A Tale of Love – How Mama Africa Opened My Heart…

I’m looking out at my panoramic view of darkness intersected with shining little lights, as strong winds are shaking my windows. There was a time when I thought strong winds meant big change. It always made me feel refreshed. Open. As if opportunity could come knocking any moment. Something new. Something different. Made me feel alive, as if looking upon the world with the eyes of a child. Exploring instead of passing by.
In Cape Town strong winds blow often, so often I’ve almost given up on the idea of change. Then again, my life has never changed as much as it has here.
Tonight, as I’m looking out, waiting to see if my windows are indeed about to break, I see one particular apartment building with different shades of light in almost all the windows. It looks so cozy, so warm. I know though. I know that within those walls many difficult things have happened and more are about to happen. It’s in the township – a township which tales I’m writing a book about. They’re often grim.
My mind flutters on. Thinking about a dance movie I’ve wanted to make here and a scene you can shoot with silhouettes dancing in a window. Beauty.
When I came here all I had was a dream of working in Africa. I walked straight into the township and got my hands dirty. It was quite the thrill. It still is. And the children here healed me, because they loved me in a way I’d never loved myself.
Yet, you can’t expect to get your hands dirty without feeling the ripple effects of being soiled. My own life has taken one hit after the other due to my involvement with people here. The more I love, the more I get hurt. Without that love I’d be nothing though. That love gives me my life.
For a while it affected me really badly all the same. I had a hard time letting go of the helplessness and fear about things I could not change. Things that affected me through the kids I am raising. In part, that turned into self-hatred for not being able to do more.
Then, little by little, I picked up the pieces of my heart. I found poetry again. I started to draw again. I worked on my business. I let go of the pain as best as I could. I allowed myself to enjoy beauty again. I allowed myself to look into a window and see a story almost without feeling guilty about the pain inside that window.
That beauty that always used to sustain me came back to me. It was always my passion. My joy. And I found my road back to it.
We’re all scared of love, because we don’t trust it. When I came here I walked into a place that had been destroyed by people’s hatred. By apartheid. I didn’t understand why they were all so suspicious of me and it hurt. Sometimes it still does.
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This child has taught me more about love than I thought possible when I first arrived, simply by loving me with an intense fierceness – I didn’t choose to mentor her, she chose me.
During my years here I’ve had to learn what it’s like to be accused of the weirdest of things. Everyone and their dingbat crazy aunt have come up with ideas about my very unflattering motives for being here. But if you stay and you serve, most people eventually see the real you. The one their twisted beliefs at first had a hard time distinguishing.
The aftershock of apartheid has taught me many things. Not least about my own wounds. Because we’ve all been wounded. Not by love, but the lack thereof.
I watched my gran die a slow death to dementia. I watched my biggest source of unconditional love slip away. I helped her use the bathroom. And I sat with her as she recounted tales that had never happened.
To me that’s love. Love isn’t pretty. Love is a sense of commitment to serve. And through that serving of someone’s soul we receive joy.
The wind is really having a ball tonight and I’m sure it’s bringing with it tales from many places. Whispers. Remnants of stories and scents. Feelings tinkling away in the night, disturbing our sleep. Knocking on our windows and making our doors squeak. This is my tale for tonight. My tale of love. And as it leaves my hands and flies away, it will knock on windows and make doors squeak, because wind or no wind, that’s what tales do – they enter in the most unexpected of places and awaken souls with their words. Be the words grand, or very small; significant or pointless rambles.
Stories, like winds, are opportunities wandering in the night, opening doors to new realms. If you only care to see them.
I work with Little Angels in Cape Town www.littleangelsincapetown.wordpress.com

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Blonde and blonder…

I don’t have much time to write anymore, so I don’t. But as time ticks away something begs me to pick up a pen. Usually a heartfelt moment, or one that made me giggle. When I’m in a good mood a lot of things make me giggle. Not least because I rewrite half of them into movie scenes in my mind. Today, the below made me giggle.

Lawyer: I’m in a seminar till Wednesday, can you do Monday?
Me: Yes, what time Monday?
Lawyer: I’m in a seminar till Wednesday, can you do Thursday 10:30?
Me: Yes. Phone, or at your offices?
Lawyer: Perfect.
So I guess I’ll show up at her offices with my phone… I think this brunette is actually blonder than me – she always replies to emails straight away, but she never manages to reply to a whole email in one go. Then again when I took off my shoes the other day I realized I’d left home AFTER removing my nail polish, but BEFORE putting on new nail polish. At least I hadn’t painted just one foot… #BlondeAndBlonder
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How to annoy a politician in an enlightened manner…

Have you ever wondered why most stories are about killing the enemy instead of converting the enemy? Is “killing the problem” really the best way forward at all times? Or is it just the “easy” way forward? Then again, is it easy? Or does it continue to breed hatred if you kill your enemy? Isn’t winning about creating a place where people get along and act with integrity?

