Music makes it better

Music. Like coffee, I can’t live without it.

And it’s not just me. Fascinated by the way the right music will soothe me when I’m broken and picks me up when I’m feeling hopeless – I started reading up on the subject.

(for me) There’s nothing quite like “The Fray” when I need a good cry. And let’s face it sometimes you need a good cry. Nirvana, Bush and all my favourite old 90’s Grunge when I want to reminisce (and am feeling the angst). To this day I listen to Rage against the machine when I’m pissed off (especially if it’s with someone at the office).

All of this music taps into something that I’m feeling and helps to make it tangible, controllable, even. It puts the power of how I’m feeling into my hands.

But there is more to music than just reflecting how you’re feeling in the moment.

Music for Healing

According to the Harvard Health Publications,  music is an important part stress reduction and the treatment of depression. No surprises there, right?

Listening to uplifting music does just what it says on the box. It lifts you up. So much so that it can actually speed up your physical healing and reduce pain. Talk about groovy, baby.

Music for Memory

Another really interesting thing I discovered recently is that playing a musical instrument can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and old-aged dementia/forgetfulness.

My Ouma (grandmother) had Alzheimer’s, and my entire family has lived in fear of what will happen to us (and our mom and aunts) when we get older. Luckily my mother and her three sisters all play musical instruments. Turns out that your musical memory never really fades, and that if you pick up an instrument even after years without playing, and you give it aa bit of practice, you can get right back to where you were before, and playing music will help you hold onto your marbles! Yay!

Make my Day  foolproof Music Make Better Recipe

So, what to listen to?

Well, obviously we all have different musical tastes. I love music from a huge range of genres, myself. So we won’t all want to listen to the same thing. But we do all have similar emotional ranges, and that is what you can use to craft your DYI music therapy. (please note this is not a substitution for real therapy)

I have a three step program that works for me. It goes like this:

Music for Sadness 

  1. Sad music. Stuff that lets me get it all out. feel free to cry. Best listened to in the car while driving (I find).
  2. From here I start to feed in gentle, less sad tunes.
  3. Mild happy music, hopeful tunes that make me feel brave.

Music for Angry moments

  1. Rage against the machine, Skunk Anansie (or similar)
  2. Upbeat but not ridiculously over happy music (old school punk works here)
  3. Regular happy vibes stuff ( A good opportunity for the happy grunge of the 90s).

Music for Long Hours

(I work looooooong hours at a PC. Without music I would DIE of boredom and never get any work done)

  1. Chillstep / dubstep – minimal words, good for long hours
  2. feel good indie music
  3. make use of 8tracks

Music for Exercise

listening to energetic music while you exercise will make working out a thousand million times easier. promise.

  1. upbeat, cheesy happy energy music
  2. all the upbeat remixes
  3. Power tunes

Music for Depression

  1. 90’s alternative rock/grunge – you may have exactly half an hour (or less)
  2. Happy music. Whatever lifts your spirits.
  3. DO NOT give in to the temptation to listen to depro stuff for extended periods of time. A song or two for the sake of giving in to your inner sulky child – sure. But it will only make you sick and sad in the long run.
  4. Pop Music. Yup, I said it. If you’re too depressed to find a happy song put the damn radio on and let yourself go. It’s okay. We won’t judge.

Music for RANDOM

  1. Give in to your musical whims.
  2. Look up old school stuff like this.
  3. Don’t allow yourself to be put into a music box – you can listen to whatever the hell makes you feel good.

Music Every Day

In my house, we have a little thing that we do pretty often. In the afternoons (evenings) after work, My daughter brings out her collection of happy pop songs and she puts them on. Then – we dance. We dance like silly moronic divas. We dance in our socks. We check ourselves out in the mirror. We use wooden spoons/brooms/whatever as microphones. We play air guitar. We get down.  This is something that doesn’t happen every day. It’s a spontaneous type thing, usually. But we do it, together, me and the kids. It works as exercise, and it makes us feel silly all together which makes us closer. It lifts the tired, end of the day blues and reduces stress and minimises family arguments.

That’s not why we do it though – we do it because it’s fun.

So go – get your groove on.

