Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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Many of you know that feeling when you are so determined you won’t cry,  you talk yourself into being strong, and then you have that question accompanied by sensitive caring eyes,  “how does that make you feel?” and all resistance crumbles and your face melts into a soggy mass of mascara and blotchiness.

I know that moving home is traumatic.  It is the very industry I have been involved in most of my working life.  The triggers for most moves are divorce, death, departure and debt, so the incidence where moving is for fun are extremely rare.  Even in the most exciting of circumstances there is always a period of settling required.  I know all this, but you see I have always somehow coped and carried on like nothing has changed.  I have always been unflappable because I didn’t want my family feeling insecure.  The challenge this time, is that I seem to be totally unhinged.  I can usually move on without looking back, I embrace change with steely determination, but this time I am almost paralysed with a tiredness that doesn’t seem to want to abate.

The move has given me back the sea that I love so much, the sound of seagulls in the morning, the background noise of children in the park, the smell of coffee from Bob’s Bagels, I am reminded of my children growing up in Pennington when I see young mum’s push their prams and meet others in the park for tea and picnics.  It is all pretty perfect, but I keep wondering when I’m going to be finished with the holiday and go home. When you google the word home, it comes up as, “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” I lit my candles last night and gave thanks for my week and for the support of my precious little family and friends.

As I sit writing this story, I note with satisfaction, that home is starting to take shape.  Most things have found a place.  My dogs are still unsettled, but I have discovered that they love the beach as much as their mother, so this will become their new play park instead of the forest.  They too will adapt.

My guru has allowed me to now run 5km every second day, and I can do it along the beach path to Muizenburg Surfers corner and back.  The thrill of the sound of my footsteps, the sea as my companion and memories of running this path a year ago with my favourite running partner gives me hope, there is light at the end of this tunnel.  I will find my rhythm and the person I was will be back, maybe a better, calmer model. Oi vey, lets hope!

Time

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Time – it waits for no man or dog.

Little Annabella and I have come a long way together.  The first night with me, she climbed onto my head where she slept knowing that I was near.  Nothing much has changed over the last eight years, but of late she is tiring and not the enthusiastic walker/runner she used to be.  Age suddenly creeps up on you, she now gets a little glint in her eyes, she makes her legs all stiff and stops, and I get the message loud and clear, that no more walking is required, she wants to be carried.  When did this all happen, have I failed to notice her ageing, or has my demise coincided with hers and gone unnoticed.  While taking her out just now, where she similarly refused to walk anymore, I was catapulted back to New Years Eve at least 5 years ago.

Precious and I had no set plans for New Year, but had decided that we would definitely do something together after the kids had all departed for their various venues after “pre-drinks.”  Not wanting her to spend too much time alone, off we marched to give her a lovely outing before we went out.  Ribbon in hair, attitude in her little hips, off we strutted in unison.  In and around Newlands, up to the Forest, back down to Main Road and then a meander back to the cottage.  She was puffing and thirsty, and I left her drinking as I started getting ready to go out. I was suddenly aware that she was not with me and went in search of her.  She was lying prone, little legs stiff and her eyes were wide.  I picked her up onto her feet, she just keeled over.  Hysterically shouted for Precious.  We tried again, talking gently to her, picked her up, tried to get her to stand and come to us, nope, over she went, legs straight out.  Cape Town, New Year’s Eve, not our home town at that stage, so no knowledge of vets.  We wrapped her up in her little pink blanket and headed for the car at a run.  We went past 2 Vets, and obtained an emergency hospital number and address.  The trip seemed to take ages.  I whispered to her the whole way, pleading her to be well.  We screeched into the driveway and were escorted straight into the rooms as they were expecting us.  Precious in the meantime, was wide-eyed, filling in forms, terrified that this little outing was going to break the bank.

