Tag Archives: grief

Mirror, mirror…

We’re all given time on this Earth. This is our gift, if you so like. We can do whatever we want with this time. Some of us are born into poverty, some into luxury, some into emotional wellness, others into abuse. As children, we are molded by our circumstance, as adults we have the option to choose whom we’d like to be by focusing our thoughts. 

Some people have a lot of time on this Earth, some have little time. The best any of us can do is love and cherish the people in our lives while we have them. At some point, we have to say goodbye to everyone we love. That’s part of this journey. It doesn’t mean we won’t see them again if there’s an afterlife, but it means that for now we have to say goodbye. 

Time is limited. This is a fact of life. We can either cherish the gift we’ve been given and the people in our life have been given, or we can be bitter about it.

In the past, I used to get very upset by life. I still do at times. But now I know I have choice. Choice how I look upon situations. 

Like death. 

I was picking up the little one yesterday after he spent the day with his biological parents. His mother was having a hissy fit because the little one’s older brother on the autism spectrum was misbehaving, so she was saying she’d like to send him away.

This is the same child I help raise, who I recently asked her to take care of for a while as I wasn’t coping at home and didn’t have the money to pay for 24/7 special trained staff to take care of him. Now I see him for outings until he is enough in control of his emotions that he doesn’t constitute a threat to anyone in the household. 

As far as I know, there is no government institution to send him to in this country that would benefit his condition, because I have been round the block with social workers, doctors, schools and even the police.

Now, if I start thinking about this, I panic. I want my boy to be safe and loved. I want him to have all the help available the world. I want him to have a shot at life. And I’d like him to be able to live the happy side of his personality — the one that doesn’t attack people when having anxiety. 

So if I start thinking about him being sent away or the fact that he’s living an unstable life with his mother at the moment, I get sad. I worry. In the past, that meant that I would happily ruin my own life to try to keep him safe. But I know that didn’t work. Not for any of us. It was the wrong way to go about it. If I could go back in time, I’d have done it differently. Set up structures one by one that actually worked. Instead I tried to do everything at once, and ended up drowning. 

The only thing I can do is work. Work to earn more money. And focus on the end result of him being happy and healthy.  

To be in a frame of mind to earn more money, I need to be inspired. Beating myself up because I feel like I’ve failed him, or sitting weeping because I’m sad for him, won’t help. So I choose to focus on the good things in my life. Like the fact that I picked up my bundle of joy and went home to cook a chicken roast for Sunday dinner. I always wanted to create traditions and show my love through cooking. With the little one I have a chance of doing it. Of creating family traditions filled with love and joy.

So I choose to focus on the fact that I’ve always done what I can to help the kids and still do and that I am creating a beautiful home life in the present. One filled with candle lights, frog song and looking at the stars at night. There’s also a lot of doggie love, food, time in the woods and play. Poetry, art, film, photography and dance also abound. 

Think about it this way: you should be thinking about what you want to create (my boy getting the help he needs to create a happy and healthy life), not revel in the fear of what you don’t want to create (my boy being sad, unhappy and not getting the help he needs to one day conquering his condition). Think about what you’re working towards; what you’d love to create, because that will help you come up with ideas for how to create it.

I choose to focus on what I can do, what I love, what I’d love to create and what’s working. That makes me happy. That makes me inspired. That makes me energized. That makes me take actions that serve myself and others.    

Once you’re in control of your state of mind, you’re in control of your actions. 

Today, someone close to me messaged me to say she might have breast cancer. Part of me wants to panic about it. The other part of me told her that she needs to focus on the fact that whether it’s breast cancer or not, she’ll get through it. She’s a beautiful soul. She’ll win. And I told her to focus on the good stuff in her life and in herself. She told me I was healing her soul, bless her. And by doing so, she healed me. 

Friendship and love constitute the actions we take to make others feel better and help them face life better. Sometimes, that involves temporarily making them feel bad. Not so they stay feeling bad, but because you have to have them face the truth to be able to deal with it. They have to face their fears, their pain, their demons and then release them and actively choose to focus on what’s working, what they love, what they’d love to create (end results) and their good qualities. That’s what’s going to transform their lives, together with putting the right structures in place and speaking from the heart, instead of saying what they think they need to say to get what they want. 