Little by little we go far – or “How to Change the World”

Make the world better, any way you can. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. If you don’t, who will. If you do, maybe you will inspire someone else to do something, too. Maybe if we all just do what little we can, the world will change.

I live in South Africa, it’s a bloody country. South Africa, is sitting on beautiful green and blue globe, called Earth. It’s a bloody planet. I am part of a race – called humanity. It’s a bloody race.

Every time I look out from my own little bubble I see pain, and suffering. I see cruelty. I see humans hurting other humans, hurting animals, hurting the planet. I see us hurting. And it hurts to look at.

Sometimes the world hurts so much to look at that I can understand, fully, how people become addicts, and depressive, and suicidal. I look at why people are so bloody and it always come back to one thing -fear.

Some are afraid because they have suffered already and all because they are afraid that they will suffer in the future. It’s quite a mess – humanity.

And when I look at the world and it shows me this face – I feel it like a great weight in my chest. And I think to myself – why even bother? Why even try? How can I bring two beautiful souls up into this world that is going to break them down and hurt them? Where security is an illusion. It’s terrifying.

And then I remember. I remember the one thing that I can do to make it better. I can be a better person. I can be kind. Even if I can’t solve the problems of the world – I can start where I am, I can use what I have and I can do what I can.

If I can find any small way to make the world a kinder place – then the world will be that tiny little bit better. A little bit less scary. We want people to stop being scared, and start being kind instead.

And when I start to think about it – there is a new feeling that grows in my chest. a large feeling. I feel brave. I feel huge. Because I realize that  I can do something. AND, just maybe, If I do something kind, or helpful, or somehow find a way to make things a tiny bit better for someone else, it might just inspire them to do the same. Or it might inspire someone else. And if we all start to do whatever small things we can, we might just change the world.

Then I remember that I have a voice. I have voice and I can be heard. Even if my voice is not very loud, if I can speak up for what I believe to be right, and good – then someone might hear me. If someone hears me, just maybe, they will speak the words with me. And if we can start a ripple effect, then perhaps together we can sing. AND if we all sing together – we will be heard.We can make a difference – just by being true to what we believe to be good, and right.

An army of ants can take down a forest, even though each one is tiny on its own. AND never forget the old saying about the mosquito, “Anyone who thinks they are too small to be make a difference, has never been trapped in a room with a mosquito”.

Please don’t give up.

Even if all humanity fails you – if you are still standing – don’t give up on yourself, and your own ability to make the world a more beautiful place.

Like the kind man who gave my sister a packet of chips on the train when her phone got stolen. He had nothing else to give her. She had lost the only thing of value on her person and had no way to contact anyone. He didn’t have airtime for her to phone her partner with, and she had nothing in her pocket to even buy him some. But he gave her the packet of chips from his bag and he spoke to her kindly and he managed to avert a major panic attack. Sure – you could look at this story and think “There are shitty, horrible people who knocked her over and stole her phone” or you could look at this story and realize, “there are people in this world who will give you their last packet of crisps and be kind to a total stranger”. There are also those who stand by and do neither.

I know what kind of person I want to be. What kind will you be?

 

 

 

An open letter of Gratitude…

Dear Virtual Community, co-workers (or as we call them, magfam), family and beloved friends…

Thank you.

Thank you to my wonderful boss who took it upon himself to try and help me out with improved security and to try and recover some of what I lost.

Thank you to my wonderful co-workers (both here and in the US) who didn’t hesitate to get on board with his project.

Thank you to my friends and family who supported it whole-heartedly, without question.

And thank you to the haters on Facebook who called it a scam and question my existence.

This is me! I’m real! Earth to Facebook land, here I am.

When this thing started it was not the first time I was robbed at home. I lost my car two years ago. I wasn’t ensured because I couldn’t afford the premiums. When that happened my (same) boss stepped in and lent me the office car until I was able to scrape together enough to buy another (major downgrade) car.

