Tales from the Township – The Most Touching Moments of My Life

Sometimes something happens that touches you to the core – something so undeniably beautiful and maybe also painful that you can’t help but stop short in your tracks. It’s like a knife cutting through whatever layers of defense, numbness and protection you have put up. It cuts right through and pierces your heart so that you feel, truly feel the moment. And suddenly you see all the beauty, feel all the pain and love…the power of life is flowing through you and rushing to your head like a high, only it isn’t a high. It’s just life. It’s life when you are finally living.

It’s moments like these that make us feel more alive than we thought possible. Steinbeck spoke of them in East of Eden:

“Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite…. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then—the glory—so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories.”

Often these moments happen when we are in love, or we had that first cup of coffee of the day – it’s when hormones rush round our body shouting “See, see the beauty of this moment? Really feel it. Taste it. Make love to it. And realize you are alive for moments like these. Moments when you see life through the eyes of a lover; one in love with life.” Although I’m a strong proponent of coffee and falling in love (when I’m not heartbroken), I believe there are many other things you need to fall in love with in life to really, fully, live.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I have been mentoring/semi-fostering a few kids since moving to Cape Town two years ago and yesterday it was agreed that the twins, whom I’ve spent the most time with, will be living with me whilst I am here and with their family in the township when I travel. Yesterday I became a single mom of sorts. My almost life long dream of raising kids that need a family beside their own became a reality.

During the talk to the twins’ family Liezl, the owner of Little Angels (the community center for children and youth where I have become a board member, spokesperson and youth leader), mentioned that other families have asked her if I can raise their children. It warmed my heart as much as it pained me – I wish I was richer, I wish I could do more, I wish Little Angels had more resources and a safe house, I wish… I am also deeply touched people feel that way about me. I know that kids at crèche sometimes want to pretend I am their mother, kids who come from broken homes filled with abuse and substance misuse, but I didn’t know these two sets of grandparents had asked Liezl if I could raise their grandchildren.

When we asked the twins to come inside after the meeting (we were at Little Angels having the meeting – i.e. we were inside one of the sheds that make up our make-do facilities) and asked them if they wanted to live with me the looks on their faces were indescribable – rarely have I seen such radiant joy.

Afterwards Little Miss T was showing her happiness by hugging me, holding onto me and generally wanting to climb all over me. She came with me to my car as I was getting some first aid tools to deal with a wound on Little Mr T’s foot. As we crossed the street a teenage girl started waving at us and then ran across to talk to us. She’s one of the youth in the Youth Program I lead at Little Angels. She was so excited – the day before we had done Poetry & Storytelling Class and it was her first class of the kind. We talked about Maya Angelou’s life – about her being raped and going mute, only to emerge as one of the world’s most famous poets. We discussed why stories are important – how they can help us see beyond out own life, connect us with others, inspire us and learn new paths to follow. We also read Still I Rise, Phenomenal Woman, Invictus and a speech by Marianne Williamson. We learnt to be ridiculous. To have fun. To laugh at ourselves. To make a fool out of ourselves. To go beyond our own fears. So the girl ran up to tell me she had written a poem about a video she had seen where Rihanna had written a poem.

To see kids, whose childhoods are filled with tales you wouldn’t believe if I told them to you, light up like that…to see them shine. To see them learn that’s it’s OK to be themselves. To express themselves. To be their own judge of what they think of themselves..it fills me with so much joy. I’m living my dream teaching youth and every smile they give me, every lesson they tell me they have learned about acting, poetry or life (we do many different classes, but we only kicked off recently) is the most beautiful thing. It makes my heart sing and it makes me stop and see life like an explosion of colors, feelings, emotions… It takes my breath away.

Myself and Little Miss T then reached the car, only to hear someone call us. A woman was coming down some steps, a woman Little Miss T knew. She said something along the lines of: “You are Maria, are you not? THE Maria? And I know you love the kids here. You are so good with them. And I want to ask your help. Please help me. My husband was supposed to hand back my kids on Sunday, but he didn’t. He’s stolen my kids. I’m seeing the clerk tomorrow. What shall I do? Can you tell me what to do?”

