New year, new you?

The first day of the new year is always high with expectation. At least that’s how it used to be for me. As a young woman, I remember the pressure of always having to ‘do something’ or be somewhere fabulous on New Year’s Eve. How things have changed. Last night was like most other weekend nights, just the four of us. Nothing particularly extraordinary, except for the fireworks that lit the Sandton skyline at midnight that Motheo managed to stay up for. And the rain.

The continuous rain and cooler weather, since yesterday morning, has been a surprising antidote for the ‘flames’ that have been synonymous with 2018. In Africa, rain is considered a blessing. It rained on our wedding day and while another bride might have been reduced to tears at the prospect of not having beautiful scenic shots, I embraced and welcomed the blessing. We did, however, still manage to get the most incredible pics in the aftermath of the storm which had created a dramatic vista and backdrop that we could only have dreamed of. I remember that year our photographer used one of our shots as her ‘top 10’ posted on her website. But I digress. Back to the rain.

But I soon came to understand that water signifies change and transformation.

Even though I’m an air sign, Libra, I have a connection to water that brings peace. When I first started to dream of water, in various forms and scenarios, I was confounded. But I soon came to understand that water signifies change and transformation. A cleansing of sort.  So, whenever I have a dream with water as a dominant feature, I usually wake with a sense of calm and confidence. Calm that the particular experience I’m going through is exactly as it should be. And confidence that whatever is troubling me has been washed away.

This is the distinct feeling I have had since yesterday, and it has continued throughout today. The incessant rain – even though it’s unfortunately destructive to some – is soothing my pain, washing away the fear and cleansing my soul. The lower temperature and tranquility of the shower has a beautiful meditative effect on me today. This is especially refreshing as the heat wilts my energy and saps my joy these days. And as usual, on significant days, I’m drawn to my mother.

Whatever you fight, you strengthen. And whatever you resist, persists.

I will turn 47 in 2019, the age that Flo was called to meet her Maker and ancestors. If she has known a year earlier that she would leave her husband and children so soon, what would she have done differently? These are the thoughts I’m having. Not with sadness and regret. But rather with a large dose of gratitude. Gratitude that I have choice. We will never know our final mortal day. But it’s guaranteed. Our only responsibility is to be present and live each day in peace and love. The rest is superfluous and strangely, automatically appears once we release attachment to those things. Whatever you fight, you strengthen. And whatever you resist, persists. Still my favourite quote from Eckhart Tolle.

With the rain nourishing the soil, setting the foundation for growth and renewal, there’s no need to make any grand New Year’s resolutions. Certainly not for me. I can’t ever remember keeping one beyond mid-January. Rather, let’s commit to live in the moment. Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s forgo our lived reality as the only truth. Let’s open ourselves to authentic relationships so that we can be surprised. Surprised that letting go is often all we need to invite love and joy into our lives.  

Happy New Year! Let 2019 be a year of delightful surprises.

I Am Not My Hair…

Let’s talk about hair. It’s not just a halo to the perceptions of our beauty, it has deep roots in many of the ‘-isms’ that confound women. It creates insecurities, keeps us struggling to reach beauty standards that are unattainable. Hair, along with body image, often become shackles that occupy us for hours either enhancing or trying to change. I’m not averse to that, I do my fair share. But here’s a thought. What if we focused half as much time and effort on our spiritual development and improvement?

 

I spent all my childhood into early adulthood in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal. My family has a diverse heritage that includes a multi-cultural mix of Zulu, Indian, English and Irish descendants. We’ve been mixed for three or more generations. This brief background is important to understand the diverse range of skin tones as well as hair textures. Our skin-tone palette ranges from the very fair to dark-skinned and our hair textures have a similar range from short, coarse and curly to ‘curtain’ straight.

Rain was something to dread as any sniff of moisture was enough to send my ‘hair home’, even with regular relaxers.

I was gifted with tight curly long hair. I say gifted now, but as a young girl, it felt like a curse. Straight long hair was desirable. Emphasis on long. Living on the coast, humidity and tropical weather made for many unpleasant hair encounters. As the only girl-child with this ‘wayward’ hair, it was chemically straightened to comply. Made it ‘easier’ for my Mum to ‘manage’. Rain was something to dread as any sniff of moisture was enough to send my ‘hair home’, even with regular relaxers.

 

Dad didn’t approve of the straightening of my hair. So much so, that Mum had to hide it from him. Since most of these hair routines took place at home and not in a salon – lest anyone discovered that it wasn’t your ‘own’ hair – this was done in his absence, discarding all the evidence, the packaging and that horrible stench. My only ‘saving grace’ was that my hair grew, way down my back, which gave it appeal in certain quarters. But for the most part, its original texture and thickness had to be ‘tamed’ by endless products to give it a more ‘palatable’ veneer. When it was blow-waved straight, the positive comments were affirmation of this preference.