When I was robbed again two years later the buggers actually got into my house. This was next level – and scary. I realized that my security was (and still is) pretty lacking. I rent a small place from SANRAL – the South African national roads board – yes they own lots of property. However they are not the greatest land lords when it comes to things like upkeep, maintenance and security. The up side is they are cheap. They also have no problem with tenants taking an initiative and improving the buildings. I have no issue with them at all – I understand that the tenants are not their major concern – the roads are. no problem – I am just happy to have a place to stay.

Anyway, I digress.

So I got robbed again. And my boss decided he is not going to sit and wait for a third incident. He started a crowd funding project for me, to help pay for a security system and new locks, and maybe even to replace some of what was lost over the two years.

When he told me what he wanted to do my knee-jerk reaction was “oh hell no”. I am not someone who is comfortable accepting charity. I don’t easily take anything I don’t feel I earned and deserve. I have been through many things and I have always maintained that by having a strong positive attitude I have overcome them. It’s not always easy. not at all. But I have known too many people who allowed themselves to become victims and take no responsibility for their lives. They behave as if life is something that happened to them. That is not me. I am responsible for the decisions I make and I dictate my own future – through hard work and faith. I have a happiness sharing blog because I want to share HAPPINESS and LIGHT. Not doom and gloom.

But then I realized something in the moment when I was about to say “No, you don’t have to help”. I realized that I always try to help people where I can – and that if my employer wants to help me – who am I to stop him? I realized that I don’t want my kids and I to be unsafe. I realized that I am tired of being too scared to go to sleep at night. I realized that, just this once, maybe I should just say thank you. Because that is what I would want anyone else to do if I was helping them. Because the love and kindness that make me so proud of humanity can’t be given if the recipients can’t be humble enough to accept it graciously.

I realized that I have to learn to accept kindness graciously – I have to be humble.

I can’t always be proud and strong. Sometimes it takes more strength to be humble. If not for myself, then for my children, because goodness knows they are two of the best kids you will ever find. They are kind, good humored, conscientious and downright bloody brilliant, to boot. So I said “Yes, thank you”.

Since then I have been avoiding the post online because I am not entirely sure how to react to it. The words written there are so kind. The words in the campaign and the comments left behind. People have been so kind, so sweet, so generous. Anyone who knows me will know that I am not good with public displays of emotion. I could go into why but I fear the men in white coats would come for me (that was a joke, BTW).

Today, though, I received a Whatsapp message from a friend telling me to go look at the post. So I did. Wouldn’t you know it – I have a troll!

A stranger (let’s call him Mr Banks – just for fun) posted comments about how this was clearly a scam. How South Africans are used to being raped and burgled – and why should the world “help some privileged white woman who’s TV has been stolen”. Why indeed?

Well – first up, Mr  Banks , my TV wasn’t stolen. It isn’t valuable enough (I still have an old tube type for DVDs only). Secondly – I am not privileged in the way  you think I am – but I am privileged.

I may not have had the opportunity to go to University or had rich parents to buy me a nice safe house or a fancy car. I may not have a husband who is alive, or who even had a life insurance policy. But you are right. I am privileged. I am privileged to have been shown endless kindness. I am privileged to have good friends and a loving family – including two healthy children. I am privileged to have the ability to read and write and to have been able to put those skills to good use – to continuously study and educate myself while I work and raise a family. I am privileged to have been given the gift of a sunny disposition which has seen me through more hardship and heartache than I care to elaborate on. I am privileged to have been given a copy of “The Secret” to watch 6 years ago which changed my life. I am privileged to have been brought up with a religious background and to know the value of morals – including the  belief that all religions, and all people – matter. I am privileged to have been given a chance at a job which it turned out I loved. I am privileged to have employers who saw my potential and my tenacity and helped me to grow.

I am privileged to be South African – I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the most beautiful country in the world. I am privileged to have internet access to be able to write this blog right now.

I am Immensely Privileged to have known enough kindness and goodness to still have hope that people like you will someday feel the love the universe has to offer. Because there is so much goodness and love. There are so many kind people.

Thank you, Mr Banks, because you have actually reminded me that I am privileged, in so many ways, every day of my life – down to the able body I walk around in and the health I experience. I am privileged to have been spared becoming cynical, cruel,  or cold-hearted.

