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 Motherhood Has Taught Me Thus Far…

Since I’ve been struggling to get into work today, I think I need to lighten it up. Motherhood is that immense blessing that comes with intense emotion and challenge. It’s one of my toughest assignments. Ever. One that will always leave me in doubt; have I done my best? Here’s what I’ve learned to date, in random order:

1. I can’t do everything

No, we can’t have it all. Telling women that they can have successful marriages, families, careers, personal growth and development, all at the same time, on their own, is a lie. A lie I believe is purported by men who secretly know that it’s not possible (since they can’t do it), but want us to continually try to attain this elusive perfection which always leaves us feeling deflated. It’s true, there are women who are successful in many aspects of their lives, but they have amazing support structures – stay-at-home husbands, the nanny, au pair, the driver, helpful in-laws and so on. Since I don’t have much of that support, I will do what I can.

 

2. To bend my knees

I’ve always had a sensitive lower back. I remember one doctor saying it’s long, so the base is inclined to take some strain. It was one of the reasons I started pilates back in 2006; to keep my back and other joints supple. And pregnancy was quite brutal to my back. So, I have learned to ‘be a lady’ and always use my knees to bend.

 

3. To step over stuff on the floor

Children are God’s creation to unshackle one from the chains of order; replacing it with absolute and utter chaos. To fight it is a losing battle. I’ve learned to move through this like an obstacle course. Avoid, jump over and importantly, keep your gaze up. What you can’t see, won’t annoy you.

 

4. It’s ok to get dirty

Small children spend a lot of time on the floor, it’s how they discover and play. I’ve discovered that it’s a fantastic way to ‘come down to their level’ and also takes strain off my back. Getting messy and dirty is par for the course. It’s not uncommon to have milk, food, spit, tears, vomit stains somewhere on one’s clothing. And I’ve strangely come to enjoy walking around barefoot. Who would have thought?

 

5. Go with your gut

There’s the time my eldest, who had been fairly healthy from birth, developed a fever, for the first time at the age of 23 months. Yes. We had been extremely lucky without children in and out of doctor’s rooms and hospitals until then. So, when my usually active, vivacious boy was uncharacteristically timid and just lay around, I initially put it down to the extreme heat. It was only a little while later that I realised he had a fever which was promptly treated with over-the-counter meds. Over the next few days, the fever would subside and he would seem normal, only to return. However, we had it under control, at no point did we feel like he had to see a doctor. But by the Friday, about five days after this, he developed red spots over his body. I had to involve the doctor and caught the receptionist who, after asking some questions, gave her diagnosis of roseola, also known as baby measles. “See it all the time”. When the spots appear, the worst is over. We made it through one of his first ‘big’ incidents without too much panic and drama.

 

6. Patience is really a virtue

I could never describe myself as patient. It’s actually one of my life lessons. Call me a perpetual student, as I keep failing. I was blessed with children who cannot sleep on command. Another thing I failed at. I could never get them into that sleeping routine where, once the lights are out, tucked in, with a song perhaps, they would gently ease into lala-land. No. It’s been a process of holding them over the shoulder, patting, walking around [on the plus-side, I don’t have “Oprah’s bye-bye arms”]. And as they get older, laying in bed until they can no longer fight it off. The patience of Job comes to mind.

 

7. A tantrum-throwing 2-year-old can get a reaction from the Pope

If, unlike me, you have a calm and patient disposition, you’re in good stead here. Again, my eldest, has been known to make his father, one of the coolest, calmest people I know, lose his temper. Secretly, it makes me feel so much better about myself (disclaimer: not condoning losing it with anyone). Just means that we need to count to 20, instead of 10, before reacting. And it also limits the inclination to point fingers at each other.

 

8. Make time for me

I initially said that my list of lessons is in no particular order, but this is a big one. If I cannot find quiet moments, I’m useless to anyone around me. This usually includes the simple things I previously took for granted like meditating, going to church, reading, writing and even decent sleep. It also extends to exercising, doing my hair now and again, and if I’m really being indulgent, facials and massages are in order.

