Hello Mum,

Hi Mum,

It’s been over ten years since I physically hugged you, spoke to you and saw you. I can still smell your scent when I smell perfumes, Poison or Givenchy. Even the smell of Frankincense reminds me of the essential oils you use to use in our old house.
I see your face, expressions in people that I meet, reminding me that you are still here. I hear the songs you loved and know that you are near.
I still hear your laughter in my head, I still see the red lipstick you wear, the bright colours of dresses and shirts you would wear. Jeans were never part of your wardrobe and I always admired that the colours you wore suited you every time.
I loved that you would ask friends to make your clothes for you, they were unique like you, as were your headscarves. I remember the gold necklaces, earrings, jewellery you wore, you were never scared to wear them. You were fearless in so many ways and adventurous. You will never know how much of me is you.
I remember your dreams and stories were filled with worry and caution. I wish I had known more about your life in Mauritius and what had really brought you here, what were you leaving behind and how easy it was to let go.
Like many a better life for your children, a new dawn and hope for the future, a home to call yours and a family that were solid. I wish I could tell you how I live my life now, how I hope you would be proud of me, seeing me happy and with a very different life you were part of. I struggle Mum, there are so many things I didn’t expect, so many revelations and expectations. I struggle with not hearing your support and compliments, negativity is a bitter pill to digest, there’s so many side effects.

I remember the day after you died, I heard you call my name so loudly as a whisper in my ear so closely that I had to look around. It was the name you called me by, not my given name. And I remember feeling my heart beat so fast like I had had an electric shock.
I know you are here with me every day and when I really need you, I see you in my dreams. The last dream was not too long ago, and I remember us catching up about what has been happening in the world, us laughing together, and when it came to saying goodbye. We hugged several times before we said goodbye. I could smell your scent of Frankincense, feel your cool, soft cheek next to mine and feel the tears rolling down my face.

Until we next meet.

Acceptance

After completing Mastin Kipp’s 40 day ‘Claim Your Power’, I wondered if I would feel enlightened with my “Creator”, ecstatic in the my “action steps” approach to following my goals and dreams; and quit my day job. Was I excited that my relationships with my partner and family were about to elevate to the next level?
I felt the anti-climax of when an acting tour finishes and you know you’re going back to reality, the next acting job hasn’t come along yet and you have to go back to those faces in your regular job which either you dislike or the job is soul crushing.

Do I listen or read these self-development, self-empowering books because I want to find the answer to what I’m not doing right, seeking the reasons why I have not moved further along in life, to listen/read to another person tell me if I’m not “working to my goals once a week, it’s a dead dream”. Is it about my dreams?

I figured through this process it’s about my approach to everything and just like juggling human nature and the personalities of friends or the dynamics of work colleagues; it’s my approach to life.

My dad was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year, I looked at the research to prove to myself I understood the levels, the stages, the ways in which this debilitating condition can take over. It’s a slow burn of fire dying out on a summer’s day, at its height it’s beautiful, powerful and sometimes uncontainable and at it’s low it’s ash blowing in the wind returning to the motherland. What am I doing about it? I’m trying to control it, the doctor is trying to control it and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel unhappy and alone. Is that strange? The support from the NHS has been great, the support from my partner has been incredible.

I’m able to take my Dad to acting classes, memory cafes, dance and fitness classes (with the help of another reluctant family member). We have got him a diary so he can write things in to remind himself of what he’s doing daily and who he’s spending time with.
The biggest impact and stress for me is knowing which are the important parts, hospital/doctor appointments etc. Since my Dad came home from Mauritius in 2014, the last four years have been applying to the council for a home, sorting his pension out, him being diagnosed with prostate cancer and then this year dementia. I wonder if life has it in for me but it’s not me it’s happening to, it’s him. I cry and want to scream and shout at the world “why is it all on me?” and it’s because somewhere along the journey, I have become the responsible adult in all situations, and the roles have reversed.  I wonder how I can put yourself first, stay on top of my health and deal with anymore? I can’t and I have to get on and find the time when I can. It’s not about complaining, it’s allowing yourself to feel frustrated and not beating yourself up for the guilt that is totally out of your control, and out of your hands.

