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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

A Mother’s Prayer

I once watched a red carpet interview (yes, I’m a voyeur of pop culture) where Kim Kardashian West was asked about her hopes for her children. She said a few things, but one stood out for me. “I want them to know that they can be anything they want to be”. What? Is this a real concern for children who are born to families with money and access beyond the realities of so many? Who, by association, have real-life mentors to give on-going live tutorials to demonstrate that they can be anything that they want to be?

 

I thought about it for a minute. Perhaps that’s the equaliser for all parents.  Then I thought about my hopes for my children. There are so many. I’ve never prayed more fervently than when I was pregnant. I’m sure mothers all over the world can relate. You’re praying for the protection, health and strength of a soul that you have not yet held in your arms. I had a niggling concern with my first born, since the pregnancy was textbook perfect; what if he can’t cry and doesn’t have a voice, it’s one of the things a doctor or midwife can’t tell. He came out screaming with strong, loud vocals. And to this day, he makes sure that he’s heard.

There are certain things that are purely gifts from God; good health, safety and protection, intellect and so on.

The point is, you pray several times a day, throughout the day. When the baby is born, a blessing beyond all else, there’s an outpouring of gratitude, relief and joy. Then your prayers change. You’re now the earthly custodian of a child of God and you start with a wish list. They’re personal and unique to each one of us, but there are many parallels. There are certain things that are purely gifts from Him; good health, safety and protection, intellect and so on. Sure, we play a role in these, but on a basic level, He is our ultimate Source. On a day-to-day parenting level, for example, one cannot just pray for a child to grow into a well-adjusted, loving adult and yet live in a dysfunctional, abusive relationship that is loveless. Children are sponges and absorb what they see more frequently than what they hear.

How do I teach them to be calm and at peace, when I’m struggling with this myself?

I’m often overcome by the enormity of parenting. Even entering this maze at an older age, when one could assume that maturity would trump youth and naivety, I am often left frazzled by my ‘two under five’. How do I teach them to be calm and at peace, when I’m struggling with this myself? That suitcase that one never fully unpacks has a strange knack of spewing its contents at inopportune moments.

 

Regardless of our personal circumstances, the obligation of parenting remains one of our highest callings. I am truly humbled that these two souls chose me as their human guardian and so I continue to pray, every day, that I will be their best mother. That, with their father, we will create an environment in which they will thrive in love and peace. That they will know true joy and be inspired by life. That they will honour each and every human being with respect and kindness. May they rise above any societal constructs aimed at limiting their potential based on race, culture, background, sexual preference or religion. And ultimately, know God and be lights to the world.

 

There are no manuals, courses, certificates or degrees in parenting; it is one lifelong lesson which continually provides opportunities for growth and development, and love and forgiveness.

 

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m acutely aware that it is not a time of celebration for everyone. Especially for those who have lost their mothers or those who desperately want a child(ren). I’m reminded of Oprah Winfrey, who does not have any children from her womb but has nurtured and developed more souls than many in this lifetime.

 

Happy Mother’s Day! To every woman who nurtures and parents.

 

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a Mother”. Oprah

#MeToo Is More Than A Campaign

There is a growing number of reported incidents on femicide that is disturbing to the core. It’s given rise to an increase in public discourse on gender issues, which can only be good, but from the responses we see, particularly on social media, we’re so far from any solution. Women want men to take responsibility, change their behaviour and men want women to, well, take ‘their place’ and be more subservient.

And since writing is my first love, this is the platform that I will use to try to make a difference, in whatever small way.

I could have been Karabo Mokoena or Zolile Khumalo or any one of the countless women who face violence, all kinds of abuse, and sometimes death, at the hands of men who should have loved and protected them. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m able to tell my story. And since writing is my first love, this is the platform that I will use to try to make a difference, in whatever small way. Even if I help one soul, it is all worth it.

 

There are never any excuses for women and child abuse. Just reasons. I care not to get into those. That’s for menfolk to do. And there are some who are doing amazing work; Rams Mabote @RamsByTheHorns and Siyabulela Jentile @NotInMyName are just a couple and must be supported.  I am, however, deeply concerned with how we raise our girl-children. Whilst I am not a parent to a daughter, I have nieces, cousins, female relatives and friend’s children who I fear for. They are, shockingly, still being raised in a society of yesteryear.

 

There’s no silver bullet answer, unfortunately. However, we cannot be surprised by the men who respond with retorts that women must ‘dress appropriately’, ‘behave like women’, ‘not look for material things’ and so on. These are the same men who are abusing us. It’s easy for one to get overwhelmed by issues that one may feel are ‘beyond me’. Or perhaps we don’t think that we can make a difference. Our power is our ability to make a choice. If you didn’t get it, let me repeat. You get to make the choice. This is available to each and every soul on a human journey. We can start with the little things. Knowing your worth. If you make the choice to consider yourself worthy, this will start to realign your destiny almost instantaneously.

 

A girl who understands her worth, from a young age, will see the wolf before it comes close. She will never tolerate verbal abuse, which is often more damaging than the physical scars, and usually manifests physically at some point. She will know that she has no reliance on any other, for anything. Be it her emotional or financial comfort. I understand that this, alone, will not spare women from harm, but it’s the right start.

When my 4-year-old refuses the pink cup because ‘it’s for girls’, I can’t just hand him the blue one.

Then there are the other daily habits that can infiltrate our consciousness and those around us. As a mother of young boys, I have a huge responsibility to ensure that they become men who respect and value themselves first, and then all human beings. When my 4-year-old refuses the pink cup because ‘it’s for girls’, I can’t just hand him the blue one. I have to challenge the prescribed notions that are ingrained on a seemingly innocuous level, that pink is just a colour and that anyone can choose whatever colour they like. When that’s still met with resistance, I have to go further, your Daddy wears pink shirts. I see his eyes register some acknowledgement, but he insists on the blue cup anyway. It’s ok. I lose the battle, but not the war.

 

#MeToo is more than a campaign, it must be a way of life.

 

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…