 

I’m neither a robot, nor SuperWoman. Love the body, outfit and cap, but I just don’t cut it. So, ladies, it must be high on our agenda: get ‘Me’ back on the priority list.

 

Happy Monday!

 

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.

The Waiting Game… Part One

We’ve all stood in front of the microwave waiting for the one minute to end. Seems like forever. My four-year-old can barely stand it. After 5 seconds, “It’s ready, Mom!”. Try let it go for the full minute and I have him screaming, pulling up a chair, reaching for the pause button as he’s tortured beyond restraint.

 

I don’t like waiting either. Perhaps, Master T inherited that from me?  If the meeting is scheduled for 10:00, it’s 10:00. 10:10 is late. 10:30 is just out of order. Is there such a thing as good waiting and bad waiting? And how do we know when it’s good and to just let it go? I’m the girl whose day is managed by the clock. Even when there’s ‘nothing’ to do. Meditation any time after 06:30 is just counter-productive since either your kids are up banging on the bedroom door or singing ‘Barney’ over the baby monitor or the neighbour’s kids or dogs are up and about. It’s no longer still. And one’s calm and peace vanishes like a thief in the night.  The struggle is real.

 

As a singleton, my beloved friend, Sandy, with dependants, would jokingly tell me to “get a cat or a dog or something” since I was habitually the first to be ready or arrive at any social engagement, impatiently tapping my fingers, calling, texting, “where are you guys?”. In other words, I needed some distraction to make me as late as others, so that we could all be on time together. Even then, I was blissfully unaware that my affinity for time was an indication of a deeper underlying issue. My need to control.

 

That’s at the heart of being impatient, not waiting, a need to control everything which is ultimately impossible. I was failing dismally, in all areas of my life.  The more I tried to control, the more I lost it, the more anxious I became. The biological clock is real and mine was banging like a drum with no rhythm. The waiting for a husband, for a child, the things that everyone around me seemed to have, made me feel insignificant, inadequate and above all, lonely. I even started to believe that I had been ‘bewitched’. It had to be something ‘other’, surely, it couldn’t be me? Why had God abandoned me, in such a cruel way?

 

Looking back, that is so melodramatic. Again, perhaps Master T inherited that from me? When God was trying to whisper, to coax me to listen to Him, my shrieking hormones, coupled with my past hurts and unresolved losses, drowned out any stillness that I so desperately needed. It was a period in my life when I had some of my scariest, most disturbing dreams. I call them my ‘snake dreams’ since that was a common theme in my reality and sub-conscious. This is how He tried to turn up the volume, but I was still distracted. I can’t recall a particular event or moment that got me to my point of no return. Rather, it was sheer emotional and physical exhaustion. I eventually got so tired of all the drama, most self-created and indulged, that my body physically and mentally opted out.

 

To be continued…

When God Is Moving You… Part Two

As the eldest of four, I cannot even begin to understand the impact of Mum’s death on my younger siblings. My father, too. We all just got on with it. Trying to grieve, but subconsciously delayed, as we were never equipped to do it in any meaningful way.  It still fascinates me that no-one recommended that we went into counselling, as a family or individually. Perhaps it was suggested to Dad, as the adult, but the point is we never actually went through a concerted healing process.

I found myself in my mid-30s, angry, confused and not surprisingly, single.

I found myself in my mid-30s, angry, confused and not surprisingly, single. How can you find your ‘other half’ when you’re not whole? By the way, the concept of the other half is one conjured by a society intent on perpetuating the misnomer that we are not complete and need an ‘other’ to do so. Nevertheless, in my distorted sense of self, that was my reality.

 

There was no-one in my recent past or from years gone by, who had any long-term potential, let alone marriage. Some had gone on to be husbands, some were on their way to being married, in committed relationships, still playing the field or having children. You see, that was the essence of my heartache. I desperately wanted to have a child, a daughter, specifically, to reincarnate the relationship I pined for with my mother.

 

One of the hardest parts of my journey was taking 100% responsibility for my 50% in each of the failed relationships and encounters that I had had over the years. I had to stop the blame-game and acknowledge that, for whatever reasons; ignorance, selfishness and basic stupidity, I was very much a part of it all. I was the common denominator!

