Virtues: Kindness

Many years ago, when I was doing my novel-writing course, my tutor, Alex Smith, said that if a character needs a bit of development, I should use this Proust questionnaire as a starting point. Every so often I take it out and have fun with my friends, “interviewing them”.  It’s also fun to look back at what original answers were vs what they are now.  Some things change, some things stay the same.

One of the questions that always fascinates me is “what is the most overrated virtue?” It is a question that, at first glance, seems easy to answer, but in reality, it isn’t, because not everyone has the same understanding of what a virtue is, nor do their moral compasses face the same True North.

virtue

So, instead of working it from that angle, I’ve opted to discuss what the underrated ones are – in my misfit opinion, but also in the opinions of others who opted to reply to a post I put on Facebook in an attempt to research more about the topic.

To start, I’ll talk about one of the virtues that ranks really high on my list, but that is very often disregarded by others (whether intentional or not, it doesn’t matter): Kindness.

What has become my motto in life is this quote by Ian Maclaren:

321474

Face it…  Every single one of you reading this post has had it tough at some stage of your life.  Would something as simple as a smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend, an encouraging word from a colleague, or a gentle squeeze on the hand from your spouse have eased the trial, if even for a fleeting moment? I believe so. I’m not in any way trying to say that kindness is the key to solving the problem, but merely that it lightens the burden, if only for a short while. It opens the door for other virtues, like hope and perseverance.

Do I fail at being kind? Sure, I do.  I’m not infallible. Honestly, I fail at a lot of the virtues that will be blogged about during the course of this month. My creativity sometimes leaves for months on end; I can sometimes be selfish instead of selfless; sometimes I am conceited, instead of modest…

In closing, I challenge you to be kind to everyone who crosses your path today, bearing in mind that kindness, like every other virtue, does not require a grand exhibition of self, but a pureness of heart and a humble spirit.

Advertisements

Seven Years & Still Going Strong…

Seven is considered in many cultures to be a lucky number; in some even spiritual. I think that in this instance, it’s both.

Today, seven years ago, my life changed. I landed a job at a company that has afforded me the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally and allowed me to utilize my talents, all in a safe, happy working environment. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve picked up scraps with some colleagues, but that is an occupational hazard everywhere. The difference is that the people I work with are not just like family, they are.

images

I was saying to Nikita, whom I sometimes carpool with, that I still remember my first day. I parked my car in the visitor’s bay and my boss came to me and pointed to a bay demarcated for my car.  I didn’t do much that day, because my boss had just returned from a two-week-long overseas visit. I was shown to my office and then taken through the factory to meet everyone.  The rest of the day I settled in.

In the time I’ve been here I’ve got to put my writing- and proofreading skills to good use.  I also received incredible support when I decided to complete the final subject for my tertiary qualification.  I’ve been mentored by incredible leaders, admonished when necessary by one father-figure in particular, teased like a little sister by some colleagues and carried by others when things have not been all sunshine-and-rosy.  See, family.

How many of you reading this can honestly say that going to work isn’t something you abhor, but look forward to? How many of you can say that spending time with your colleagues is not something you do simply because of the pay cheque at the end of the month?

I can, because seven years ago, when I walked through the door, I wasn’t half the person I am today, and for that I’m grateful.

Here’s to the next leg of the journey – and of course, cake to celebrate!

I Don’t Need a Crystal Ball

I’ve done a bit of reading on psychic abilities in general of late, spurred after rereading Stephen King’s Carrie.

carrie nel paperback stephen king

According to the research I’ve done, everyone possesses psychic abilities, but not everyone hones the skills.  Probably not a bad thing, because if I had pyrokinetic abilities, I think a lot people I dislike would be sitting in hot-seats every day.

Wikipedia has a long list of notable psychic abilities which I am keen to learn more about, but for now, I want to discuss one in particular.

Precognition. Or as it’s more familiarly known, premonition.

premonition

I have this ability, but it is not well whetted. Honestly, I’m not sure if I want it to be sharpened given that every foreboding I’ve had has been a sign of something bad. Only one has signalled death, the others all related to something less fatal, like illness, job loss or car accidents.

In my case, I get feelings of dread and angst, and I know – soon I’m going to hear bad news about someone I care about. I don’t always know who, but sure as the sun that rises in the morning, these feelings are proved right, time after time.

I seldom talk about this specific intuition because I know many people perceive psychic capabilities to be evil, or even simply, a bunch of hooey.  Tina and I spoke about it a while ago though, because I had a feeling that something was amiss with her.  I didn’t know what it was, but I knew something was off.  Turns out her relationship was on the rocks, despite it being the perfect proverbial husband-two-point-five-kids-two-dogs-manicured-lawn-and-a-white-picket-fence-picture. She sobbed as she shared the trials of months gone by.  My heart went out to her and while there was nothing I could do to comfort her, I knew she was grateful to have me there, if only to listen.