 

I recall one of my prized moments as the only bridesmaid at my cousin Gillian and Anthony’s wedding in Durban mid-Summer. With humidity at its highest, I still ‘forced’ a straight hairstyle for the ceremony and official photoshoot. I could feel the curls materialising like unwanted facial hair. It always made me so uncomfortable and ugly. Sanity prevailed and before the reception, I wet it and let it dry, with lots of product of course, into its natural curly state. Their wedding album tells my before and after story. It provided a good laugh when some pics surfaced on Whatsapp a few months ago.

Spent my most impressionable years never feeling pretty enough.

So, straight hair was always desired. The kind that my baby sister and a few cousins were ‘blessed’ with. They didn’t have to go through hoops to roll, swirl or straighten their hair. I was so envious. It wasn’t scared of rain, moisture or wind; it would remain beautiful regardless. Spent my most impressionable years never feeling pretty enough.

 

But there was always something about this that didn’t feel right. In my heart, I was a ‘no fuss’ kind of girl; never bothered with make-up and generally preferred a more natural look. The hair thing was the antithesis of this. I guess this is what drove me to rebel in my late teens; I refused any further straightening agents on my hair and let the natural ‘frizz’ grow out. It was after Mum passed away and was the first inkling that my soul needed peace.  My almost two-decade-long yearning and concomitant turmoil would begin.

 

My hair was so intricately linked to my concept of beauty that it took me leaving my closed-community of Durban for the cosmopolitan bright lights of Johannesburg, where my hair, almost overnight, became a crown of glory. Feted as my defining feature. Always described as the ‘tall one with long hair’. That, too, would eventually become my downfall as I grew attached to this ideal of attractiveness.

On the back of this was the end of my thirties and words from my late mother.

On the face of it, accepting my natural hair was a good thing, right? A previous piece What Do We Want? expresses my realisation that there is no good without the bad. My self-worth became entangled in my long hair. How could I still be beautiful without it? On the back of this was the end of my thirties and words from my late mother. “An older woman with long hair is like mutton dressed as lamb”. She believed that once a woman reached a certain age, beyond forty, she had to shorten her hair so as ‘not be something that you’re not’.  It’s funny how certain things stay with and influence us.

 

As you know, the onset of my forties was characterised by pregnancy and motherhood, that time when most women struggle with self-preservation and care. Try it on the ‘other side of life’, when society has told you that you’re way too old. Exhaustion is not just a feeling, it’s a permanent look. My longer hair soon felt like a burden. I felt haggard and constrained by my locks but didn’t have the guts to make the drastic snip.

 

I voiced this desire often to those around me, my soul knew that it would give me the release I needed, but I was hindered. At first, it was the identity issue; could I could carry short hair? Would I still be considered attractive? Even though Mr T had never indicated any affinity for long hair and actually encouraged me to make the change. The apps that superimpose different hairstyles also didn’t inspire confidence.

 

When I eventually found the resolve, it became a budgeting issue. I truly appreciate the talent but as a freelance writer with erratic income and our flailing economy, one must think twice. I even tried to change the colour in the hope that it would give me the sparkle that I desperately needed. Failed. A week later, I picked up the phone and made the appointment with Michael, the magician, aka my long-time hairdresser.

Why all the drama and debate?

Some of you are wondering, what’s the big fuss? It’s just hair. Why all the drama and debate? No, my sisters, nothing is ‘just’ in our patriarchal world. In the main, men don’t over-analyse and have their self-worth wrapped up in their hair. Yes, some buy styling products and more visit hair salons these days, there may be anxiety around balding or greying hair, but there’s no billion-dollar industry creating and supporting it.

 

I was that girl-child whose self-worth was defined by her hair, amongst other physical ‘flaws’; nose too big, legs too skinny. When I look back now, I marvel at the insidious damage at the hands of our corrupt socialisation. Patriarchy, overlaid by our historical inequalities and racial trauma, ensured that our external features were, and still are, at the heart of our success or failure as human beings. Lighter skinned, better-haired, European-like features and thinner body shapes remain the aspiration.

These are the things I wish I had known as a young, vulnerable soul.

I have no interest in sharing for fame. It took a lot of internal wrestling to reconcile my need for privacy with my innate desire to help others. These are the things I wish I had known as a young, vulnerable soul. My writing is solely dedicated to ensuring that young girls, in particular, and women, of any age, understand that power and beauty emanate from within and are independent of any external manifestation.

 

The soul does not need to be ‘made-up’. It has no anxiety around ageing. All it requires is acceptance that will bring peace, joy and understanding. And here’s the beautiful part. Once we reach that level of acceptance, we learn to treat ourselves with love and kindness and the beauty automatically radiates for all to see. There is nothing more attractive than a confident, self-assured woman. She rises head and shoulders above status, class and everything else that money can buy.

 

Here’s to your beautiful self!

