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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
I’ve tried my hand at many creative things. Fabric painting, cross-stitch embroidery, colouring-in, and quite recently mosaic. I didn’t attend a class, or anything like that; I just winged it. The store that sells kits close to where I stay has a limited selection, so I opted for a butterfly, not sure what I was going to do with the end-product. I found out from my friend, Alice, earlier this week that a butterfly signifies metamorphosis in some circles.
Intent on starting the project to keep myself busy while cat-sitting for my colleague, Nicola, I ended up binge watching Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, with the cats chilling on the couch next to me instead. Then a little disaster struck (well, if I’m honest, it’s been a long-time coming) and I had to flit off to hospital for two small (although very invasive) procedures, which left me with a week at home to recover. I’d started the butterfly somewhere before that, but it lay gathering dust on the shelf because I didn’t really have an offset point for it. I happened to mention it to another colleague, Carrey, (who was kind enough to take me to the hospital the morning of the procedures) and she asked to see the progress as I worked, because she loves handmade things, but is not arty. At all!
I finished it earlier this week and while I was admiring it, I received a message from her and thought I’m going to give this butterfly to her for her birthday, because every year, she transforms into a more beautiful soul. The last photo I’d sent her was of it covered in grout, so she didn’t know that I’d indeed finished it.
She almost dropped it when she opened the box this morning, tears of overwhelming gratitude and excitement running down her cheeks. I felt a bit of a tug at my heartstrings, because I felt like I’d accomplished more than just completing a project; I’d touched her heart in a special way. She is filled with ideas of where to hang it, and when it’s up, I will go for coffee and see it in all its glory.
Just goes to show – everything does happen for a reason. On some level I must have known why I’d bought this butterfly kit, in these specific colours…
The bug’s bitten me though. I ordered three more kits from a Facebook friend who has a mosaic-kit business. The will be here later today! They’re also going to be gifts. One, a pink and white cross, for my beautiful goddaughter on her Christening which is taking place on December 8th, and the others (I’m not going to say what they are, because the friends for whom I’ve earmarked them, will immediately know what they’re getting as gifts).
Last week I headed off to the The Mother City to write exams. My Herbalife-friend, Tina tagged along for the ride. I was so grateful because she drove most of the way and as a result I had a few extra hours to study.
We stayed in a delightful flat in Mowbray that I found on Airbnb. Our host, Noel, was absolutely amazing, adding a personal touch by including a small bottle of sparkling wine to the welcome basket in the flat, which we drank on Thursday afternoon after we’d spent the rest of the day at Signal Hill, playing silly buggers and The Company Gardens feeding the pigeons and the squirrels. A highlight was “The Perfect Cup” which was served at the coffee shop at the latter.
Other highlights included catching up with my friends, Jakes, and Alijay for quick coffees. Oh, and I had the best curry of my life the Wednesday night (yes, in Cape Town, not Durban!)
and a smashing Lemon Meringue with “The Perfect Cup”.
All in all, looking back, I am glad that I didn’t once, set foot in a mall and spend money on stuff that I not only don’t need, but can’t afford – and that will be fleeting pleasures. These #memories are forever!