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.

 

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…

Woman, Prioritise Yourself!

The ancestral influence on one’s life journey is significant. It moves beyond the physical and genetic to the more complicated psychosomatic recesses of one’s being. I have always known that my mother was a central influence. That’s innate, right? But as I near the age of her death, I am acutely aware of how her life has shaped mine.

 

There’s an unspoken expectation that a woman will “lay down her life” for her husband, family, friends, whoever is within her sphere of influence. Any woman who chooses to go against the grain, by putting her career first or God forbid, leaving her child with her partner or someone else who may do a better job, is vilified. How could she?

 

When I look back at my mother’s life, I see how she gave her life in sacrifice of all others. She paid the ultimate price: death at a young age. Cancer is described as a “lifestyle disease”. By inference, created by the poor choices we make. We “deserve” them. Stress is the main culprit as our modern lives pile on layers and layers of new things to stress about.

 

Don’t you find that once one issue has been resolved, another crops up, in its place, like it was always there? Will I find a husband? Get married. Will we have children? Have one. Will we have another? Have another. Have two boys. Don’t you want a girl? Will they be happy/smart/grounded/whatever? And so our stresses continue. Sometimes we don’t even recognise that they are stresses; we just learn to live with it. Poor Flo, she didn’t stand a chance.

 

As the eldest, I remember moments when she would lock herself in the bedroom, crying. Disconcerting to a child; you feel the pain and sorrow but since the adult never fully discloses, you never truly understand. Now I do. Cause I have those moments of sadness too. Sometimes you’re just frustrated, feel like a failure, a bad wife or mother. Sometimes you’re worried about work or finances, sometimes there’s physical pain. Sometimes you’re crying for past pain when your mother died. There’s no consolation for that. And we always need to do this within the confines of our private bedrooms because we must always be “strong”.

 

Now there’s a contradiction, if ever! We’re the fairer, more fragile sex. Can’t do this, can’t do that. Then we need to be strong, carry our families, just get on with it. Put your hand up if you’re as confused as I am. I’m not surprised my mother had her struggles. Unfortunately, she did not have appropriate coping strategies that could help her through.

 

If you’ve read The Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss, you will understand the direct impact of our thoughts and attitudes on our physical bodies. The colon is referred to as the seat of emotion. What does your gut tell you? We’ve all heard that and often make decisions based on our feelings which are housed in our colon. Have butterflies in your stomach? It’s real and not imagined.

 

My mother died of colon cancer. The ravenous disease hit her in the cradle of her emotions. Gone within 11 months. She succumbed to emotional turmoil. A broken heart. How tragic. She would have celebrated her 76th birthday on 6 July; gone almost 30 years and the void will never be filled.

 

I love my husband, children, family, friends, colleagues and those around me. But not at my expense. I have to prioritise my health and sanity and be at peace. And I have to be brutal about it.  My exercise, the sauna, eating and drinking well, reading and taking time out for me. That allows me to press the pause button. And invariably benefits those around me.

 

Woman, prioritise yourself! Martyrdom is not a measure of your self-worth.

Your Body Is The Home Of Your Soul

I’m still reeling from the revelations of the Bryanston Hockey Club. For those not in the know, it’s an exclusive club housed at a secret location in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. The realm of uber-wealthy men, who buy whatever sexual favours they can dream of from men and women. Money is not an object for those willing to indulge in pleasures of the flesh. It’s also the subject of a bestselling book.

 

This is not a book review, by the way. I have not read Jackie Phamotse’s account of her life as a ‘blessee’. Again, for those not exposed to this growing phenomenon, it’s a term used to describe men and women who are ‘blessed’ by extremely wealthy lovers, usually older, who shower them with anything and everything money can buy, in exchange for carnal relations. The contents of this ‘hot’ novel have brought to the surface discussions around transactional sex. And it has South Africa divided. Literally.