 

 

What Do We Want?

Digital is here to stay whether you embrace it or not. I’m less concerned with the hysteria around the ‘robots coming to rule our lives’. Hey, that’s here already. Think of a need and there’s already an app catering to that whim. So, if our lives are taken over by technology – everything from finding and maintaining relationships, entertaining ourselves and our kids, working and doing business, and everything and anything in between – shouldn’t things be so much easier? Shouldn’t we have much more time? And with all that entertainment on tap, surely, we must be the happiest we’ve ever been?

We count the follows, tweets, likes and hearts

Sadly, this is furthest from the truth. All technology has done is give us illusions of perfection. Social media photo filters make us look like supermodels, we reinvent ourselves, our children and our families, and sanitise our lives by posting the poised and the pretty. We count the follows, tweets, likes and hearts. Even when people try to be ‘real’ and honest, there’s such vitriolic backlash, body-shaming, blaming; patriarchy always rearing its ugly head. We’re so disconnected from reality that we can’t even recognise it when it hits us in the face.

 

We say we want to be ‘accepted for our authentic selves’; yet we reject our bodies, our stretch marks, less-than-firm boobs that tell our story, and wrinkles and grey hair that validate our wisdom. We say we want to be heard; yet remain silent in the face of abuse, lies and deceit. We say we want inner peace, yet we clog our lives with stuff and more stuff. We demand equality but continue to second-guess ourselves. Woman, what do you want?

 

Ten to fifteen years ago, if you had asked me that question, I would have said ‘a husband and child’. That’s what I believed I was ‘lacking’. It seemed as though everyone around me had some semblance of that; a committed relationship, if not a husband, and a child or two or more. If I have to be real, I wanted them as a ‘badge of honour’; a stamp of approval, of sorts. Like I would ‘arrive’ with those ‘appendages’ that would change my life and ultimately, make me a happier, better person.

 

Today, I have all that. And more. I have two sons. My eldest turned five today. Healthy, normal, well-adjusted. The joy and gratitude are real. Yet. I grapple with a sense of longing. That I haven’t achieved everything I should. That once target A, B and C are realised, the content and happiness will materialise. But wait. Didn’t I reach my targets? I’m now a wife and mother. They give me everything that I thought they would, but they also give me a whole lot else that I couldn’t imagine.

Cajoling, caressing and making love all the days of your life.

Cause when you’re lying there, curled up with your pillow and an empty bed, all you can fantasize is that someone lying next to you is the missing link. Cajoling, caressing and making love all the days of your life. You never ever think that he or she could have a god-awful habit like snoring, that may disrupt your sleep forever. Or that your child may have special needs that go beyond your patience threshold. Or that household bills become grudge purchases. Nothing wrong with this picture. That’s life.  It’s the reality that we don’t like to entertain when we’re romanticising that which we don’t have. Stop it. Now.

 

The one thing that I’m trying to embrace is that nothing is ever good or bad. Rather, it’s good and bad. Even this recession. Yes, the same one that has some of us eating out less and recycling our clothes, not solely as the environmentally-friendly practice that is far more honourable. It’s just a cycle.

 

If you’re single, it comes with the good and bad. If you’re married, there are ups and downs. If you’re childless, it has advantages and disadvantages. If you’re unemployed, it may feel like it’s just bad and worse, but it has an equal opposite reaction. Get it? Make a list of all the reasons why. Try it with whatever else you feel you’re lacking or that’s holding you back from living your best life. Force yourself to look at it from all angles. Life is never one-dimensional. Neither are we.

Living a life of purpose and truth that supercedes whatever is happening out there.

This downtime has got me asking myself a series of questions. What do I really want? In a crisis, trying to ask upfront, what is the lesson here? I don’t have all the answers. But I’m working on the internal. That which is in my control. The choices that I make. Living a life of purpose and truth that supercedes whatever is happening out there. Robots ruling or chilly days in November.

 

My birthday wish for my first-born, actually for both my children; find your passion first. And this is never linked to another. Your purpose and the rest will follow.

 

 

Birthdays Are For Gratitude

Today’s the day my soul entered this earth. Florence Nightingale Bollay [nee Toohey] went into labour at the ‘ripe old age’ of 30 in 1972 and gave birth to her first child. My father had hoped it would be a boy [in those days the sex of the baby was unknown until birth. Strange concept, hey]. This hope would stay alive until his son finally arrived at the fourth try, almost 10 years later.

Thanks to Facebook, we feel like superstars.

Hope; that thing that keeps most of us going and usually, circumstances permitting, lays a foundation for gratitude. And I feel bucket-loads today. Birthdays are one day out of 365 that God has given each one of us to feel special, receive attention and calls [yes, some people still do that], be surprised by gifts, love and laughter.  Thanks to Facebook, we feel like superstars.