So, back to the book, what has it taught me in isolation to this area of my life, “Acceptance”. A really difficult area to understand in it’s full limited, restrictive layers unless you understand yourself to a degree. “Acceptance” is the most enlightening area of my life right now. I find it difficult because it brings its friends “control” and “judgement” to back itself up every time but it’s my fears of this that has been difficult to acknowledge. Accepting, what I cannot change, the future. But I can change the here and now by looking at it through a different lens. I never thought I’d be talking to my Dad about his “After Care Plan”, they are ask questions, you’ve never been prepared to ask your parents before, “How do you want to receive NHS treatment, do you want to be resuscitated, do you want the doctors to give you all the medications available” and so on. About his Will and what he wants to leave to people, about all sorts, and i am glad to say thank gawd I found out about the Death cafe, because it helps to talk about death openly.

All my Dad can hear when I ask him about his personal life and history is suspicion, and he asks “why? Why is it difficult to see loved ones suffer, it’s because the conflict starts with ourselves, our views, opinions, judgements, influences. The reality is he cannot change, he’s not a man that understands how to to talk about his emotions and never really understood others. He’s complicated and has a limited view of the world because he doesn’t really engage in conversation to know who people are or understand the world around him.  So, if anyone had to change, it was down to me, I don’t want to be the dutiful daughter anymore, I don’t want to pat myself on the back and say “I was there when he really needed me”. I want to be more than this, so I realised it was time to create new memories, however short lived they might be.

I am creating new memories of fun. I never thought of my Dad as a scared, frightened, and stressed man knowing that life is coming to a close. Maybe we never really think about the time when our bodies will start to close down, and stop working in the way we hope it always will. How do you admit, you can’t remember people, places, things? How do you talk about death when you’ve never really discussed it with family?

I am really lucky to still have my Dad, he isn’t an extreme case at the moment, he still remembers, still gets about, still cognitive. I have to find ways in which he can answer questions that are too much for him all at once. I sat with him yesterday whilst putting on a TENS machine for his achy muscles and played some music from different periods of our lives and showed him old photographs. A simple action but really worth putting the time in. I recalled that all through my life at home, two of the most prominent memories I grew up with was music and photo albums. Dad had created those memories for us and now it was time to remind him of those memories and create new ones for him. It is time to have fun with him whilst I still can and because whatever time I have left, I don’t want it to be about appointments, doctors, medication and duty.

If I only had today…

Today I came home crying, I’ve been here before, losing one parent was difficult enough, not knowing how long it would take, the journey it would take and how Cancer would play out. This selfish all consuming, all devouring disease with no inhibitions or care in the world just an egotistical swipe left ghost of a figure.

Why did I cry? The next part of the journey is a different equally challenging one, Dementia. A debilitating, short term memory swiping not quite disease. Still a condition that is labelled with stages from mild to essentially “no hope”. Still not answering the question, “why did I cry?”.

Gratitude – that  I had this moment today? Grateful that I had a day with my Dad?
Self-congratulatory – pat myself on the back because I’ve done my duty and spent some “quality” time with my Dad?
Guilt – that I didn’t spend enough time with my Dad?
Relief – that if anything happened between now and tomorrow, “at least I had today”
Sadness – that I wish I could have seen the signs earlier and spent less time frustrated and angry and more time patient and understanding?
Fear – that I won’t have anyone who will love and care for me in the same way if anything befalls me?

Did I cry because every time I’m there for my Dad, he says “sorry” for taking up my time, “sorry to disturb you”. I never make my Dad feel guilty and boundaries have to be made clear, but it makes me sad and angry to think why he has to say “sorry” and if others have made him feel like a burden or a bother.

