Staying calm while Freaking out

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Just because I’m not freaking out, doesn’t mean I’m not freaked out. Or, conversationally, just because I’m freaked out, doesn’t mean I am freaked out. Wait..

Let me explain with a little story. Today I found myself unexpectedly spending the day with one of our company’s US associates. My laptop crashed and was being repaired so I was nominated to take her sight seeing, not that I really mind that, it was great fun visiting my elephant friends again.

Anyway we spent the whole day together and really did a lot of chatting and getting to know each other. Towards the end of the day while we were driving back to Knysna she looked at me and said, “But you don’t looked stressed at all”.

She couldn’t understand how I was calmly answering her questions about my life, describing the realities of being a single mom who works two jobs, studies, exercises and all the rest, without showing signs of extreme stress and fatigue. Why am I not a nervous wreck? How can I be so calm?

So I told her. I do worry. I do stress. I just don’t believe in complaining. It gets you nowhere. I do freak out, but freaking out only serves to get you all upset and doesn’t actually better your situation. So when your laptop crashes and you spend a day gallivanting you don’t freak out about all the work you have to catch up after hours. You just enjoy the trip.

When you find you are the only parent who was sucker enough to volunteer your services backstage at the school play, you don’t feel sorry for yourself. You don’t loose your cool with the rowdy thirteen year olds (all 200 of them). No. You play hang man. You help with their make-up and you appreciate that you are the only parent with an inside scoop on what your children are actually experiencing .

So maybe I can’t buy them new school shoes right now and maybe I get that you can’t possibly understand what that’s like, it doesn’t mean I am going to sit on the pavement and cry (although lord knows sometimes I’m close).

No ways. Instead I am grateful to have two healthy kids who have feet that need shoeing. I am grateful that bringing them up without privellage has made them stronger, more emotionally intelligent people. People with substance, humor,  and colourful intellect. People with compassion.

We have all learned to use humor to survive the hard times and make the most of the good. We take nothing for granted, especially not each other, because sometimes that’s all we have.

I think a lot of wealthy, privileged people would benefit hugely from a bit of healthy perspective. What is the meaning of life? I don’t know. Why are we here, why is life so hard, why bother at all when we are doomed to die anyway? I hope someday I will find out. But right now I can tell you this:

You are not here to suffer.

You are not here to spend your time freaking out.

Sure things get tough, they get hectic. Really REALLY hectic. The kind of hectic that only the poverty stricken can appreciate. But you know what? You can’t let it ruin your life.

So we live by faith and hope and happy thoughts (and a lot of hard work), and somehow through NOT freaking out, even when we are freaking out, everything is okay. Yours will be okay too.

Now take a deep breath and go and have a happy day – because life is beautiful.

 

Turn off and turn on

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This is a quick one, which I am sending you from my phone, so bear with me!

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Cape Town. I came for the WiFi only to realize I left my laptop charger behind. It’s old and doesn’t operate if not plugged in. But in retrospect I’m glad I left it behind. Because I’m on holiday for only 2 days, and why the fuck should I be working, anyway?

We are all obsessed with work and study (me especially) and it’s actually really fucking important to put the freaking laptop down occasionally! I can’t remember the last time I turned off my phone or ignored an email.

But yesterday driving up to Stellenbosch with my favorite 20 year old and his mate, I realized that they have something all figured out that I have completely forgotten: how to live in the moment. Without plans or direction so much as idealism and desire for good things. The only direction being the band we’re all off to see tonight.

I thought about it while furiously replying to work emails last night. When last did I live the life I have instead of using it to peruse my ambition? Not for a long time.

Not that I am going to give up my ambitions. Far from it. But I am going too take this day off seriously. Thank goodness the universe (or my sub conscious) had me leave the charger behind!

I started by taking a train . Something I have never done alone before.Then I walked around in an unfamiliar city and later I might even catch a my city bus. I’m going to talk to random strangers and really just BE here.

This is my challenge to all of you. Turn off everything and turn on your own self. BE like a 20 year old.