 

It’s barely high tea and my day has been made. Showered with love from family and friends; priceless. And without coming across as an ad for Hallmark cards, my kids gave me the most precious moments. My 3-year-old who is usually up with the birds slept in until 08:00 and did not wet the bed. Yes, simple joys really cost nothing. When I went to check if all was well with the 4-year-old who was still sleeping at 08:30, suspecting he could be ill, again, I was greeted by “Happy birthday, Mom” as he opened his eyes and reached out for a hug. Overjoyed is an understatement.

Nine years ago, someone got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

My me-time in the sauna this morning was a trip down memory lane as I reminisced that today is also the anniversary of our engagement. Nine years ago, someone got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. With the backdrop of the majestic Drakensberg mountains, the trajectory of my life changed forever. As I said yes, obviously, in a whirl of surprise and elation, I had absolutely no idea what the journey would entail. I only had assumptions based on societal lies. Everything was supposed to be decidedly rosier from that point, right? Wrong!

 

One of my biggest lessons is that life was never meant to be ‘all good’. That has never been promised. And indeed, it’s actually through our struggles and pain that we are able to grow and elevate ourselves into the souls we’re meant to become. It’s the difficult times that shape our resolve and most importantly, our purpose. It’s safe to say that I’m going through one of the most challenging periods of my entire existence. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hey, it feels like it. And my perception is my reality.

Just as I’ve told you, this is part of my purpose and the Universe is giving me pause moments.

My struggle right now is on two fronts – my health and my business/career. My wiser, more mature self can step back and acknowledge that it’s a necessary part of my growth. Just as I’ve told you, this is part of my purpose and the Universe is giving me pause moments. To realign, gain strength to move above and beyond. But the scared teenager, the one who appears whenever I’m confronted by fear of failure, trips me up. Often.

 

I have now embraced the purpose of birthdays. Not a day that’s characterised by sorrowful contemplation of the larger number that now has to be filled in on application forms. It’s an opportunity to bask in love and gratitude. Particularly for the seemingly little things, those we take for granted while we’re always focused on what we don’t have. If there’s anything that I want my sons to know it’s that their worth is housed within. The external is all an illusion.

 

So, with immense gratitude and in the spirit of the ‘accounting irregularities’ that are now commonplace, I’m taking a new approach to the added year; 4 + 6 = 10. In numerology, “the number 10 is the only karmic number that indicates a release of karma. A new door opening. A clean slate.  A rebirth”. I’m running with this. I’m a perfect 10. Thank you, Lord. Now, let me eat cake!

 

We Can Have It All! Or Can We?

Have you ever come across a man ‘striving to have it all’? And by ‘all’ I mean the perfectly balanced family/home and career/business lives. Men just get on and do what they need to. His pot-belly is growing, he makes time for the gym. He needs to advance his career, he signs up for an MBA. He wants the two-door sports car, he buys it. This is obviously if the right personal and financial circumstances prevail.

 

The point is that there is no angst over competing interests. And let me say this upfront, those men who are doing their bit – making school lunches in the mornings / doing the school run, taking baby to the doctor when he/she is sick, doing night duty, please sit down. You’re still in the minority and really, there’s no need for congratulations. You’re just doing what you should.

 

I have yet to find a woman who does not have anxiety, on some level, of not ‘having it all’. Especially not having a husband and babies. We know why; that blasted ‘p’ word. But how can we change this? How do we enable women, especially young girls, to go out and find their passion; to live their purpose? Life is really that simple. But we’re caught up in constraints that aren’t even ours! Which, by the way, I strongly believe were created by men. They were never able to ‘have it all’ nor do they want it. And with good reason; it’s an unattainable pursuit that detracts from living a life at peace.

 

This thought was further triggered by a recent chat with #MyTribe. Some have young children approaching and/or in their teens. We consider ourselves to be fairly liberal, ready to parent as we may not have been; to nurture well-adjusted adults to live their truth, find their passion and respect all, in what feels like the ‘end of days’. It’s quite a harrowing challenge.

 

What stood out is that we all, myself included even though I don’t mother girls, are way more protective over our girl-children. The conversation arose around one’s teenage son’s foray into dating. Mom of said-son is understandably struggling with this diverted attention; mine are still young, so I can only empathise with no longer being their princess or queen. And I’m sure I will also need counselling at my turn. The point is that we all agreed, daughter’s entering the world of romance and coupling is far more traumatic. The tentacles of patriarchy are so deep-rooted; we struggle to break free.

 

I’m a firm believer that you can teach an old dog new tricks; all the dog needs is an eagerness to learn. To change. Now there’s the scary concept: change. Whenever I consider the fear of change, my beloved mother-in-law comes to mind. Her antithesis to change every day routine, like driving a different route to visit us, was a superficial indication of other more innate fears.  Fear is a normal emotion induced by perceived danger or threat and enables us to make appropriate decisions which could be life-saving. It’s not meant to be a sustained state, as it becomes for many of us, and ultimately limits our full potential.

