Tag Archives: life lessons

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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The fairytale and I…

I was talking to someone yesterday about how some people make life seem like a fairy tale. You know the ones — they go above and beyond to make you feel treasured and make memories that last a lifetime.

Sometimes we get stuck thinking these people are special. When we’re with them we just experience the most magical stuff. Usually because they make sure we do, but at other times just because. As if the Universe conspired to give us those moments when we are with those people. I’m guessing because we are in the mood for magic, so we seek it. We look for adventure and we find it.

The truth is, there are millions of people on this planet and millions of experiences you could be having right this moment. The experience you are having is because of the choices you’ve made. Some choices we make are great, other suck, but we are free to create whatever we like in this moment. We can choose where our focus is.

Last year I decided I wanted to enjoy life, no matter how impossible the visa-kids-work-finances-business situation looked. That hasn’t been an easy journey, because, well there’s still that situation to deal with. But I’m enjoying myself so much more, because I’ve given myself permission to do so. Even in the face of being away from the kids.

It’s also about responsibility. No matter what we fall victim for, no matter what unfairness we experience, we still choose whether we want to feel like victims, or take whatever we can into our own hands.

For the past three days I’ve been bitching about the novel I’m writing. I’m stoked to be writing a novel, but I don’t seem to find inspiration. I don’t feel the flow. I just write because I have to and sometimes I don’t even muster that. Copywriting is much easier — even when you get stuck you can quite easily unstuck yourself. Writing a novel is another matter entirely.

Since yesterday I’ve been thinking about how we can choose to take responsibility for turning our life into a fairy tale. Often when we go through a rough patch, or lose someone we love, we feel like there’s no happiness left inside of us. Not the kind we would have if only the situation we are in would resolve itself, or if we would get that person back in our lives. We feel like we need that thing for happiness. The funny thing is, once we decide that we can find happiness and go off to create it, something happens. Those magical moments start appearing. Life slowly turns round. And while we may not feel as much happiness as we used to and we may still struggle with a situation (I woke up from yet another epic dream about my kids at four am this morning, for example, certain I couldn’t take another moment of this anguish), that doesn’t mean that we can’t take responsibility for making the most of the now.

This is my life. I want to live it. And I wanna write that novel. I can. If I only decide to. Just like you can find inspiration in life, if you only decide to.

As my friend William Whitecloud would say: focus creates reality.

I’m now focusing on writing a book, instead of moping about writing a book. I’m focusing on the characters I love, instead of the fear of missing a deadline. I’m focusing on what I’d love to create, instead of what I fear to create if I don’t find the inspiration.

Most people who make a conscious decision to get what they want, get it. Because they put their focus on it. Sadly, most people focus on getting what they think they need to be happy, instead of deciding to focus on simply creating happiness. Others focus on what they fear will happen, instead of what they would love to create. Yet others focus on the problems (like I did at four am this morning, certain my life would fall to pieces if I couldn’t control the SA government when it comes to visas and adoption rights), instead of what they’d love to create (a visa and an adoption paper).

Still, even if you don’t get exactly what you want all the time, your happiness is not dependent on that.

You can make your life wonderful. You’ve got that power.

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Why wiping someone’s ass should be a dating priority…

I was speaking to my ninety-one year-old gran last night and her body is falling apart. Quite literally. She has breast cancer which came back and now her body, apart from being old and frail, is struggling with coping altogether. It was a harrowing phonecall.

It’s not that my gran is at the ICU at the moment, or in a hospital bed. She was at the ER yesterday though, because her body is filling up with fluid and she has diahorrea. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty damn horrific.

I was with my gran a year-and-a-half ago when she was first diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. I was raised partially by my grandparents and I’ve seen gran and her body in some of the most compromising positions you could imagine. I’ve also seen her struggle as she got older. Struggle to walk, struggle to get dressed, struggle to stand up… Her body is old.

My other gran, before passing away, became senile. With her I saw the struggle of remembering things, as well as fighting demons from the past. I got phonecalls about old lovers and heard of bitter regrets. I was there to help her use the bathroom. Ever since I’ve said that true love is wiping someone’s ass when they can no longer do it themselves.

My grandparents were my saving grace when I was a child. They were there through mom dying, through the bullies, through evil stepmoms, through teenage depression, they were there through it all. They were the place I ran to. They were my safe haven.

That doesn’t mean that my grandparents and I have always agreed on things, or understood one another — far from it. But I grew up with them serving me by raising me, so I always wanted to give the same back. Protection and care. And I think that’s the bottom line of any relationship. If that kind of commitment isn’t there, you have nothing.