I am privileged enough to still be enough of a believer to help the guy watching my car outside. Maybe I am weak. Maybe I am gullible. Maybe I am just a whiny little shit, after all, who can’t shut up about the good things in life. Maybe I have just seen enough darkness to cherish the light that I do see – and celebrate it.

Thank you, also, Mr Banks, for drawing attention to how South African women are “used to being raped and burgled”. I don’t think it’s something we should be used to. I don’t think that I can accept that it should just be the norm.

For the last few years I have been involved with collecting clothing for the “Rape-Room” at the local hospital, so that the ladies will have something to go home in. It is a big issue on my heart. You have brought it up here again – as if it was normal. It shouldn’t be.

So, if I have the permission of those wonderful people who designed the crowd funding post for me, I would like to give the “tithes” from that project to the local FAMSA, who deal with counselling all kinds of South Africans in need. So, Mr Banks, thank you for reminding me that no matter my situation – I can always share the kindness I receive, because there will always be enough to go around, if we all do.

Thank you – all of you – for reading this.

I love you guys, all of you, even you Mr Banks. I hope you find the light inside yourself.

Turning Bad things into Good

Why do bad things happen to good people?

I am pretty sure I have written a blog post or two about this topic before, but in the last week I have had an incident that brought it back for me, so I am having another go at the topic.

There isn’t always a reasonable explanation for things that happen. Sometimes good things happen for no reason, and we accept that pretty easily. But sometimes bad things happen to people who don’t deserve them, and that is a bit harder to accept.

For the most part I believe that we attract circumstance into our lives, but there are always still those wild cards, the mishaps (and the lucky breaks) and the unexpected happenings. We don’t live in isolation, and sometimes our lives are affected by the actions of others even if we didn’t attract them.

Sometimes, though, I think bad things happen to good people to remind them that they are loved.

Say Whaaaaaaat?

Let me explain. Sometimes the “bad thing” itself is not what the life lesson is all about. Sometimes the whole focus is on what happens NEXT.

I recently had a break in at my home. I was fortunate enough that it happened while we were not at home, so no-one was hurt. This criminal came into my home and took all of my daughter’s hard earned holiday money, my one or two (slightly) valuable pieces of jewelry, and odd things like my daughter’s USB speaker.

Needless to say I was (and still kind of am) pissed off about it all. How the hell can it be fair? When you have so little and work so hard for what you have got, that someone can just come in and take it? Not to mention feeling afraid, violated and in danger. All highly sucky shit.

What happened NEXT, though, made me feel pretty wow-ed out.

When the people I know started to hear about what happened I started to receive phone calls and messages. At my office I had one co-worker who stepped in and discreetly replaced all of the cash that was taken from my daughter. Then the next day I came in to find an envelope of cash on my desk, which everyone else had rallied together to raise. Some of which has gone towards the stolen piggy bank and some towards new window locks and things where the break in happened. I then also received a call from my employer (who’s away) who wants to assist with upping my security.

The long and short of it is, my people were there for me. They rallied around us in our time of need. Rather than being broken and bummed out about how terrible some people are (I have to not think about it too hard, I’m still in the angry phase), I am instead stuck by how kind, selfless and generous people can be.

So this is the good that came out of a bad situation. Sometimes bad things happen to good people to remind you that others care. Sometimes you have to take a hit in order to give the people in your life the opportunity to show you that you are meaningful them.

To let them rally around you, and to remind you that when the going gets tough, people care enough to lend a hand. Maybe the biggest problem we have is that we wait for a crisis to ask for help, and to give it. Maybe we all need to learn to be more community orientated all the time – so that no-one is ever in this thing called life alone.

If you have suffered a loss or a trauma, try to look beyond what happened, to what happened next. The people who were there for you – they are golden. Just remember – you have to be open to letting people help you, too. This is something I struggle with. I don’t want to appear needy or clingy or like I am trying to grab for myself. I have learned to be strongly independent and fend for myself (and my kids). I don’t easily accept charity. Maybe that is part of why this happened, because I have to learn to accept kindness as easily as I hand it out.

Now I understand that there are some terrible things that happen, that are not turned around so easily. For these incidents I am truly, deeply sorry. But if no-one got hurt, you have to try and find that silver lining.

