Archives for the month of: March, 2011

Now this is actually a hard thing for me to say because I’m addicted to my whingeing and whining – hence the blog I suppose. But I really need to say it to myself and to everyone out there. It doesn’t pay to complain to the universe. It doesn’t pay to say, ‘It’s Unfair’. Even if you feel it is.

I know Oprah and loads of other people have said this but here’s the thing. Until you learn this yourself it doesn’t mean much. Being told, ‘Don’t complain.’ is like being told, ‘Don’t eat chocolate.’ Impossible.

I the chief complainer of all time am learning that in my complaints there are hurts, there is dissatisfaction, there’s even a whine of truth. And it’s from here where I can transform the complaint into something useful.

This sounds like a bunch of ideas doesn’t it. Well here’s a practical example. I don’t like practical jobs – none of it. The scheduling, the car lifting, the endless meals to prepare (I love food and love full cupboards but I prefer last-minute flinging of food stuffs together to create a meal – it doesn’t always work though) the endless plumbing, car fixing, homework, gardening…I could go on ad infinitum. The jokes on me though because the more I fight it the more overwhelming the ‘jobs’ become. I try to put a brave face on plough through the jobs and BOOM – lightening literally strikes and my phone’s sizzled, the printers, irrigation and all our security cameras are burnt out (to all tsotsis out there – don’t even think about it – they’re fixed!). God said, ‘You don’t like jobs. Okay BANG BANG POW.‘ (Don’t worry it wasn’t just me. The rest of Joburg was hit too, as a lot of you know only too well. I would seriously be freaked out if I were the only one hit.)

Today I hit pay dirt in terms of jobs. I had a lovely morning planned for myself after I did my dutiful Pick n’Pay shop. And then I receive a phone call, ‘You’re children’s passports aren’t ready you’ll have to apply for temporary ones. I need photos and forms filled out today.‘

‘Why today?‘ I the eternal procrastinator ask.

‘The price goes up from 190 rand to 400 rand tomorrow.’

‘And you call me now?’ I ask and burst into tears. My morning’s gone. I don’t have any of the photos – they’re lost. And my printers burnt to the cinder (internally not externally) so now I’m going to spend the morning running around for all of it. And the mind talk began speeding on their complaining, negative, racing mind tracks. ‘My mornings aren’t my own. I can’t plan anything. Yada yada yada….’

Does it sound familiar?

Anyhow. It didn’t serve me at all. What I’m learning slowly but surely is that to every negative there’s a positive. The only problem is I’m too hard-wired to see only the negative. So if the teacher has to lend Prince No. 1 money for tuck – because he left his money at home I go into immediate mother’s shame and guilt rather than thinking, ‘Wow he goes to such a loving, fantastic school with such caring teachers.’ The latter thought is more the truth than the former, and a lot healthier.

So I’ve begun trying. I’ve been very overwhelmed lately with my standard house mess. Where naartjie (mandarin) peels are haphazardly peeled onto the kitchen floor, bath towels are strewn through the hallways and a plastic table with chairs and lots and lots of cut up paper are sitting in the driveway. (And that’s all in just half an hour.) I’ve also been overwhelmed with the Princes’ boisterousness, which is actually a euphemism for fist fighting. But I looked at the bright side this evening. I took action. I looked for the positive part of having three active Princes and this is what I did:

  • I set up supper outside under the setting Joburg sky. (These last summery nights are lovely.)
  • I did not mention the word ‘healthy’ or ‘vegetable’. (Unbelievably they ate every single pea, asparagus, broccoli and mushroom. I’ve been wondering what would happen if I started saying chocolate ice cream was healthy.)
  • I began a knowing game that meant we all had chances to speak to each other and maybe even more importantly listen to each other. (It was a game I figured out with Prince No. 2 in the car. I told him all the things I know about him and he told me if I was right. For example: ‘You like penguins. You are friends with X, Y and Z.’ It really worked on the level that the Princes felt known and heard as well as enjoyed getting to know each other. To be honest they were running around like pretend dogs by the time we were done, but you know, boys will be boys.)
  • I sat and relaxed and ate with the Princes and my hubbie and didn’t overly concern myself with them. I let them be, and as I mentioned they ate and ate and ate (and it was fish hey – okay hake cutlets but the smoked trout was as real fish as you get.)
  • And I got on my hands and knees and we cleaned up ‘together’ – and that worked too (but it doesn’t every time, but at least it sets a good example. They cleaned up the garden by picking up litter with their mouths and bringing it to me. They were still playing pretend dogs at that stage.)