We inherit the best and the worst from people. My grandparents brought me life, security, artistry, creativity, smarts, asthma, cold sores and vericose veins. I’ve never disliked my body, nor have I ever really understood if someone has loved me, or my body. Because, you know, I have flaws. I couldn’t breathe properly as a child, how’s that for being flawed?

My childhood had my self-confidence obliterated, save from the confidence I had in my skills. It’s taken me a long time to rebuild that other confidence; the part of me that’s OK to just be a human. It was only when I pretty much had nothing going for me in South Africa that I started to realize that I needed to learn to live anyway. You know, really live. Breathe in the moment and have fun.

In my battle for visa and adoption rights I’d pretty much lost everything I had — there was a business in limbo, no money in the bank, no social life, no career successes, no nothing. There was just me and what looked like a hopeless situation fighting for the children. And somewhere I decided to take responsibility for that situation and kick life in its balls.

It worked. Wasn’t pain free, didn’t provide immediate solutions, but it worked. I still have nightmares pretty much every night about the children, business, finances and visas, but I learnt to be happy in the face of it all. It hurts with the kids. It hurts to high heavens and back again, but I let it go and I live. I cry too, but I live. And I keep fighting. I just make sure to live too.

Feeling like you’ve fucked up your entire life can be a really good lesson in learning to live and love. Love yourself.

Now, my point with all this, is that we all have a choice to take responsibility for our lives. We also all have bodies that will one day fall apart. We face events that will, at some point, break us. We make mistakes that we regret with bitter tears. And sometimes we face pain in ways we never thought possible. Like being separated from a child, or losing a husband, or getting arrested for a crime we never committed.

But the only way to conquer that is to learn to live in the face of it. And slowly climb the mountain to overcome it. It doesn’t happen over night, but it is possible. Your wrinkles, your flaws, your current pissy situation, none of that is an excuse to hate yourself, or stop finding moments of happiness. It might feel impossible, but you can and will love yourself and your life, if you just decide to do it. Little by little. So if it’s only finding one moment of belly deep laughter.

No, you probably aren’t perfect. Nor is anyone else. And everyone will annoy the hell out of you at some point, hurt you and make you mad as they come. But if you are committed to loving them and loving yourself, I think you have a fair chance of living a happy life. Even in the midst of all the chaos, unfairness and everything else that is life.

So do it. Go have fun. Because you can. Because you’re not ninety-one years-old and falling apart. Because you haven’t yet reached a point where there is nothing you can do about your regrets and failing memory. So live. Live a little.

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Gran and I. 

Want to see an inspirational woman embracing her body? Watch this! http://video.allure.com/watch/dispelling-beauty-myths-disabilities (Unfortunately WordPress wants me to upgrade my account to be able to share the video with you directly — so hence the link.)

 

 

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The seduction of the ego…

The other day I said something to a friend about someone thinking something about something I’d done/said. And I didn’t want this person to get the wrong impression. Then I stopped. Wondered if I actually gave a hoot about what they were thinking, or if it was just my ego that cared?

While it’s never nice to have your words, or actions, misunderstood, they will be so until the day you die. You can never completely control how people react to what you do. You can improve people and communication skills and I’m very much pro that, but people have their own stories going round in their heads. When you walk into their lives, they’ll interpret what you do based on the information they have (the stories in their head).

If you truly care about someone, or whatever they think about you is crucial for some reason or another, then by all means take the time to explain. But if it doesn’t matter to you, is it worth spending time feeling antagonized, or clearing up some minor thing?

I made a decision as I caught myself uttering those words to my friend; a decision to divorce my ego. The ego is seductive because it rattles you. It makes you feel uncomfortable when you think of certain things and as a result you feel you need to take action, or you simply walk around feeling miserable. But instead of buying into the misery and start plotting how to save your face (or be the face), have a think if it truly matters to your heart. I know now that whenever I care about something that is of no relevance, it’s time to step away. Just as I decided last week to step away from negative thoughts (or you know, do anything to distract myself – like what I do when the boy I’m raising throws a tantrum: perform a number from a musical…it works! Well, half of the time at least…).

Let yourself be seduced by your heart, not your ego.

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Ego: a knight in shining armor…

I’m a writer and director. That means I’ve learned how to entertain an audience and pack a punch. That’s why when I blog I often frame things up. So as to make a regular insight/life lesson more interesting I use humor and (humorous) sexual metaphors to make it entertaining. I get the point across in an entertaining way, basically. The sex and humor are add ons though: they have nothing to do with my life. It just makes it funnier to process my thoughts that way.