The real reason is, I don’t know why, maybe because of all of the above things, maybe because I hate this fucking life with all it’s unfair, injustice shit it places on us. Maybe I’ve had too much wine (two glasses), “maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner and I love London town…”

I chose today, I chose to spend “quality time” with my Dad because in recent years, “quality time” has meant council visits to get him a home and benefits, hospital visits to find out he has Prostate Cancer.  It has meant finding out accidentally that I have a half-brother but with so many questions that will be left unanswered for my entire lift-time. And more hospital/clinic visits to find out that he has dementia and this is the next step.

Did I choose this life? Did I choose to have these challenges in my life to make my soul a more experienced, wiser being in the next life?  To develop to a Nirvana level in this life? How could I have chosen the pain, the suffering, the guilt, the worry, the stress; how? Because I am sure I would have wanted to be in the ice-cream guilt free zone of wealth, wisdom and ignorance, no?

I know I have this immense capacity to love, to give, to care and energy to encourage, but when I walk away, I am sometimes inconsolable with an undeniable outcome. Why was I never prepared for death or just the pain and endurance that one has to go through with life’s incurable toxins. These are not triggers from my childhood, these are not previous experiences before a certain age, this is fucking real life adulthood and it’s shit.

Do I sound ungrateful? Maybe? I sound fucked off with the cards I have been dealt with and I want to throw my toys out of the pram and rant and rave at how unfair it all is. But as most people I know say “it is what it is”. Fuck those words, it seems cold and calculating, a slap in the face of no mercy or prisoners to be found here. Take it or leave it? And I have to accept the inevitable, fate of destiny.

But fate doesn’t have to be a waiting game, I look to do everything possible to enable, to give advice, to make sure my Dad can do everything in his power, while he is capable to slow the inevitable down. While doing this, I have missed on two years of living life with him, having fun with him, day trips out with him, drinking with him.

Have I been selfish in thinking “Well, I was doing my duty as a daughter, at least I was there when he needed me the most, all the appointments”. Have I let my ego get in the way to think, “I’ve said all I can”, given him opportunities and now I can get on my horse and ride off with the knowledge that “there was nothing more I could have done”. I’m an absolute idiot if I think that.

I love my Dad and I don’t want our last months or years of memories to be sat down explaining to him that he has to think now about his funeral arrangements, his Will and whatever “end of life” endeavours he needs to consider. I want to have fun with my Dad, I want him to have fun with me. I don’t want him to get all stressed with me because I’m always talking about the seriousness of every situation.

Today I took him to three of my favourite special places in North London, spaces that make me feel like home never did, peaceful, a space to think and feel/be creative EZ and Moss. A place that always makes me feel like I’m part of the family Mento, Coffee and Flowers and a place “where everybody knows your name” Oak N4

The roles in life have now reversed, it’s my turn to look after, take responsibility of my Dad.  I’m glad I had today and I need to make sure there are more days like today.

Things I know to be True

There are specific moments in your life that you wish you had someone to share them with and there are several friends, whom on this night, I wish I could have shared this experience. But like with every situation in life some scenarios are to be experienced alone and those memories are the ones that will stay with you forever. 

I watched ‘Things I Know to be True’ by Andrew Bovell at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith last Friday, produced by Frantic Assembly. What a great piece of writing! For the first time in a long time I  was moved (well utterly flabbergasted), I was transformed by a shift of emotions and inspired by some brilliantly observed writing about familial life. The play was about an ageing couple, the husband retired, the wife still working as a Nurse with four grown up children. The play opens with the youngest daughter returning home after travelling across Europe in a gap year of self discovery. All of the children, now adults one married, one in a broken relationship and one a city flier are still treated like children, mainly from their Mum. All have varying degrees of bitterness and resentment toward their Mum’s ability to constantly undermine their choices, criticise their personalities and having an insight to see the truth. The Dad, a man that shys away from having a voice and in need of a quiet life. Don’t we all.

https://www.franticassembly.co.uk/productions/things-i-know-to-be-true 

I  recently worked with Frantic Assembly on the Intermediate workshops where Neil Bettles (http://dowhatyouloveforlife.com/blog/2014/07/do-what-you-love-interview-neil-bettles/) Director/Choreographer shared some of the exercises that the company of the show were working on with us, we did some beautiful movements, lifts, hugs that left my soul shouting at me that this is what I should be doing, not stuck in an office all day. Would I ever get bored, no, I love challenges!