Sometimes when bad things happen to good people they can turn out to be good things.

 

 

 

The Gift of Solitude

Be grateful for the time you have alone

If mass media is to be believed, being alone is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a human. We all crave and need companionship, relationships, and other people. We are social creatures and societies have been responsible for our evolution from primitive man to our current state of civilisation.
But….
Spending time alone is important too.
As a single mom who works full time, I get very little REAL alone time. When I do find myself alone by some chance it always feels like a present. Like on a Sunday morning, for example. Not every Sunday, but sometimes, my kids will go off to church with my mom and I will unexpectedly find myself alone for two whole hours. Not the kind of alone that you are when you’re the only person awake in a house with other sleeping bodies, but really alone. And you know what? It feels like a luxury. Like the air itself is softer and somehow charged with sparkles and energy.
Should I exercise? Should I do yoga? Should I have a shower and walk around stark naked for a while after? Maybe I’ll read a book or play guitar (with no one complaining about it) or maybe just do some leisurely work when I can actually think – or maybe just think and let my mind wander – something I used to do a lot as a child and never seem to have the luxury of doing anymore.
I love my family and my friends, but being alone is a treat because I like myself too. Without time alone how can you ever know what you’re thinking?
Time alone is a gift, use it like the present that it is.
If you’re single or lonely you might be thinking “ya, only if you don’t have to be alone is it a gift.” That’s understandable, if you feel starved for companionship the idea of being alone might seem sad and dark to you. It isn’t, and you won’t be alone forever. In fact, the most sure-fire way to make sure that you have people in your life is to learn to enjoy your own company. Because people are drawn to those who are comfortable in their own skin.

We are so accustomed to our media induced self-loathing that the idea of enjoying own company is almost frowned upon. Liking yourself is an act of rebellion. Be rebellious.
You have to spend time alone. Every person should spend a few years single. Every person should spend time alone, finding out what you like, what you don’t like. Learning who you are and loving yourself for it. If you don’t you can never truly be yourself. You won’t know how.Don’t spend all your free time on Social Media. It will only make you feel inadequate.
You are the best friend you will ever have. Fuck being okay with yourself. Learn to love yourself. Laugh at your own jokes. Exercise. Eat things you like. Daydream. Read a book.

This is how we recharge. It’s how we become centred and calm. It’s how you gather strength and motivation to carry on. Never feel badly for being alone. Feel grateful. You’re in good company.
Besides, if we are all alone, we are together in that too.

Inspirational and Aspirational trump attainable.

new-year_fb2Be Inspired – even if it kills you.

NYE – a moment of reflection, projection and wistfulness.

2016 – what a year. I am not going to get started on all the celebrity deaths,  the Syrian crisis or any of the other tremendous and startling things that went down this year. I am sure there are many blogs dedicated to every one of them for you to read, should you wish.

I will observe that it was a tremendous year. A year of endings, some of them great, some of them launching us into new things, and some of them from which I know with absolutely certainty, I will never fully recover. It was a realty check, through and through.

But for all that I carry a wary hopefulness.

I know with more certainty than ever before that I am strong. I know that I can make anything happen, if I set my mind to it – even seemingly impossible things like getting diplomas, publishing first novels (no matter how bad it is) and getting promotions at the day job.

I have written a LOT of content for the internet this year – not nearly as much for this blog as I would have liked to have, but please feel free to look at my online portfolio if you feel lonely and like you need to know what I’m doing.

Through my research for various papers I started to notice a trend. It’s a subtle thing, something so simple that you don’t notice it at first – this is it – the public don’t want to buy your bullshit anymore. People are associating themselves with brands, communities and companies who tell the truth about who they are and who appeal to their higher nature. People need to feel inspired, or they aren’t interested. How do I know this? Well I am people too. I observe people all day every day. What I see is less and less giving a shit about being cool and more caring about real things. Did this product get tested on animals? Is this organic? Forget what does your company do and how do they do it (although these are essential details), we want to know why you do it and who you are.