I’ve had to learn to control my own reactions, not just to my own personal stuff, but to how I react to others. Because how I react to others, affect how they feel. If I get furious with someone, or start crying about them, will it help them? Will I speak from my heart? Or am I just in reaction — doing something on autopilot based on my learned behavior? 

Focus creates reality. Choose your focus, choose your life. 

Image Source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/507780926736213797/?nic=1

Your life is a reflection of your thoughts and the structures you put in place to uphold those thoughts. Change your structures, change your thoughts. Change your thoughts, change your structures. Either way, you change your life.

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Filed under Death, diary, emotions, Friendship, Grieving, Healing, Inspiration, Inspirational, Love, Motivation, Uncategorized

I take my hat off to you sailor!!! In loving memory of Dave Stafford Finney…

Some years ago a dating site had me work on an article about Dave Stafford Finney — a sailor in the Australian Navy. It was an article about men in uniform. As such, I read his blog, which was a stunning blog about what it truly means to serve in a war, save people, and end up with the scars yourself. So I commented on his blog. I mean, come on, the guy sounded amazing, why wouldn’t I talk to him? 

The thing is, he looked me up on LinkedIn and messaged me. 

He had read my blog and sent me a super sweet message about what an incredible person I am. Over the year and a bit that we knew each other, we’d exchange a couple of messages/comments and I remember I reached out to him when I felt my life was falling apart. I was fighting like a mad person to get a visa to South Africa to get the rights to adopt kids I was already raising. I had, by chance, or misfortune, or maybe in the end: fortune, ended up in a legal battle to be with kids I started helping out in a township I was volunteering in. I had been told by authorities I could adopt them, then that I couldn’t adopt unless I got permanent residency. 

I had seen things and been through things in the township that most people don’t get to see. With Dave I felt a kinship about these things. How you go through a “war” and you get scarred. You see shit other people don’t. You see the abuse, the crime, the fucked-up-ness of life. 

We didn’t talk that much over the years, but I know I told him he should come to South Africa to volunteer like he did in Australia. 

And ever so often, out of the blue, I’d just get some message/comment saying I’m amazing. 

That was the extent of our friendship.

Today I found out that Dave killed himself. That the PTSD that he fought, very openly, finally won the battle. That the battle scars won. That the hero succumbed to his own demons. 

I was wondering why he didn’t reply to a comment I made on his post the other day. I was planning to send him a message asking if he wanted to be interviewed by me for a new platform where I’m now the lead editor for the lifestyle section. I just didn’t get round to sending the message. But I kept thinking about him during the week, looking forward to speaking with him. 

Frankly, I want to punch him in the face and yell at him, or something, to wake him up. From death. From depression. Neither would work very well. 

I was “clinically” depressed twice. For me it wasn’t the wish to die that frightened me, it was that I felt nothing. I remember the fear of that feeling. It would last for an hour, two hours, a minute…but it was horrible. Feeling nothing. No joy, no sadness, no nothing. 

It was petrifying. 

But I was one of the lucky ones. I acquired tools. I fought. I got help. I read books. I won the battle with my mind. 

That’s not to say I’m not still fighting. I do. My mind has a tendency to walk down paths that aren’t helpful. To find weird and dark alleys that it gets stuck in, mistaking them for reality. 

The truth is, once you come out of the alley, you realize you chose to walk in there. You didn’t go there on purpose the first time, you just ended up there, because life took you there, but then you chose to stay. Not because you wanted to, but because your mind didn’t know the other paths. The other roads. The other alleys. The ones filled with beauty. You could be standing there instead. 

To make your mind walk into the right streets…it’s not easy. Not when you’ve been to a lot of dark places. It’s a constant effort. I can only imagine what it’s like when you’ve been to an actual war. I had childhood trauma that made my view of myself screwed up. I kept looking at myself seeing distorted visions that made me hate myself. Like the dark alleys, I was stuck in a place of my own doing. 

The reality is, this world is filled with a shitload of crap. Of really nasty stuff and bad humans and miserable events. Once you’ve seen them, you have to choose to focus on the other stuff, or you get stuck. 