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Frantic Assembly – Intermediate workshop

However, I digress. This play left its mark on my heart, on my soul, on me. And I know I am not the only one that walked away from seeing the show feeling like I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, I’m not the only one that felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut as I could relate to many of those moments when your Mum looks at you and she knows the truth you are attempting to hide from her. Knowing she is right but wishing she was wrong and couldn’t read the miniscule detail of inflections in your voice or how the look in your eye reveals the inner hurt or disappointment you feel. Anyone who has been in that position when parents know how to get to the heart of you and rip you apart with words, whilst you live your life begging for approval inside. But you’re encased with a hardness that becomes your coping mechanism in life, in relationships. Never wanting to turn out like your parents and yet becoming the very essence of what you hate most about what or whom they are. Early on in your teenage life, you made a pact with yourself you would never become them. (Now the play isn’t entirely pessimistic, there is hope). But it is down to the individual to take the steps of change, that journey that only we can make. Only we can explore, learn, grow from and sometimes still don’t know who we are. We are yet to find the person within the shell we look at everyday. The first act took me on this journey and the actors played their parts incredibly accurately that I felt like I was watching members of my family from different periods of my life and to be honest they way the first act left me feeling I couldn’t see where the second act was going.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this section if you haven’t seen the play yet!

The second act opened with the truth slowly unfolding for each person, revealing the lies they had hidden behind, a need to be the person they truly are, hoping for acceptance within family life that we long for and so desperately seek. But even the strongest of families have their limits. Mine did. Which is why we seek solace in our friends, who don’t judge us in the same way and care more for our well-being. The climax, which I didn’t see coming (and this is where the play had earned its weight, its gravitas that impacted on me and the audience) is when the one person who always brings everyone together, who fought the hardest because they had the most difficult journey in life. Where the Matriarch of the family worked hard to make ends meet, to ensure her children had the opportunities she didn’t, dies unexpectedly. My heart broke, I could feel the tears welling up uncontrollably with the rest of the audience. Every “Not her” which was uttered on stage opened up the memories of losing my own Mum, it reminded me of the pain we all felt, the anger my Dad had towards everything and everyone. It reminded me of the space that could never be replaced, the “words yet to be spoken”, the lives she left behind. 

I was speechless. This writer came to do a job and he did it. I wanted to share this moment with someone, with my friends I knew who would love the play as much as me. I felt inspired again, moved again and realised what’s missing from my own work is “heart” and that’s what this play has, a lot of heart and soul. The actors were/are incredible to impart such a journey, often I forget why I love acting and this is why. As I walked out of the theatre, I heard a girl behind me say “I want to phone my Mum and tell her everything I just saw”. I thought, it is when you don’t have a Mum to call anymore that’s when a play has done it’s job. It left me with a whirlwind of sentiments and memories from my past and now it was off to impact on someone else’s life.

Not to be too cynical but I do think, is it me being dramatic, is it the personal journey I am on in life, is this what resonates with me at this particular time? What is it? Why? Who knows, it’s an individual journey for everyone and things I know to be true is that no matter how long we have on this earth, try to not take your eyes off the road.

For a moment

For a moment intuition kicked in, the reality I will never be a part

of your blood, life or family

for a moment I’m not a part

of your life, your circle, your photos

for this moment I do not exist

I am, I was and still a memory, a shell of existence

for a moment I’m empty, tired, numb, fucked off

for a moment, my soul is crying, dying fighting the truth, the lie,

the made up scene in my head

for a moment my world shattered, crumbled, died or

did I face the undeniable inconsolable truth

the truth thats always been there, my fears

that ensnare, that encapsulate

that slaughter, that stabs the heart of me

me, who am I in the picture, no one, this picture

of family that stands, no one, that’s happy, that exists without me

me, who is me. No one, nothing of importance. Noted, that’s me.

