Category Archives: Friendship

Pieces of our soul…

I believe there are many people in our lives whom we meet and form bonds with so strong that those people come to live within us. Sometimes our meetings are brief, but powerful. Other times, people become part of us due to the sheer amount of time they spend in our presence. It’s as if these people become part of the canvas that make us who we are; part of our portrait. 

Some of these people leave our lives, for one reason or another, but I still believe they somehow nurture our life force; our heart. We may not think of them, we may not cross paths with them, but they somehow form part of who we are. I believe when these people die, so does a part of us. That part of them that lived inside of us die with them. That force that nurtured us, disappears. It crumbles and dies; turns to ash and earth and in it a seed is planted and a flower blooms. That flower is the memory of what that person brought us; the lessons they taught us and the love they gave us. 

Sometimes these days, as I do something, a scent wafts through the air that reminds me of the scent of death. A note, or two, is similar to the scent that emanated from my gran as she was dying. It’s a horrible scent. 

In the last few days of my gran’s life, I lived with her in a hospice. My bed was next to hers. My mind was attuned to her — I woke when she moaned, when she stirred, when her breathing went funny and, eventually, when her breathing seized. I flew up to hold her hand as she took her last breath. I called the nurse, then I went to open the window to let her spirit fly, breathe in the fresh air and see the snow dance outside in a beautiful farewell ceremony. 

The week and a bit I spent in that hospice changed me. Or maybe it was the following weeks when I was trying to absorb it all that changed me. There was one night when my father and sister left for the day when I thought: “I can’t do this.” I can’t take another night of little sleep, only to wake time and time again to her suffering. The night before I’d argued with the nurse in charge about giving her more “calming” medication to take away her distress. The nurse thought I was the one who was upset as she didn’t hear the moans coming from my gran when she left the room. Finally the day team arrived, heard the moans and gave her the meds. In hospice they generally give you as much meds as you like — their main duty is to relieve the suffering. 

That night, when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, was better. Someone must have told the nurse to give out the meds. Maybe because I had complained, or maybe because she’d realized I wasn’t a loony bin. Yet, that moment when my dad left me, an apologetic and pained look on his face, I thought I might break. I felt like I had barbwire running inside of me – the barbwire being my gran’s suffering. At least I knew I was there for my grandmother. The knowledge that there must be others, as weak as my grandmother — too weak to press any button to get help when needed — alone in their beds at night made me feel sick. No one would give them water, or wipe them down when they coughed things up all over themselves. It was a horrible thought. 

One morning, I believe it was after the horrible night, gran suddenly started saying: “Hold my hand, hold my hand.” And I could do that. 

I was a shy kid. I was bullied. I became scared of what others thought of me. I responded to it all by closing off; withdrawing. Too frightened of rejection to expose my heart. And I’ve spent many infuriating years trying to undo the wounds of my childhood; years of trying to open up. 

Spending that week in hospice I had one thing clear as daylight in my mind when I walked out: I would love as much as possible and for all the world to see. 

My gran was no saint. Truth be told, for all her kindness and propriety she could also be a right bitch to people, family included. Not out of any desire to do harm, but simply because she lacked all sense of tact and often got things completely wrong and reacted to imaginary hurt. But she loved me and I her. The part of her that used to sustain me — her heartbeat in mine — has wilted and died, only to be replaced by a blossom of love and memories. 

Relationships are never perfect. At some point or another we hurt one another, or get annoyed because we’re pulling in different directions. What my grandparents taught me is that if you love enough, you don’t feel the hurt when there are misunderstandings. Because you know the misunderstandings, the arguments, the whatever won’t break you. There is no real harm intended — only pain caused by confusion. And you will work it out, because you are family and family is there for each other. If you don’t have love as the main essence, if you don’t try to understand, if you don’t know that you want to be together, but actively go out to hurt one another, then it’s another story entirely.  

There was a leaflet in the hospice that said that when someone dies they sail off on a ship into the horizon; disappearing out of sight. We no longer know what journey they are on. And so it can be said for many of the people we meet — they cross our path and then sail off to new shores. They live in our hearts in one way or another. As a child this petrified me as mom died and I felt like I was left with a gaping hole inside of me — a pain that could never be cured — but I realize now that while I will never see my mother again the way she was (though I may see her in another form), I have a flower inside my heart. That’s something her mother finally came to teach me by dying holding my hand. And I still cry, but I don’t feel pain. Not that kind of pain. I feel like I have something incredibly beautiful in my heart, which no one can ever take away. 

