The Beauty Within

My friend, Jenna, gave me the following brief:

“The Beauty Inside

How about something to inspire us who are not able to see our worth or beauty in a cruel world.”

I have been thinking about this since I first read her comment.  I had a few ideas I was toying with but decided that something unconventional would be the best route to go with this subject.

The Lady Without a Name

She is there on the park bench; the lady without a name

I see her every Friday, like we play some kind of game

 

Her sight is straight ahead – an empty, lifeless gaze

I see something on her cheekbone, it’s clearly a graze

 

She wears pretty clothes, but something’s clearly amiss

She’s a classic beauty, not at all a ‘Miss Pris’

 

Her eyes are dark pools, rich and deeply clear

It’s only when she blinks them, that I notice her tears

 

I wonder what she’s thinking, what’s making her sad

Or is she crying because she’s irate; flaming mad?

 

Excuse me. What’s the matter? Yes, I am bit nosy

Before she can protest, I hand her a posy

 

Oh, Sweet Girl, it’s my husband, you see

He words are cruel and hateful, and he beats me

 

I too have been there, I know her pain

But us women are warriors – rainbows after the rain

 

Tell me what he said, I ask, the reason you’re so blue

Men that treat women badly, they’re a Motley Crew

 

Her lips tremble as she begins to speak

Her voice is so quiet, barely an audible squeak

 

He called me useless: A whore!

He said I’m stupid,

A bad mother

Decayed at the core

 

The tongue cuts deep, a double-edged sword

That I do believe, as it is written in the Word of the Lord

I take her hand in mine, and give it a squeeze

Listen to me now, and believe this, please.

The world may be cruel, dark and dim

But you have a special light, that shines within

You are unique, special and I can sense, kind

Don’t let anyone who can’t see that make YOU feel blind!

It may not be easy, but you have the power to leave

No person should choke your living, disallowing you to breathe
Despite the rank darkness of the world today

You are important, you have a fated role to play

I also know it’s easy for me to talk

I don’t wear your shoes, I don’t know your walk

What I do know is this, we’re women; warriorly fighters

We sacrifice of ourselves all the time, to make others’ burdens lighter

There is beauty in you, and hidden gems too

You work to fill others, it’s what we do

Be hopeful, be happy, choose to be free

Others have done it, you can too!

She rose from her seat, no tear in sight

Thank you, she said, woman of might!

It’s been a year since that Friday, her bench has been empty

But she’s moving and shaking, with good deeds a-plenty

I’ve heard she shares her story, no longer with shame

That incredible lady, without a name.

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I Need YOUR Help! Yes, You!

I should write more. That’s the consensus among the close friends I have that read my blog.  It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s more a case of The Muse being a bigger hibernator than I am.  But, they’re right *sssshhhh don’t tell them I said that*; I’m not doing what I love on a daily basis.

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In an attempt to write more, an in so doing, pursue my passion – whether poetry, prose or anecdotes – I’m going to need help. Please would every one of you that reads this particular entry, leave a comment of what you’d like me to write about – it can be anything – I will do my utmost best to do right by you.

So, who’s first?

The Winds of Change are A’Blowin’

Sometimes, something happens, and you find yourself (for lack of a better term), different.  Out of this Misfit’s book, I give you two personal examples:

Dining Alone

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I’m not sure which one of my girl friends it was, but she said, “It’s like when you reach 40 you just don’t give a rat’s ass anymore what people think.” Pretty much everyone 40+ in the company agreed.

I’ve always been one that enjoys my own company; growing up as an only child in a building where there were no other kids taught me quickly how to keep myself entertained.  As I grew up, I became an extremely social person; I was a relatively well-liked teenager (albeit a book nerd) and post-21, I had many people I considered friends.

As we all know, life happens, and people’s paths diverge – there is no definitive turning point, or fork in the road.  One day you’re still cruising on a Sunday-roadtrip-to-nowhere with your best friend, a year later you’re sitting in a coffee shop alone, having an oversized brunch, chased by a double-thick-peanut-butter-milkshake.