It’s happened many times kids and youth I don’t know come up to me to say hello, or hug me – they know me by way of reputation. This was different though. This was desperation, plain and simple. This woman looked nice. She was not one who was worn down by drugs and alcohol. She seemed kind. She was sincere. And my heart broke in that moment and filled with humility and pride all at the same time. People here believe in me. They think I’m someone God sent to help them. I can’t always do anything to help though. I told her I don’t know laws here. I don’t know what to do, apart from go to the police. Then, of course, I did what any sane woman would do – I marched back to Little Angels, asked Liezl if the woman was a good mom and set her and her husband, Jacobus, on the case to help her.

The events yesterday reminded me of an evening in early fall here this year (that’s like March, which I still don’t understand because I’m an LA kind of girl as far as weather and seasons are concerned) when I drove down to pick up Liezl to have a meeting about the Youth Program. As I pulled up where she lived in the township this little five year old girl, one of the ones I kinda mentor/buy food for/take to the doctors from time to time, was dancing in the street. Queen Muzzaine as I call her, because she has the most demanding, yet hilarious, and sweet personality. She didn’t see me at first, just kept dancing in the headlights of my car. It’s one of the most beautiful moments of my life. This little girl in a township dancing wildly in the headlights of my car. At that moment she represented my dream come to life; my work in the township with children; my joy of dancing; my dance film in the making. She was my life come to life; the moment being an expression of who I really am; what my heart is.

Yesterday was another such day. It was a day when I learnt I truly matter. I hope everyone will get to learn that and see life through the eyes of someone who feels they matter, who feels they live, with every heartbeat of their life.

By Maria Montgomery – Maria is a freelance writer, director and social entrepreneur. She’s also the spokesperson for The Little Angels Community Center. You can find her somewhere between Cape Town, London and L.A., where you will most likely find her in the hills, looking out over the city she loves. @OhMyMontgomery

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Love in a time of adversity…and striptease poker…

I’m blogging on a Friday night. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m too tired to continue sorting the flat I’m renting out after moving in and I feel like I need to use my voice again. I blog too little these days, but there seems to be no time for it. I prioritize other things in hope of one day it paying off so I can get to write whatever I want, whenever I want. That said, I don’t feel like myself if I don’t put my thoughts on paper. And I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the world.

Since I came back to South Africa I have finalized companies, visas, moved into a new place (conveniently owned by a traveler who is away when I’m here and vice versa), led the youth program at Little Angels, teaching pretty much every night, been to meetings with businesses and organizations for Little Angels, spent time with the twins and in general tried to get my head around the fact that in a few days time I will be the one looking after them full-time.

You know I always dreamed of an adventurous life and if I look at my life now I can positively say I’m living that kind of life in many ways. I chose the path less traveled. I also got into a hell of a lot of trouble because of it. It’s like they say: the life you aren’t living is the one you romanticize. I couldn’t live another life though. I could do with the investment I need for my businesses and getting married if I ever meet a man who I feel so inclined to marry (I have certain problems with that, or so it seems) and who doesn’t mind a jet setting workaholic with god only knows how many kids attached. I never thought it would take so long for me to find my real path: to actually live my dreams not just be on the search for them. Never thought it would take the time it did to get my companies straightened out to exactly how I visualize them and make decent money. I’m getting there, but I’m not exactly living the high life. To pay for my travels other things are sacrificed – I just rented a one bedroom flat. The kids get the bedroom; I get the sofa bed.

There are many things in my life I thought would never be the way they are. I never thought I’d raise kids on my own, although I never kind of thought it very strange either. My role model number one as a kid was Dr Quinn and she started with the kids. And the woman I always liked because she lived the lifestyle I was striving for was Jolie and she started with the kids too. But I sort of still always saw a family in my head. I also never realized what South Africa is like in some ways before I came here. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the fact that you have to live behind bars. That you buy pepper spray in the local hardware store. That my very poor martial arts skill feel like they should be topped up (hey I was doing that in LA only a few months ago!). I never thought I’d come here as a volunteer – I thought my company would bring me here. As it is, being here brought me my companies. I also thought I’d have three homes: US, Africa and France. I never thought I’d decide to travel between the three before I had those homes. And I definitively never thought I’d be living in the living room when I had kids, but somehow I think it’s the love that matters and some of my happiest days were spent in a sofa bed in LA, looking out over the city below. The city I still call home. The hills I still love more than any other hills. Two cities make me look like a mad woman in love, tears in my eyes or a silly grin covering my face: LA and Paris. I never knew you could fall in love with cities either. Not until I did, age nineteen, when I moved to Paris.