I was miserable as a child — my grandparents, summers on the boat and the books I read that made me believe in a future different from my present, are what kept me alive. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today without those. And now, when all of my grandparents have left, I received another gift. The gift of loving more. 

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Image Source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/507780926719627960/ 

For all those times you stood by me

For all the truth that you made me see

For all the joy you brought to my life

For all the wrong that you made right

For every dream you made come true

For all the love I found in you

I’ll be forever thankful guys

You’re the one who held me up

Never let me fall

You’re the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ’cause you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly

You touched my hand I could touch the sky

I lost my faith, you gave it back to me

You said no star was out of reach

You stood by me and I stood tall

I had your love I had it all

I’m grateful for each day you gave me

Maybe I don’t know that much

But I know this much is true

I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ’cause you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

You were always there for me

The tender wind that carried me

A light in the dark shining your love into my life

You’ve been my inspiration

Through the lies you were the truth

My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ’cause you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ’cause you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

– Celine Dion

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Filed under Friendship, friendships, Love, mourning, Soul, soul brothers, soul mates, soul sisters, Uncategorized

Final goodbyes…

Friday I got the message I’ve been waiting for: “It’s time to come home to say goodbye to grandma.” I’ve been waiting for that message and yet it took me an hour to book the ticket because it freaked me out so much that once it’s booked that’s it. That’s the final goodbye.

A few months back, Liezl’s sister, Jess, died and I wrote a letter to Jess that I gave to Liezl. I wrote that letter because I wanted to help Liezl and I wanted to say goodbye to Jess in my own way. Below you can see an excerpt.

Liezl always tells me that she knows when I’m hurting, because she can feel it. Well, I know Liezl is hurting now, because I can feel it. So please, let her see life as a puzzle of moments made up of experiences with those we love. We only get so many puzzle pieces with each person. We never know when they will leave for another world. It feels so unfair when they do, especially when they are young, or when we have lost many people we love, but that’s life. We can’t change it. All we can do is treasure the moments we have with those we love. The ones who are here. And carry the wisdom and love of those we have lost in our hearts.

In a few months I may have to write another letter to my extra nieces in Cape Town, as their father, Tony, is dying. And I promised him I’d be there for them when that happened. Liezl and I plan to take them to see the stars — to look at their dad.

About a year ago Tony had one of his bad spells and he took the time then that he was entitled to live in a hospice for a few weeks. That he has survived till now is a miracle, but when he was in hospice I sat with Liezl and another friend of ours in the little chapel they have there. We were talking about grief. About mourning. And I felt so happy that I had those two women next to me. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I think when people die, what we need is something that anchors us to life. We need to feel love. We need to feel the joy of life. We cannot allow ourselves to be bitter about what life is: a limited period of time. Instead we need to cherish what little time we have and make every moment with those we love special. Because it is special. Every single moment you share with the people you love and care about is special.

Yesterday I was speaking with Liezl on the phone and at first I was rambling on about how this just wasn’t happening, because I needed someone to hug at night. My gran couldn’t die, if I didn’t have a man whose heartbeat I could hear through the night. I needed to know I had life next to me. But as I spoke to Liezl we spoke about the kids I raise, about the kids I mentor, about our friends in the township, about Liezl’s family and about all the plans we have for Little Angels and Malaika. And somewhere I started smiling and I didn’t stop.

My phonecall with Liezl anchored me to life; to what I love. The kids I help raise are the most important part of my life and Little Angels is the part that’s brought me the most joy.

When I got that message Friday I was overwhelmed by memories from my childhood. I was petrified of losing the one home that’s always been my safe haven — my grandparents’ flat. It’s where I lived for part of my childhood. It’s where I ran to away from my stepmom. It was my haven. It was where I built the dreams of the future.

My grandparents taught me that love is real and that the reality of it is commitment. In a family you don’t always see eye to eye, you don’t always understand each other, but you are always there for each other. You take care of each other.

My grandparents also taught me to look after what you have. You take pride in your home. In your clothes. In your being. You look after what’s yours.

When my mom died my grandparents on both sides became substitute parents. They were always there. It made me realize that family, really, is just simply the people who show up. When I moved to South Africa and started looking after children I did that because I believed all children should have what I had as a kid — someone who’s there for them. A rock.

I am coming to terms with now having to create my own haven. I need to find my own footing. I need to be my own rock. But the truth is that none of us are a very good rock on our own. We need each other. We need life. We need the sound of the heartbeats that we love.

Cherish those hearts. And commit to look after them, because that’s what family does. I’m a firm believer, as my life is a testament to, that family is the people you care about, not the people whose blood you share. My family is part South African.