For some, it appears impossible to get out of the dark alleys. With all the myriads of roads this life presents, they are captured in darkness. Always living in the shadow of their own thoughts.

Right now, I’m betting a lot of people are fighting a hard battle because Dave died. People who actually knew him in real life and was touched by his joy and friendship. People who have an emptiness within them nothing will ever remove. People who now have to fight not to go to the alley marked with “missing friend.” 

At the same time, I bet that those who knew what hell Dave actually lived through and saw the extent of the darkness, know that he found peace. Not in the way that anyone would have liked for it to happen, but they know that there was an end to the suffering. 

I guess I recognized myself in a small part of Dave, as he recognized himself in a small part of me. We put our lives in blogs that revealed all. Dished it out. I had a strong belief that if everyone would just share how they actually feel, no one would feel like I did as a kid. And I admired Dave for putting it all out there. The real life. The real pain. The real joy. 

When someone dies, it feels like a missed opportunity. That you should have done more. Said more. Fuck, at least gone to Australia to say hello in person. Frankly, I was furious with myself and the world at large today because I didn’t get to explore a connection I felt with someone. Like it was a cruel joke. If I’d only sent that message I wanted to send a few days earlier, if only I’d been braver, if only something… I mean I wanted to get to know the guy, but when he first reached out to me I was scared. I was scared of depression. I felt a kinship, a connection and jeez the man was hot…you know, it’s like that online crush right. But I was scared. And when a year or so later I wasn’t scared, he died before I sent the message. And it hurts. I know I made a mistake. I ignored the obvious person right in front of me. Maybe we would not have connected well at all. I don’t know. It’s impossible to know, because I didn’t explore it. I could at the very least have told him his messages and blogs really touched me. However small those messages were, to me they meant something and I didn’t say that out loud. Because I was scared. So I have regret. Things could have been different.

But maybe that’s not the truth. Maybe the truth is, that we all play exactly the part in each other’s lives that we were meant to play. That we gave each other what we meant to give. Maybe this is exactly what I was meant to learn: that you should never ever try to predict how things could go. That you should open your door and explore. And you should speak frankly. Because when you don’t, you end up with regret. I never told that stranger I wanted to get to know him. Never told him I lit up like a pinball machine when he messaged me. And now I can’t. And I never again want to feel like I do right now.

How do we choose to focus our thoughts? 

I choose to think that Dave brightened some of my days, as I did his. A tiny twinkle in our lives. Not the big bright light of those close to us, but a tiny twinkle that makes the world more beautiful somehow. Or as I said to the Dave, in the very last comment I sent him this week as he shared the memory of losing his baby to cot death: “Sorry to hear that man. You’ve come a long way since. Life is filled with so many painful things. Thankfully there are many wondrous things too, including the people we do get to keep with us.”  

So let’s all look after those wondrous people. Make an effort to smile. To hug. To check in on one another. Dave touched so many people’s lives. He’s not one who didn’t have friends. Not one who wasn’t loved. So let’s all strive to touch others with our honesty. The truth about how we feel. But also the joy and care. Even the strangers we meet, who are angles in disguise. Let’s smile at them. Hug them. Give them a word of encouragement. We never know who they are, or where they’re going. If they’re living in their own personal heaven or hell. All we can do is to be a star. However small the twinkle. However fast the passing. Be a light. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the times you told me I was amazing. And thank you for listening when I was going through my own personal hell. You were a star man. I think you still are. Out there, somewhere, brightening the night sky. 

P.S. I stole one of your photos for this blog. I’m pretty sure you’d just wink at me, not sue me for it.

If you want to read his words: https://davestafford.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/these-medals-arent-free/

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It’s time to pull the zipper down…

There are moments in life that undress you. One moment you stand there fully clothed and the next you’re stark naked.

I always liked when people got naked. Usually it’s when they run into trouble, face their demons and crack open. Their carefully crafted coping mechanisms fail. The ego driven patterns they’re hiding their flaws behind crack. And suddenly they find themselves naked. Usually uncomfortable for them, but nice for the onlookers, who suddenly see their heart.