 

So, how do we change our understanding of common societal constructs? It starts with each of us questioning; we somehow lose that curiosity we’re born with. My 4-year-old recently asked if Jesus is a woman and when I responded that he’s a man, he retorted that he’d like Jesus “to be a she because I’m a he”. That definitely put a smile on my face as I answered, “that’s ok”. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he understands the need for diversity, but I do pray that the foundations are being laid.

 

We need to change our views and perceptions on girls and women, and more importantly, what it means to be a woman. Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all times, is vilified over her masculine physique. She’s held to unattainable standards. At home, our national treasure, Caster Semenya can never find rest. Why? They give common held descriptions of femininity the middle finger. Those who choose not to have children or marry are considered spawn of Satan for rejecting ‘obligatory’ maternal roles. I won’t even enter the standard ‘portraits of beauty’ that we’re exposed to daily into this argument; that’s for another post.

 

To the mothers of daughters, actively question behaviour that ‘polices’ girls as fragile, weaker, lesser-than and as objects. Ask a simple question: if she was a boy, would I act/behave/question in the same way? Trucks and racing cars, soccer and climbing trees are not too dangerous or ‘out of their league’. If she doesn’t want to wear a dress and prefers a crop cut to ponytails and plaits, that is not a yardstick on being ‘girl enough’. She needs to learn self-acceptance, the foundations of equality, from kindergarten.  That’s the only way she’ll own her rightful place in society.

 

To the mothers of sons, let your boys dance on their toes, have tea parties and play with dolls. They need to get in touch with their refined, nurturing side. How do we expect them to grow into loving, caring men, capable of engaging with women as equals, if they’ve never been exposed to some of the nuances of the other sex? When we don’t allow them to express their emotions as tender babes, can we be surprised that they grow into the archetype of masculinity we despise?

 

And while we’re at it, can we change the use of pink for girls and blue for boys at that elementary level? There’s a rainbow of colour, no shortage of options. Toys R Us, get a gender-neutral section or don’t label specific toys for girls or boys. How about banishing same-sex schools please? They perpetuate the stereotypes that girls and boys need to be educated differently and also scupper mutual understanding of the other sex at critical stages of young souls’ development. It may have worked in the last century, it’s certainly an outdated concept today.

 

Finally, to all my sisters, you are already more than enough. Today. Right now. You don’t need to fight to attain recognition in a society that’s skewed to favour men. The secret lies in finding your passion which will lead to purpose. And our passion is not housed in an external frame or another, it lives deep within; you are the only one to unlock it. Whether it’s to teach and develop our children, design homes and buildings, chart the next spaceship to unknown galaxies or be a homemaker, it’s yours to honour and pursue.

 

I love Mum Oprah; she says: “You can have it all. Just not at all at once”. Let’s teach our girl-children to chase what brings them joy, love and peace. The rest will follow.

 

Our Children’s Innocence Is Stolen

Sexual assault and violence are so commonplace in South Africa that one is often grateful to be ‘spared’ from such abhorrence. Who can forget the horror of Baby Tshepang, one of the first high profile reports of child rape in 2001? Many of us could not, still cannot, fathom how a helpless baby [she was just 9 months old] is confronted with such evil intent and action. Countless heart-wrenching attacks on children and women continue daily, most recently the 6-year-old who was raped in a public toilet at a Dros restaurant, keeping this terror alive.

 

This atrocity was brought home last night by an incident with my 4-year-old. He was recently on a course of antibiotics which resulted in acute constipation.  I put my hand up as a bad mother as I had forgotten his probiotics. Nevertheless, I was trying to placate a hysterical boy who was in obvious pain; kept on sitting on the toilet with no relief. When I mentioned the use of a suppository, it escalated into absolute pandemonium.  He was crying uncontrollably, “it’s going to hurt, it’s too painful, I don’t want it!” and on he went for what felt like an hour, even though it was only a few minutes. Mothers never want to hear that agony in a child’s scream; we know the difference between the cry for attention or the one of frustration, not knowing how to express themselves.

 

My heart was in pieces. I was eventually able to convince him that the pain of the build-up was nothing compared to the small torpedo-shaped intervention and that I would be slow and gentle. Thankfully, all ended well. But throughout this episode, I could not help but think of our children who are maimed inexplicably, often by those they know. I felt that pain! If my son was in absolute panic and hysteria, over a somewhat mundane home remedy, in the safety of his bedroom with his mother around for protection, what is the nightmare that children go through when they are being viciously assaulted?  Sometimes repeatedly. God, I cannot comprehend.