So focusing on the positive of my complaints worked. It let me see options. I did it for kickboxing as well. I was resentfully taking Prince No. 2 (Prince No. 1 went on strike) to his kickboxing class (I so didn’t believe I’d be an extramural mum but with the threat of going back to physio – yes Alta everyone (I love her but I don’t love the drive), hanging over my head. NO Thankyou.) I suddenly realised honestly and truly I can’t go on like this anymore. And because I was honest with myself and faced it, instead of complaining I found a damn good solution. Don’t ask me what took me so long to figure this out – the kickboxing coaches could come to my house and train all 3 kungfuey Princes. I checked it out and yes it’s going to happen!

Ta-Dam I’m definitely onto something here. It’s good to acknowledge what you can’t do. It’s even good to cry about it. The poor chap named Johannes who was on the receiving end of my (to be very honest) hysterical tears said, ‘Don’t worry I’ll make a plan.‘ And he did. He organised to pick up the money from me and to use the original documents for the temporary passports which he promised he’ll deliver tomorrow so I didn’t have to do a thing. So the tears were worth it. They taught me a lot. Most of all they taught me that I have to change.

So that was my day. How was yours?

 

I haven’t posted my blog yet this week even though I’ve written it. Why? Because I feel a tad bit shy. But having spent all evening on my phone smsing friends and women I respect about the women’s event I’m hosting this Sunday night (more details at end) I’ve decided that I must post it. So I’m not going to fob off into a light-hearted blog about Prince No. 2 saying he wants to be with me forever (which he is saying daily these days. Very flattering, very, very oediple! He even said he’s going to build me a house to live with him. No I’m not going to analyse it now.)

Tonight I realised how vulnerable a lot of us women feel. How kind of out of things, or just plain shy, alone, and well, careful not to be well-known, we are. This is something I can’t put into words exactly, because it’s other women. All I know is about my stuff – intimately. (Maybe too well.) And I know what it is to have my struggles, to know I’m not perfect, to feel out-of-place, like a stranger in a strange land, like I’m just not getting it right (for example as a school mum. I think the teachers must be sniggering behind my back every time I forget to sign the homework – even though it is done.) And maybe that’s why I like writing this blog and I love Elizabeth Lesser because there’s power in taking our masks away and being human. There’s power in women taking their lipstick off (or for those who don’t wear putting it on) and saying, ‘I’m a woman, human and as vulnerable and imperfect as the next person.’

So what I’m trying to do with this women’s event is take away the ‘safe’ and let go. Unite women’s energy to personally build for each woman a sense of doing something together in a group that creates a sense of safety and place in a group. It’s a personal journey and a group journey, as light or heavy as anyone wishes to make it. I’m actually not selling the event because a lot of women are coming already. (Thanks to you all for being so wonderfully open!!! The food at least will be good. 🙂 And thanks to you all who have been honest enough to say ‘lovely idea – but this really isn’t for me!’)

I’ve been to a couple of workshops in the last couple of weeks – two dance workshops and a dream one. I was WAY out of my comfort zone but somehow I got over my fear and I found a new side of myself. A side that was just human and connected to other humans. We all have our shields. Mine is bright gold and very, very thick. Shields are important but so is letting go and being vulnerable in a safe space. Elizabeth Lesser says that in her work at the Omega institute which hosts many spiritual enlightened teachers one of the best lessons she learnt was that they were all human with their own idiosyncrasies and imperfections, and that’s actually what made them such brilliant teachers.

You can’t learn anything from anyone who hasn’t been human, experienced pain and all those common itchy, uncomfy, fiddley moments of living.

So anyway that’s why I’m posting below even though I’m shy. Just for anyone who may gain hope and courage knowing that they’re not alone.

***

I’m sitting her at a lovely coffee shop in George called La Patisserie. The sun is shining on my back and the rooibos tea is lovely (don’t ask! I’m off dairy, and missing it mucho, mucho, mucho.) I’m not boasting that I’m on a weekend away with my hubbie, because in truth sometimes it’s harder to go away and face yourself than it is to stay home in the busy hub of things. There’s no better distraction in life than children. I’ve been by the sea walking, walking, walking, trying to walk off my ‘Open Secret’.

I never realised the danger of opening a book. I read, read and read and I’m loving the truths I read, as in Elizabeth Lesser’s book ‘Broken Open’, but and here’s the big BUT, you can’t read a book like that and go back to sleep. You cannot, not change. So I sit here with a lot of in fighting in my heart. A lot of old grief and pain resurfacing. All that I usually manage to hide behind a smile. (Which we all so amazingly hide behind our smiles.)

Elizabeth Lesser speaks about children being one of life’s biggest phoenix processes. ‘If you would like to be Broken Open – if you want to pursue a Phoenix Process of the highest order – I would recommend raising children. Parenthood is  a clumsy yet majestic dance in the flames. When you parent you fall in love with a person who is always changing into someone else, and who you know will leave you. Yet most parents will say that they have never given themselves to anyone as fully as they have to their children.’