I feel like I’m losing a part of myself right now. A part that’s always been there. And I keep bursting into tears. But I also know that there will be many more parts to my life; many more blessings in the shape of human beings; in the shape of beautiful souls. And together we will go on adventures and create moments filled with love and laughter.

It’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view. – The Greatest Showman

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Filed under Family, Friends, Friendship, Inspirational, Love, mourning, Uncategorized

Pour some chocolate sauce on top…

Chocolate sauce is a very useful ingredient. A very indulgent, delicious and useful ingredient. Sometimes I don’t use it very often though. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I had chocolate sauce.

Chocolate sauce, of course has to be of good quality. If you pour bad quality chocolate sauce on something, that something gets ruined. We’ve all had “fake” over the top sweet chocolate sauce made with ingredients that aren’t natural. Terrible.

Now, chocolate sauce is a little bit like compliments: when honest and pure they’re indulgent, sweet and wonderful. They make any friendship blossom, they make lovers see stars and they make random strangers smile like the sun when you pour some on them.

We often take friends and lovers for granted. What we first saw as unique becomes commonplace. We get used to it. As we get used to it, we forget to compliment it. Sometimes we even forget it exists.

Other times we note something as wonderful, but we don’t share it. It doesn’t occur to us to do so. We say we love someone, so why do we have to also tell them they’re kind, we love their cooking, they’ve got the hottest butt, they are great at doing their job, they have the brightest smile…?

I’ve said this many times, but whatever grows stagnant dies. Relationships (as well as we, ourselves, our work, etc.) need to develop to be any good, but they also need to shine. They need to sparkle. And we all sparkle when we receive genuine, true to the heart, compliments.

When you find something you love, pour some sweet, dark, decadent and indulgent chocolate sauce on it. After all, you’re likely the one who gets to taste the chocolate sauce, because most people will let you lick it off… (Which is a metaphor for them being happy and you being around their happiness. In case you were wondering.)

So dear readers, I hereby challenge you to pour chocolate sauce on at least ten people in the coming week…and include some whom you wouldn’t normally pour chocolate sauce on. You’d be surprised to see how even grapefruit people turn into oranges with the right amount of chocolate sauce, but I believe I’m losing track of my metaphors now so it’s time to stop writing…

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Image Source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/507780926727245385/ 

 

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Love is a beautiful battle…

A few weeks ago I was having a phone conversation with my best friend. I had flown to Athens to see her and was really looking forward to seeing her, so I was trying to arrange a meeting. She launched into a monologue about what her schedule looked like, that she never came into central Athens during the weekend, or evenings, when I was free, she was so busy and blah, blah, blah.

I had had a shit week, I had PMS and the one thing that kept me going was the idea of alone time, on a beach, or anywhere in nature, with my best friend. As I did have PMS I was struggling with an insane amount of thinking I was unlovable, so by the time I hung up the phone, ready to cry because somehow I had now triggered my best friend into treating me unlovingly as well, I felt like shit.

I knew I had to do two things: I had to tell my best friend she was behaving like a twat and I had to excuse myself for, most likely, trying to provoke her into behaving like a twat. Because if you feel unlovable, you provoke people into doing things to prove you right. And you have to understand, when I have PMS you can tell me I have coffee on my nose and I will think you hate me, or that you are the biggest idiot alive, the world has come to an end and we can all just prepare for doomsday.

So I wrote my best friend a funny message about PMS where I pointed out the above. As it turned out, she had turned around and just yelled at her boyfriend a few hours later and he had calmly picked up the calendar and told her she had PMS.

She had had social demands on her, for a week, so when I told her to come into Athens she lost it, because she had PMS.

I didn’t enjoy messaging my friend to sort out whatever weird “actions” (drama school language for mental as well as physical actions we have towards people) and purposes (drama school language for what our psychological gain is for doing something) we had during that conversation, but my relationship with her is a lot more valuable to me than my discomfort is discomforting.

Which brings me to the next point.

Last night I came home after a long day. I had been rockclimbing the day before (amazing!) and spent all of yesterday out with friends. You see, last week, I decided that it was time for me to do what I love in order to build my spirit and regain my strenght, so as to have strenght to work and get back to the kids after visa hick-up number four. I had an incredbile weekend, but I was physically spent. That’s when I received a message from my baby girl in Cape Town.

As some of you know I help raise a pair of ten-year-old twins and their now one-year-old baby brother in the township and I’ve fought visas and adoption rules for about four years; having known them for five. This journey is the hardest journey I’ve ever had and I’ve been on the brink of emotional collapse more than once.