I think it’s a valid point when it comes to the US elections too. How many people have you seen on your Facebook feed arguing about the different candidates? People who I would like to believe support democracy suddenly start de-friending people of the opposing party and not because they go on really crazy rants (then it’s understandable), but because they express their views. On the one hand I can understand it – Facebook is a personal space and if you believe your friends’ values oppose your own, then maybe you shouldn’t be friends. I guess that’s OK. Sort of. But what’s next? Will you stop talking to them at the store too? Will you remove your kids from the classes they’re teaching at school? Will you refuse shopping at their shops?

I understand people are angry – I get angry too. When politicians, even though they have some very valid points, also decide to blame minorities for the problems in their country, want to tear up trade agreements with other countries, building an imaginary “wall,” and rally angry men, you might have a flashback to a certain leader that set off a world war. And that’s scary. That’s scary as hell.

If you truly want to make a change though, do you act as the person/people you are opposing, or do you act differently? Is it a good idea to “ban” the opposing party from your circle of friends? Will that help them see your point of view? Will mocking them help them see your point of view? Or are you acting just as they are when it comes to certain political questions? And are you maybe making them even more steadfast in their beliefs by alienating them? Are you maybe creating the division some politicians thrive on?

On the other hand, if you try to understand them and respect them, wouldn’t that make them feel heard? Understood? And make you a better person? Wouldn’t it also give you a chance to make them see your point of view and actually have them listen to you? And wouldn’t that really annoy people seeking division? (Maybe annoying people isn’t enlightened, but hey, we all slip sometimes… Oups.)

This morning my sister greeted me with the words that I probably wouldn’t want to get out of bed. She was talking about something which sounded like “a tornado.” Only it was Trump she was talking about, not a tornado.

I disagree. Today it is a very good idea to get out of bed and start fighting for what you believe in. Today it is a very good idea to start understanding the real needs of the people around you. Today it is a very good idea to hug your neighbor and get acquainted with “neighbors” in other countries. Today it is a very good idea to create art, stories and movies that show solutions, instead of slamming people over the head. Today it is a very good idea to set up businesses and schools that open the door to possibilities. Today it is a very good idea to show respect for the voice of millions of Americans and come up with a plan for a future with less hatred and better solutions, no matter what end of the political spectrum you belong to. Segregation and division will not create solutions. Compassion and education, on the other hand, most likely will.

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A gathering of artists…

Does it ever strike you, when looking at a painting, what it must have been like painting it? And does it ever strike you how a painting can connect many different lives in a roundabout manner?

I have been reading some books by Ella Carey lately. Can’t say the books are fabulous, but they have elements of Paris and la belle épouque in them and I have a hard time resisting those. At any rate, one of them is about someone finding Marthe de Florian’s (famous courtesan during late 1800s/early 1900s) apartment intact from the 1940’s, but furnished like an apartment from the late 1800s. In other words, it was like finding a remnant of la belle époque well and alive. That part is based on a true story – this apartment was found intact in 2010. In it was a painting by Boldini of Marthe de Florian, which was sold for over 2 million euros.

During my time in drama school I acted various characters from various different centuries. I also directed pieces set in different centuries. On top of it we studied art history and some of the pieces we did were centered around paintings. For example, one acting exercise was to create a character around a person in a portrait – dress up as the person in the portrait, hold their pose and think their thoughts in the moment. We also had to do that as a directing exercise; directing someone else to do it. Another was to direct a so called picture play – making a painting come alive.

For my actor’s portrait I did something by Kahlo first, but then I must have switched to a portrait by Boldini. I can’t remember much, but I remember the way I held the dress and the green fabric. Reading these books the name Boldini struck me as familiar and eventually I figured out this was why. It made me ponder how an artist affects people in so many different ways and also bring people together through their love of the artist’s works.

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When I was nineteen I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and got so inspired by the film and its bohemian revolution that I promptly swore to do something worthwhile with my gap year and decided that by December 10 or something like it, I was to leave the country, so if I had to go alone. I ended up backpacking in the midst of winter, which also included a visit to Paris over Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, after going to the Swedish church, the train I was on in the metro passed by La Pigalle and as I’d heard it was like London’s SoHo, which I liked, and that it was where the Moulin Rouge was, I got off. And ended up at an Irish pub where someone asked if I was looking for a job. I said yes and consequently set out to find one. That’s how I ended up living in Paris.

In drama school in London I did the aforementioned piece with Boldini, I acted in a picture play surrounding a Degas painting, I acted in Maupassant’s stories and so forth, so I had an excuse to study Paris in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I found this book, Belle Epoque: Paris in the Nineties by Raymond Rudorff and I believe it might have spent more time with me than in the library. I became fascinated by that era. 