Take a fucking day off. Turn your fucking email off. Put the fucking phone on silent. Chill the fuck out.Do something fucking different. BE where the fuck you are. Enjoy it. Live it. Do it. You fucking deserve it.

South African Women – what have you done lately?

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Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of South African women standing up and saying “No Ways, Forget it, Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

On this day in 1956, 20 000 South African women stood together to stop a male run government from passing a terrible, restrictive and unfair set of rules. Our grandmothers said NO. Proudly we remember their motto “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”. They made history, and to commemorate their bravery and determination we get to sleep in and take the day off. I wonder what they would think about that.

Yes we need to remember them – but I think we have forgotten why they stood up in the first place. I think we have isolated that one event and said “oh look, how brave” and then left it at that. When I am sure what they really would have hoped for is that we would take it as a lesson: As the weaker sex, the smaller power, the beaten, the neglected, the care givers, the nurturers, the raisers of men and women alike, we have the power to bring the country to a standstill if we stand together. Yet we have slipped back into complacency, happy to reminisce about “that one time” when we were strong together. Shouldn’t this be a day when women should stand up and stand for something, not just in 1956 but this year, and every year?

How have we let 60 years pass without realizing that the real enormity of what they did is what it means for us? Instead we sit in our homes complaining about the government, afraid of the South African culture (across races) of abusive men? We are afraid to walk alone to our cars after work or to catch a taxi home or face our partners or stand up to men in the work place and demand to be treated like equals. We accept a society that breeds violence, poverty, racism and fear.

Not that I am saying this is all propagated by men – please don’t misunderstand, this is not an anti-male speech. The question I am posing is Why, as women, do we put up with it? We have seen what we are capable of and every year we have this public holiday to commemorate our strength. So why don’t we use it to sort out our society once and for all? Or even one protest at a time, perhaps one every Women’s day?

What I would love better than anything would be to see South African women make it their mission to stand up and make things happen – for the better of all – all the time.

Or perhaps it is really so difficult to get us organised into some semblance of unity that that is actually the great accomplishment of 60 years ago. The fact that they managed to get it together.

It lends itself to great pondering, doesn’t it? What would I do, what would I say, If I had the voices of 20 000 women standing with me? Quite a lot, I should think. We could achieve huge things. Be a nation who listens to it’s mother, like a band of Amazonian Wonder Women we could lead the globe – World Peace – here we come. If only we realised our own potential. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this sense of helplessness as the next girl. I have no more clue than anyone else how to get the ball rolling. What I do know is that we are more than just the answer. We are the only possible solution. Because what this country needs is the love and discipline of a mother; For the women of South Africa to stand together always for what is right, and good, and say, “Oh hell NO” to what isn’t. Then who could stand against us? Unity is strength, after all, and there are more of us than there are men. Statistical fact, so there!

But until that day comes again, to all of you who do feel trapped and powerless and like you can’t escape, I have this one message:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been trapped in a room with a mosquito.” – African Proverb

Give them hell, girls. Happy Womens Day.

 

Hair Grows and Persistence Pays

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50 shades of Short and Purple

A few weeks ago I went to have my long hair trimmed (at a cheap hairdresser who I was trying out to cut costs) and I somehow ended up with a bad bob. I was horrified. I had the same haircut I sported at age nine. I felt like a total fraud, as this clearly wasn’t “me”. I was devastated. I was ridiculously unhappy. Laugh if you want to at my “first world” problems, but I am sure that any girl out there who has ever had her long locks hacked off by a gung-ho hairdresser will understand what I felt. I stood in Pick n Pay with my back against the pillar in the aisle and I felt I couldn’t go on.

So I took a selfie and sent it to my best friend. Do you know what she said to me? (after reassuring me that it didn’t look that bad) she said, “Hair Grows”.

And you know what – she was right. It does. She made me realize how ridiculous I was being. It freaking grows. There are bigger problems in life than what right in the moment seems like the-worst-hath-happened.