 

This has troubled me for a few reasons. The one is that parenting is not only about loving, nurturing and guiding souls as they journey through life on earth. That’s the good, wholesome stuff; what we fantasize about as we’re pregnant, preparing for their entry into the world. And it’s not just about preparing them for failure, that thing that even as adults, we struggle with. Life is far more insidious than that. There are trials and deceptions that we cannot even imagine as we’re lulled into complacency by the humdrum of routine. The mother in the Dros incident had no clue, as she and her daughter readied themselves in the morning, that their lives would irrevocably change by that evening.  Tragically so.

 

I’m aware that age levels for sex education and body awareness have lowered significantly in recent years. In my day – oh, that sounds old – you were considered lucky if you were given some explanation of ‘the birds and the bees’ at the onset of menstruation. Yet, here I am, exposed and educated, but very uncomfortable with the thought of having these discussions with my boys. I know I have to, but I’m delaying the inevitable. It feels like I’m betraying their innocence. They’re not even at formal school!

 

I stopped telling the ‘mommy and daddy who met and fell in love’ story at bedtime to my then 3-year-old as I was always probed about how the ‘miracle baby found its way into mommy’s tummy’. It was not enough to say that ‘mommy and daddy loved each other’ or that ‘daddy planted a seed into mommy’s tummy’, as I was informed was supposedly appropriate for that age. He was asking the questions of a 6-year-old and I, bad mother again, was just not ready…

 

My struggle now is to start the discussions around inappropriate touching; I’ve bought a book on rights for children. We’ve started reading it, but I still cringe at the images of the little boy standing over the toilet with his penis out and the little girl who is hugged inappropriately by an older uncle, hoping I don’t get questioned. Fat chance. This is about my development as much as theirs and I have to do whatever it takes to equip our sons with everything they need to master through this minefield called life.

 

My prayer today is for our children throughout the world.

The Art Of Moving On

Every other ‘inspirational’ tweet or post on social media tells us to fight to the end, hang in there, persevere and you’ll succeed. But how do we know when to push through or give up? When do you realise that you’re hitting a brick wall or reached a dead-end? And when is it worth the fight? This is closely linked to indecision. We always have a thousand ‘what-if’ scenarios in our head, confusion reigns.

 

The past six weeks or so have been spent in a conundrum – all self-imposed – that’s had me asking why and how I found myself in a particular situation. Were there signs? Of course, there were. There are always signs.  But wait. Didn’t I spend the better part of my thirties figuring out ‘the signs’? Surely, I’d amassed sufficient karmic credits from that life module to insulate me from any further mayhem. Clearly not.

People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

We’ve all heard the saying: People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. It’s usually given in the context of romantic relationships, to bring comfort to those of us who’ve gone through one too many, but I believe it’s equally relevant for any encounters and bonds we have and extends to family, friendship, professional and business.

 

What initially started out as a volunteer work relationship eventually disintegrated into a chaotic online onslaught that opened up some wounds that I believed had long healed. After sustained cyber-attack, I felt like the abused woman I had left behind. What made this instance excruciatingly more difficult was the realisation that I should have walked away much earlier. When I knew that the situation was toxic but second-guessed myself by first believing that, as I had a clear conscience and had done ‘the right thing’, that it would ‘all work out’ and then later, putting the collective ahead of my personal sanity and wellbeing.

And so, we’re never taught to mitigate and change course.

Am I the only one who feels that life is one big lesson in ‘unlearning’? It’s certainly true for me. I find myself constantly having to ‘reset’. It starts at junior school. Always do your best, never give up, push to the end, finish what you start. Then let’s not forget the societal fairytale – get a boyfriend/girlfriend, get hitched, have babies, grow old and then die. The lists go on. And so, we’re never taught to mitigate and change course. That, just because you’ve headed down a particular path, does not mean that’s where your destiny lies. That that’s just part of the journey and not the destination. That there is no destination!

 

It brings me back to my burning question. When do we push through or give up? When does it not feel like failure and is actually empowering?

 

My crazy ‘worst work experience of my life’ ended when I turned inward and realised that the pain and trauma inflicted on me, myself and I was far greater than the need to triumph. There are some souls that are born to fight to the bitter end – I question whether they ever find peace – and there are some, like myself, that crave the sanctity of balance and harmony.

So, how can one master the art of moving on?

So, how can one master the art of moving on? The short answer is by honouring your inner ‘melting point’; that place where you could either push forward and burn to a cinder or feel the heat and retreat to your place of safety. Your happy space where you can rejuvenate and change course, give your energy to something or someone else. The long answer? I guess you’re going to have to continue on your journey…

#PatriarchyMustFall In Our Lifetime

We’re in August, Women’s Month, a mere 31 days out of 365, that are meant to celebrate everything female; highlight successes; focus on the challenges that lay ahead and how to overcome these. Since everyone wants to be heard and seen ‘to do the right thing’, we are confronted by many, corporates included, that offer their acknowledgement and use this as an opportunity to grandstand.