Last week, again, I was in a bad space.  There was no definitive reason for me to feel down.  Sure, I’d had a bit of a disagreement with my boss, but it isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. I felt restless, and overwhelmingly sad, yet I didn’t cry.  I knew I would hear ill tidings at some stage in the future. I couldn’t weep (although the tears would have been cathartic), because I didn’t know what I’d be crying about.  I also had a panic attack, for the first time in almost ten months. This time though, on Thursday night, it was in my sleep. I woke up drenched in perspiration, my hair wet, as if I’d been swimming and tears streaming down my cheeks, with Jasmine ringing in my mind.  Shallow breaths racked my lungs and my pulse would have rivalled a racehorse at Ascot. After that, I slept like the dead, for six-, uninterrupted hours (which is a record for me!). I was happy for the rest, because when I woke on Friday morning, I felt better. The feeling of being caged in had lifted.  Had my premonition been a false alarm?

No. It hadn’t.

Yesterday I received word that Jasmine, a close friend who had surgery for cancer not too long ago, had been readmitted to hospital, this time with shortness of breath and chest pains.  We have known each other for twenty-five years, but our lives took different paths and while we stayed in touch, it is only recently that we really reconnected.  She’s been someone I have been able to confide in about certain things.  As soon as I heard what had happened, I found myself thinking that’s why you felt so awful.

I’ve spoke to her earlier.  She’s doing better and is taking it easy.  So, for now, my being is at peace.  There is calm, happiness and joy in my spirit, which is the way I prefer it.

Here’s to a new week! Let hope, gratitude, mercy, kindness, forgiveness and love abound.  Let’s drive the darkness out with positivity 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belief…

A lot has happened the past two to three months. Some of it hard, some of it easy, but all of it growth. As I approach the last year of my thirties, and I reflect on the person I am today vs the person I was, as short as a mere year ago, I often don’t recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror. She’s a little greyer, a little thinner, a little more assertive, less worried about what people think of her, a lot more open minded, and mirroring the behaviour of the people who treat her right.  The ones that don’t?  Well, let’s just say, they don’t know what they’re missing, which brings me to the subject of this post: Belief:  The belief in one’s self, the belief in others, and others’ belief in you.

No matter how I word this, it is going to sound conceited, but it’s not meant to be.  It is a statement of fact, akin to me telling you that the moon’s cycle determines the tide.

Many people, when they first meet me find me charming, and they’d be right. I have a stellar personality and I’m able to hold my own in most conversations because I have a broad general knowledge, acquired over the years through a love of (reclusive) reading. What they don’t know is how many internal battles I’ve had to fight to become the non-Sandra-Bullock-version of Miss Congeniality. Self-belief is something that I had intense struggles with when I was younger. I can’t tell you when it was no longer an issue for me, but I will be honest and tell you that although few and far between, some days my body gets snatched and I trip into a pit of self-loathing. This is where others’ belief of me carries me through.  It’s a circle – sometimes I’m in the pit, sometimes I’m helping others out.

Belief in one’s self doesn’t come from an Ivy League education, or being born into an affluent family, or having the best material things money can buy.  If that was the case, then a very large percentile of the world’s population would be unhappy and hateful. This specific belief has a two-fold root system which stems from

  • Something within, something intangible that tells you, “Despite the chips often being stacked against you, you’re doing good, Kid. Just keep doing what you’re doing”.
  • Valuable, honest, genuine people building you up, often amidst trials of their own.

388dd3dc1e7f79b30240295d074e0dd0

I’m going to make specific reference to my friend TJ here. She’s been a huge confidante for me about things I can’t discuss with anyone else.  She’s offered advice, encouraged me to move outside my overgrown-hedge-comfort-zone and told me to never stop believing that I am enough, that I matter and that everything that has happened to me until this point has been for a reason. This despite her receiving news that she has breast cancer (in the very early stages, so the prognosis is good).

Last night she used one of my insecurities and a person I care very deeply for to illustrate a point.  It was horrible!  Her execution was utterly reprehensible. She basically stripped me emotionally bare, and then revealed that I’ve grown in a certain area that I have always struggled with. She also illustrated the belief I have in the person she basically crucified to get her point across.  Yes, there is a positive outcome, but I was majorly pissed.  I called her a fucking psycho but her response was one that disarmed my shock and had us both in fits of laughter.  Her self-belief that her little sadistic exercise would succeed boggles my mind, but then again, it was very likely a calculated risk on her part.

She did call this morning in the wee hours to apologize, telling me that she believed in me enough to know I’d be able to handle what happened.  She’s right; and I’ve grown.  A few months ago, had this episode played itself out, I may have reacted very differently. I did tell her she doesn’t know the person she used as a pawn in her Cosmic Chess Game, and about that I’m hurt.  Her reply was, “YOU believe in him/her, MTM and because of that I believe in him/her.  It’s clear that the bond you have is strong.”

My belief in others depends on whether or not they rest on their laurels.  Shallow, I know, but I abhor people who want everything handed to them on a silver platter.  I know that life often deals hands that nobody expects, but in that instance, you’ve got two choices – give yourself an extra dose of self-belief and roll with the punches, or stand back doing nothing.  I have many dreams, some of which are on my dream board and I work hard to try to realize them.  I have other priorities, but my belief in myself, my skills and the support of the honest, valuable, real people in my life keeps me forging on.

