A-Maze-Ing Adventure

I’m still reeling from Frances’s expected-yet-still-unexpected departure to the Other Side.  And tomorrow, Malcolm will also be gone for three years.  It feels like just yesterday that he too was sick one day and then gone the next.  It’s comforting to know though that they’re both in a Better Place, free from pain and the oddities of the world.

My last conversation with Frances was a long one, where we spoke about many things.  She said she had a few regrets but was grateful for the opportunity to be able to make amends and ask for forgiveness.  I asked her if she could give any person in the world one piece of advice, what it would be; her reply take the risk if it means you’ll be happy – as long as it isn’t at the cost of someone else.  I know exactly where this pearl of wisdom stems from, and why she gave it to me.  I’m going to miss her a great deal – after such a long time without any communication to the last nine months of intense kinship, it feels like I’ve lost a sibling.  I felt the same when Malcolm died.  He was my best friend for a long, long time.  I know that time heals all wounds, but it will never erase the memories, thankfully.

As an empathetic person, I don’t do well with negative emotions – be they hurt, grief, anger, sadness, anguish, guilt or (insert your own here) – so in an attempt not to wallow in the sorrow of losing my friend, I stayed busy.  Frances would have understood; in fact, she would have expected me to.

Work kept my mind occupied during the day, and most evenings I had something to do – getting my bi-weekly manicure, dinner with friends, that kind of thing, but Friday…that was an a-maze-ing experience.  Exhausting, but fun.

Every year, one of the main tourist attractions in our area, the Redberry Farm, where co-incidentally, Malcolm worked for a while, has an event called the Moonlight Maze.  Their hedge maze is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere! Charlie and I did it during the day last year, in August and honestly, had it not been for him, I probably would not have found my way out.  So, bravely (or stupidly, seeing as the line is very fine) Elizabeth, Chantel, Yasmin and I set off on our adventure, donning sneakers, glow-in-the-dark-glasses, and of course, mandatory flashlights in hand, which  Yours Truly didn’t remember.  Fortunately, I’m a creature of the night, so just used my night-vision.

 

 

Now, the object of the maze isn’t to go in at one end and out another – it is to find seven different stations within the maze and obtain a stamp at each one.  Sounds easy enough, right? Uh, no!  We found the first three stations with relative ease.  Being in the maze even during the day is understandably disorientating.  Add to that the black of night and crowds of people – amongst them excited kids of all ages and well, you might as well have put me on another planet.  We spent almost the first hour of our time in the maze walking around in a circle around the very stations we already had the stamps from.  We knew we had to get to the other side of the large structure resembling a giant strawberry, but we kept taking a left, or it could have been a right and ending up right where we had been before.  All in all, we walked over 5 Km (a little over 3 miles) within the maze and with the help of one of the staff we crossed over to the side we needed to be to get the remaining stamps we needed.  As a token of our completion of the task, we were awarded these badges as a souvenir to take home.

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I had another souvenir when I woke up on Saturday morning – seriously stiff legs.  I think that next year we should do it again – in memory of Frances whose star I know will light the way for us.

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Friends: They Leave Imprints on your Heart

I rant when I’m particularly irritated or feel that there is injustice happening to those I care about – many of you who have been following my blog for a long time will know this. I feel the urge to rant, because I am tired of the same shit repeatedly, but realize that it isn’t going to solve anything; it is only going to steal my joy.

On the subject of joy, I’m going to share its opposite with you for a paragraph or two and then end off on a happy note, because while it’s normal to experience negative emotions, it’s not okay to allow them to take root in our minds – after all, our thoughts become our actions, not so?