Last night I got all these messages saying she loves me, the baby has taken his first steps, and then she sent me this crying emoji and I asked her why. She’s like “it’s just the baby ❤ ❤ ❤ ” and I said I wish I was there to hold him and she sent the below picture. Cue me bursting into tears. She even found an image with the right skin tones. I don’t know why that made me more emotional, but it did.

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I had just been thinking of how tired I am. I have spent you don’t want to know how much money setting up a business and going round the world on a visa mission to be with these kids and I’ve messed up my career, my social life and my life in general and I’m beyond exhausted. Sometimes I don’t know how to keep going.

At that moment, all I wanted was a hug. Not from a friend, but from a man. It’s all I’ve wanted since I started helping the kids, because I’ve wanted someone to be there for me. Support me. Not do my job for me, just be there. Just hug me. And it’s the kind of intimacy you’ll never get from a friend, because it feels different. Friends help, but a relationship is intimate on a whole other level.

Yet, a few weeks ago when I was talking to my coach and he was giving me “love goals” I was telling him I didn’t understand how to achieve them, because let’s face it: I might know a gazillion things about relationships, and I might get 800 men swiping right on Tinder in a few weeks (true story, ego hallelujah), but falling in love makes me feel so terribly uncomfortable (unlovable and not good enough) that I spend most of my time trying to become perfect (impossible) and end up giving up on the whole thing because it’s too uncomfortable feeling like I’m not perfect.

This is when my coach told me that he’s seen me with the kids for five years and no matter what life threw me, I didn’t stop. Nothing stopped me.

I remember thinking when gran got senile and I was helping her in the bathroom, that love isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful. Love isn’t easy, but it is worth it. And my childhood didn’t make it easy for me to accept love, instead I strove to be perfect feeling I wasn’t good enough. I’ve often felt my adult life has been a long fight of not giving into the demons of my childhood; a long fight of opening myself up to love and joy and letting go of depression and self-hatred.

The question maybe I should ask myself is this: if my kids and best friend are worth me overcoming my demons, my fears and my discomfort, maybe my own happiness (a.k.a being loved by a man I truly have a connection with) would be worth the same? It’s a question of will.

I’m not perfect. My best friend isn’t perfect. My gran wasn’t perfect. My kids aren’t perfect. But we are all perfectly lovable. And it is perfectly possible to create great relationships. You just wade through the discomfort, is all. Because it is worth it.

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Maybe that night we make love till morning…

Sometimes we feel small and insignificant. Much like a tiny girl, walking up a massive mountain. We aren’t quite sure of where we are, or where we will end up. We have an idea of where we want to go – to the top – but the path is winding and we can’t always see the top – there is fog, trees and sometimes fires blocking the sight.

There are nights, when we are curled up by the fire watching a starry sky, and we feel calm and serene, and the path we are walking feels like the loveliest thing ever. Our muscles are tired after a day’s worth of climbing, in fact we are feeling tired through and through, but a good tired – we lived. We lived to the full and we are still buzzing, still filled with life and life force. We are almost giddy with excitement of all the wonders we have seen and are yet to see. Our eyes are still glazed with the beauty of butterflies catching the morning breeze underneath their wings, or the glorious sight of rainbows and waterfalls. Maybe a sudden thunderstorm filled us with power, with lust and then a gentle drizzle calmed our spirits shortly after, only to be followed by sunshine that made us laugh.

We may be sharing our camp fire with some exhilarating stranger we have met whose faces tell tales of faraway countries and adventures more fearful, more wild than we could ever imagine…or maybe adventures so sweet and lustful we can only dream of….and maybe, maybe one day achieve. Or maybe we are sharing the fire with gorgeous loved ones who are accompanying us on our journey and feel as familiar as our favorite spice.

Maybe the night is filled with laughter and excited whispers and tender words. Maybe children are playing and grown-ups smiling. And maybe, long after the kids have gone to bed, everyone is sharing tales that make our heart sing. Maybe we have found a boy whose eyes are sparkling in the moonlight and seemingly reflecting not just the moon, but our own soul, making us feel understood. Maybe for that moment it all makes sense – the search, the climb, the path that we are now on. Maybe that night we make love till  the morning.

At other times we are utterly lost – it’s raining, our knees are aching, we can’t see the top of the mountain – we are walking upwards, but we have no idea if we will ever reach the top, or at least find enough treasure to buy a fire that is always burning, a bottle that is always full, a bed that is always protected and love that is always tender. We are fearful, tired and soaked to our bones. We seek the light in our soul, the inner warmth, the love we know is hidden there, but the fear is overwhelming and the panic seemingly real as the night closes in on us and we shiver.

