Hopes and Memories
Edited by Miriam Zeghlache
So I turned 43 on February 14th.
Contrary to popular opinion, being in your 40s isn’t as bad. It’s like climbing a mountain, reaching its peak and enjoying your victorious, hard-earned view from the top. It’s nothing short of breath-taking. You’re brimming with confidence, you’re aware of what works for you, what doesn’t; you know your likes and dislikes and by now, you’ve learnt to say no.
Just as you’re relishing the view though, a nagging feeling makes you uneasy. Something forces you to become acutely aware of the other side of the mountain view. You think to yourself: “It really is downhill from here, isn’t it?”
Picture of me clicked in February 2023
My insides hurt at the thought. Someone knocks at the door. I open it; shocked to find Ugly.
Ugly was an old friend - a friend I had a fallout with many moons ago. I thought I’d never see her again; Ugly was a closed chapter. Or so I thought...
My life flashes in front of me hauntingly, making me feel dizzy. The school exams that made me feel suicidal, jobs that paid well but made me feel worthless, nights spent crying, the number of times I was a disgrace as a mother, as a partner, the rolls of fat, the stretch marks all over my body, the skin-whitening creams that never worked, the mistakes that cost me my respect, my dignity...Urgh! How I despised Ugly!
Healing, they say, can be quite grieving. One regrets and mourns the time, energy and opportunities lost over the years. And then you suddenly find yourself racing against time because you want to make up for the past.
I chauffeur my kids from one playdate to another, hopping like an excited bunny, basking in their adorable little experiences that they innocently share with me. My heart swells with love. I change my career, study for a new degree, feeling like a brand-new kid. I have a new lease on life; I feel empowered. Eating healthy and working out for years has paid its dividends...
I binned the skin-whitening creams when I became a mother to a beautiful, brown baby girl; we enjoy our time on the beach together, hugging the sun for all the love and warmth it showers upon us. I make time for family and friends that matter and savour every quality time spent with them.
I’m running as fast as I can, as hard as I can. And yet, I lack peace. How many likes, views and approvals before the hunger in me feels satiated? When will the grotesque self-loathing go and why is it still there after all these years?
Turning 43 makes me feel drained; exhausted. Adulting was supposed to be my ticket to freedom. Freedom from school. Freedom from the pressures of grades. Freedom from having my life being choreographed by adults at all times. Freedom from society’s beauty standards set for women. Adulting wasn’t supposed to be hard. I did not sign up for this.
I find myself running out of breath just thinking about it.
Dad passed away recently - he’s gone far beyond my reach. He was my loudest cheerleader. Mum’s slowed down - mentally and physically. She was the fast one, the quick thinker.
This wasn’t supposed to be.
Regressing against years of hard work, I’m spiralling downward into a self- sabotage mode. Sugar is my best friend these days; after calling off all my training sessions, I’ve gained back all the lost inches and some more. It’s as if I’m knowingly stalling my own progress, with a vengeance.
A prisoner, trapped in my own body.
Suddenly, I find my body covered with my mum’s scars! The scars she inherited from her mum. They gnaw deep into my skin - red and raw. How can that be?! I’ve tried so hard not to be my mum, not to make the same mistakes. How are we bearing the same scars?!
And, oh my god! Are these scars contagious?! Would I pass them on to my little girl too?!
Scrub! Scrub! Scrub! I must scrub the scars away quickly.
My skin’s peeling off. I’m bruised - inside out. But the scars refuse to budge.
Nauseous, I want to howl for help.
Ugly watches me calmly from afar as if to say, “The scars are here to stay. No-one’s coming to
save you from them.”
I want Ugly to shut up and go away. Please.
But, what if Ugly’s speaking the truth? Is there really no-one coming to save me?
I want to collapse on the floor and cease to exist. The voices in my head are way too loud for me to bear.
I ask Ugly to sit anyway. I need closure.
There’s awkward silence as we sit ourselves down.
Funnily enough though, soon Ugly makes me feel comfortable – just like good old friends do.
Ugly is my oversized pink and white striped shirt that I want to wear every day. Ugly is my baggy black, fleece-lined joggers
that have pockets in them and a tiny hole made by my cat’s claws.
Ugly is freedom from judgement.
What if Ugly’s earned a bad name simply for speaking the truth? The bitter, uncomfortable truth I’ve been running away from all my life?
I have so much to say to Ugly. But more importantly, I want to listen to Ugly.
I let Ugly hold my hand. Maybe, just maybe, I could give Ugly a chance.
Besides, I don’t owe the world pretty.
Ugly asks me to visit the top of the mountain again and soak in the stunning view. I’ve made it so far; I’ve been so brave. It’s time I own it and allow myself a break.
Perhaps the scars don’t need to remain hidden anymore. The scars, passed down from generations before me, have shaped me for who I’ve become. Why erase them?
What am I running away from? And how long will I keep running like mad?
Ugly suggests I need to stop trying so hard and slow down a bit.
“You can’t rush destiny,” Ugly says, warmly.
I feel a slight smile lighting up my face. I’m breathing better.
Ugly makes me want to put on my reading glasses and type my heart away on my laptop - with my legs folded - in my baggy, black joggers.