Yesterday was an extremely busy day at the office, so when I got the news that a good friend of mine, Frances, had left this world for the next, I felt a pang of shock (although she’d been ill for a long while), but I couldn’t really think about it.  We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, but for the last nine months or so, we’d reconnected online.  I often chatted to her about alternative things, and she always gave me her honest take –  No holds barred.  Even when she was at her worst, she always gave her best.  She listened without judgement and never hesitated to tell me the truth, even when it was hard to hear.  Now she’s gone, and part of me feels lost.  It’s odd really, because we were close for a short time, then so far removed from one another for over two decades and then close again.  A kind of ‘concertina friendship’ if you will.  She leaves behind an ex-husband, who despite the divorce, I know she loved ‘til her dying breath, and two children, who I’ve not met.  I’m devastatingly sad at her departure.  I’ve lost close people – even family – before, but with her it’s different.  I can’t articulate it, because I don’t know what it is.  The world is emptier without her.  One thing that is a relief, despite the heartache, is that she is finally pain free.

I said to Charlie yesterday that I think I have only a single photo of Frances and I together, and that if I do, it is in a dusty album in storage somewhere. I hope one day I’ll find it and be able to have a proper reminisce over it. Until then though, I’ll remember her for the amazing person she was: mother, fighter, friend.

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Onto a less sad subject, Saskia, who “adopted” me as her big, but thin sister (we met in the gym…) is tying the knot in November and asked Yours Truly a while ago if I would be a bridesmaid. I was like, “is a duck’s arse damp?” followed by unexpected tears, of both joy, and surprise – because she has so many friends, and well, in comparison to them, I’m old.  She and her beau too live far away, but they are here for a few days, and she, her best friend of the past eighteen years (and Maid of Honour), another bridesmaid and I are getting together for dinner this evening to talk about the shindig.  I’m counting the hours because I just know we’re going to have a great time.

As I type this post, thinking about these two incredibly special ladies, I am reminded that making memories is important.  The digital era in which we live affords us the ability to capture those memories at the click of a smartphone button.  Sure, it’s amazing, but we need to caution against being lost in that action, as opposed to being lost in the people we’re with – so tonight, while I know the young ‘uns will be doing their millennial selfie thing, I’m not going to even take my phone with me. This evening, I’m going to imprint memories of this jubilant occasion in my mind’s eye.

Here’s to a night of uproarious fun, hysterical laughter, and most of all, the love of friends!

 

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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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Candles in the Wind…

This past fortnight has been quite emotional for me.  It can be written off to the Mirena I had put in when the doctor did the other two procedures in November last year.  It’s normal.  Apparently.  I must just ride the wave.  Does that mean surf’s up?

Last week was a particularly bad week for me.  I would go from zero to bitch to activist to snivelling heap, to centre of attention to strong silent type in a matter of minutes.  Add to that I sometimes have foreboding premonitions and well, you pretty much have a category five hurricane on your hands.

I don’t often have these gut feelings, but when I do, they’re generally not wrong.  My friend Cassey was on my mind a great deal last week, and instead of just touching base, I kept putting it off.  Turned out she, along with another friend of mine, both lost parents last week, and one of my FB friends lost her brother, but the heartbreak doesn’t stop there 😦  On Saturday Shayla-Rae let me know that a couple of our former teachers lost their eldest son in a tragic drowning accident.  He was only seventeen.  A young man, with his entire future ahead of him.  It puts things in perspective for me once again.  Life is precious and in the blink of an eye, it can be ended, whether after a long illness, or in a heart-rending accident.  It also leaves one asking Why? Why did God decide to snuff their candles out?  Only He knows…

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In the bigger scheme of things – you all know how scared I am to lose my parents, but having heard of all this loss this past week, I’m grateful The Toppie only broke his arm.  It could have been a lot worse.  A few people have sent well-wishes after my post about The Toppie.  As I said, going back to work did him the world of good.  I also think it saved The Bean from committing murder 😀  The next bridge to cross is when the plaster comes off.  I’ll give y’all another update shortly after.

On a happier note, I’m having a catch-up with Carmen after work tonight.  She’s visiting her parents for a few days.  Can’t wait to have a decent chinwag with her.  Even though I saw her three weeks ago, it feels like years has passed.

Have a great week everyone, and remember – tell the important people in your life that they mean something to you.  You never know when they won’t be around anymore!