A phoenix process for those who don’t know (I never knew before I read the book) is where you metaphorically die through a painful situation (or really a part of you dies) and you become reborn, changed, transformed a different version. Just like a phoenix burns and arises from the ashes more beautiful and vibrant than ever before. Sounds beautiful in theory but how many of you have died? I’m sure quite a lot actually, but when you died in your difficult process did you stop and feel the pain.

We live in a society that anesthetises against pain. Every problem has a pill. Why feel pain when there’s no reason to? A guy who works at Discovery Health told my husband that he doesn’t know a woman over the age of 35 who isn’t on antidepressants. I do need to verify this fact as fact but it’s still a scary thought.  And behind the fear I feel when I hear this is a lot of sadness.

I don’t want to be 35 and on antidepressants. Not that I have anything against them, especially when it comes to postnatal depression, which is a real and very scary illness. (A massive phoenix process! That I’m actually a bit in awe of.) Pills definitely has its place. But if we’re all on them??? Well it doesn’t feel right.

When you spend a lot of your life not feeling pain and running away from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. It hits you hard. I feel such guilt when I feel negative. Hello, aren’t I meant to be joyous and happy? So you can imagine the guilt of going away (finally) for a lovely weekend away with my hubbie and feeling totally in the grips of almost 30 years of sadness. (I love the fact I’m turning 30, besides all the angst and life searching that goes with it. I love the roundness of the number. So you’ll be hearing that number a lot.)

But I’m not going to feel guilty. I’ve actually allowed myself to shed loads of tears. Buckets into the sea. I love the fact that the sea is big and can hold all our tears. It’s never too much for the sea. It’s a comforting fact, especially when it’s too much for everyone else around us especially husbands.

We die alone, we hold our pain alone.

So profound what can I say. I’m laughing a bit at myself, because there’s something very therapeutic in writing this down. It’s cleansing not having to hold a secret so close to my heart. The secret once open isn’t so shameful anymore. It’s not as bad.

What is my secret? That I struggle with motherhood, struggle to find myself within it all. Struggle with society’s perceptions of the feminine and mother and my own perceptions. And this is where my rebirth takes place. If I can mourn that lost youth and grieve all the messages I took to heart which were actually not true (like women should have as many kids as they can, it’s their life’s work. Giving to others as a wife and mother is the true value of a woman etc. etc.) What can I say my children and my twenties have definitely been my Phoenix process.

And as the weekend is now over and I’m back in Joburg sitting at Vida sipping a ghastly soy cafe latte, I’m understanding the grips of dealing with the Phoenix process called children. This is probably one of the reasons I write this blog. I lost myself in my three boys. Coupled with marrying at 20, immigrating at 20 and giving up all that I knew and all who knew me, it’s not surprising I lost myself.

So what I’m looking for is a rebirth of myself, as mother, as woman, as a 30-year-old. (Sorry you’re never going to hear the end of being 30 until I’m 31 – and then I’ll complain that I feel 31 is  a number that feels like it’s walking on a crutch.)

I don’t think it’s going to happen in one weekend. If only it could, I think it’s going to be a process. A day by day process. Meanwhile I’m rather amused at myself for sharing this and wonder if any other women feel this way? How many of us are lost? Elizabeth Lesser shares how she was lost in her own personal story, and I love her all the more for sharing her human and female struggles. It somehow gives me strength.

I know I was meant to be light in this post. I wanted to be…but as Lesser says, you need to go through the pain in order to feel joy again. So here’s to diving into feelings, as unpleasant as they can be and coming out the other side into a soft, warm, dry towel of love, joy and aliveness.

And yes we had a lovely weekend away. Thank you. It was not wasted, and it’s highly, highly recommended. There’s nothing like time alone.

But here is something light. One thing I do know is that women together in a group is a powerful healing thing, especially when we let ourselves go and have some fun. I’ve begun with friends of  mine a group called WE Connect – Women Everywhere Connect. Our next event is this Sunday the 3rd of April. The theme is Let Your Spirit Free. I’m very into touchy, feely sharing, but this is not a touchy, feely event. This is a Mediterranean feast with wine, chocolate and baklava (and healthy eats) with a special letting yourself go program which involves no sharing on your part at all. So all women who want to let go of something, anything, to move forward You can RSVP and get more info to sarah@sarahsassoon.com, or visit our Facebook page at WE CONNECT (you can probably get it off my profile.)