Once upon a time a man named Boldini painted a portrait that would one day feature in an acting exercise I did. His paintings have played parts in many other people’s lives, just as many others have probably been affected by the Moulin Rouge, in one way or another. I’m sure though, that when it was built no one knew that one day a filmmaker would revive it in a film, that would set some blue eyed Swede traveling across Europe in search of a bohemian revolution.

I’m also fairly sure that when Trotsky kissed Kahlo he didn’t think that one day some art and history students would sit pondering what he thought when he did it. Or maybe it’s just me that think about that. And how lives are intertwined in the most intriguing ways.

I didn’t quite grasp that I wasn’t the only one obsessed with la belle époque until I saw Midnight in Paris. For every glass of absinthe Lautrec drank there must be some artist depicting his life, or the life of the Moulin Rouge, in another work of art.

I guess we all want to experience the different ages of history, just as we’d like to invite our favorite people throughout history to a dinner, or an intimate conversation. To find out who they really were. A dinner with Da Vinci – fancy that! And maybe one could bring back the Medicis to try have them convince people artists are needed – paid artists.

Maybe it is as Allen tries to say in Midnight in Paris though, maybe we’re all just dreaming when life is right here. And maybe, just maybe, we should try to live it. Besides, le Louvre is still there. We can still get glimpses of what was, strolling around looking at all the paintings. Even Da Vinci’s notebooks are still around. And in a sense we are the result of what was then. We are what people wanted then, because that’s what they created. Maybe they made a few mistakes in their creations, but life has evolved.

I’d like to go back to the salons…from the French Revolution and onward, I’d like to see the rebirth of art in the renaissance and I wouldn’t mind experiencing a bit of the bohemian revolution in the Moulin Rouge, but truth be told, those ideas would be old now. Some of those ideas need to be reborn, perhaps, but in the way of this century. Maybe in the way of my business? After all, there’s definitively a touch of la belle époque and the Moulin Rouge in there…

So you know, whilst others give deep answers to the books and films that changed their lives, I just do the can can…

My rather lose interpretations of Degas. I feel Boldini is going to hit my sketch pad next. I can only draw things I see and his paintings are old enough not to warrant copyright infringement I think… 

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In vino veritas – all my insecurities in a glass of wine…

I am happy. After what went down this weekend I thought I’d never be able to say that, but I am.

Since I was a child my greatest fear was what people thought of me. After almost three years of fighting for the twins, fighting for Magique and fighting for Little Angels I’ve come across people who have been angels, but also people who have belittled me, spread rumors about me and personally attacked me.

Time and time again I’ve tried to better myself. Make myself invincible. So good there was nothing left to complain about. But there always is, even if it’s things the other person has made up and which has nothing, or very little to do with reality.

Many times during these years I’ve wanted to hide. Sometimes I have hidden. Yesterday, after receiving an accusation I was petrified. What if they actually started saying that about me? What would people think of me?

Then I realized I’d done nothing wrong. And somehow it dawned on me that all these years I’ve lived caught in my own prison of fear, constantly evaluating myself as a person, mother and business woman. I always set the bar so high that no matter how much I gave, I felt I could give some more. So when people accused me of things, I always tried harder, even if the accusations were unfounded. I wanted to know beyond doubt that I had done everything right. I wanted to be beyond reach. I never will be though. I’m human. And for the first time in a long time, I rather like myself for it.

There is nothing to say you can’t enjoy the party just because you spilled some wine. And there is certainly nothing to say you can’t enjoy the party just because someone else spilled wine on you. Nor is there anything saying you can’t enjoy the wine you were given just because you’re so scared of spilling it. I think that’s all my insecurities. In a glass of wine. I’ll meet you at the bar.

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Photo for Magique, taken by me, myself and I. 

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Clock, tik tok…

The clock was like a grand old lady – timeless, yet on time. Tik tok, tik tok. Steady, but frail, knowing it was living in a world so different from what it was born into. Knowing it was time. Little time. Left.

It was a foreigner in its own home. The times had changed. And it had measured it all. Tik tok, tik tok.

At first it had taken pleasure in the changes – in seeing children grow up and find love. In being there as times changed. But then, it had moved beyond its time.

Tik tok, tik tok.

It was time, but it did not want to go. Did not want to leave, because it did not know where it was going.

It had seen so much, explored the colors and textures of the world, and it wanted to do it all again. There had been hard times too. Wars. But it had come through and found the world beautiful once more. Births and laughter instead of deaths and sorrow. Happiness always returned, albeit in different forms. You lost one thing and found another.

It had all been different times though. The times it had belonged to. Now, time was slipping. Turning into a future the clock could not grasp, because it did not belong there. Time was up.