 

There are those who applaud this young woman for taking a stand against this culture of older men preying on younger ‘victims’ to, hopefully, show others the pitfalls of what is deemed a ‘glamourous, aspirational’ lifestyle. And there are those who are quite vehement in advocating the rights of sex amongst consenting adults. I have zero judgement against those consenting adults who choose to play out their sexual fantasies with whomever they wish. I have zero judgement against same sex/bisexual/whatever-turns-you-on between consenting adults

 

But here is my sentiment. We cannot position these interactions as ‘between consenting adults’ when it is clear that the power dynamic between the ‘blesser’ and ‘blessee’ is skewed and unequal. That the Bryanston Hockey Club favours a higher-class sect with the trappings of the mink and manure brigade, far removed from the township rendition of the sex-for-money clique, does not make it any different. And in a depressed economy with unacceptably high unemployment, especially amongst our youth, it’s easy to see how being #blessed can indeed be salvation for many. In some instances, the difference between food on the table and starvation.

 

Again, zero judgment to those on the receiving end of the ‘good fortune’. It’s a jungle out there and the fittest survive. Often, they thrive in extravagant luxury and beauty because they are usually the finer specimens of society. They have my empathy, even though many would haughtily laugh and accuse me of jealousy, at best, and wretchedness, at worst.  But the reality is that prostitution is transactional sex, changing the players does not change the game. And in any transactional relationship, one party usually wields power over another. Our gender dynamics and rampant women abuse make this proposition all the more exploitive.

 

This is not a holier-than-thou rendition; I pray that’s not the takeout. I’ve had a life, some parts messy and unwholesome.  Rather, it’s a reflective look at how we view our bodies and what we are willing to do with, and for, them. The body is merely a casing for the soul. In the spiritual world, the body is superfluous. Sex is not only physical, it is also emotional and spiritual. Every part of you is involved when you engage with another.

 

When we relegate sex to the physical experience only, we often interact with individuals whom we only know superficially. We may lust them, but once we get to know them on an intimate interpersonal level, may not even like them. Yet our spirits collide, unwittingly, more so in the case of transactional sex, all in the name of sexual liberation. In this process, we deposit parts of our spirits with each other.

 

And we wonder why we wake up, one day, with baggage that weighs us down heavily. Pain that is indescribable. Hurt that stabs at the heart. And sorrow that heaves a haunting emptiness.  We accumulate pain bodies from souls we may never ever see again and take them on as our own.

 

Woman, your body is the home of your soul. It has been designed for your desire and enjoyment. It is your right to be nurtured and loved in a mutually beneficial connection that satisfies and pleasures both the giver and receiver. One can never put a price on that.

 

The Waiting Game… Part Two

Even though I had come to a point where I acknowledged that the craziness had to stop, I still had no idea that God was only getting started. I slowly unplugged myself from those around me that didn’t add any value, that, in their own ‘chaos’, created fuel for my fire. God was starting to speak louder and louder through the connections I made, the books I read and the quiet moments I came to love. I enjoyed going to church, even on my own.

I’m a fierce believer that God speaks to every one of us.

I’m a fierce believer that God speaks to every one of us. There was one of several defining moments during my ‘lost years’. It was through my dearest friend, Sindile. We were hanging out, just the two of us, we lived around the corner from each other, and as we engaged in the open, frank conversations we still have, she clearly sensed a longing, a need for some direction. She said, “my friend, I wanted to buy this book for your birthday, but it’s too many months away and you need it now. I think you should get it”. With all my free time, ‘no dog, no cat, no nothing’, I was a sponge for any books I could get my hands on. I also refer to this time as my ‘enlightened years’ as I was led to the people and books that I needed to connect with and read.

I started reading immediately and couldn’t put it down.