 

Mia’s Fears

Coach asked me today why I was holding back, what is it I feared?

“Losing. It’s simple I don’t wanna lose. Why would  I train this hard and for so long if all I’m gonna do is lose”.  Stupid question, he must’ve seen the thoughts cross my face cos then he said  “Mia, don’t be afraid of your potential”. In my head I was thinking “what the fuck” and he must have read that too because I didn’t have a chance to reply.

“Just think about it”. And we were back into training.

So, I’m thinking about it. Why am I holding back? I know I can be the best so what’s up with me? Then…all these memories came flooding into my head, moments from my life where I had failed. Failed to speak up for myself, failed to help or step in, failed to be a fighter, failed to make my brother proud and that was it.

Everything went in slow motion, and I’m crying. Stupid uncontrollable crying in the street, and I’m searching every pocket to find a tissue, a used one even and then I use my sleeve. Come on Mia you’re 27 and you’re crying over stupidness. Fuck this shit, the only person you have to make proud is yourself, now get it together and fight. Fight to win.

Daddy dearest…

There are some days where as a stubborn person in life means you do not learn anything but your own opinions and hear the sound of your own voice. Then there are times where you realise how much you learn from listening to yourself and the experiences you’ve had. But no matter how hard I try to keep an open mind about my own experiences and my Dads, the generational gap cannot change his way of thinking; it can merely bend it to a degree. But that degree is not a win on my part that he came round to my perspective on any thoughts I put across. It merely meant that in a second he heard what I said and will choose to keep it, ponder on it or has already forgotten it.
What have I learned in this process is that my POV is mine alone and attempting to alter, change, offer a wider perspective to my Dad is not lost, not wasted and certainly not a defeat of me trying to change his/ the world; but that at least I connected with him. At least we laughed and at least we shared that time together. We talked a lot about “destiny” and “what if” moments, the last part of the conversation was “what if I won the lottery tomorrow, that would be my destiny” and I argued this was a “what if moment rather than destiny, and was based on statistical facts that you would not win”. Ultimately, there are odds that the outcome could go one way or the other but in the end who cares whose right and whose wrong.
“What if” I had the opportunity to live life again and make different choices. I wouldn’t choose to do this moment any differently as I know these moments will be far and few between.

I love you Dad

Upstart – Mia’s sprint

My time of the morning, cool crisp wind in my face. No fucker bothering me or pushing me to challenge myself.  A few familiar faces pass, we do what we always do, jog by without acknowledgement. Sunday, my day, my time. Church day, their time. He’s praying for me,  gotta push my brother outta my head. Mia – this is your time!

Tune – “you better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it…”

I wanna try some MMA, soon. The fight will be over soon. “Mia, focus. This isn’t just any fight, this is a fight that could change your career, take you to another level”. Do I care? Really, do I? Course, I wanna win…come on Mia no complaining. “You’re lucky, you’re good”. So, what I know I’m good. Don’t get arrogant, why fucking not! I’m not saying I’m the best, but I know I can be.

Fucking doooog, can’t you see I’m running. Why stop here, you fucking little shit! “Sorry”, I wanna kick your ass right now and your fucking stupid little yappy gremlin. Ahhh my knee. Breathe, its fucking hurting, not another injury. “Fucking dog, put it on a leash on next time”. My opponent is staring at me with those disapproving but up for the challenge eyes, my pride already on the floor, walk away Mia, walk away…aaaaaahrrrrhhhhhhh!

Maria thanks the Eminem ‘Lose yourself’ lyrics. Great track to work out to!

Upstart

‘Upstart’ is the name of my short film, it’s about a female boxer who lives in the shadow of her brother’s success as a former boxer. Mia is seeking to find who she is and where she fits in the world.