If anyone had told me a year ago, that on the brink of thirty-nine, I would be that person, I would have laughed because I’ve always been of the opinion that there are certain things nobody should do alone – like have a meal in a restaurant, or go to the movies, yet yesterday, I was that person. And it felt surprisingly good. I paged leisurely through some tattered magazine while waiting for-, and during (my mother would just die if she knew I was reading at the table) my meal. I was lost in my own little world, oblivious to what was happening around me, until a stranger accidently bumped my table on his way out.

The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that I’ve reached that point, where I’m okay to go out on my own (although solo-movies are still daunting) and not be fazed by what the people around me think.

It boils down to acceptance of self, but more than that love of self – because face it, if you don’t love and accept who you are, how can you expect others to?  I’m confident and independent – and that epitome is the greatest thing ever; just a pity it’s taken me almost forty years to realize it.

Social Media Slow Down

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It’s been eleven years since my friend, Vixen, nudged me to join Facebook – the magical world where I could play Texas Hold ‘Em Poker without losing any real money, stay in touch with friends, plug my Herbalife business, share photos & random thoughts (some of my memories have me wondering, What. The. Actual. Fuck?) and Lord knows what else.

Round this time last year, the appeal was just gone.  I woke up one morning thinking, how many people really bother with checking up on me there, as opposed to getting in touch with me by other, more immediate means? I’m not saying I’ve become a total social media luddite, I’ve merely tapered down my use of almost all the apps related to it, except Whatsapp, because it is my main go-to means of comms, mostly because I use my almost ninety-five hundred percent of my allocated 100 minutes of talk-time on my contract to chat to my friend Trisha, in Durban.

Being a complete social media hermit is not normal in the age we live in, so I’ll still log in and check what’s potting in Facebook-land, sometimes I’ll even post something, but quite honestly, I’d much rather save my data to chat with the circle of people on Whatsapp that matter to me, as much as I do to them.

Maybe it’s also because I’m almost forty, who knows?  One thing’s for sure though – there is a change in me, and I’m embracing it.  I feel like a new person – more accepting, more open and sure as hell, more awesome.

Change is not a bad thing – sometimes it is more necessary than we’d care to admit, and it’s a part of growing up, and enjoying life.

It’s Cold, but it’s Good…

I think my spirit animal is a bear. Not a polar one, one that hibernates. Oh, and eats when it is only necessary. Yip, a bear, definitely a bear.

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I’ve always said that if I could have a single season all year round, it would be Autumn- the days are still long and relatively warm and there is a golden hue to everything around me, like an angel’s halo, glowing in the light. The trees dance a gentle waltz to the song of the breeze as their leaves change colour from green to red, red to yellow, yellow to brown, and eventually fall to the ground, their naked branches a stark fortune-teller that reminds us for rebirth to happen, death must occur.

Winter is not my season. At all. The days are short: it’s dark when I get up for work and in the height of the season, it’s dark when I get home in the afternoons, just shy of 17:30. For the most part, I’ve learnt to appreciate the darkness. Many a winter night I will get into bed early, with a hot beverage and just listen to the stillness that only a winter’s night can bring. It’s during these times that many of my troubles come to the fore, but also because of the clear blackness not only around me, but in my mind, I am able to think of systematic solutions. It is also a time when my Creative Muse seems to surface from her den, inspiring me to create something, anything, beautiful.

Just this past Saturday, while under a blanket on the couch at a friend’s place, I got the urge to cook – I’ve laid my hands on quite a few recipes, and am excited about the smells and warmth that will be emanating from my oven, or from the bubbling pots atop. I also unpacked all my cake decorating tools not too long ago too.  More importantly, I’ve indulged my true passion a bit more: I’ve been writing!

Looks like winter may be my season after all… hearty soups, hot chocolate, Port, stunning sunrises (because I’m awake to see them), time for self, time to create and above all, knowing that when it’s over, Spring springs and a cycle of new hope and new life begins.

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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.

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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:

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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.

Looking Back on 2017…

It’s that time of the year, when I look back reflectively on the year past, and with excitement and expectation for the one that lies ahead.

2017 was a tough year.  As an individual I was tested, as a couple my parents were tested, and as a family, you guessed it, we were tested.  Yet, here we are on the first day January, with hope and courage in our hearts, and the faithful belief that things will be better this time round.  It was also the year that I bid goodbye to seven pairs of shoes, six pairs of which broke at the office.  Pair seven broke as I got out the car for my year-end-work-function. As I look back though, as tough as it was, it was a good year, all in all.

