Time to Be

On 4th June 2015, I posted my first ever blog post, Faces, and anxiously – petrified, more like it – awaited the consequences; would I self-combust in a cloud of shame and humiliation? Would anyone, other than my parents, even bother reading my blog?

Three years on, I’ve got more than 150 blog posts under my belt, and according to WordPress statistics and, more importantly, the response I’ve received, more and more people are reading my blog, which is fantastic.

When I first began blogging, I mainly wrote personal stories about how being born with a cleft lip and palate came to affect my life, but gradually other stories made their way into the blog, stories about motherhood, stories about other people, ruminations on disability and disfigurement in general and specifically how society today still discriminates against those who don’t conform to what’s considered ‘normal.’ With Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in the US, and growing xenophobia at home and abroad, I also felt compelled to address some political issues in my blog.

Whatever I wrote, I’d made a vow to myself to post a blog every Thursday without fail, and it’s a vow I’ve kept until today. For the first time in three years, I am giving myself a break from blog writing. Next week, my daughters and I leave the busy-ness of London behind for a much-needed summer holiday in Sweden, where I plan to eat lots of strawberries, read good books, go for long walks in the countryside, hug a few trees and absolve myself of any duties beyond ensuring that my kids are fed (yes, ice cream counts as food) and don’t drown in the Baltic Sea.

In general, I am aiming to do as little as possible during my summer holiday and to simply be in the moment as much as I possibly can.

I always think of the year as running from September to August rather than from January to December, and this year, which is soon coming to an end has been an extremely busy year, not just for me, but for my children and my husband as well. It’s been a year with a heavy emphasis on doing and achieving as if these were the most important aspects of human life. But they’re not. Being is just as important, if not more.

Nonetheless, I am steeped in the religion of hard work and ‘simply’ being does not come naturally to me, so much so that it took a serious medical emergency for me to wake up to the importance of being in the present. An unexpected pulmonary embolism a few years ago left me physically incapable of doing much at all since I struggled to breathe every time I got on my feet, leaving me with no choice but to be in the moment, rather than always be heading somewhere.

Although I am fully recovered, I retain the lesson learned from my illness; that doing without being is bad for you. So, that’s why I am taking a break from everything, including my blog, until the end of August. Until then, have a great summer everyone, and remember to take time out for yourselves to enjoy the moment.



Growing up with a medical condition that required repeated surgery and having to withstand spiteful comments about my appearance from bullies, I had no choice but to develop a thick skin. I didn’t cry, I refused to give my bullies the satisfaction of seeing me cowed and humiliated, so I always fought back. I was my own fiercest ally and the only person I could fully trust.

But my stoic persona can’t withstand the acute pain of watching my child have her spirit crushed because she doesn’t quite fit the bill. She’s a beautiful girl, with a heart of gold who dreams of making her mark on the world. She also has dyslexia, which means she’s had to work twice as hard as her friends to get to where she is today. Her road is never going to be straight and smooth, but with determination, passion and a healthy belief in herself, she will make her dreams come true. There will be people along the way to support her, who will appreciate her for who she is, just as there will be those who sadly aren’t able to see beyond the dyslexic label, dismissing her as sweet and pretty, when the truth is she’s infinitely more than that.

Unlike me, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and I know I can’t shield her from the pain that life inevitably brings. But, I hope she will always feel safe enough to share her pain – and joy – with me, and that she’ll never grow a skin so thick she no longer feels anything.