The Vet walked in, a caring young woman.  I explained my story.  She gently picked Annabella up, while stroking her and placed her on her feet…..Annabella dear darling, looked up and trotted across the table to me, not a care in the world, absolutely fine.  Gobsmacked.  She was either temporarily struck down with tiredness, or she didn’t want me to go out?  Go figure.  Well with a lot of embarrassment and a donation to the Hospital, they couldn’t charge as there as nothing wrong, we left with our “tails” between our legs.  It was now close to 11pm.  We ceremoniously dumped her at home and went in search of some supper and a little cheer.  Barristers, an infamous little pub in Newlands found us.  The owner insisted that he could rustle up some food and we spent probably one of my most favourite New Year’s Eves ever.

So much has changed in our lives since then, but you somehow don’t notice the important stuff when you are caught up in the business of living each day.  My little girl has aged.  No longer prima donna antics, just shit happens.

“Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future”

The Scale of Love

the-scale-of-love-jean-antoine-watteauThe Scale Of Love – Jean Antoine Watteau

With my research and listening skills being a little more attuned of late, I realise that so many people have issues on a day to day basis, (back to my story of the monkey on your shoulder).  I have realised that I most definitely suffer from depression and loneliness, and it is just something that you never discuss, because why should I be depressed and for goodness sake, what makes an outgoing person lonely?  These two monkeys are not always present, but they certainly track me down just when I think I am shot of them.  These goons keep following me, Depression has a firm grip on my shoulder and Loneliness harangues me with his interrogation.

With a lifelong history of moving, I now know that it is the uncertainty for a while that unhinges me.  So as much as I am excited at new opportunities, I have always just craved the simplicity of a stable home which I lost at 17 and don’t seem to have established since. With my packing behind me now I do know that I have one mighty “move” talent and that is that I can make friends with anybody.  I can make friends with the dead.  So when people ask me with quizzical looks on their faces “Do you have friends in your new spot?” and I shake my head no, thinking to myself, but I will….

I read a fascinating story, quite a few years ago and I unfortunately can’t remember who wrote if, about how the scales of love change in a relationship.  Most times, when a couple choose to be one, there is always one party that “loves more.” In this particular book, the wife had always loved more, and knew it, and after going through a tremendously rough time, and an indiscretion by him, the balance changed, and the bewilderment of the spouse who had suddenly “lost” the balance was quite profound, as he had always in essence had the upper hand.  In no way am I advocating that either party have the upper hand, rather a sharing of strengths, but this power is very subtle and I believe very prevalent.  The person who loves more, gives more, and is probably happy being that person.  The same applies to deep friendships, there comes a time, where you suddenly realise that the scales are equal and you are together and bound for the long haul and even if the scale tilts, it will revert.

And so as I seem to battle on this path of huge ups and downs, I was struck down profoundly this weekend with the peace that I am absolutely loved and adored.  The scale of love equalised for me. Home is where the heart is after all.

“Dal centro della mia vita venne una grande fontana..” “From the centre of my life, there came a great fountain.”  “L’amor che move il sole el altre stella”  “The love that moves the sun and other stars.”

Shenanigans is loved.  It is enough.

 

“That’il do Pig, that’il do”

I fetched her at a Mall outside of Cape Town.  She had come all the way from George in a cardboard food box, with a new baby blanket, no food or water and she was filthy.  I hadn’t done too much research on her and so was a little surprised at what she looked like, not quite the beauty of Annabella.  Her whole body was rigid with fear, and her little legs were stretched out straight, I couldn’t even mould her against me.  I turned her onto her back in my lap, she became still and regarded me intently.  She had and still has glorious long black eyelashes, and little dark button, teddy bear like eyes.  She has a way of searching my soul, and bringing peace to my often chaotic days.

I was reminded last night of the movie, Babe and this particular line, “The pig and the farmer regarded each other and for a fleeting moment something passed between them, a faint sense of some common destiny.” The farmer is a simple man who is captivated by a piglet who changes his life and empowers him. His once drab life becomes spectacular.  The narrator goes on to say,  “Little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”

I have learnt that she is frightened of brooms and children.  She is terrified of boisterous dogs that bound up towards her to sometimes play, but perhaps it is her fear that attracts them. She took ages to learn how to cross a bridge and looks at me questioningly whenever some new challenge comes up. I soothe her through these moments and promise to protect her and tell her that she will be alright.  She has totally changed the dynamics of my life.