Maybe they need to wash off some of the crap they’ve landed themselves in, but their heart is right there. And it’s beautiful.

I had one of those moments the other day. Someone asked me something along the lines of: “Wouldn’t your gran like to have had one more experience? Like if you’d asked her before she died, wasn’t there something she wished she’d done?” And my reply was: “No, she’d just have wanted to spend more time with her family.”

When I said it I didn’t think too much about it, but when I came home it made me teary-eyed. One, because that side of the family is gone save from my sister and I. Two, because I’ve been driven by so many other things than my gran was — she was driven by family and she was happy and content, save from when people started passing over. That was her downfall — she couldn’t deal with that and let new people enter her life.

I, on the other hand, have had many incredible experiences all over the world, but it wasn’t until the past five odd years I started feeling remotely happy being me. And it wasn’t until last year I started taking my social life seriously. Because even though I knew more people than most could dream of, I was so scared of rejection I never focused on actually stitching it all together. And while this blog can attest to my many epiphanies surrounding dating over the years, I never truly thought myself capable of finding a man who loved me that I loved. Until possibly earlier this year.

I know I’m a bit of an adrenaline and experience junkie. And I get high on breaking convention. I also get a sense of fulfillment from film and Magique, as well as Little Angels, that I don’t think my gran got from her work. But I also know that as a child I filled my life with stories because I felt lonely — I was bullied and unhappy around my step-mom so I hid in books.

Yesterday I went to the doctor as I’ve caught the latest Cape Town epidemic: a stomach bug. Nothing serious, just an upset tummy, but you know after a week you start feeling a tad drained. The kind doctor put me on a fast — rehydration drinks for 24 hrs followed by bread and potatoes only for 24 hrs.

Now, I’ve done a lot of juice fasts in my day and they’re fascinating, because food is one of those feel good things. Makes you happy when you taste yummy things. Also gives you energy. When you don’t have energy you get cranky and start facing your demons. Same thing if you’re bored and alone without distraction.

Today, I realized, while tired and grumpy, just how addicted I am to food. And get me right: I’m pro a certain level of food addiction. Life should be tasty, if you ask me. But I can also see how a good book and a glass of wine, or a treat and my favorite Netflix, is a substitute for going out there and meeting people. I think good books, food and Netflix are wonderful,  it’s just using one good thing to replace another isn’t a great strategy.

Co-incidentally (if there is such a thing) I’m reading Brand’s Recovery at the moment as I always wanted an excuse to attend an AA meeting so I could learn the darn steps. Now there’s a book for that. Not that I think it can substitute what you get from the group meetings, in fact I believe if you suffer from any kind of addiction AA should be your next stop (take it from one who has known and dated enough former addicts to break the rules of probability), but for us who don’t want to turn into addicts to join AA it’s a great book. At least if you’ve lived in London and are used to foul language.

Anyway, my point, dear readers, is that I realized I have my little addictions. I already knew I had patterns. Run from loneliness by creating loneliness is one of them (sounds counter-intuitive, but hey, constantly moving round the world and being a workaholic you’re too busy to get a stabile social life so you never need feel rejected). Using food and stories to combat loneliness is an addiction though. I always said that books were my drug as a kid. If it hadn’t been for stories I thought I’d ended up committing suicide or taking drugs. I never wanted to do either, but I figured that’s because I had something that gave me hope. People always look at me with incredulity when I say those things these days, because I’m no longer the shy kid hiding in my room, petrified of my step-sisters cool friends, but I still carry that child inside me. The child that couldn’t for the life of her understand why she didn’t have friends. Couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, but figured she was seriously flawed somehow.

The truth is, I never fully opened up. I tried. Just as I tried liking myself. And it gets better all the time. I no longer want to run into walls because I hate myself so much and the experience in hospice was the latest thing that made me feel like I cracked open. And that comment about gran’s greatest desire brought it home even more — because there are few things more important than the people in our lives. I need to open myself up to those people. Unlike gran it isn’t just about family for me. I think everyone we love is family. And there are a whole bunchload of people I really love. I’d like to be fully present with them. And spend as much time with them as physically possible.

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Image source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/507780926729710690/

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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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Image source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/349943833533018228/ 

 

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