I was at Little Angels today. Well, I’m there most every day with the youth, but today I was there earlier during the day when the little ones are there. Actually, so I was the day before yesterday and ended up spending hours sitting at the doctors with Miss Queen of the World – my extra daughter as Liezl calls her – she had a tooth infection so bad half her face was like a football. She wasn’t at crèche, but when I found out I went and picked her up and took her to the doctors. I’ve done that with other kids in the past as well. See, another thing I thought would be different as a kid: I thought I’d be the doctor.

Anyway, I was at Little Angels today and I so happened to walk in just as they were talking about a kid who had lost her temper twice today and hit other kids badly. A four-year old. So they were having a meeting with the mom. The kid recently lost a sibling She also witnessed her mom being beaten by her dad. Now that’s all over, but obviously, she’s still adjusting to an abuse free environment. So I went up and talked to her. Asked her name, told her mine, asked if she was gonna build sand castles, discussed the colors on our clothes, and so on. She wouldn’t speak. Nodded a few times. Her brother came up to “protect her.” I got him to speak. Tell me their names. Then I went back to the adults. Before I left I went back to the siblings to say goodbye. The girl now waved her goodbye enthusiastically. I went and got my car and as I was driving I saw these two run out from crèche to stand by the road waving at me in my car, saying goodbye. I think it’s moments like these I live for. Those precious, precious moments of seeing kids and youth opening up to me. Of knowing that what we all need is love and a bit of direction. To reach a kid you just have to be there with them. Know they are wonderful and gifted somewhere inside. Wait. Wait. Wait. Till they trust you and open up to you. Love them. Tell them what’s right and wrong and why. Love them some more. Make them believe in themselves. Wait for their gifts to unravel, because each kid is gifted. In their own way.

I find this easier with the young ones. With the older ones it’s the same process, but they are teenagers. It’s a different level. Yet, when they tell me their stories (often gruesome ones), or I get the shy and moody one to light up like the sun when seeing me, I know, even if it is small steps, that they have faith in me. And by believing in me I hope I can make them believe in themselves.

Africa has changed me in ways I never knew it would. The kids’ love have opened me up. I always felt lonely, ever since mom died when I was six. As a kid I was bullied (feeling lonely I withdrew and that was the result in school and at home my step-mom had a go at me), but as an adult I’ve made a lot of friends. I guess because I was determined to change my life around since my early teens. As a result I know people all over the world today. But I’m still learning not to feel lonely. To actually open my heart in a way where I’m vulnerable and accepting love and not just hiding behind looking after everyone else all the time. The kids made me see the beauty in me. Believe in me. Liezl helped with that as well. The woman thinks I’m a walking miracle. Don’t ask me why. Or well, I guess it’s because I love Little Angels so much. I’m not always here, I’m the traveler, always will be, but I always know what my purpose is. With my businesses and my travels I bring everything I can to Little Angels. Not always as fast as I can; not always in time to protect the kids I want to protect right now and sometimes that’s scarred me, but I do what I can. I think I went through post-traumatic stress or something in LA. What I had seen in Africa and the stories Liezl was still telling me on the phone somehow caught up with me. A long time ago I read Angelina Jolie had problems eating after seeing starvation. At the time I couldn’t understand it. Now I can. It takes a hell of a stamina to be happy in the face of adversity, but that’s our goal. I’m here, not to teach misery, but to teach happiness. I’m here to show how to live your dreams, not to deny myself mine.

When you are following your heart and living your dreams, the kind of dreams that come from your heart, not your ego, you are faced with a lot of obstacles and you see sides of yourself you’d rather not see. It’s what makes you grow; makes you a better person. That means overcoming the not so great sides of you. It means learning to love yourself. Stand up for yourself. Build your skills and your strengths. It means a lot of things. A lot more than most people first think when they set out to follow their heart. Life is not easy, but it is filled with a lot of marvelous things too and I think we must all learn to celebrate them, without for that matter avoiding what we are scared of. We have to face our demons, but live in the sun. As they say – you are dealt your cards, but it’s up to you how you play them. Striptease poker anyone? Time to up the odds? Live the adventure? After all, you gotta get naked with this thing called life and bare your heart and soul…naked indeed.