I got my hands on a copy of “The Power of a Praying Woman” by Stormie Omartian as soon as I could. God has gifted each one of us with a talent. Stormie’s is the power to speak to the heart and to pray. I started reading immediately and couldn’t put it down. It was the healing balm that soothed my soul, what it had been crying out for, but didn’t even realise it. As I turned the pages, I shed tears. I cried for myself, I cried to release, I cried as I forgave myself, I cried as I let go, I cried as I realised that God had been with me all along and above all, I cried with joy.

 

The water cleansed my soul and for the first time in my life, I felt lighter and at peace. I realised that God had a plan for me. It may not have been what I had wanted, but notwithstanding, it was His plan. I was at peace with being single, but not alone, since He was with me.

 

Nothing else mattered.

 

The journey to surrender is a deeply personal commitment to let go. Lord knows, we all have stuff to release. Today is a promise to make a difference. Let’s start with ourselves, before we try to control change the world.

Marriage Is Not An Achievement

If you weren’t swept by the significance of the marriage between Prince Harry and Megan Markle on Saturday, 19 May 2018, you’re a cold-hearted cynic or you’re blissfully unaware of the groundswell of public discourse on diversity and a need for greater inclusion. The fact that the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, was resplendent in her dreadlocks and an elegant outfit, so poised and graceful; Bishop Michael Curry awakened the angels in heaven and the gospel choir brought rhythm and soul to an otherwise staid, exclusive centuries-old institution, allowed me to forget my humdrum, daily challenges and made my soul sing. That’s before we even get to the actual love-story of the two beautiful, compassionate human beings.

 

Obviously, social media was awash with commentary. Most complementary and happy, but it wouldn’t be the real world if we didn’t have the haters and detractors. One that stood out for me was a post by someone, from the masculine sex; a pic of a much younger Meghan with a friend posing outside Buckingham Palace. Sweet. But the comment just killed it; something along the lines of “a purposeful princess in waiting’. What? Meghan Markle was definitely not a woman waiting to be married, let alone a princess. With public and media interest heightened around this feisty, independent, drop-dead-gorgeous woman, we’ve come to understand that the Duchess of Sussex was nurtured decades ago, before she even entered her teens.

 

While we reminisced about the beauty of the recent nuptials later that day, Mr T and I got into the discussion of whether this was an achievement or not. A male radio talk show host summarily dismissed a male who called the morning show the day before the wedding to enthuse that the marriage was indeed an achievement. Hubby tended to agree with the talk show host; this was nothing significant. There has been no accomplishment that is usually associated with academic, career, business or even altruistic achievement. So, becoming a member of British aristocracy is really nothing to aspire to. Sure.

 

But I saw a different side of the argument. Merely being welcomed into the Windsor family is not, what I would consider, an achievement. The two most notable commoners have been the late Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge, more recently. So been there, done that. This wedding signifies a major shift in our worldview and therefore is a historic achievement. Not just for Meghan Markle, but for her husband, as well. It is significant as another glass ceiling has been shattered. It’s reminiscent of Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I just smile thinking about it. Black, brown, people of colour, whatever you’d like to call us, are sending a clear message to the world: we are not just equal, we are more than capable of holding positions of leadership and elevation in any society.

 

On the marriage. It must never ever to be associated with achievement. For anyone. Particularly, women.  And as we take on roles of power and independence and ascend to higher echelons, those among us who may not be attached through matrimonial vows are still viewed as inferior, some are the most vulnerable in society.  Marriage, in itself, is a concept founded on the basis of human interaction. We crave companionship, love, community and so on. But it has been sanctified by religious and political order as a formal union and creates another level in the stratosphere of contemporary culture.

 

You may disagree with the institution, but what is very clear is that our patriarchal society still favours men over women in this merger. Women throughout the ages continue to believe that their place in society is as a wife. A subservient one, at that. What the Duchess of Sussex has shown is that you can create your own rules. At 36 years old, divorced, an actress and black, she has, like Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Oprah, Michelle Obama and many others before her, paved the path for all of us to dream. Not about being married, but living our true authentic selves and achieving beyond expectations.