[Another note. I know that this is a painful time in the world. With all the bombings and horrific terrorist attacks in Israel, with the devastating Tsunami in Japan. I think that in the spirit of joy and light maybe we can bring inner healing to ourselves and outer healing to our families, and to the world at large. Everything we think and believe definitely has an effect.]

Okay and that’s it next blog has to be lighter. I feel so anxious and heavy I definitely need to let go. I’ll discuss how awful I am to my liftscheme kids next blog. And at least as promised I’ve attached my most loved, trusted, chocolate cake recipe which is wheat free, dairy free and thus Pesach worthy. This is a real Sydney import as lots of Hungarian Jews live there.

Hungarian Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

250 grams Ground Walnuts of Almonds

8 Eggs

3/4 Cup Sugar

Vanilla (a dash)

programs  Dark Cooking Chocolate (or better quality if you like. I like dark the best. I also usually put a bit more chocolate because chocoholic that I am I worry it’s not enough.)

4 Tablespoons Chocolate or Coffee Liquer (you can leave this out if you wish)

Method

1. Separate Eggs – Beat White of Eggs with Sugar until stiff (but don’t over beat)

2. Add Vanilla and Egg Yolks. Beat on low until buttery yellow and thick.

3. Melt Chocolate

4. Add melted Chocolate and Ground Nuts by hand to mixture.

5. Put in greased round spring form tin. (I stick baking paper at the bottom so it comes out easily.)

6. Bake 45 Minutes at 170C

7. When cake done pour Liquer on top.

[Housekeeping – I know we’re all so sick of it – but this should make your lives easier those who haven’t done so. You can subscribe to this blog by scrolling down on the right side of the page and putting in your email address. We don’t all have a chance to always go web surfing, this way the blog can come to you – a hassle free treat (I hope).]

I’ve become obsessed with a new idea. A new old idea. The idea of the ‘Open Secret’ that exists amongst us. What is the Open Secret? It’s an idea I’ve just read about in this extraordinary book ‘Broken Open – How difficult times can help us grow’ by Elizabeth Lesser. (Don’t ask I’m addicted to these kind of books. Some people like Romance Novels, I like the deeper soul, self books. What can I say.) She speaks about what Rumi a 13th century, poet seer, describes as the ‘Open Secret’. That we all walk around pretending we’ve got it all together. That we are all ironed out smartly with not a problem in the world. We all work very hard on our images, but really we all carry our personal brand of troubles, sorrow and pain. We wear our wrinkles on the inside, but the irony is that if we shared them we’d all realise that we’re not alone, and hence almost like a bad joke it’s an ‘Open Secret’.

Lesser says, ‘One of the greatest enigmas of human behaviour is the way we isolate ourselves from each other. In our misguided perception of separation, we assume that others are not sharing a similar experience of life. We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings. And so we try to appear as happy and consistent as we think others are, and we feel shame when we stumble and fall. When difficulties come our way, we don’t readily seek out help and compassion because we think others might not understand, or would judge us harshly or take advantage of our weakness. And so we hide out, and we miss out.’

Does this ring a bell with any of you? It certainly does with me. It’s amazing how often our outsides and insides don’t match. Everyone is a world and we have no idea what’s going on until we take that first word that leads us to connect and share a part of ourselves which isn’t part of the carefully constructed ‘image’. And that’s where humanity takes place, a fusion of humanness and to me Godliness. That place of vulnerability, letting go and trusting life. Easy to do? Hell no. But so worth while.

Of course I learnt the ‘Open Secret’ the hard way. At the Princes’ swimming class there’s one child who laughs a lot and is quite sweet. The mother of this child was always neatly put together, very trim and fit and always opened a book when the child was swimming. I (yes, that self-righteous ‘I’ that I’m certainly not proud of) thought to myself, ‘Geez she’s reading whilst her kids swimming, how about paying attention to your kid.’ I knew a part of me was projecting because I probably would have loved nothing better than to spend the time reading, instead of darting my eyes around like a goldfish keeping up with three bobbing, princely heads.  But there I was I had packaged this woman swiftly. With a few stereotyped thoughts strung together, she was necklaced.

And then I spoke to her one week. And she knew exactly what was going on in the pool and she had her story. Her child was a prem baby who walked, talked and basically did everything very late. Having been through the grueling remedial route myself my heart melted. Of course that wasn’t all. Her husband had died a couple of years ago. Cherry on top. I was so ashamed of any thought I’d ever had. Who was I to think anything of anybody when you can’t see into their heart and into their lives. (Plus any judgement I ever have is always more a reflection on me than the other person, but that would be a judgement blog wouldn’t it.) I had renewed respect for this woman’s bravery, for keeping herself together, giving to this child as unconditionally as she did, whilst supporting herself financially, emotionally, everythingly.