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Image source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/507780926709579399/

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A shagadelic Casanova…

Ever met one of ‘em Casanovas? The ones that are shag-a-delicious? Utterly irresistible? Yesterday myself and my best friend were talking about memories from our years of travels. Travels that sometimes involved men. And you know those stories you’ve had with people – people who tickled your heart’s fancy for a while? Sometimes they ended peacefully, sometimes they ended a bit awkwardly, sometimes they ended more than a little bit awkwardly. And when you walk away (or run away) from each other it’s weird. It’s weird because sometimes you’ve stopped talking to someone who was a huge part of your life, or a small but important part of your life – someone you somehow felt connected to. Of course, there are sometimes those that were just a bit of fun – you really did not feel any more connected to them than you would…someone you met on a playground and played with on the swings for a day.

Sometimes just after the story ended, if it was a tad more than a day at the playground, it was a bit painful – either because the plot did not turn out to be anything like you expected it to turn out (instead of marrying Prince Charming you ended up picking up dirty laundry or worse: dirty women) or because the hero turned out to be the villain (stealing hearts is, after all, a crime) – and then you don’t feel too great about it just after it happened. However, looking back it all becomes one wonderful comedy of errors, filled with extraordinary battles that the heroine of the story (you) had to endure. Time has also left you without emotional ties to the characters in the story, so even if at the time you didn’t feel all that great about something someone did, you can look back and understand why the person did it and therefore forgive them, without feeling let down, or sad. You don’t see it as personal anymore. You may still wish that each story had ended by you both showing how much you care for each other, even if you did not wish to be together, but in actual reality few people are able to act nobly where they have their hearts involved in a story that’s gone astray.

Yesterday when going through stories we were laughing till we cried and wondering if we could write a romantic comedy about our experiences without being sued for describing actual events, if we removed anything and everything that could tie a person to a story (after all I’m not sure I want to see a movie about the times I personally screwed up in the dating arena, or heaven help us all: in the bedroom…). In the midst of this we got talking about a guy who I dated briefly in LA – a guy who, when he stayed the night the first time ended up sick, as all of us got the stomach flu. It was really a first night gone astray. I don’t normally end up poisoning guys on the first night, but boy, oh boy. Myself and my best friend were in bed for a week, thinking we might die from nausea afterwards. UCLA bug going round. Anyway, I couldn’t remember the guy’s name. It had somehow slipped my mind.

Today, as I do freelance work for X online dating conglomerate, I was looking for something for their social  media feed when I came across this pick-up artist who was doing a live interview for some Australian news show, as he’s one of America’s top pick up artists/dating coaches. Now I just stared and stared at the screen and sure enough, the guy whose name I could not remember, was staring back at me. So I went to check out my Facebook, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, but no, it’s the same guy with a new haircut. So now he’s helping people pick up dates and I’m writing dating tips articles and doing social media for dating sites. Ain’t life wonderful?

You look back at stories and it’s weird the things you remember. I will always remember that guy because I’ve hardly ever felt so sick in my entire life as I did whilst we had that fucking flu. I also remember him because his career choices, even back then, were rather unique. He was interesting, but I wasn’t that into him, nor was he that into me…it was just no big deal. You know some people you like, but there’s just no fire. I’d hang out with him any day, I just didn’t see any pink clouds around him, nor red desire. My favorite memory of him is him calling me in between flights, when he had taken a sleeping pill to sleep on the plane so he was still all sleepy and just cute. I have a voice thing, I like voices, and he sounded drop dead gorgeous then.

Likewise, ages and ages ago, I dated this other guy. Well, dated is an exaggeration. We hung out a few times and made out a few times. But he sent me this message saying “Babe, it’s snowing.” And it’s like my favorite text message of all time. I don’t really know why. Maybe because I felt he wanted to show me something beautiful that was happening, or share a moment. Because when we see something we appreciate, or something special happens, we tend to tell the people we care about – we want to share our excitement. I really don’t know, I just loved that message.

Sometimes I really do think it’s a shame that you don’t honor the connection you have with people more – both by seeing the connection for what it is and not trying to turn it into something it isn’t and by exploring and honoring the actual connection. Looking back I can positively say I wasn’t a great fit for most of the men I shared stories with, because we didn’t connect all round, but I love the feeling that with each (well, almost each) guy there was something you connected with. Something that intrigued you. Something that mirrored or attracted a part, or several parts of you. Sometimes it wasn’t the prettiest parts of you, sometimes it was the worst. But all the same, those parts of you were understood. Somehow it felt like coming home, if to the wrong home, because only a certain part of you, or certain parts of you, belonged there.