 

Manglin Pillay, CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering [SAICE] really got into it in full patronising mode; “To the women in STEM – you know I am your friend. I wrote you Character Currency, gave you poetry and even sang you songs, so you know I am on your side. But we need to discuss a few things”. It all went downhill from there.

 

We continue to live through the abuse of women; emotional, financial, physical, and many fatal.

 

Without going into too much detail on that piece, other than to mention that the very organisation he leads categorically distanced itself and is “horrified at the innuendo that girl-children are less in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)”. My only hope is that swift action is taken. We continue to live through the abuse of women; emotional, financial, physical, and many fatal.  The #TotalShutdown march took place a few days ago on 1 August as a signal that we will never be silenced.

 

These are my thoughts on this disease of patriarchy.  Cause I think we have to name it that: a disease.  As a mother of two boys under five, I’ve mentioned the daily intention to dismantle the seemingly innocuous ways we entrench gender bias. Just this morning, I had to convince my 4-year-old that the pink toothbrush – one of only two left from a pack of 5 multicoloured ones – was as good as the blue one. I didn’t succeed, but I guess I could say it was countered by his recent musings on why the PJ Masks trio “only has one girl?”.  To which I replied, “that’s a good question. There should be two girls and two boys as we’re all equal”. My explanations will get more expansive as they grow. The point is that we must lay the foundations at an elementary level in the hope that society won’t have to deal with two more obnoxious adult men.

 

He most probably thought that he was being quite clever and endearing, perhaps even thought-provoking.

 

Patriarchy, much like white privilege, has its claws so deeply entrenched in ‘common culture’ and ‘it’s always been like this’ that the advantaged often don’t concede to their positions of power and therefore rarely question them. Oh, and when confronted, they vehemently deny. The aforementioned CEO is merely one case in point. He most probably assumed that he was being quite clever and endearing, perhaps even thought-provoking.

 

After the public shaming, he has supposedly ‘acted alone’ even though the piece was published in an industry magazine and on his Facebook page. This points to two possible scenarios: he was either advised against it and went ahead. You know, I’m the CEO aka the man who doesn’t get questioned. Or the more plausible explanation that he actually got a pat on the back for his fabulous piece. And I suspect that much like most of my writing is based on discussions and thoughts I regularly have, this is the usual boardroom/bar/golf course/locker room banter he’s familiar with, often accompanied by high-fives and raucous laughter.

 

It makes me sick to my core and another reason why I’m convinced that our boys should not be educated in a same-sex institution. It’s inspiring to see some schools embracing gender-neutral uniforms as well as sporting activities. These small changes will go a long way in levelling the playing field and hopefully create the gender-equal societies that will benefit the world over.

 

When we make it seem so ‘complicated’, we’re setting up stumbling blocks before we even begin.

 

Sexism, like racism and all other forms of discrimination, requires the perpetrator to acknowledge their bias before any meaningful intervention, let alone healing, can take place. So, Mr. Pillay believes that “gender equality and equity need deeper understanding than simplification into male dominance, patriarchy and companies providing baby care in the office”. When we make it seem so ‘complicated’, we’re setting up stumbling blocks before we even begin. What’s the take-out? It’s really not that easy to dismantle; it just is.

 

Every woman knows and feels patriarchy daily. You don’t have to do any research to tell us what we experience; the devastating impact it has on our lives. From the sister fetching water in rural Tzaneen to the one driving a Porsche, occupying a top position in Sandton, and everyone in between, we loathe it, we despise it and it must end. It starts by speaking up when we’re uncomfortable. Questioning when there are no women in the room. Being conscious and deliberate in our parenting of, and interaction with, both girls and boys. And finally, supporting each other through our struggles to overcome this despicable disease.

 

We have witnessed the fall of apartheid in our time, I pray that we will see the death of patriarchy.

 

#PatriarchyMustFall

Our Mental Health Is The Key To Health

I love the fact that we’re living in an era of transparency and access to information. Social media and the rise of the ‘eyewitness reporter’ deliver more data that we can consume. And while the issues of gender equality and women empowerment will always remain close to my heart, I’m finding the increased discourse around mental health equally significant.

 

I, for one, am being educated on this illness, its silent effects, the masks those suffering are ‘forced’ to wear and maybe most importantly, the use of language in describing this devastating condition which is on the rise globally. What stands out for me is that by saying someone ‘committed suicide’ alludes to a logical, clear, healthy mind making a decision, then taking action. Nothing is further from the truth.

It took me more than 18 months and a fortune in self-medication and naturopath healing to finally receive a medical diagnosis of a hormone imbalance.

This has made me reevaluate my own struggles that I nonchalantly ascribed to having young kids when some of my peers are welcoming and preparing for grandkids. It took me more than 18 months and a fortune in self-medication and naturopath healing to finally receive a medical diagnosis of a hormone imbalance. I’ll write about this in more detail, but the point is that my anxiety, stress and what I now understand as post-natal depression, were never going to go away by ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘being grateful for the beautiful children’ or ‘that I’m so much better off than many others’.