Secrets, we all carry them around, behind a brave smile that ends at the lips. I’m not saying that we don’t also have genuine, laughing smiles. We do. But a lot of the time we’re containing. We don’t share. I don’t know what the answer is exactly. (I haven’t finished the book yet.) I don’t know if everyone wants to hear about my hectic morning shift of mommying when they ask me how I am. But I also know that I’d actually like to know others better. I’d like to know what they’re going through. That they’re human and that we’re all in this together.

How much energy do we spend pretending we’re better than okay? And this applies to our joyful sides as well. Won’t everyone think I’m nuts if I point to the sky and say, ‘Look at those clouds, it’s like God’s taken a paintbrush and whipped up the most beautiful abstract painting of blue and white ice cream.’

‘That’s not part of the conversation,’ people will think shaking their heads. ‘That’s not, “I’m fine thanks. How are you?’

We women have such similar experiences and challenges, and yet how much do we share? How many of us admit the challenges we have with bringing up our children. With disciplining, with feeding them healthy food (I swear my kids didn’t have one square meal yesterday – and they thought the party could continue today.) New mothers joke that labour and the intensity of taking care of a new born baby is the best kept secret. I myself sometimes call it a conspiracy. No one really tells you it’s as hard as it is.

So what to do?

Elizabeth Lesser says, ‘See what happens when you offer to another a glimpse of who you really are. Start slowly. Without getting dramatic, share the simple dignity of yourself in each moment – your triumphs and your failures, your satisfaction and your sorrow. Face your embarrassment at being human, and you’ll uncover a deep well of passion and compassion. It’s a great power, your Open Secret. When your heart is undefended, you make it safe for whomever you meet to put down his burden of hiding, and then you both can walk through the open door.’

I think that’s so beautiful. I hope you can all put down your burdens at least whilst reading this blog.

And yes, a big thank you to Michalya who gave me this book for my birthday last year. I opened it when I was ready and it truly is such a wonderful gift!!!

And just for a laugh I’m going to add a poem below that I wrote in a creative writing course many years ago. (I don’t usually like poetry, except when the message and words are clear, clear, clear.) It’s a bit out there, but it drives the point home.

Howzit?

Hello, how are you?

Howzit?

Good thanks.

Fine.

So you doing well?

Yes and you?

Fine fine.

That’s great.

Yeah.

Yeah.

See you tomorrow then.

Well no I can’t.

Why?

My mom died.

Oh no – when?

Today.

 

Okay now breathe – it’s not really so bad. I will lighten up next blog with a choc cake recipe which is wheat free and (I think) flop proof. 🙂

I was going to entitle this blog post – ‘The Right to Treats’, following on from my last post, but it sounds too much like dog treats doesn’t it? And then I thought to myself. What is it that we’re trying to get in touch with when we desire treats? It’s our soul, it’s inspiration, it’s our free spirit.

A free spirit is not a label that the lucky few of us get, which enables us to wear flowers in our hair. (Although I love flowers in hair, it’s so romantic, fun and yes free.) I would define a free spirit as a person who has space in their chest to breathe, a lightness in their step and a natural lingering smile on their lips. So it’s less about flowers and more about the way we feel. Who wouldn’t want that?

I believe that we are all born with  a free spirit. Children, babies especially have a lightness about them. As we grow older we get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of life, the rules and messages that are passed down to us. We become heavy in thought, in heart, in mind. It often manifests in body weight as well or wrinkles. I once heard an energy worker say, ‘become light in spirit and you’ll become light in body.’ It makes sense if you’re happy in the moment you will want to move your body and you won’t want to overeat. (How do I always end up discussing food???)

I used to think that what I wanted was peace and calmness. Now I know that what I’m actually seeking is a lightness of spirit, so that everything is an adventure in the moment. But how do I get there? How do I do it at 6 am in the morning when I really don’t want to get up and face my lift scheme? I’ve been thinking about this lately especially as I’ve become more and more aware of my own heaviness, my own pressures I place on my self. I am living my life out from the whip of ‘have to’ instead of the joyful ‘want to’. Even though I know these concepts I just fall back into ‘old’ habit.

There within lies the answer. Catch the mind talk. Stop and breathe. (I know we’ve done breathing before but it’s such a classic truth.) Remind yourself that you’re alive. I’m doing that at this very moment as I type and I’m feeling wind blowing onto my cheeks. It’s cooled down since last week. It’s reminding me that Winter’s coming and to enjoy these days of Summer’s last kiss. (Lightness of being definitely buoys the poet in me, what can I say.)