I think genuine human connections, when we respect them, are some of the best life has to offer. Sometimes we experience them through someone’s art, sometimes through their words, or their presence. And I guess that’s what makes us care for each other, because in each other we find ourselves. Then again, another way of putting this (the less respectful way that I’m sure we’ve all gravitated toward at times) is: “Darling, our intellectual discussions were great, I could spend all day talking to you, but in bed? You were as stimulating as a vibrator that had run out of battery. Please recharge or consider using your device for someone who is a better match for low sex drive. Yours truly, Damsel in Need of Better Sex” or “Darling, you were amazing in bed. A shagadelic Casanova. But apart from that you were a fucking idiot. I’m glad we made a sexual connection and that afterwards you hitched a ride to Mars. With respect, Your Venus.” If we could only learn to respect and treat the people we end up in romantic confusion with better, knowing that some are shagadelic, some angelic, some both, maybe there would be less war? And more sex?

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The designer date…

Today I invented a new form of dating. Or I coined a term for it at least. It’s called couch potato dating (#CouchPotatoDating) and involves Netflix, a couch, sweats (cozy, very cozy hoodies that match the sweats are also extremely necessary. I’m wearing one right now. It’s not matching my mini-skirt, but that’s beside the point.) and pizza or a pint of ice cream (potatoes are not necessary, but you could have baked potato skins with cheese if you really felt like it). I invented it after reading a post on Pinterest whilst doing the social media for X online dating conglomerate. I’m not sure said dating conglomerate will like my sense of humor, but we shall see. If #CouchPotatoDating starts trending, you know where it came from.

I also think there’s another form of Couch Potato Dating and that’s online dating. You only have to exchange Netflix to an online dating site or app, such as Cupid.com, Match.com, Tinder, etc. You can sit on the couch whilst eating a pint of your favorite ice cream and browsing singles, living your own rom com instead of watching it. As I don’t want to be perceived as a coach potato I have, on the other hand, plans on meeting potential dates at the gym or on the beach instead.

In the process of creating social media posts about love and dating (something I do weekly and therefore know all dating tips you could possibly imagine, plus all random facts there are about love, plus the latest about dating on Buzzfeed) I also found this article “Ten Things You Need to Know When Dating a Designer.” Now we are talking. This is serious. You have to understand this if dating anyone who is creatively inclined. Especially the bit about not mixing the furniture. You have to keep it consistent to create the right mood. Of course, sometimes that does mean mixing furniture, but you know what I mean. As a #CreativeNutcase (I suffer Keynote Obsessive Disorder – if I open that program I will spend hours obsessing about my latest logo or presentation before I manage to shut it down – usually because I’m about to faint from hunger or similar emergency) I can attest to the fact that this article hit home on a few point. Then again you shouldn’t listen to me – I also find it sexy when guys buy raw foods at Whole Foods. I’m like “OMG, he’s a total match.” Yeah.

The sad bit in my life right now? I don’t speak Adobe. Can you feel the pain? It was one of the points in that article: all designers speak Adobe. I swear in Adobe. I speak Keynote. I speak Snapseed. I speak iPhoto. And I could be fluent in Pages as well. But Adobe? Merde! (Read: Looking for drop dead gorgeous Adobe teacher for crash course in Illustrator and Photoshop. I will look upon you with adoration and fluttering eyelashes when you show off your irresistible designer style. Really. I will. That’s what creatives do: they fall in love with creative geniuses, for better or worse. After all, it doesn’t mean that they are geniuses in any other areas of their lives.)

I think I have to take a crash course in Adobe. My life feels incomplete.

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What’s going on in that beautiful mind…

Did you ever wake up with a smile on your lips, greeting the new day with a longing to explore it? Did you also once or twice wake up with dread, feeling fear of what the day ahead holds? Or feeling like you have nothing left to live for?

This morning I woke up to the news that Robin Williams has died – committed suicide after bouts of depression and addiction. I wasn’t surprised, but I was shocked. I had heard of his problems, so it didn’t surprise me. It still shocked me. He made so many people laugh. I was laughing at his latest series just the other day. I grew up holding onto Dead Poets Society with an iron fist. I wanted to become a director you see. A film director. And it wasn’t a popular career choice amongst family and relatives. The movie gave me hope. Allowed me to allow myself to live for my passion.