January started off slowly, but I did do one parkrun; the only one for the entire year.  It was a destined one though, because it was there that I met Heather, with whom I have become quite close.  We “get” each other, like uMeredith and Christina do.  We’re both book sluts and Dischem whores, who love drinking wine out of enamel mugs at Kaai 4, or eating fish and chips out of polystyrene containers on top of the iconic red London bus at the harbour.  In a short twelve months, she’s joined the ranks of “heart sister”.

In February I was faced with a bit of a surprise.  The institution through which I studied years ago let me know that if I didn’t complete the final subject of my tertiary year by the end of 2017, I would lose all the credits for that period.  I took the leap, borrowed the money and, at the tender age of thirty-seven, hit the books again.  It was an experience to say the least, because I struggled with self-discipline.  Honestly, had it been anything to do with writing I would have approached it with more enthusiasm.  It was also the month I met Charlie, in passing, at Heather’s birthday party, blissfully unaware that by the end of the year he too, would be someone genuinely important in my circle.

The Toppie, Bean and I also went on a bit of a safari adventure, arranged by Tina and some of her friends.  It was such a special time for us as a family, where memories were made.

March marched right by.  I’ve gone through my photos and I can’t find anything blog-worthy that happened that month.

In April, shortly after The Toppie’s 70th birthday celebration, my parents bid their home goodbye, and moved to a much smaller place, in an industrial area outside of town.  It was gut-wrenching to have to watch them sell off their possessions to be able to make ends meet, but through the hardship, they’ve learned that they didn’t need all that stuff – they’ve got each other.  It broke my heart when The Bean lost her precious cockatiel, Marley, shortly after.

That same month, a tiny pipe in my bathroom broke, resulting in a flood right through my flat.  For three months I couldn’t live there, but thanks to friends and an amazing colleague and his wife, I had a roof over my head the entire time.  If I’m honest, I kind of became attached to my transit-home, which was a garden cottage in said colleague’s back garden.  The fact that their beautiful Labrador would visit had nothing to do with it.

May was a cold month, so most of the studying I did for exams took place under the duvet, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.  I also spent a great deal of time reading for leisure in the evenings.  I discovered the literary genius of Afrikaans author, Deon Meyer and have since read two of his books, Koors and Spoor.

One of my best friends, Wolf also lost his mom, 19 days after having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 😦

June brought with it the birth of Shayla-Rae’s first child (and my goddaughter), Lily-Rose.  She was the most perfect little person I had ever seen.

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Here the precious little mite was not even a full day old yet.

My heart swelled with pride, not only because I was now a god-mommy, but for my childhood best friend, who pushed that perfect little person out of her vajajay.

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Now she’s almost seven months…

I won’t use the exact phrase she did to describe the process of child birth; needless to say, it was colourful.

June also brought with it exams, that, no matter how much I had studied, I still didn’t feel prepared for.  I dragged Tina with me to Cape Town, because she needed a break from the drama with her ex, and because I didn’t fancy being in the Mother City without decent company.  It was during that visit that I had the best Durban curry of my life – yes, in Cape Town.  It didn’t bode well for my exams the next day because it played havoc with my stomach.  I wrote what felt like a million words on the answer sheets provided and when I left, after not having completed the final question, I thought I think I’ve done enough to pass.  I took Tina up Signal Hill where we nearly blew away (Did someone say Cape Doctor?) and then we went to the Company Gardens to feed the squirrels.  The little critters are quite brazen when they know you’re hiding peanuts.

July was a good month.  I got to move back home, to newly installed floors and the luxury of a bath.  While I love my morning shower, sometimes all that cures the ails of a long day at the office in the middle of winter, is a hot, candlelit bubble bath.

I also got to visit Shalya-Rae, Shane and little Lily-Rose for a few days in the beautiful Tsitsikamma.  I really wanted to do the hike to the suspension bridge across the sea and Shayla-Rae indulged me, carrying a sleepy Lily the entire way in the car chair.  It was up countless stairs, and down through steep valleys.  The view, and the feeling of absolute freedom was amazing.  Granted we were windswept and a bit cold afterwards, but it was worth every leg-stiffening step.  It’s something I will definitely do again.

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The view from the end of the bridge – breathtaking!
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Windswept #Selfie
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The bridge is older than I am.