I just spent one and half hours listening to my coach yelling at me, telling me off and lecturing me on my poor communication skills. Apparently trying to make things entertaining, giving people a way out, softening a blow, cracking jokes, etc. isn’t a good idea when being vulnerable in real life.

Let me give you an example.

I meet Richard Branson. We chat. We get to know each other over a couple of weeks. I have a business idea I’d love to chat to him about, but I don’t want to make him think I’m only friends with him for the sake of business. So I tell him I’d love to have a chat about a business idea, but I say it in a round about sort of way and also make it clear that whether or not he wants to have a look at my business, it’s OK. In fact, if it would be of any inconvenience to him, then maybe he should’t look at it at all.

Apparently this isn’t clear communication. Instead of being vulnerable and speaking from my heart, sharing that I have this precious idea I’d love to speak to him about, I’ve muddled up the communication and sent a signal to him that he should opt not to speak to me about it. Because my ego couldn’t stand being rejected by Richard Branson.

Also, just as apparently, I do this everywhere in my life, though I’m fairly certain I’d say just that to Richard Branson.

I always say you have to step out of your comfort zone and “break” your ego. Because your ego is trying to shield your heart by acting knight in shining armor, but in actual fact what you want in your life are things that are a reflection of your heart. Your ego’s way of protecting you is only harming you.

Why do I have to be so clever about these things? Because now I have to stick by my own word and go break my ego, instead of punching my coach. Sigh. Double sigh.

So this is your favorite ego maniac. Over and out.

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Fulfilling your needs…

The first step to fulfilling someone’s needs is figuring out what they are. I’m fairly sure most us are pretty keen to do so when we meet someone we like. Why? Becuse we’ve got at least 5,000 hormones telling us that the person in front of us is the answer to our happiness. Getting his/her jeans off is just part of it…

The hilarious thing is, we don’t have 5,000 hormones activated when it comes to fulfilling our own needs. We want to be happy and when we hit on something that makes us happy, we tend to do it again. However, in this maze called life we often get lost and confused and end up utterly miserable from time to time. The things we don’t love tend to have as much hold on us as the things we love; the things which make us happy.

Last week, I went on a happiness mission. I’ve been miserable for three years about the situation I’ve found myself stuck in with my life; the visa-career-adopt kids situation (a long story for a rainy day). As I am Miss Solutions and used to finding a road out, this feeling of being stuck did not suit me. In fact, it did a number on my head, becasue I was stuck feeling stuck and on the brink of a breakdown from exhaustion from the situation with the kids. While I still couldn’t find an immediate road out, I decided this year to take charge of what I can take charge of and enjoy the now as much as possible.

As the story goes I really kicked some butt in the beginning of the year, but when I had visa setback no. 303 all the nightmares, fears, feeling like living life in limbo, etc. came back. I was still doing better than the past two years, but I had ups and downs and after visa setback no. 304 a few weeks ago the demons inside my head were doing a dance.

This week I decided that whenever my thoughts go down the wrong path, I need to stop and do something which takes me away from any slippery slope I’m going down (see this blog). I need my strength, or I’ll never get to the point where I can sign those adoption papers. Happiness is part of that strength. Frankly, I also just need to be happy because I’m a human being who deserves it, like everyone else.

Secondly, I realized that while I can’t overhaul my entire life, because I am stuck in a visa-career-adoption situation, I can still do what I love. Maybe it won’t be my fulltime career, maybe it won’t pay me, but I can do it. No more excuses that I don’t have the funds to do it, I don’t have the time to do it, or I have to travel so much it’s not worth trying to do something because I soon have to leave anyway. No more excuses.

I am currently busy doing an inventory of what I feel I need to be happy, from mental stimulation (intellectual challenges), to spending time in nature. Then I’m finding ways of fulfilling those needs. Every single one of them.

In the past I tried turning every need into a business, or some gigantic thing or another. Like in my teens when I had hell because I couldn’t decide whether to become a doctor or a filmmaker. In between those two I also contemplated at least ten other careers. Today I was making my housemate soup and brewing some herbs as she’s sick. I like looking after people, I enjoy herbal medicine and health in general. That doesn’t mean I have to be a doctor to fulfill this particular need, or interest of mine.

I always used to feel torn between the many things I love in life and, as a result, miserable. I wanted to be a doctor, a filmmaker and an entrepreneur. One without the other seemed unfulfilling, but maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe it’s, in fact, quite possible to fulfill our every need…just not in the way we always expect to.

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Happiness is…road trips with my best friend!

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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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