Something most certainly  passed between us when she held my gaze as a tiny pup.  Our common destiny is sealed.  It is a love that is totally unconditional.  It is trust.  At trying times I suddenly find her paw on my lap or shoulder (yes she can jump right onto the back of the couch now) and in happy glorious situations, she is next to me with her tongue sticking out and a grin on her face.

Babe, the movie finishes with the piglet mastering a flock of sheep through a complicated set of moves, with the farmer as her steady sense of security.  His only words to her after the gate clicks closed is “That’il do pig, that’il do.”

I get the feeling when Molly gazes at me right now, that she is saying, “That’il do Shan, that’il do.

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AWOL

Adjective:  Absent from where one should be but without intent to desert

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Just about to enter the dreaded move stage….let me tell you I know how to move house.  I’m in the double figures.  There is always a story, most hilarious, because the absurdity of what happens to you becomes a joke once all is unpacked and life returns to normal.

Precious and I have been together for 9 years and I have moved 6 times, note the I..most often hauling all our things in my car to the disbelief of my new neighbours, every time. The pleasure of this is of course,  that once the furniture truck comes and fetches the big things everything is already in the cupboards and all I have to do is make beds and hang pictures….in theory.  Precious at this time mysteriously has business trips, golf trips, overseas trips that “only just came up,” or “Darling, did I forget to tell you, I’m sure I mentioned it.”

Well the move from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town is truly one for the storybooks.  I had moved to Cape Town and the furniture and husband were supposed to arrive on the 1 July.  There was extensive packing involved as we scaled down from a 5 bedroomed, en-suite house to a 2 bedroomed little beauty in Newlands Village.  I am a “list” girl and let me tell you, they were extensive – each box was numbered and a corresponding document listed all the contents.  There were 15 boxes coming to CT, there was furniture going to auction and there were boxes not to be packed by the Movers and kept separately in the gym room, also labelled and listed.  I double checked if I needed to be there for the pack up, but was firmly assured that my preparation was so good, it would be an unnecessary expense and I relaxed to welcome all with open arms.

At the time, we had the most beautiful Malawian houseman, James, more commonly known as Jamsie.  Jamsie adds “ie or “y” to nearly every word he speaks, and is a phenomenal gardener, but quite illiterate.  He called me Mommy and would proudly announce things like, “Mommy, I cuttie the grassy, I pullie the weedies out, and I water the plantie,”  all with a gorgeous wide gapped grin.  While I packed furiously he had helped and carted boxes up to the storeroom/gym and had been a lifeline.

I had a terribly restless night on the eve of the furniture being collected, so bad that at 4.30am I sent Precious a message to say that I was going to get on the 6am plane and be there to help him, he just couldn’t do it alone, I didn’t expect an immediate response, just wanted to warn him of my intentions.  Blow me down, my cell rang within 5 minutes of my message….”Darling, didn’t I tell you I was in Johannesburg?”  Now as we know from Bill Cosby, women enunciate, (after they swear) “#*###**#, no you did not mention it on the phone from Johannesburg last night, who is moving our furniture?”  To which he answered, “James”.

Fury, desperation, sadness, loathing, what could I do?  The furniture was collected, orchestrated by Jamsie, who  didn’t use a single list, he phoned me many times, “Mommy, I’m not sure of the boxie, the manie, she’s crossy with me”.  Needless to say EVERYTHING arrived in Cape Town, late one night in the pouring rain.  To add insult to injury, they refused to unpack the van that could not get down our street until I paid a further R9000 for unlisted items and boxes.  Precious sensibly didn’t arrive.

So time heals and dust settles.  We are in the process of moving again. Precious is going on an urgent trip to KZN.  You don’t say…..