Anyway I decided, seeing as it was already hacked short and needed redeeming, to do something I have been toying with for a while and dye my hair white. like, as in – WHITE, because it looks pretty cool on Pinterest. That’s how I discovered that not only does hair grow, but purple rinse eventually washes out too. Actually it washes out quite fast. It was only purple for a few days. (Ask a blonde to explain).

The funny thing is, a few days after my short purple hair episode first hit, I began to notice something – rather a number of other girls I know started dying their hair purple too! So I guess sometimes when you do something outrageous, even if it seems like a disaster at first, you might actually be the forerunner of a new trend. I do enjoy all the purple hair I am seeing around my office at the moment!

I guess you just have to hang in there – which brings me to my next brief topic ( I know I should stick to one per blog post but this is kind of related, kind of)

Hanging in there when no-one else can see what you’re fighting for

I have spent the last two years of my life studying, working and writing. I work in the day time, from 8 – 5. I work at night, from 8 – 10 (or 11, or 12, depending). I mother in between and try to set time aside for my kids. I write and most importantly I study. It’s been kind of crazy. Especially when I try to fit in martial arts, too.

BUT! ha ha! But… After two years of no social life, severe judgment from some of my family for not having secured a new mate yet, losing touch with all my friends and being laughed at for hoping against hope that I might actually make my life better, I think it’s actually happening.

It’s starting. I don’t want to jinx it, and I will tell you all more in a few months time, but I have four diplomas now and I have just been informed that I am being promoted to a position in the agency where I work that I actually WANT! I am going to be in a creative and analytical position, working in a field that excites me, that has a future and most importantly, that allows me to use some of my creativity and constant fucking inspiration (it’s exhausting being an enthusiast who doesn’t get to be enthusiastic about what enthuses them).

So wish me luck people. The worst that can happen is that I may totally screw up and end up jobless. but hey, if that happens, hair grows, right?

The best that can happen? Well the possibilities are endless, but Ian Somerhalder personally flying in  to ask me to join his foundation‘s marketing team has crossed my mind… #justsaying it could happen! Okay!

Anyway, just remember – even if no-one else understands what you’re doing, if no-one sees what you’re working for and if everyone is telling you to give up and do something else – hang in there. If you can see it, if you can feel it in your bones and it’s important to you just keep going. It doesn’t matter if it takes two months, two years or even longer. What matters is that you want it, you see it, and every day you that you wake up you do something that brings you closer to it. Even if it’s just one small step at a time. Persistence  always pay off. unless you’re a stalker – in which case you will just get a restraining order taken out on you.

And if you finally get there and find you want something else – so what?! At least you did it. HAIR GROWS. Nothing stays the same forever. Not one single thing. So let it go, or hang on to it, but don’t give up – either way.

Everything is going  to be OKAY.

xxxxx

9PYDWUZ1AL

 

 

Winter Hibernation Mode

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I live in a part of the world where we are affronted by cold weather. We aren’t prepared for it. We spend summer time in blissful abandon, and autumn in denial, hoping that if we are just positive enough winter will skip us this year (well I do).

Then winter kicks in. The grass freezes over,it’s too damned dark, we are faced with iced over windscreens in the mornings and everyone is miserable (well I am). I hate being cold. really and truly. If you ever spent a year of your life living in a bashed up old caravan you would too.

Yet here we are. Winter. And I realize that I must be growing up (not just because my joints hurt in the cold) but because I am actually able to see the value of the cold, dark months.

I have realized that I have to allow it to happen (embrace is too strong a word for the grudging acceptance I feel) and use it for what it’s meant for. Just like night time is for sleeping, I believe winter time is for regaining your sense of self.

Winter is all about hibernation – staying indoors, spending time with yourself, taking stock of your life, your dreams, your goals. It’s a time for reflection (in the fecking ice).

If summer is all about action and moving forwards then winter is all about being still. Maybe it’s just because I am so reluctant to leave my hot water bottle and duvet, but it seems to me that this is an opportunity to still the raging need for action and actually take stock of my life. To look at how far I’ve come, to gauge how I feel about the direction I’m heading in and whether it’s the way I want to go. Until eventually I can just still my thoughts and try to be.