We  think about friends we have lost, lovers that crossed our path. We think about the chances we never took and those we should never have taken. We think about our own death and wonder where we will be then? Will we have reached the top? Or will we still be fearful and lonely?

We try to fight it, to be strong, but we only get angrier and angrier with ourselves when we do – because we are meant to be strong, right? We are meant to conquer the rain and walk with joy in our heart. We are meant to have learnt enough to find our way by the stars. We aren’t supposed to be lost, or lonely, or tired, or hungry. We are supposed to know better, be better.

Then, we give up. We remember what being truly tiny meant – what it was like being a child. When the world felt large and scary and we jumped up into our parents, or siblings laps and cried, or were just held tight. We were stil told that we were beautiful, that we were loved. No one gave up on us because we slipped and fell. They just hugged us better. We remember that it was OK then. OK to be lost and frightened and sooner, or later we found our way – whether by ourselves, or with the help of others. We felt tiny back then too. We felt scared back then too. But we weren’t angry with ourselves. We just were. We just allowed ourselves to be and somehow, somewhere, we always found the love we needed to find, the light to lit up the deepest night.

Then we take a moment to rest. We sink down, our back towards a cold fir-tree. The cold, suddenly intense against our back, awakens us. We look around. We see a tiny hare, followed by another tiny hare, looking out at us from underneath the bushes. We slowly reach out our hand. We are in desolate parts where man rarely walks and the hares have not yet learnt to fear us. We slowly look at them, as they are looking at us. In their eyes we see our own fear and trepidation reflected. We see curiosity and hope. We see warmth and love.

One of the hares slowly, slowly moves over, seeing whether to trust us. And then, with a final jump it is by our hand, sniffing it. Its nose feels warm against our cold skin. It keeps sniffing around, then suddenly jumps up, into our lap, and looks at us with big eyes. The other hare now follows, carefully, but bravely, seeing the success of its fellow friend. And then, you have them both in your lap, sharing their warmth, their lives with you.

Everywhere the rain is drizzling, turning the wood into a hazy, almost surreal place. The raindrops glisten in the final hour of dusk and the sun is making one last effort to shine through, turning everything golden. You feel a little warmth from it against your skin and the hares’ body heat radiating through your clothes, into your stiff, frozen bones. For a moment you are sharing your life with two other creatures, like yourself, trying to stay warm, find food, love and happiness. You are helping each other, understanding one another. Suddenly life has conquered and you once again feel calm – inside a new dawn has awoken.

You feel fresh. Every part of you has been shaken – you have been lost and you are still lost, but inside you have found the light. You know that as night comes rolling in you will eat some food that strengthen your body and find peace in your dreams. You will then awaken with the sun and move towards new horizons. Maybe with some furry friends by your side.

It is impossible to know if we will ever reach the top of any mountain. Life is an adventure and as such, we know that there will be struggle, there will be loss, but what will always save us is our own life force, our own love of that which surrounds us, that which we do and those whom we love, including ourselves.

We will continue to get lost and we will continue to get found. Storms will shake us and events move us. We will lose what we have found and move on to find love in unexpected places.

The best we can do is find our own heart, our own peace. We can never know what storm is coming next, or how far we will get the next day. We can only continue to move with a purpose in our heart, which gives meaning to our journey. We can continue to build love in our heart, which will strengthen us and keep us calm in the eye of the storm. We can surround ourselves by love, by doing what we love and taking time to build friendships with those we love, or those we think we will come to love. We can give of what we have, as well as our gifts, our talents, and share our lives with others.

We can love and with love always comes a treasure.

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You are simply beautiful to some…

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Today, as I was getting out of the tube, one person laid eyes on someone they knew and started waving. I could only see this person’s back, but the smile on the receiving end (the guy he was waving at) was so big it made me smile. And that’s life. It’s so beautiful when two people really appreciate one another – when they bring smiles to each other’s faces. When they share this world, so if only for a while.

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Gorgeous you and incredible me…

Cafe in Paris

Who will fill these seats next? Who will share their lives, if so only for a moment?

I was out having coffee with some friends last week. For some reason the meeting entered my mind today and suddenly a beautiful thought hit me: you meet people just to enjoy their company. Maybe that’s obvious, but isn’t it also beautiful? You go somewhere just to sit down and enjoy someone’s presence. To see them smile, to hear their laughter, to listen to their pain, to laugh at their jokes, to get entertained by their stories, to be intrigued by their minds, to share their life…to enjoy them and support them. To get happy for them and try to remove their sorrow from them. It may so be that I am corny, but I think this is absolutely amazing…just to sit there and indulge in someone’s presence…

 

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