I didn’t have an easy childhood though and that’s why stories – books and films – meant so much to me. Often I still face ghosts when going home to Sweden. Not usually the literal kind of ghosts, although I believe this house hosts them too. TVs are known to turn themselves on and off here, amongst other peculiar occurrences, and it took me some time to make peace with those ghosts too (read: not freak out). Coming back this year was no different. Or maybe it was – I was more determined than ever to face my ghosts, both the real and the imaginary.

You see, life is what we make up about it. There are as many theories about life and what you should be doing with yours as there are people walking this planet. Yet, we are brought up with ideas about the goals we should achieve, what is deemed as success and what isn’t. Hollywood, more so than any other place I’ve ever been, is filled with people trying to be “successful.” And on top of that: trying to be more successful than most. It isn’t about finding a good job, it’s about finding one of about 3,000 jobs that lead to worldwide fame. It’s not an easy thing to try to live up to. To topple it off it’s all about self-promotion and presenting the perfect face to casting directors and the world. Me, me, me. Perfect me. As if that wasn’t enough, many actors fancy themselves method actors and choose to time and time again relive the difficulties in their own lives when acting a character. I find it insanity, acting is acting – thinking the thoughts of another character and thereby feeling their feelings – not reliving your own worst and best memories. Those have nothing to do with the character. Also, acting is acting for another reason – you are, as mentioned, thinking the thoughts of the character and thereby feeling their feelings, you aren’t the character. You have to understand the thoughts that make up the character. You don’t, on the other hand, need to take crystal meth to act someone who did (each person who does have an individual experience anyway). You don’t have to become gay, bi or straight to act either one of those. Then it’s not acting. Then it’s becoming. (I remember reading a book by Strasberg, or about Strasberg, where he says that the audience won’t know if you are crying because of a memory, or because the character’s dog just died, but I believe they do. Weirdly enough, as it’s contradictory, the very same guy advocated “living in the shoes of the character” which is why method actors go off and live as homeless when acting someone homeless.)

Funnily and tragically enough actors are often those who, whilst they can act someone else on the silver screen, can’t step into seeing the world from a different perspective when at home. They are trapped in their own emotions. They feel the acting is a veneer and their true selves are a flop. Many artists have these thoughts. As do many successful people, because so-called success and praise for your talents has nothing to do with your insides in many cases. What’s more, many get caught in the “wanting to be better, having to reach perfectionism” state of being. They can never just be happy with what they have accomplished – they are obsessed with achieving even more success or paranoid they will lose the success they have. Especially in Hollywood where you are only as good as your latest film and where good looks and popularity account for many a paycheck. People forget that they are something beyond talents and work. That their looks, paycheck, age, popularity and talents are just that – beyond that they have a heart and soul. A heart and soul that are happy to just be and experience life, learning from it, rather than having to achieve something. They may want to express themselves artistically, as well as meet kindred people who appreciate them for who they are, but that’s different from wanting others to love their art and being popular. Very different.

I did not understand this growing up. My mom’s death and my perception she rejected me on her deathbed, my step-mom’s rejection, the kids’ rejection in school and my grandparents comments that it was difficult to look after us because they were so old, combined with my dad’s obsession that I do well and hone my skills, led to me believing love was a measurement for success. That you had to be perfect to be loved and that there was some fault with me as the bullies and my step-mom did not seem to like me. I was obsessed with finding the fault and curing it. Not surprisingly I suffered from both ambition and self-hatred.

I also suffered from depression – first when I was seventeen, which I came out of within less than a year thanks to therapy, and later when I was twenty-seven. Again, I cured myself within less than a year, but I felt really frail. And the gray days were there from when I was seventeen till I was thirty. Even if I was only really depressed twice (and those that have been depressed know the difference between feeling down for a while and being clinically depressed) there were many gray days in between and a wavering sense of self-confidence that often made me think I was mad because I was obsessed with, or petrified of, what others thought of me. I would walk into places thinking I didn’t know how to communicate with people, didn’t know how to socialize, didn’t know if people would really like me. I thought any time spent alone in a group was a failure; a sign I was unlikable. Likewise, there was nothing worse than being alone on a Friday night, reliving the feeling of being thirteen and not having many friends. Yet, I always made great friends as soon as I got out of the village I was raised in (i.e. away from my own reputation as a geek). I was always loved. But I didn’t feel it. I remember thinking I had a gazillion friends and still I couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t feel I was loved, or good enough to be so. It scared me.