 

As much as I prefer natural, healthier options, medication is the critical factor to my health and wellness right now. A few months back, I had found myself in a slump driven by the treatment regime that had me feeling like a hypochondriac; take this before food, after food, make sure there is no skin contact within 2 hours and so on. So, bundled in a ball of tears and as I am sometimes wont to do, give up, I announced that I was going to leave the medication and try the natural route.

 

The reaction from Mr T told the whole story. “You can’t just do that without consultation, you can’t make that decision on your own as it affects the family”. In that moment, I realised two things. First, I had been in such a bad state that my family was ‘terrified’ of me without medication and then, positively, that I was actually on the mend.

There’s very little that we are in control of.

I often have conversations with my dear friend, Sindile on when to ‘treat on your own’ and when to reach for the pills. What’s clear for me is that we are alive during extraordinary times of mass manipulation. There’s very little that we are in control of. Walk into Pick n Pay or your grocer of choice, read the labels and weep. At least 95% [my guestimate] of the food we consume has ingredients that we can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they are. What we put into our bodies on a daily basis is not pure.

 

Then many of us forgo exercise and moments in nature as we have a million and one excuses. And we’re continually bombarded by information overload, excessive consumption and deadlines – 24 hours is never enough – that hamper our pursuit of peace and quiet.  That’s really what our souls need. For the pain and trauma to disappear so that we reach our full potential and live out our purpose.

This is a real illness and must be treated with the same vigour as any other health issues.

What I’m trying to say is that there are times when we need help. All of us. Whether it’s sharing with friends and family, speaking to a professional and/or taking medication. If you feel sad, anxious, ‘empty’, negative, irritable, desperate, worthless, tired and without energy for longer than two weeks, you’re most probably depressed. This is a real illness and must be treated with the same vigour as any other health issues.

 

We are not defined by our weakness, rather we are given strength through it.

 

And to all my sisters, Happy Women’s Month!

I’m Looking For The One But…

This is the conundrum of the singleton looking for a partner; not those who are comfortably solo. It was certainly my dilemma. For the longest time, I would take every suitor at face value. If you pursued me, with enough vigour, then clearly you were a potential lifetime mate. Right? Wrong!

 

For those of you who’ve been following me, you will know that my biggest message is to be at peace with wherever you are in life. But since we’re social beings and look for companionship, here are 3 simple tips that will hopefully help you navigate the minefield of dating. This is strictly for those looking for long-term commitment; those wanting to have fun, well, you don’t have a problem.

(1) There’s no rush

We’ve lost the art of connecting. Take time to get to know someone, without any expectations. Have a genuine interest in their lives, families, their aspirations and hopes and dreams. Have long conversations with no agenda. Even if it doesn’t work out romantically, you will have gained a friend and possibly a network of new friends. A small disclaimer, this is usually best before you take your clothes off.

(2) Make your intentions clear

Not necessarily at your first encounter. There’s no need to say on date one, “Hi, I’m Ann and I’m looking for marriage, a white picket fence, a girl, a boy and a cat or dog”. This can come a little later, once you’ve established that this is someone with potential.  More importantly, your intentions are made clear by not tolerating unacceptable behaviour from the beginning. You meet at a bar and he hits on your girlfriend first. She has her eye on someone else, and so he zones in on you. If you have no intention of being a second option, don’t even entertain it. But if you go ahead, you’ve second guessed yourself. A sure way to lead to issues later.

(3) Go with your gut

If you have any unsettling feelings, this is the Universe sounding an alarm. I’m going to be tough here. Checking someone’s phone or email or stalking them on social media is a sign that you do not respect yourself. It has less to do with the other person. I don’t care if you overheard a conversation with the “PA” that sounds too familiar and you want to do further investigation. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then it is uncomfortable. Run!

 

‘The one’ will usually appear when you’ve let go of any preconceived notions about relationships. You need to relax, confident in the fact that you are all that you need. And the rest? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

 

Bonus

 

These are some tips for those already ‘in the game’ and struggling to read the signs. You know you’re the ‘other’ person or not the only one when:

  • You always receive calls from the car… this is a very busy so-and-so. Literally and figuratively.
  • Visits are always at your place… you never know where they live and have never been invited. Linked to this; they never sleep over. They’re masters at excuses on this one.
  • It’s been 6 months and you’ve never met any friends or family.
  • You often get invited on out-of-town trips. They’re fantastic, but if you never see them on weekends and public holidays, in public, in the city of your residence, that’s a red flag.
  • Your physical relationship is the glue that keeps you together. You’ll most probably never know their blood type, but you will know their underwear size.
  • And, finally, if you’re experiencing most or all the above and regularly get ‘spoilt rotten’, that my friend, is guilt. Otherwise known as an adult pacifier.