What I have realized is that no matter who you are or what you do – whether you’re a stay at home mom, a street sweeper, an executive, a big brand or a student at school – you have to stand for something. You have to believe in something. You have to have a higher goal and it has to be the passion that drives every other thing you do.

It doesn’t have to be realistic, it doesn’t have to be achievable – it just has to be inspirational. You may find yourself achieving the un-achievable or even something else that is equally wonderful and unexpected.

You see the thing with having a driving passion – is that it must light a fire inside of you and everyone else who comes close to it. These are things that will keep you going through the bad times.

When Margret Hamilton wrote the code that sent the first men to the moon she was not working to achieve the attainable. She was working to realise a dream. Another lesson we can learn from her is how she dealt with being over shadowed in her achievements by the men who actually landed on the moon. She didn’t kick up a fuss and demand recognition for what was ultimately her achievement – no. She just soldiered on with her next project, started her own company and became incredibly successful through her  paradigm of Development Before the Fact (DBTF) for systems and software design.

In other words – she got an idea in her head and went out, and with passion and determination, she effing designed, developed and created systems and things that were unthinkable, unrealistic, and seemingly unattainable. However, she never let that stand in her way.

Perhaps that is too abstract an example.

Maybe I should be keeping it closer to home, it’s just that I think Margret Hamilton is pretty awesome and somebody should mention her before the year is over.

Remember folks, Martin Luther King didn’t have a five year plan – he had a  dream. He succeeded not because he was the smartest or the bravest, but because he truly believed in that dream and he inspired others to believe in it too.

So for 2017 I wish you a dream. I wish you a passion and an inspiration which is so in your face (and heart) that you just can’t ignore it. I wish you the fire to inspire those around you and I wish you the  strength to hang onto your dream, your “why” through whatever comes your way. May it guide you, may it help you survive the heart ache and the sorrow and the generally mundane. Let it keep you going strong. Happy New Year.

(Special thanks to Simon Sinek who first articulated this concept for me so well)

Trick or Treat & Fireworks

In South Africa, we didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween the way you see them do it in the movies. In fact as South African kids in the 90’s we envied our “overseas” peers for their ritualistic dressing up and candy claiming.

The holiday has started to gain a bit more momentum here, although I think it’s funny to note that the few places that do celebrate Halloween in SA have no qualms about changing the date to suit the community. Last year Knysna’s Leisure Isle community (the one place that peeps can trick or treat, locally), behaved like true South Africans and moved Halloween because of the Rugby.  ( I don’t think you can get more South African than that). We rocked up on actual Halloween night only to be told that we had missed the festivities by 24 hours.

This year I was clever enough to make sure I had my trick or treating dates right. We will be celebrating the holiday tonight (Saturday) instead of Monday (actual Halloween) because it just makes more sense to have it on a Saturday, apparently.

One of the main reasons many South African’s don’t “do” Halloween is because it’s considered to be too secular (okay evil) in what is for the most part still a strongly religious community. Which is why I was very fascinated to discover that it was orginally a Christian Holiday.

According to my (admittedly not that extensive) research, The Holiday was originally marked by Christians who would light candles on the graves of the faithfully departed in order to remember and honor them. Thus the name “the day of the dead” was born. It was also known as “All Saints eve” because the first people to be honored were saints and martyrs. Later all the dearly beloved were remembered.

What’s really interesting, though, is that like many Christian holidays, this one was built on an older festival. The Celtic Harvest Festival was a several day long celebration that pre-dates Christianity. The Gaelic people called it Samhain, The celebration that marked the end of the harvest and the start of Winter, the darker half of the year. Its new mascots are Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day (and you thought that was purely political, didn’t you?!).

It’s a time when nature itself “dies” for a while. This death is essential, though, and part of the great cycle of life. It’s a time to rejuvenate, regroup and grow. Although down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it is, of course, the start of Summer. Maybe that’s why we never really got into the full-blown spirit of Halloween like our Northen counterparts do.

Where ever you are, and whatever your thoughts are on the whole festival, I hope you have a great changing of the seasons. May this next stage of the great cycle bring you good things. I, myself, will be out there snacking on sweet things and celebrating the life and fun that once belonged to my own faithfully departed.