Winter is a time to be kind to yourself. It’s too damned cold to add to your misery with guilt and low self esteem. Instead you just have to allow yourself the extra cups of coffee and cocoa and find extra minutes to spend in bed in the morning. It’s a time to rest. A time to heal old wounds, take them out, look them over and wrap them in a blanket with a cup of soup.

You have to take comfort in the warm little things as they happen.

So I am officially giving myself a timeout this winter – from all the busy things I feel I always need to do. All the life-defining moments that I find myself chasing after. Instead I am booking out time for movies in bed on a Sunday morning with the kids. I am going to skip Friday night out and write in my journal. Then I’m going to dig out my diaries from ten years ago and laugh at the things that I was worried about back then and try to find some kind of wisdom in it all. I am going to wear un-sexy thermal underwear, maybe even for days at a time (being single has it’s perks). I am going to build fires in the fire place and maybe even read a book that has nothing to do with work or study – just because. 

I am going to find the strength to be lazy and not hate myself for it. I am going to learn to look after me, and take time to be still. I hope that all of you will do the same.

The Long Awaited Novel

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The Laughing Tree.

I was a different person when I first started writing my first novel. I was braver, younger, more opinionated. Somehow I believed that without any formal training or education in the world of fiction I would be able to produce a readable book.

It is now available on Amazon.

I am inclined to hide it away, shame-faced at my audacity. Terror stricken that I am about to discover just how mediocre I really am. I’m too scared to read it, in case it sucks. So I am asking all of you to please read it instead.

I wait with baited breath (what a gross saying, Bait? really? fishy breath? but none the less, I wait in dark anticipation) for your feedback.

Whoop – here it is:

The Laughing Tree

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Fear of Failure: Taking the next step

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Fear of the long haul

About two weeks ago we went on a Zip Line adventure with the office. I organised this team building activity with huge enthusiasm. It was only when we were at the top of the trees, clipping our harnesses to a steel line about a zillion miles above the ground that I remembered I am terrified of heights.

But I had to deal with the first wave of numbing panic because I had organised this event. The entire office was there, jovially passing judgement in the spirit of forming bonds and building our team spirit. Bailing was not an option.

So I shakily hooked myself up to the zip lines and did the test course. I shook, I wobbled, I did not cry or vomit. And I Survived! but that was only the test course. The real stuff hadn’t even started yet.

Long story short: I was scared shitless for most of it. I had an alarming number of moments when I felt paralyzed by fear. But I had an epiphany up there in the tree tops.

Trying to problem solve too far in advance will destroy your peace

Looking down a long steel line, or a long row of suspended wooden steps and obstacles and anticipating having to get through all of it was enough to make me freeze up. When I looked at how far I still had to go I couldn’t move. I was too scared. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would fall. I couldn’t do it. BUT, when I asked myself “Can you unclip this harness clip from where you are now and re-clip it on the next line?” I found that I could.

When I looked at the next three steps ahead of me, instead of the whole line, I could make those three steps. and then the next three, and then the next three.

I realized up in those tree tops that life is exactly the same thing. Especially if you have a depressive or anxious nature. Trying to look too far into the future and solve all of it’s problems before you get to them, will cripple you, and you will end up staying still, stationary, not growing or moving or having anything new.

I knew what my end goal was (to get through the three hour course and back onto solid ground) and I knew what I needed to do next at each step along the way. It was just trying to figure out how to do it all, survive it all, that was debilitating.

So stop trying to figure out how you are going to do it all.

Don’t try to figure out how you are going to live the rest of your life without someone. Don’t try to figure out every aspect of how you are going to get through difficult times, or good ones. Don’t try to plan every last detail of your success or try to figure out how you will ever achieve your goals. Because you will find yourself stuck.

Instead just try to know where you want to get to, even if it’s only where you want to get to next week, or tomorrow, or later today, or where you want to be living next year.

Then figure out what you can do right now to help you in that direction. Not how you are going to get there, or get through, just the next few steps. Panic LESS.

Stop trying to figure out how you are going to do it – and do it.

One.Step.At.A.Time.