By Farzana Hakim
Hello, Everyone. It’s Farzana, your host, kicking off a new year and a new season of Thursday Connectors and I’m very excited to do this. Oh, I almost forgot to wish you all a very Happy New Year. I hope 2024 has started on a positive note for you.
My new year so far, has been OK, I suppose… Counting the two trips to A&E, one stolen bank card and some low-life enjoying a holiday in Ireland on my expense, an unsuccessful and rejected funding application for a project I had hoped to do and spent days planning, 2024 has started off just great!
I’ve made it my resolution to be more optimistic this year. So, actually I’m glad I went to A&E because, after years of struggling with pain and all kinds of womanly issues, the doctors have finally realised how badly I need to be referred to the correct specialist and that they witnessed me at my worst. Now, I’ll patiently await my turn to be summoned – after the six to eight month’s waiting list.
As to my card being cloned and used, oh, that’s all good, as well. Because, bless the bank, they’ve refunded all my money, sending me a new pin number along with my shiny new card and strict instructions to not share it with anyone, even my husband. How nice to have to learn a new pin and all, after having the old one since I was 16. All good, all good… My peri-menopausal brain fog will benefit from the mindfulness exercise of memorising a new sequence of numbers and a new finger dance every time I use the card machines.
And the funding rejection, I’m not stressing about that either. I’ll just carry on researching and finding new and more innovative ways to make myself seen and heard; a healthy challenge. I’m also on a new quest in terms of my literary dreams. I’ve given up on writing serious stuff. This year, I’ll be focusing more on commercial, saleable stories. Only for this year, though; an experiment maybe. Ten years of researching social histories, war-torn countries and migration patterns and trends has given me much to shout about and write and explore. But now, I think a genre switch is needed. Optimistic, funny me is called for, I think. Marian Keyes, watch this space! I’ll be updating you as I progress.
So, a new me, a new beginning. 2024 is already gearing up to be super fantastic!
This month’s Connectors are all celebrating new beginnings, new relationships, and new meanings; very apt for the new year, don’t you think? All my Connectors have written thought-provoking and real sentimental pieces and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.
First up is Sebastian Elanko, who sent in a fantastic poem highlighting the power of a new love.
Hi, Sebastian. Let’s connect:
Beginning Of Love
Colourful halo circled around my head,
The nights lengthened like an endless thread.
People noticed the sparkling in my eyes,
I woke up with dreams before sunrise.
The world suddenly became meaningful,
Even droning of the traffic became cheerful.
My restless heart began to beat fast,
Cupid’s arrow had spelled the joyful cast.
Emotions heightened inside me without limit,
Lifted my body and soul high up to the hilt.
Even the thunder became music to my ears,
Thoughts made my eyes fill with joyful tears.
Panic and joy colluded with each other,
Conquered my own kingdom altogether.
It was not long for me to comprehend,
Love had become my best friend.
© Sebastian Elanko, 2024
Next, we connect with Mary, who explores how a new book or a new page in a book, can really affect us. I, for one can relate to Mary’s poem as my relationship with the new book I recently picked up is keeping me feeling young and happy, lol.
Hi, Mary. Let’s Connect:
The Number 49
At the back of the number 49
Away from the raucous laughter
Nudging elbows and general foolhardiness
Displayed by his classmates
Tomas sits, on his lap a book
He knows he looks weird not having his phone
Glued to his face, ear or thumbs
Just this book
Takes him far beyond the bus to school
He travels over mountains and into valleys
Meets dwarfs and dragons
Faces foes and holds his breath as the page turns
He is there as Bilbo Baggins meets Golum
Feeling the weight of “My Precious” in his pocket
Thinking of the answer to riddles
Knowing that Bilbo will face danger all around him
Hoping Gandalf will come to the rescue
Suddenly the bus stops
The boy looks up from his book and takes a moment to return
To the world he lives in
At the back of the number 49
A different world awaits.
© M.L Walsh, 2023
You can connect with Mary on Facebook: @mary.walsh
We now connect with Rachel Affiong Umoh, also called Lady Ray, who uses her love for writing to promote mental health management, disability rights and inclusion. I chose this piece because, like the new optimistic me, Rachel also believes in being a better person to make the world a better place.
Hi, Rachel. Let’s connect:
Look Beyond What You See
This is simple, although it sounds tricky, but when you see beyond the words, you’ll be able to relate.
As a writer and Rehabilitation Practitioner, specialising in disability and mental health support, I’ve learnt to look at the bigger picture around situations, using my mind’s eye to achieve clearer vision. I do this to get insight, navigating around what the challenges could be and how a solution might come about.
A typical example is staring at the image of a flower. When you just look at it, you see a flower, but when you look closely, you see so many things in just that single image. This is when you begin to see its true beauty: identifying the type of flower, the colour and its significance, its position and probably what the artist meant to say through the image. That’s how life works; looking just the once isn’t enough. In fact, that stare may push you back, but your quest to know more proves resilience and, as we all know, resilience never fails.
