suggestions' section of my brain. Nevertheless, I hope that some of these words will find a place in your heart and will stay with you even when I do not. If you'd like to get in touch, send me a message on Instagram or leave a comment on one of these posts and I'll get back to you at the best possible time.

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