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.

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Virtues: Honesty

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what my writing approach to the virtue of honesty, which will be followed by its significant other, integrity, would be. It’s been tough, because it isn’t as cut and dry as other virtues like kindness – you’re either kind or you’re not; patience – you’re either have buckets full of it, or the little you do have wears thin very quickly; creativity – you either have some kind of arty-farty side, or you don’t.  Honesty though, is quite a grey area I’ve come to find as I’ve been chatting to various people in preparation for this piece.

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Honesty implies being truthful with your spoken communication, but in the words of one of my favourite musicians, Billy Joel, Honesty is such a lonely word // Everyone is so untrue which is a fair generalization.

Face it – we all lie at some stage of our lives, whether it is telling the- proverbial little white lie*, an outright blatant one#, or omitting the truth+. Most times these dishonesties are justified by good intentions – the examples below are ones I’ve personally heard.

*My ex-wife wanted me to tell our four-year old daughter we were going to the park, because she didn’t want to get into the car to go to church.

#Of course those pants don’t make your arse look fat!

+I spent the day baking (the bit that was omitted was space cakes)

Nikita, the colleague I travel to work with, gave me an entirely different angle as to why people aren’t entirely honest – fear.  She used a simple illustration of having spinach stuck in her teeth and me not telling her, for fear that she would be upset with me for the potential embarrassment she’d initially have, but that she’d rather I told her, than have her walk around the office for hours without knowing and everyone having a right old snigger behind her back.

The thing with any forms of untruths is that they may open the door to the creation of trust issues and let’s not try and baffle each other with bullshit here – if trust is broken, it is seldom ever one hundred percent restored.

This is the reason many relationships fail, because the words are empty. Neil Diamond summed it up well when he recorded Love on the Rocks in 1980. Love on the Rocks // ain’t no big surprise // pour me a drink // and I’ll tell you some lies…

The question though is if you really know the person you’re communicating with, and they’re not being entirely honest with you – is it not because they’re trying to protect you? Or because they know you well enough to know that you can’t handle the whole truth (at least not at that moment in time)? Simply answered (and this is hard for me to admit) – yes. However, with that said, there are only a handful of people I know would opt to go this route because they’re thinking more of me, than they are of themselves – and they are the people that are not only honest in my book, but the ones that have integrity too, because they will back up their words with their actions.

I’ll be brutally candid here – I’ve failed at being honest in the past, but with age has come wisdom and I know that my words have power, so I try to be as truthful as I can, with whomever I come into contact, and I will by that same yardstick, maintain my integrity back backing up my words with actions.

I love this definition of honesty – because it is not as black & white as many of the others I’ve found during my research and it is fundamentally true.

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Virtues: Chivalry

Continuing with virtues – today’s topic: Chivalry.

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Could it be that we, as modern-day women believe that chivalry is indeed dead? Or is it that we’ve become so jaded (or as we often prefer to label it ‘independent’), that we don’t notice that some gentlemen still exist? Or do you not associate the adage of Manners maketh the man to be chivalry? I’m going to use practical examples from my life, but I’m curious to hear your views, so please leave a comment, if you’d like.

Me? I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, and a giver. A believer of idealistic fairy tales, with their proverbial knights in shining armour.

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As a result, I’ve been burned, more times than I care to admit and honestly, cynicism and bitterness had crept into my heart, but I had two choices – allow it to poison me and become hateful or continue to hope and believe that not every man is a bad egg. So, when my friend, Frank replied to my Facebook poll that chivalry is an underrated virtue, it struck a chord the starry-eyed dreamer within me, because I actively started looking for chivalry in my day-to-day dealings with the men in my life – whether family members, colleagues or friends.

I’m ashamed to admit, that I experience chivalry every day but that I hadn’t noticed it because of my own unrealistic idea of what it should be. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a hearts and flowers girl, because I am. I want those tokens of romance, but I’d much rather have a man walk on the outside of the sidewalk when I’m with him to ensure my safety (because if you know me, you’ll know that I trip over thin air and am likely to get hit by a real car!), or help me carry my parcels when I’ve been grocery shopping.

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Most of the senior management at the company I work for, is well, senior, and male. Whenever any of the female staff walk out of a room, one of the men will open the door and they will all wait until the ladies have exited the room, or if one of the ladies has been asked to make coffee for guests, and is carrying the tray, our management will stand up and one will take the tray from us. That’s a chivalrous gesture, not so? Also, in the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve not heard any of the men talk to the women in a disrespecting tone of voice.

For a short season in my life I had a friend, William – eleven years my junior, the eldest of three brothers, from good stock. Whenever he would come to visit, or we’d go out, he would make a point of pouring my alcoholic beverages for me, because, as he’s been raised, a woman doesn’t pour her own booze, and she doesn’t ever pour booze for a man – her husband or not.  Even his youngest brother, a high school junior abides by this rule. It was something tough for me to deal with, because I am after all, capable of unscrewing a bottle cap, finding ice in the fridge and pouring my own drink, but in their book of chivalry, that’s not the way it is supposed to be. One thing that he never fails to do (which some of my guy friends also do) is open the car door for a woman.  Even when I’d visit at his parents and everyone would walk out to the car to bid me goodnight, he would take my car key, unlock the driver’s door, and open the door for me. Again, a small gesture, but chivalrous nonetheless, and one that gets noticed when it no longer is done, as if often the case when the guy has got the girl, and feels there is no longer a need to impress her.

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One of the sweetest, most chivalrous gestures in my book is a man helping a lady into her jacket, or if she doesn’t have one at hand, offering her his when she is cold. I personally almost never have anything warm with me, because I don’t get cold, but when offered a jacket, I will graciously accept, because it shows that the man I’m out with is more than just well-mannered; it shows that he is willing to sacrifice his own comfort for mine.

Almost every year, a friend of mine from Cape Town, Jack, comes to visit for my birthday if he’s in the country.  He’ll pick me up, open the car door for me, take me out for a meal at a restaurant of my choice, where he’ll pull my chair out, and we’ll have a good catch-up.  At the end of the evening, he will walk me to my door and see to it that I’m safely inside. Again, no ostentatious gestures, but small things that are kind and gentlemanly.

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I will also concede to the gallant gents out there, that women (and I know I’m generalizing here, ladies – don’t get your panties in a twist) don’t always make it easy for you either. To give a practical example: Who pays the dinner bill when you’re out, whether as friends, or more? The reason I pose this question is because I have been in relationships where I’ve pretty much fit the bill every time, and as a result, I’m super-mindful of not wanting to be that kind of person. I’m also aware that some of the guy-friends I go out with, earn more than I do, and are happy to pay for a meal, or drinks, but on some level I want to reciprocate. Maybe it’s misguided pride from my side, I don’t know, but it is who I am.  I’ve had this discussion with my mate, Charlie and he gets it; he appreciates that I’m willing to put my hand in my pocket, but to some men, it may be perceived as an insult.

In closing, I think a great deal of the ‘problem’ with us as women, is that we often expect huge, grand gestures, instead of seeing the little things, which are the ones that in fact matter the most.

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A man offering you his jacket every time you’re out, and it’s cold, is worth way more than a bunch of flowers once in a blue moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.