 

Once I released the victim mentality and label, it opened the floodgate of tears of relief, somewhat tinged with sadness, but overwhelming happiness, that led to healing that, even to this day, I look back and marvel at the power of God and His miracles.

For the first time, I could forgive myself, I was able to bury the past and move on, I removed persons that carried any vestige of negativity in my life.

The next year or so was spent in what I can describe as ‘blissful singlehood’. For the first time, I could forgive myself, I was able to bury the past and move on, I removed persons that carried any vestige of negativity in my life. Above all, I learned to love Robyn and loved spending time with me, myself and I. In the hustle and bustle of work, I would relish weekends when I could get a series of DVDs on contract [pre-WIFI and Netflix], stock up on my favourite foods, switch off my phone, sleep whenever I felt like it, go to the gym, and socialise with some special friends, now and again. To the outside world, it could have looked extremely lonely. But to me, it was heaven on earth.

 

Such was my happiness and content that I felt some consternation when Ipeleng, an ex-work colleague and friend, announced that she had someone she wanted to introduce me to.  My body, mind and soul had become my sanctuary and I was not ready or willing to share any of that. No. I had resolved to remain single for the rest of my days. My only request to the Universe was that I had money; to help my family, travel, enjoy some worldly comforts and so on.  There was no plan for the disruption of another. I was done.

 

And as God has plans that we can never anticipate, so a new chapter in my journey began.

When God Is Moving You… Part One

Hindsight is 20/20. Something also has to be said about advancing along the maturity spectrum [aging is such a decrepit word] and the pauses it tends to enforce, in greater intensity as one goes along. I whittled away my youth always expecting my joy and happiness from external sources. I had no clue that that is what I did, but the rearview mirror quite clearly shows that my misguided life philosophy took me on a long-winded journey of heartaches and pain. It exhausted me to a point that, as I approached 35, I knew I had to jump off the merry-go-round of craziness and find peace.

God speaks to each and every one of us. Yes, even you.

That, in itself, was a process that I could only do on my own. Of course, the Universe will always send what you need, when you need it; and I encountered people and books, in particular, that set in motion my journey to find peace and comfort and above all, know that God speaks to each and every one of us. Yes, even you. It may not be in a biblical sense, but when you have a dream that is powerful and clear in its demonstration; when you’re praying and a particular thought, saying or memory comes to you; when a friend sits you down to give you some hard truths that you’re not ready to hear, when you read the bible, a book, a magazine, a tweet or post that gives you a message that speaks direct to your heart, or when you have an intense feeling in your gut and something ‘just doesn’t feel right’. These are just a few examples of how we get in touch with the Spirit within. Depending on the amount of noise, clutter and external disruption in our lives, we either get the message loud and clear, or we ignore and don’t even notice.

Sadly, I was anything but. I was lost.

I was that girl who eventually grew into a young woman who believed she ‘had it together’ and thought that the world thought so too. Sadly, I was anything but. I was lost. Losing my mother at 17 was the defining moment of my life. Did I realise it then? No. Up until that moment, life had been fairly idyllic, happy memories, no particular moments of distress, anguished needs or dire wants. Everything was provided for, even in the realm of a brutal Apartheid system where as a child, one was relatively sheltered from that harsh reality. I have the recollection of divided beaches and cinemas, not being able to go to certain places, a cousin at university involved in ‘covert’ action and so on, but when you have not been fully exposed, you remain ignorant. That was a common theme in my life; ignorance.

 

To be continued…

There Is A Time For Everything

There is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. This is my favourite verse in the entire Bible. If you just understand this, it alone will bring you a lifetime of peace and tranquility.

I’ve always had an older soul. One of the first indications of this was that my Mum treated me as an adult, she would often confide in me, spoke freely around me. Bear in mind that she passed away when I was 17, so from a young age, I was exposed to ‘older issues’. Perhaps it comes with being the eldest.