I know what it is like to wake up and see no meaning to life. I don’t know what it’s like to want to die, but I know what it’s like to feel nothing for life. I was clear-headed enough to know my feelings where chemical reactions and that they would pass – at least the second time round. The first time round I had no clue what was happening to me. I soon learnt thoughts can lie; perceptions can lie. I knew I had big scars from my childhood. I knew I just had to find out whatever thoughts were out of whack and turn them right; whatever unconscious and conscious patterns that were wracking havoc (but that can feel rather petrifying as it’s like swimming in an ocean looking for that one wave that carries the truth, having no roadmap to find it). I knew all of that, but still…depression is terrible. So if you only feel that dreadful feeling that there is no meaning to life for ten minutes, go numb for only ten minutes, it’s the worst ten minutes. I lived in fear of myself. Fear the depression would come back. Fear I would never truly conquer it.

I finally did conquer it. In South Africa. I am a determined person. A childhood where you are taught to fight to do well may scar you, but it also gave me one hell of a determined mind. I was taught to fight. So I read personal development books. I took courses. I never touched drugs for depression, nor drugs in general. I never stopped searching for an understanding of love. I never let my mind fool me to think that some of its thoughts were real. I could see the misunderstandings in my childhood – see how I went from happy and popular to an outcast and why it happened. I could see the thoughts I created then were simple misunderstandings – how I came to believe I was unlovable and started hiding, shying away from people and thereby becoming disliked and filled with fearful thoughts about others. But by Jove it took time to conquer it all – when I was fourteen I said I was going to cure my shyness (i.e. lack of confidence), today, at thirty-two, I feel like I probably did. And still, only the other week confronting someone who owed me money, and still does, frightened me. I was scared a person I have known for so long, cares so little for me that they don’t pay what they agreed to pay for my work. They didn’t pay, but I finally realized it was them that had a problem, not I.

I don’t have gray days anymore. I still have scars and days that are difficult though, everyone does and that’s different from what I call a gray day. Since I came back to Sweden I’ve had a few weird days as I was facing my ghosts; my fears. My fear of settling down as I fear I won’t be welcome in a place, which I, in turn, fear will break my confidence. My fear of having a relationship with someone, as I fear they will break my confidence if they don’t love me enough to be happy with me. My fear of never amounting to something professionally, because I fear releasing my creativity to the world (and hence don’t). There’s two sides to this though – the yin and yang. On the one hand I fear failure as it would upset my ego, so I keep avoiding doing certain things. On the other I fear success as I don’t consider myself good enough to receive it, which is also why I avoid doing the very same things. I’m always obsessing with fixing myself, of being better and doing better and I always leave a little room for failure so I can think I didn’t do enough. That I’m not worthy something and if shit comes I deserve it.

I need to learn to stand up for myself and demand of people to treat me as they should. Stop being afraid of what they will think of me if I do. I also have to put my own work out there and stand up for that. I have to stop hiding away from both conflict and love. It’s my life. I have the right to live it as I choose so long as I’m not harming others.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is what I’ve been battling and embracing since being home in Sweden, whilst soaking up the gorgeous countryside landscape, working hard and seeing friends and family. For the first time in my life I’m starting to get the feeling I own my own life. That it’s really my life and I don’t have to defend myself for the choices I make – they are mine to make. It feels precious. Very precious.

I hope that if someone else reads this they will be strong enough to fight their depression and know it’s nothing to be ashamed of – life happens to us and sometimes we misunderstand it and thereby create scars that affect us psychologically. Even if your thoughts are running amok it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to control them. Even if you hit someone yesterday, it doesn’t mean you will do it today. You can take control over your life with a bit of practice. You are a heart and soul, never forget that. The core of your being is great, no matter what your past. And that’s what I wish to tell the whole damn world.

You can read my tribute to Robin Williams and some of his best quotes, here: http://costory.com/story/wdrwx-robin-williams—quotes-we-remember-him-for

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Image source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/507780926709019206/

 

 

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Filed under Acting, Courage, Creating, Creation, depression, dreams, Freedom, Happiness, Healing, Heart, Inspiration, Joy, Life, Los Angeles, Motivation, People, Personal Development, Psychology, Self-confidence, Self-help, Thoughts

The midnight train to Paris…

The sound of waves gently caressing the hull was like a lullaby at night, whilst in the morning it would slowly awaken me, call me back to the world, together with the smell of coffee and sea salt. Living on a boat in the Swedish archipelago many summers as a child would bring me a sense of oneness with nature I would never forget – BBQs in natural harbors where the rock of the island was the actual harbor, fiery red sunsets at eleven o’clock at night as the sun dropped behind the horizon, experiencing a new island every day with the feeling of being an explorer, fishing for your own food and cooking in the outdoors, using the ocean as your bathtub and the sensation of living simply for the pleasure of another day was, as much as I’ trying to describe it, indescribable.