Who am I? Well, I am Maria Thomas. I’m an Actress, Producer, Writer and a lot more like most people. I have so much passion about life, learning new things, discovering new places, listening to new people even the ones that annoy you. You can find my Producer page on Facebook, under Maria Thomas and I will shortly begin a page on ‘Upstart’.

‘Upstart’ is written, co-produced, co-directed and starring me. If you going to do a first project, you may as well do it all.

How did this idea come about? I did a play about a girl called ‘Cutter’, which is also the title of the piece by Sean Burn. Cutter begins the play at the age of 8 and by the end is 18yrs. During the play she confronts bullying, racism, self-harm, loss of her Mother and then during the play the loss of her Grand Father. The piece is about a journey of self discovery and independence which is why I was drawn to writing a short film with similar themes.

This is the adult version and finally deciding on the lead character’s name Mia, I am about to blog about her journey week to week, maybe more but in character. So this is where Maria ends and Mia’s journey begins.

Today is jus one of those days, it’s naggin me, this pain in my fucking hand. Fucking injuries jus won’t go away. I wanna go home, I just want to say “fuck off, I’m done” but I know his gonna gimme that look. Arhhh….just don’t look at me like that, I don’t need a guilt trip, I don’t need the talk, I need a f…king night off. He doesn’t have to stay every night…but he does, perfecting his techniques, his moves, waiting for his moment, not mine.  I don’t wanna be a fucking puppet…

“4 jabs, come on, stop thinking. Bam Bam Bam Bam. 8 jabs, Bam…”

I’m so fucking tired and it shows. I see his disappointment, he would not have given up, he would not have shown weakness. I muster whatever energy I have, “again, come on again”, I say and I see his fired energy ignited. Sometimes…I hate you brother.

It’s a start into the mind of Mia and the back story to the film. Thank you for reading and maybe follow the journey in future.

In the grand scheme of things…

Well, the last 12 months has been an eye opener of familial life, career, bullying, patterns of life, responsibilities and all the past memories or experiences I have gone through and still go through.

There are some memories I cannot wipe away but manage them on a day to day, month to month basis. Some memories like tonight, where I look at the clock at 12:20am and remember on this New Year’s Eve like every other for the last six years; you are no longer in my life. I cannot celebrate another year with you, go shopping with you, tell you about all the exciting moments in my life or share the partner in my life with you. We are no longer a family unit because the glue that held us together is no longer there.

We may have argued, hurt one another, spoken harsh words but isn’t that what everyone goes through, isn’t that normal? All those memories where I rebelled against your beliefs and wisdom of experience. When I thought I was right and you were wrong, when everything you had been through in life was for our/my benefit, but I couldn’t see through that as a child as a teenager and sometimes as an adult.

I remember many things like your red lipstick, your smile, your infectious laughter. I remember the brightly coloured clothes you wore. I remember you always wore skirts and dresses and dressed well even going shopping. I remember your colourful head scarfs and your Harrods bag that you took with you to work. The tea I would make for you in your flask, the cakes you bought home at 4pm from work as you loved afternoon tea. The family get-togethers at Christmas for afternoon tea at Harrods, it became traditional in our house. Chicken Biriyani, my favourite meal. The birthday parties and the mean cocktail punches everyone got drunk on. The people whose lives you touched and whom loved you dearly. You had a big, generous heart where you gave without a thought to yourself and you welcomed everyone in. I hope this is where my qualities come from, a part of you.

In the grand scheme of things, I suddenly realised “why am I sweating the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff?”. Why have I not lived life to full capacity and how did I become so constrained with how I navigated it. I vowed to myself, I would live each moment with fun, love and an open heart! If situations hurt or pained me then this journey of life is where I need to grow, develop, evolve and I will never stop any of those things. In the grand scheme of things, I’m alive and have every moment to create and be happy in and only I can choose that for my path. So, onwards to the next chapter of life and wherever you are, I love you Mum. You will always be in my heart and soul.