Another indication was that, as I got into high school, I preferred to hang out with older friends. I just fitted in. At boarding school, in Standard 6, I had friends in all the standards above. Sure, I had friends in my age group, but I had an affinity with the older girls. Then Mum’s early passing added another dimension to this. I guess after always hearing ‘so you’re the mother in the family now’, perception eventually becomes reality and you actually start believing that, and behaving, as though you’re older.

When love and support does not flow in your home, you tend to look for it elsewhere.

With Mum gone, and a father trying to deal with his own grief as he saw fit, we were pretty much left to figure out life on our own. Having an older group of friends meant that I was exposed to experiences that could have been delayed, and without strong parental guidance, it meant that I had to figure out things on my own. Confusing at times. Often painful. When love and support does not flow in your home, you tend to look for it elsewhere. This is when The Girl Who God Told To Wait was born…

You see, The Girl Who God Told To Wait lives within each one of us when we’re at odds with His will and His desire for us. When we don’t live with a thankful spirit, when we don’t believe in our own value and worth, when we are not at peace and most importantly, when we don’t look to Him for guidance and support. It means that we do not trust in His timing and are too consumed by the ‘noise and clutter’ that we cannot live each day to the fullest.

On my journey inward, I came across Eckhart Tolle, author of several powerful books including ‘The Power of Now’. He says that “Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now” and believes that if you truly live in the now, you will have no need for photographs since you will have taken in the moment, experienced it fully and therefore have no need for recollection. Irreconcilable in the age of the selfie.

When you’re entertaining external distraction that is creating internal turmoil, you are easily side-tracked.

I realised that there are times in my past that are complete blanks. I cannot recall detail, I struggle to figure out how certain people came into my life at particular times. It was all a blur. I do, however, remember the feelings, the emotions, the uneasiness, the deep-rooted pain. When you’re entertaining external distraction that is creating internal turmoil, you are easily side-tracked. I was a hot mess. And I spent way too much time and effort longing for a boyfriend, then a husband, and a family, that was at the centre of all my heart-ache.

It’s easy to look back now and be thankful that I made it through. It’s tinged with many cringe-worthy moments and sometimes a sigh, ‘if only I had known’. But regret has no place in growth and moving forward, and I know that I would not be the woman that I am today if I had not gone through my trials. I love the Girl Who God Told To Wait. She’s still waiting, since she’s not done yet. She has a lifetime of dreams and two young boys under 4 to parent into adulthood. The difference is that she’s now waiting in grace and gratitude.  You can do the same.

Put Your Hand Up If You Hate Waiting

What is it about waiting that disturbs us? It rocks us to the core. As individuals, as a collective. Patience is not a virtue as we hurry through our lives, essentially wishing away simple, special moments in pursuit of what tomorrow will bring. The happiness we hope it will bring. Many times, to a point of desperation and anxiety.

I was guilty of that for much of my youth. And such is the power of this emotional programming that, even in my 40s, I’m still ‘decoding’ the years of ingrained negative processing that lives like a parasite in the realm of the mind. I know the power of positivity. I know the laws of attraction. I know the power of love and peace.  I’m smart like that, aren’t we all? But every now and then, the parasite of fear and despair worms its way in.

The truth is that our souls are born whole and it is the essence of the little child, who came into this world full of innocence, determination and above all, love.

I’m a Girl Who God Told To Wait. The truth is that our souls are born whole and it is the essence of the little child, who came into this world full of innocence, determination and above all, love. Because God is love and we are made in His image. We are totally at peace, yet through the journey of life, many get lost along the way. For me, it can be traced back to the loss of my mother as a teenager. The mourning led to a search for external love. With the result, I was never able to find quiet and calm, therefore not able to listen to God when He spoke to me. Not able to interpret when He was telling me to wait.

The Girl Who God Told To Wait was born from a cynical position as I would often say “the story of my life has been to wait; nothing ever comes easy”. This has since evolved into an introspective journey that has led to the understanding that God made me wait, through a series of unpleasant and sometimes painful life lessons, as He had no other choice but to force me to listen through the noise and clutter of my life. He does that, in His inimitable way. When you don’t get the lesson, he sends it again and again and again. For as long as you’re willing to entertain it.

This is my journey to complete wholeness in love and peace. Please join me.