Those were my Swedish summers for you growing up. Of course, Swedish summers were a lot more than that though. Back then I was insecure and unhappy in myself. Today not so much. In fact, I’m pretty dang happy most of the time. Yet, sometimes I look back and think that from then till now I achieved nothing. It’s not true. I educated myself for seven years, I traveled the world, I started working as a writer, I started working with a charity and I got two foster kids. Not to mention I grew as a human. Exponentially. I became the adventurer I always dreamed of being, but I didn’t produce the art I thought I would, within the timeframe I thought, let’s just put it that way. And it made me sad – I want to be free to create what I want 24/7. Live my passion. Don’t we all?

Then I realized that time is now. This is my life. And pushing myself beyond the breaking point, or feeling stressed because I want to live the dream right now or I want to show something off to the world that I’ve accomplished – my movie, my novel, my photography exhibition, my company…just doesn’t serve me. Nor does looking back and thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have done. It’s not about failing or winning, it’s about enjoying this very moment. Because this very moment is my life.

As I said on Facebook:

Having celebrated my birthday this week I’ve reflected a lot over where that midnight train to Paris really took me when I left home thirteen years ago. Did I make the right decisions? Did I achieve what I wanted to achieve? No. I made some pretty crappy decisions. I didn’t achieve all I wanted. But I set sail towards my dreams full speed and God knows I did a lot of things, saw a lot of things, learnt a lot of things and traveled the world exploring life like I always dreamed of. It just wasn’t as easy as I always dreamed of – I didn’t have all the answers to the riddles along the way, at least not immediately. Looking at it this week, reflecting, I wondered if I was a success or a failure? Then I realized all I have is this moment. I hold life in my hands. It’s a precious gift. And it’s mine. There is no right or wrong so long as I don’t intentionally hurt people or the planet. There is really no greater achievement than just to live on your own terms, following your own heart. Measuring sticks belong to others. Your life belongs to you. Life’s an adventure, not an achievement – there will be obstacles and sometimes you will screw up royally, but you can still learn, explore and move forward filled with curiosity at the wonder and depth of this thing called life. And I highly recommend getting on the midnight train to wherever your heart wants to go…there’s just something about sleeping on a train and waking up where your heart comes alive with the adventure of your very own life story…the one that’s still unwritten…

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If I could be anywhere, I’d be naked with you right now…

Well, we can all daydream can’t we? And we can dream whilst sleeping too and given we sleep an average of eight hours per night (when we don’t have deadlines) we can have a pretty good sex life without having to do much anything at all.

That’s just the problem. Not doing much anything at all.

In life we want many things, but it takes will and action to get there. I don’t mean forced action – I mean going with intuition kind of action. Nonetheless, the mountain ain’t gonna climb itself. If you use your intuition right you might find a bus up the mountain, but all the same there will be obstacles. There always is. It’s called the adventure of life.

I found this quote this week: “I wonder why birds always stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the Earth. Then I ask myself the same question.” – Harun Yahya. I found it and I found it profound. Not because I necessarily think much about going anywhere (apart from France, haven’t been for a while), as it appears I’ve traveled the world for a very long time. No, traveling isn’t what it brought up for me, but what you do from moment to moment. You could be anywhere, do anything – what are you choosing to do?

The truth is most of us are lazy. And it’s easier to daydream than to do. There are all these visible obstacles as well, like the laundry, the dishes, the uhm traveling, the kids, the…everything! But have you ever noticed that when you are really busy you get so much more done in a shorter space of time, because you have to?

I think the answer is obvious why the birds don’t fly – either they don’t know that they can and are scared of what’s beyond their experience, or they already love where they are. But as humans, sometimes we don’t do something not because of fear, but because we don’t have to. Is it really easier to give up on our dreams though?

It’s nice dreaming about hot dudes, but there’s something about having them in your bed whilst dreaming about them…

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