Charlie also came home for a holiday and we spent some time together, in an attempt to get to know each other better.  While he hasn’t managed to convert me to a KFC fan (yet), I think I did well to make him a Sherlockian.  He went back to work in August and his imminent return in January 2018 is something I’m looking forward to.

In August I got my exam results.  Thankfully I’d passed.  With distinction!  I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the results.  Over eighty percent.  I still don’t know how I managed the excellent mark; I can only think that there were many prayers going up at the time on my behalf.

September.  The month of my birthday …Usually I have some kind of shindig to celebrate, but this year, I opted for something a little more low-key.  Jensen, a family friend of over twenty-five years, came to visit and took me out for pizza and wine at a new place in town.  It was a great catch-up.  First Sighting Shiraz is a wine I most certainly need in my collection.

Carmen and Ewan also welcomed their second child into the world.  World, meet little Roger!

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World, I love bathtime!

In October, little Liam, Eliza and Neil’s second child celebrated his first birthday.  I have a special tie with him; he’s my “bonding-baby” – the first child I every held that wasn’t even a month old yet, and I believe that he prepared me for Lily-Rose.  In the imaginary world I sometimes live in, I imagine the two of them getting married one day.

It was also the first time I got hypnotised.  Theresa came to visit and I convinced her to tag along with me to a hypnosis entertainment show.  I’ve always wondered about going under but didn’t for a minute think I would be on stage.  For over an hour!  Theresa was awesome, filming all my shenanigans on her phone.  I looked like I had tremendous fun and without a doubt, I will do it again.  I woke up the next morning stiff as a board, but after watching the clips, I understand why – I was really active on stage, from being a dinosaur, to a washing machine, to a goldfish, to a rapper, to a lifeguard and then some.

Now, there are few things as daunting as having a man who you’re not having sex with inspect your lady-bits, but in November I trotted off to the surgery.  I’d been putting off the gynae visit for months, but due to exacerbating problems around Aunt Flo’s visit every month, I was left no choice but to face the Fanny Flapper and his dreaded (to coin a phrase by a good writer friend of mine) dildo cam.  It should be mentioned at this juncture that the past two times I’ve seen him, it has been for emergency procedures, so when he greeted me with, “It’s so lovely to see you here, in my office, instead of the operating theatre,” I couldn’t help but smile.  After likening my cycle to that of pig slaughter, it was decided that a deeper look would be crucial to get to the core of the problem.  Oh yay, off I go to the hospital.  Again.  What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be for two procedures.  I’d had the first, a laparoscopy, before so I knew what to expect.  The second, a hysteroscopy, I was a bit worried about because it sounded a bit scary.  Turns out there was reason for concern:  The monthly vampire bloodfest seeping from my uterus was due to a teratoma (the same thing the first laparoscopy had been done for to remove).  The odd thing was it wasn’t on my ovary, where the little bastards normally cling on, it was between my intestine and my stomach lining.  It had all kinds of different human tissue, which I of course find fascinating; most people find it gross.  The doctor said they do tend to grow back, but in this particular case, this might be the remnants of the original alien that the first doctor didn’t get entirely removed.  Thankfully, I am feeling a great deal better.  The night-dwelling-day-sleeping-bloodsuckers are probably really pissed off with me about it though.

December.  By definition: Hectic.  It is par for the course when one lives in a seaside-resort-holiday-town.  With only three weeks available to do what felt like three months’ worth of work, tempers were clearly frayed and the prospect of a holiday was all that kept me from committing murder.   Fortunately, before that happened, our bosses were awesome and gave us a delicious year end dinner, which gave me a reason to dress up.

I originally wore a pair of killer silver heels, but both shoes broke as I got out the car.

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I originally had a pair of killer silver heels on, but both shoes broke as I got out of the car.

Little Lily­-Rose was christened in the Dutch Reformed Church a stone-throw away from a one-horse-town called Kareedouw.  It wasn’t without its own hysterics.  Shayla-Rae’s mum put her button-up dress over her satin slip (which was keeping her warm).  As we stood up to sing the first hymn, her pretty, pink pyjamas landed in a crumpled heap at her feet.  I of course was the only one who saw it, and trying not to laugh, only made me want to laugh more.  It may not sound funny to those of you reading this, but to me it was hysterical.