Lightness of being is a big topic, it’s a practice, a decision, it doesn’t just happen and it also doesn’t just not happen. The paradox is that you can’t force it. You need to surrender to it. Just like you need to surrender to the process of child-birth (an extreme example I grant you, but a very powerful moment of surrender because boy are you not in control.) Surrender to God. I know how evangelical does that sound. But it’s the oneness, the power, the universe that is held all together and that you are a part of. Eckhart Tolle says ‘Life is the dancer and you are the dance.’ I never got this. I always thought that I was the dancer. Wasn’t it all about me? But it seems that there’s a bigger picture beyond all of us. And I really believe that when we say ‘Hear O’Israel God is your God, God is One’, we are pronouncing exactly that. We are all one, and when we enter that oneness, that Godliness then we are free. You know that you’re safe and protected and all is Divine love.

Big words I know but it’s the truth, stop for  a moment and feel it. This isn’t about ‘religous’ or anything. When you live each moment in the hand of the universe there is joy, safety and lightness of being. Your spirit is free to soar.

This is a theme I’m trying to integrate into my life. Am I succeeding. Sometimes. It’s a life’s journey and I can’t pretend that I’m always cradled in God’s hand. Sometimes I’m quite the opposite. But I really, really, really believe this is one of the key answers for mother’s angst, women’s issues and life in general. So it’s something that will keep getting repeated as this is as my one friend described this blog, ‘a mother’s search for meaning’. And isn’t meaning what all our lives are about, mothers or not?

If you are feeling a bit choked up and a bit like ‘what’s this blog going on about’, I get it I really do. It reminds me of when I was speaking to a woman at this event. I said, ‘Mothers should have a right to treat themselves and give themselves time out.’

The woman’s mother replied, ‘How can you say that? How are women meant to afford these luxuries.’

I didn’t have a chance to explain to her that actually treats can cost nothing. Like a walk, a cup of coffee (okay that’s 15 rand – a doable luxury) a cup of tea in peace and quiet, a magazine, a trip to the library or art gallery (there’s a beautiful exhibit on at Goodman Gallery at the moment, Reza Farkhondeh and Ghada Amer, it’s on until the 9th. I love the colours!!!) etc. etc. Whatever your free spirited heart desires. There’s even pleasure in a falling leaf, a floating cloud. This is ‘our world’ after all, and to me those small pleasures are a lot more valuable than a diamond. A free spirit can recognise that. A free spirit is not limited by the ‘don’ts’ and the ‘can’ts’. In other words we need our free spirits. You can start by looking at the sky and seeing what you see. More than that feel what you see.

Happy soaring!

Whilst my mind was abuzz with lawns being laid and star charts for mothers I heard on the radio about Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. I couldn’t believe it. 2004 again! I thought these things happen only once in a life time, not every five years or so. Somehow it’s always surreal when truly terrible things are happening in the world and you’re in your little car driving your little familiar route. For those people on the other side of the world – their lives won’t ever be the same.

How do we respond to this? My first response is sadness and then a need to reach out for my loved ones. A call to my hubbie (who doesn’t pick up). Another grateful glance at my phone screen with the picture of three smiling Princes. A glance at the internet and the scary, surreal photos that are going up and then my mind shifts dreamily on back to star charts.

Is there something wrong with me? Well I don’t like to think so. I’m human and wanting to refocus back to my To Do list for today. But that doesn’t really do justice to what other people are going through in their world. I once addressed this – when bad things happen to really good people. I think I’ll go back to what I said there. If we can find gratitude, light and love within our own lives and spread that to our nearest and dearest, our neighbors and the people we interact with daily, then that’s transforming the negative to the positive. That’s finding purpose and meaning in tragedy and sadness. That’s having our lives change in response to others suffering. Rather than going into denial of others pain or becoming to infused with the pain. Another sad, moping face doesn’t help anyone who is actually going through the tragedy. Another break down does not build the world. And you can always give yourself a star chart to monitor how you’re doing.

So what am I going on about with star charts? This week my friend posted the funniest thing on Facebook. Her girls were discussing whether they should give their mother a star chart and what they’d give her stars for. I thought this was hilarious and quite apt. We mothers need star charts. Stars of recognition and appreciation. Positive, rewarding stars that motivate us and cement positive behaviors. For taking the kids to school in the morning on time without losing it. For having supper on the table (on time or not). For every extra lift we do and every extra wonderful, mommy act.

Our kids will learn to appreciate us more as they realise that we too (believe it or not) are human and have our challenges. We also need encouragement and appreciation so that we can be the best mothers. Whether we do this or not physically is another story, but the concept of giving ourselves pats on the back and rewards is an important one to integrate into our daily lives.