And as sleep would come a new adventure would start. And time, time would keep moving.

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The truth shall set you free…or send you to a hot tub…

To acknowledge everything you feel every instant of the day, without trying to fix it, or getting lost in it, is hard. It’s a matter of awareness without political correctness and without fear of pain. No one wants to acknowledge they think their best friend’s husband is hot, or that they feel a vast pain within their heart after someone’s passed.

No one wants to acknowledge it, but it happens to most of us at some point or another. Pain, guilt, fear…

There are plenty of aversion tactics available – from getting lost in work, or food, to denying the emotions were there to start with.

To see it and set it free is the only thing that works. You face the pain of someone passing. You let it hit you. You accept it. Then you let it go.

You don’t get stuck reveling in the pain as you want to feel just something…anything…that reminds you of the person whom used to be part of your life. You don’t get stuck in pain because you feel guilty to still be alive. You don’t allow yourself to get stuck in pain because it hurts so much you want to die with them. That’s when you actually need to force yourself to change your focus. And slowly, but surely, you will come alive again. You will start appreciating the taste of hot chocolate. You will get a rush of happiness after running to get away from the rain and then soaking in a hot tub to get the cold out of your bones. You will smile at things. Eventually you will laugh. And you’ll start to love life again. You’ll appreciate and love other people again. And that’s OK. You’re allowed to. It’s your gift – your life.

You look at your best friend’s husband and acknowledge that the dude is hot. It won’t change yours, or your best friend’s life. It’s just a fact. A subjective fact, but a fact nonetheless. Why feel guilty about a fact that’s no more strange than chocolate tasting good? That doesn’t mean you’ll go rob a chocolate store.

I’ve said before that my life changed one night in a hot tub. And no, it wasn’t in the way that life usually changes in hot tubs. There was no man in the hot tub. There was just me. And the stars, the moon, the moving silhouettes of palm trees. I was in the Hollywood Hills, telling God I was giving up – I couldn’t figure out life and asking for help, as I felt like a complete loser. In this instance I had an epiphany. I realized my life was my own. And I didn’t have to accomplish anything. I could sit on a rock in the woods singing to myself if I wanted to. It was my gift to unwrap, this life. Mine and mine alone.

I wasn’t a failure, because I didn’t have to accomplish anything. All I had to do was explore life – that was happiness. To have a moment and explore it. To see what would unfold. Of course, I still wanted to do what I love, or work towards that, but I didn’t have to accomplish anything.

That didn’t mean I figured life out. I still didn’t acknowledge all of my emotions. Those I wasn’t always happy to explore. I fought them. Being in love meant embarrassment as they might not like me back. Having to stand up against someone was petrifying because I hated acknowledging they didn’t like me, or my opinion. Seeing how much pain there can be in life – pain caused by human beings themselves – and accepting that wasn’t even on my radar yet. Or I guess it was on the radar going to Africa, I just didn’t know what it meant to see Africa.

I’ve fought a lot of my emotions over the years. After mom died I fought the pain. I was petrified of the pain. On the flip side of the coin, I also fought the guilt of being alive and feeling happiness, whilst she was dead. For various outside reasons I also ended up withdrawing and thinking people didn’t like me, so I ended up feeling ashamed of myself 24/7. It’s taken me about 30 years to come out of that “ashamedness.”

The worst two triggers to feeling ashamed of myself were attraction/falling in love and standing up for myself when I felt there was a conflict of interest, or someone plain didn’t like me.

I’ve played various aversion tactics – from being half open, to trying to convince people of my worth (whilst feeling unworthy, hence why needing their approval) – all to avoid what is.

Facing what is, is freedom. Liberation from your worst enemy – your controlling ego. That thing inside of you that was taught, due to different experiences, what was right and wrong. That thing that is not the ultimate truth, but the made up truth in your mind. That thing that controls your life and controls you right into hell.

Sometimes your emotions, your reactions to things, are controlled by that thing as well. They are a reaction to various beliefs you have. Made up beliefs. So even emotions aren’t always real.

To see emotions – to see beyond emotions – is liberating. Just as liberating as realizing your life is yours to live. You were given the gift to explore this life. You can explore your emotions too. Just don’t act till you’ve seen if they’re true, or a result of beliefs. You don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying life after someone died. That guilt is false. And hey, I became friends with my best friend because we realized we had a crush on the same guy. None of us intended to rob the other person’s chocolate factory – we just intended to explore and see what happened. None of us got the guy, but we got each other.

The truth doesn’t often hurt us – it’s what we make up about the truth that hurt us. Likewise, your emotions won’t hurt you if you face them and let go of what you’ve made up about them. That first reaction of guilt, pain, fear…it will soon pass if you only let it.

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