Every day we just need to remind ourselves – we matter, we’re here for a reason and BELIEVE it!

believe-in-yourself

Great News, for a Change!

Yesterday was a day of good abso-flippen-lutely fab-u-lous news for some amazing friends in my circle!

Charlie told me that he is soon going to be owning his first home, a dream come true!  I’m so incredibly proud of him for chasing his dream and staying focussed.

It was pretty much a done I’ve been to the place with him a few times to just peer in the windows like proper lookey-Lous and once to see the actual inside.  It is a stunning place, with a magnificent view, but most importantly, it checks all his boxes. Yesterday he said, “It’s not a new chapter. It’s like a whole new book” and I found myself wondering what the title would be, or if it would be something to do with a Wonderland of sorts.

While I have never owned a property of my own, I have been prone to bouts of nostalgia walking this journey with Charlie.  The excitement of the smallest of things, like buying hand soap that matches the bath towels, making that first meal or simply unpacking stuff into the cupboards of a place you can call your own.

At times, understandably, doubt would set in with questions that usually started with “What if…” and I would just revert to the logic of – you found something that has ticked all the boxes you wanted, except the jacuzzi and the Lamborghini in the garage, so ergo, it is just a matter of time.

It is an exciting adventure – Charlie’s delight is so evident; there is an inflection in his voice that belies his attempt to be nonchalant about the whole affair.  I’m quite sure if he was a woman he would physically be glowing.

Shortly after receiving Charlie’s news, I got a call from Jack, who I consider a solid friend, although work is what ties us together.  During his last courtesy visit to my office, we got talking about goals.  He mentioned that he would love to climb the corporate ladder within the company that he works for, but that the next step would mean relocation for him and his wife.  His beliefs and mine are pretty much aligned and it was said that if it’s meant to be it will.

Jack’s call was to tell me that the promotion had happened, and that in three weeks he and his wife will be moving to a new city where he will be the National Sales Manager.  The next step on the ladder after that is Sales Director.

Jack’s loyalty to his employer and his open, dynamic approach to thinking outside the box in a challenging market are his keys to success. I’m confident that he is going to be a shining example to the colleagues entrusted to his leadership.

Then last, but by no means least, I saw news on Facebook that my amazing US friend, Mike McClelland’s debut novel, Gay Zoo Day which was published in September last year, has been named a finalist for the IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Award in LGBT literature.

51gmJNjlFhL

This in between completing his degree and becoming a father to a beautiful baby boy he and his husband adopted.  I’m so inspired by Mike’s achievement.  It makes me want to dust of my work-in-progress-novel and get it finished.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the book…yet, but it is merely because I haven’t ordered books in ages.  While I am a real-page book-slut, I am beginning to realize that at some stage I may need to join the Kindlers *gasp!

I am humbled to have many wonderful friends that are scattered all over The Globe and if every day can be one in which I get to share happy news (even from afar) with even just one of them, and celebrate their victories and their joys with them, then my life already feels full.  I’m grateful too, to the ones that are close, that want me to be part of their life-puzzles, because after all, as my tagline says, I’m the piece of the puzzle that just doesn’t quite fit.

Charlie, Jack and Mike – you guys made my Tuesday.  I’m ecstatic for the roads that lie ahead for each one of you because you’re all so deserving of everything good that is coming your way!

 

Desiderata: A Memory

It’s funny how some things are stored in one’s memory bank without your even knowing. Many years ago, I was at an all girls’ school in the town of Potchefstroom, in the North-West Province of South Africa. In the beginning I hated it, but once I’d made friends, I grew to love it. Some of my fondest memories were made in those grounds and some of the friendships forged, still live on today. Had I been able to make a decision on my high school career, I would have opted to stay in boarding school until my final year.

During my time there, I had many friends, but three in particular really touched my heart, Remy, Kendra and Astrid. The four of us were almost inseparable – the proverbial awesome foursome, if you will.  A quarter of a century down the line and we’re all still in touch, thanks to the wonder of social media. Add siblings to this mix, and you have a whatsapp group called Twisted Sisters.

Remy’s mom in particular, Aunty Ang, was always open to having her children’s friends over for sleepovers on weekends or for sarmies after school. I remember Aunty Ang with great fondness. She had the gentlest blue eyes and a soft voice that could calm even the testiest teenager. My last visit with her, in the late ‘90’s she whupped my ass at Scrabble numerous times.  Sadly, she contracted cancer and lost her battle with the awful disease.

During our visits to Remy’s house, Aunty Ang would always sit in her chair in the living room and behind it hung Desiderata, printed on a black velvet-like material, with rose-gold-coloured lettering.  I never took the time to actually read it, but when it came up in my FB newsfeed today, I thought I should share the memory and the poem, (which I discovered was written by Max Ehrmann, in 1952) itself with you, because it contains some great life advice.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

As I write this post and read these wise words, I am grateful for the privilege of having known Aunty Ang, if only for a short time, and for the memories I have of her and the friendships I have with Remy, and by default, her siblings, Carin and Shelley.