What would we give mothers as prizes? Well this would vary from mother to mother and I think I need to dedicate a whole ‘The Right to Treats’ blog on it. But meanwhile you can start thinking of all those small and big things you enjoy. From a quiet cup of coffee, to a walk around the block, to a trip to see your best friend who lives in Madagascar (or wherever it may be).

Meanwhile I need to confess that I never manage to finish my blogs all in one sitting. The call of ‘Mummy’ prevails and I often have to shut my computer with a sigh before I finish a post. Since Friday which is when I wrote this blog more terribly sad news has come through. From lovely, lovely people being sick and relapsing to that tragic (how do you even put words to such horror?) murder of Rabbi Fogel, his wife and kids (11 and 4-year-old), plus their baby of a few months in Samaria, Israel. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. And it sends chills down my spine. It’s filled with grief. We are filled with grief. And there is silence in the face of such grief that no words can fill.

And life goes on. Little mouths need to be fed. Blogs need to be written (ok I want to write them). And we need to take a stand on how we want to create the world we live in. With stars, no stars it doesn’t matter. We all are responsible to bring more light, love and laughter to a world that is often tipping over into the dark. (There is a place for the dark. I wouldn’t say that we deny it. But it’s to be done with love and light and that’s a whole other blog as well.) To give one more extra kiss and ‘I love you’ to our children, so that they feel safe and loved, and yes go on to your husband as well.

 

I’ve been thinking… always dangerous I know. I think and think and over think. Especially this blog. The numbers of readers are increasing and I’m sweating now. It’s so much easier to close shop and run away than to face an audience. So much easier to plead writers block. But I can’t because I don’t have writers block I have writers fear. Fear of being a widely read writer, which is of course my greatest dream.

Mandela said, ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination.’ I read this in his book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, nine years ago when I first came to this country (my Johannesburg ‘look see’). It resonated with me then and it still gives me the shivers now. Why is it that I’m so scared of my light side, my God-given talents even more than my dark, sorry qualities? I think it’s true of a lot of us. Women and men.

I’d like to say especially women because this is a women’s blog and as I just read in this marvelous book ‘Succulent Wild Woman – Dancing With Your Wonderful Self’ by SARK, Maya Angelou once said before reading a poem at a performance, ‘I know that there are a lot of incredible men out there, and that this poem may seem to exclude them – it doesn’t. And I want to say to all the men out there, Honey – you got to write your own poems!’

Love it! Pass the message on!!!

So back to women. I can only talk about  women being a woman myself and I’ve been searching for what it means to be a woman. And the more I search the more I’ve realised that I grew up with completely the wrong idea. I used to think being a woman meant hiding from ourselves. Being ‘hidden’ in society whilst making it run seamlessly. Like a good, hard-working Kenwood machine, which whirs ceaselessly making lovely cakes and scones till its wires burn out. (That is exactly what happened to my machine. Thank God it’s fixed and right back to whirring.) Yes it’s martyrdom, yes it’s negative, but I really thought that’s what it’s about. Beauty must be hidden, you must be a good cook and clever of course, but don’t be too loud or too out there because you’ll draw attention to yourself. And definitely don’t wear your curly hair down.

Did anyone ever tell me that in those words? No, but it’s what I picked up unconsciously. Was I angry when I discovered that women don’t necessarily have to be smiling wives and child makers, backing their husbands without a thought to their own needs. Yes. But I’ve recently discovered a beautiful thing. It’s not too late. As long as I don’t let my fear stop me I get to relearn what it means to be a woman. Read lovely books like SARK’s that really lovely friends lend me. And it’s fun!

It makes turning 30 a new adventure for me. My journey that I can do from my bedroom with a cup of tea as I open up my mind to what being a woman can be. Of course there’s always the danger of running off to Italy, India and Indonesia like Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). But as I’ve argued before, we can discover ourselves within our four walls. Challenge our boundaries, rediscover ourselves beyond our comfort zones.

‘Like what?’ you may ask, tut tut tutting. ‘What can you do that is exciting and extending your boundaries in a safe environment? You do have to run to India.’ Well you don’t. There our exciting opportunities right at our door step. Take dancing. How many women allow themselves to dance? I always dreamed of dancing as a girl and finally last week I went to a Zumba dancing class at Virgin Active Gym and it was more fun than I expected. Although it took me a while to relax and find my hips, but by the end of it I was salsaing with the best of them with a huge smile on my face.  Try it, try Nia dancing or even free dance. Try anything that gets you moving freely with music. You’ll feel something more than just your body moving. You’ll feel your spirit soaring.

You can take the risk to be wild and wonderful. Explore ‘Who are You?, as the smoking, doping caterpillar in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ asks.

SARK writes, ‘It is tempting to sleepwalk through life. To tell half-truths, listen half-way, be half-asleep, drive with half attention… Wake up!