It was also my twenty-year school reunion, which I didn’t attend due to other commitments.  From the photos it looks like much fun was had.  One pleasant surprise was seeing Nola and her husband Connor, who decided to surprise my parents and I with a visit.  She was also a best friend at school and boarded with us in our final year.  Our paths don’t cross often anymore, because she lives in a different city, and has Connor and two beautiful boys to look after, but she has never forgotten my-, or my parents’ birthdays.  I on the other hand am an epic failure at remembering hers.

It was also the month I realized what my biggest fear is.  After having written that post, and some of the responses I received, a few things have more perspective for me now, for which I’m grateful.

Christmas was not a lavish affair for which my jeans still thank me.  We had a small braai with Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry and vetkoek.  For those of you not familiar with the term, it is bread dough that is deep friend which can be enjoyed with a selection of savoury spreads or sweet preserves.

Shortly after, my former roommate, Sarah, and her fiancé, Sam, came to visit.  She is also someone I refer to as a “heart sister” and she is the youngest one of them all.  I am her “big (but thin) sister”.  We had plans for a day of catching up in the summer sunshine, but not before this:

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I said, “Yes!!!!!!”

They’re getting hitched in November next year, so I already have something to look forward to in 2018.  You see, I’ve never been a bridesmaid before.

And then, to almost end of 2017, Shayla-Rae and her other half, Shane took me to an open air concert, where there were 12000 people.  It may not sound like many, but in the sleepy hollow town where I live, that is probably the entire population out of season.  It was the most fun I’ve had in a long while.  The R150 Shane paid for six beers though, left a bitter taste in his mouth – it was R10 short of what they’d paid for one (golden circle) ticket.

I’m off to spend the last night of the year with Shayla-Rae and her family at the farm.

See y’all next year!  2018 is going to ROCK!

 

 

Exodus 20:12 / Ephesians 6:3

I want to be obedient and receive the promise of the two verses that head this post.  Sometimes though, I look at some people and think Thank God I am not them. And then I pray, God, please don’t ever let me turn out to be like them.  I don’t want to hurt the people closest to me.

There are a few situations that I know of, and while I’m not sure where to start, I feel very strongly to voice my (what many will feel is a personal attack on them (but hey, if the shoe fits…)) opinion.

I don’t like to ram my beliefs down anyone’s throat, but one thing I do believe s to “Honour your Father and your Mother”.  The Greek word for honour means “to revere, prize, and value.”  I believe that this honour means all the time, until they are no longer destined for this earth – not only when you as a child live with your parents, under their instruction and teachings, or when as an adult, you deem them to be deserving of it.  We forget that as we are growing up, our parents are growing older and that they may actually need us to be around for them – to revere their wisdom, prize their presence and value (what little) time we still have with them.  I’m the first to admit that I do fail at this, and when I do, I repent and try again, because I want to live a long life.

I was chatting to a friend’s mom, Patty, the other day.  Her dad. Arthur, is in a local old-age village, because he wants to be around people his own age and he enjoys all the activities that take place at the facility.  Every Wednesday, Patty and her husband pay Arthur a visit and on the weekends, Arthur spends time with them, at their home.  It is an arrangement that suits everyone.

Patty did tell me that there are many of the elderly people at the facility whose children don’t even bother to phone their parents.  One lady in particular’s children were here on holiday for almost a month, living it up in a hip beach house – not once did they fetch their mother to have her spend a day with them.  It got me wondering just how many children conveniently forget or simply toss aside their parents, for reasons unbeknownst to me – is it because their parents are no longer employed with an income to bankroll their children out of a bind, or because their parents have become frail and may need some extra care, or as I’ve heard one person say something in the lines of “Mom, you of all people should understand that I don’t have time – my kids keep me so busy”.

Screw that!  Your parents made time for you and were there for you whenever you needed them.  They deserve, at the very least, a visit if you’re passing through their town or a phone call on a day that is not their birthday or Christmas and not for you to hit them up for money, nor to tell them about all the luxuries you’ve purchased, when you know they’re struggling to keep their heads above water.

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Remember that you can get a new car, a new house, a new job, even a new spouse, have more kids, and possibly inherit some if you remarry, but you can never, ever, replace your parents when they are no longer here.