When we look beyond, we explore personal qualities that can strengthen our relationship with people, enhancing our communication skills. By listening better, in order to help us understand before giving a response, we ourselves become more reasonable. In a way, it helps us remain more calm and patient. It’s about being at peace with oneself, going with the flow and allowing life to take its course.
I experimented with this in a mental health support group for women. We held the session in a park one Sunday afternoon; the focus for the day being a meditation exercise. I told them to walk around the park, fixing their gaze on something of interest for around five minutes. Some preferred to look at the beautiful flowers, others watched the birds, listening to their chirping, while others fixed their gaze on the art work and animal sculptures. After the five minutes elapsed, I pressed the buzzer and they all returned. The conversation that followed was beautiful. The ability to be self-controlled, listening carefully and the interaction of the mind and eyes was the ultimate goal. This relaxation technique is another practical example of looking beyond what the eyes can see.
In terms of diplomacy, it’s important to understand boundaries and work out relationships for the better. In a situation where someone says, “I don’t like working from home.” Instead of condemning his or her opinion, you can simply say, “That’s interesting, I’d like to know more. Your opinion is surprising, because nowadays most people work productively from home, finding it easier.”
This shows that you respect his or her view and even if you don’t agree, you are open-minded enough to understand their reasoning. It also proves good communication skills because, rather than avoiding the conversation, you’re willing to interact with the other person.
Finally, looking beyond what you see is not thinking too much; rather, it’s a wake-up call to see through conversations and circumstances so you are informed enough to make proper judgement.
© Lady Ray, 2024
You can connect with Rachel on X: @moyinRachel or Instagram: @moyin_umoh
Now we have a poem from Donna McCabe, an established poet from South Wales, who has been published widely in a section of journals, magazines and anthologies. This lovely piece is about dreams and new aspirations, which I felt was apt for my page.
Hi, Donna. Let’s connect:
Ascending the ladder of life
Trying to keep everything in balance
Each step climbed an achievement
Determination to keep going
Strength and willpower a stubborn trait
To accomplish one’s goal,
To keep that dream alive
Of reaching for the stars.
© Donna McCabe, 2024
You can connect with Donna on Instagram: @DonnaMcCabe
We now connect with Bharti, who has a wonderful story to tell in a poetic form about destinations and new journeys.
Hi, Bharti. Let’s connect:
The story that I tell is from the day
When I was sitting on a bench,
Clueless, hopeless, with no destination in sight,
Wondering if there was somewhere to go,
A place where I could hide
Hiding from the ruthless world
And the icy cold vibes;
Out of nowhere, there came a man
Looking I do not know where with kindness in his eyes;
He opened his bag and started taking his books out,
Of science and philosophy and the subjects I did not know about
With curious eyes, I kept looking at him
A mysterious stranger with the most genuine smile
After the long moments of silence, I finally dared to speak
‘What is your name? What brings you here in a city with lost destination and frozen in decayed time?’
The man first smiled,
then gazed into the horizon,
and said with a deep sigh,
‘These are the roads I once walked on when I was a kid.
These by-lanes had some magic about them,
a spell that I could not break.
Then, the time changed and years slowly passed.
The magic weakened gradually and I set off for a new start.
this city has summoned me back,
I am still looking for the reason as I sit here to rest.’
He then asked me about the aimlessness written all over my face
And chid me saying lovingly, ‘Do not be scared of this game.
What you see as the end is the beginning of the road.
You have to find the key to open that invisible door.
As you step out of it, you will find all the answers,
Your inhibitions dissolving and your heart with joy will flutter.’
Suddenly, the spell broke and I woke up with a start.
With a new perspective gained,
I smiled and thought of a fresh start.
With transformation within,
the world around too changed.
What earlier seemed to be so tragic,
Now appeared to be the most interesting part of the game.
© Bharti, 2024
Finally, we connect with Elaine. Her lovely poem is about what a new year brings and what it leaves behind. This was definitely a must for my page. It’s absolutely spot on and a great way to end my Connectors this month.
Hi, Elaine. Let’s connect:
As new year chimes and casts it’s eye,
Reflecting times of days gone by
Remembering many moments shared,
The tears, smiles, laughter heard-
Tears that hold a special potion,
full of sparkling depth, emotion.
Deeper than the drifting snow,
as years they come, and years they go.
The crackers have snapped,
and the trees are now over,
Branches are empty, no stars, strings, toy soldier,
The empty boxes, tinsel, bells,
wondering what the future tells
As we say farewell to a year that’s gone,
And seek new dreams to build upon.
© Elaine Hickman-Luter, 2024
That’s all, my lovelies. I hope to see you again next month, all optimistic, I promise. But I’ll be playing devil’s advocate for Valentine’s Day, and would love for you to send in me submissions about the end of your relationships, or failed love stories, or losing a special someone or a pet.
Take care. See you soon!
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I think a genre switch is needed for my writing. Optimistic, funny me is called for, I think. Marian Keyes, watch this space!