We need you as an alive and awake woman, listening and contributing. Wake up your creative genius and let it out into the world. Wake up your power and use it wisely. Wake up your pain and investigate it. Wake up the dull old parts that are hiding from the light. Wake up to love and let it flood through you. Wake up to see the other souls around you. Let them affect you. Live in the center of your life.’

She’s talking to me. She’s talking to you. She’s talking to herself. We are all on parallel journeys. I hope in describing my journey I’m helping someone’s journey on the way…

We all deserve to be joyous, fulfilled, alive women. It’s our birthright. It’s our destiny. It’s what we would tell our daughters. (In my case daughter in-laws.) How can we tell them something we don’t live?

So it is done. I’ve faced the dark side of fear – I’ve written through it…and will keep writing as I keep facing it. I’m glad Mandela is the one who wrote about fearing being great and powerful. It means he also had those fears and look how he overcame them. He is human and he used his voice. We all have a voice. And it’s good to hear it. So let’s all ROAR!

I’m beginning this blog ironically or maybe appropriately with admin. There are those of us who don’t go on the internet to look at blogs (I am one of them). It’s much easier to receive them via email. You can receive this blog via email if you press the subscribe button on the side of the blog – just scroll down. That way you don’t have to make too much effort. (If you choose to make the effort of browsing the internet for this blog – well I’m very flattered.)

Now for the real blog…

I should not be writing this now. I should be in bed reading a book or sleeping. After 9:30pm I become what is euphemistically called in our house a ‘pumpkin’. The princess is gone and the growly, grizzly bear is out. I’ve always been like that I can’t even blame motherhood. This can be somewhat of a problem because the nights are the times that I have to spend with my hubbie and the best of me is not present being a morning person and all.

To be honest when it comes to practical matters and duties I pumpkin out at about 6pm. Don’t mention bills or problems that involve any sort of phone calls or administration unless you want your head bitten off. Who suffers? My husband of course.

The problem is that the nights are the times we are together and the most reasonable time to go through things that need to be attended to. Life as I’m learning is administrative. ‘Attend, attend, attend’ is my father in law’s motto and as much as I don’t like it, it’s a good one. I used to believe that it all just happened. Very fairytaleish, even yes childish. Magical thinking at its best. I’ve quickly learnt that an account not paid won’t magically go away. A messy drawer will not miraculously self clean. (Anybody have a number for the shoemaker’s elves?)

I would do anything for a personal PA, sometimes I think every wife should have a wife. I wouldn’t mind one. Without the nagging of course, and the moods I suppose. But I really don’t think I’m that bad. (Don’t ask my hubbie he’d definitely disagree.) But I don’t have one and I do have to address the practical. (I will note here that I am blessed to be in South Africa where wonderful help is available and I am forever grateful at this point in my life not to have to do the washing and wonder how much Stay Soft to use.)

So my patient, ever enduring husband and I have found a middle way. LUNCHTIME. Where we can meet and make decisions without me having a melt down. (I know I’m sounding very two-year oldish here. I suppose we all have the different ages in us and different situations at different times bring them out. My toddler time is in the evenings I suppose.) We call it our business lunch and we sort through things like finances, kids behaviour, forms of discipline and practical stuff that needs to be addressed. It can even be fun things like planning weekends away and family holidays. The advantage always is that I’m fresh and happy in full midday bloom and it’s fun to see each other out of context.

Forgetting about all the practical aspects which we address in a business lunch. I really recommend meeting your loved one in the middle of the day. And do fun things if you can. Have a picnic. Go to an art gallery. Go for coffee in some cool cafe. Dating in the day is just so different and takes us out of our mundane, day to dayness that we can get so stuck in. And no I don’t think I’m fantasising here I think it’s possible for everyone with a bit of effort and imagination. Maybe not every week but at least once a month.

We get so used to being ‘responsible adults’ that we forget the fact that now we’re the adults we make our own rules. Just as we dreamed of when we were kids. Otherwise whats the point of growing up and having all the responsibilities. With responsibility comes privilege. Begin accessing them…even if it begins with a business lunch. See where you can take it from there. Your imagination is the limit.

Here’s one place which is very underused in Johannesburg (although now that I’m advertising it I hope it doesn’t become over crowded.) Melrose Arch Hotel pool area – you can go for coffee or a meal (See picture below. They even let you bring your own food. I went for a friend’s birthday this week and it was a fabulous girls get together with our toes in the pool sipping cappuccinos and eating scones with cream and strawberry jam, and cheesecake. Heaven!) So go try it. Take off your shoes, refresh your feet, yourself and your relationship. There are many more places in Johannesburg. Please feel free to comment and share some of your favourite spots. We all need new ideas.