Alchemy

 

I recently heard a  story about a large company that were visited in the forest by the powers that were the company.  A wise man and friend of mine set up his staff in precarious positions with all their heavy duty equipment to cut down a large portion of the forest in full view of the visiting officials.  Head office were always very quick to pounce when accidents happened.  As these 650 workers operated their enormous equipment with harnesses and roping the wise man said to the visiting entourage, “Gentlemen, every one of us has a monkey on his shoulder, those 650 workers of ours do and so do you.”  Stunned silence, but he carried on.  “We all have no idea of the hardships going on in everyones lives, whether it be lack of food, a problem with school fees, an unexpected pregnancy, death, divorce, we all have these monkeys that come with us. Accidents happen when sometimes these monkeys become so heavy we lose concentration and unfortunately in those 650 people’s lives, a little oversight ends as a fatal accident.”  Needless to say, the wise man had captured the attention of head office and made his point.

I seem to literally drag troops of monkeys around.  I’m constantly commanding my shoulders to relax as I drive, telling myself that everything will work out.  Pretending “I’m fine”, when I’m dying inside. Well on Saturday morning, very fortuitously, I was asked to write about The Secret Sunrise series at St James beach.  My monkey came with me.  En route I was wondering why I had committed to doing it with all I had to get done on this particular Saturday morning.  I still had a property to view and a daughters birthday party to arrive at and be fabulous for.  Out of my car I trundled before sunrise to obverse just what this concept is.  What is it that is motivating people to get up early for to gather at surprise venues for a secret sunrise?

I am a beach bum, so going down under the railway and onto the beach, crushing shells as I trod was close to orgasmic for me.  My feet hit the beach sand and I instantly started a heart beat I haven’t felt in a while.  The moon was hanging just to the left of the mountain, and the waves were silvery, the tidal pool totally still looking more like an ice rink.  Up past the colourful huts I meandered to a huge grassy field, which was beautifully enclosed in colourful bunting with the odd sunflower making an appearance.   Groups started to trickle in, some in gym clothes, some with beautiful tutus, some in old shorts and t shirts, some in regular clothing, two beautiful friends with  flower wreaths around their heads.  Two puppies are frolicking around my legs as I get my earphones.  Still totally enraptured with the lighting of the morning and the waves licking the shore, I was a little distracted. Suddenly music starts pulsing in your headphones and you are gently called together.  The message is simple, close your eyes, feel the music flowing and let yourself rock gently.  Feel your toes, your knees, your quads, your body as the music flows through you.  Bring all your baggage in and let your body deal with it.  Shout out loudly for your bad week or rejoice with a shout for your good week. Let me share that I am not hugely demonstrative or free with my feelings, but I was totally drawn in.  I shouted and swayed away to my bodies seemingly ancient rhythm.

The confines of every day and the set norms we operate to melted away.  Not only did I rock with the music, I danced with a total stranger, I made eye contact,  I touched elbows, knees, foreheads and noses. I ran in slow motion to the music of Chariots of Fire.  I sprinted found the grass to fast paced music, I jammed like I was the lead in a band, I was free as a bird. We faced the sea as the sun rose teetering on the rocks and allowed those warm rays to enter us and caress our faces and bodies.

This is Secret Sunrise,  this old girl learnt the benefits of sharing and being open to change.  I came away beaming.  I came away full of light and love.  I came away wanting to make the world a better place.  I came away translucent and free.  My monkey was nowhere to be seen or felt.

Secret Sunrise – where is the next one please? @secretsunrisecapetown

Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation

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I have met my match.  I have the annoying habit of making people think I am listening to them, and I do at times take heed, but most times I nod and know that  I’m not necessarily going to listen.  Not any more, he speaks and I jump to attention.

We met in his gym.  His frank demeanour is a little unnerving.  He gazed at my scarred, now misshapen foot, studied my latest X-rays and listened to my demise caused by total abuse of my foot in my running days.  I will go to any means to relive that sublime feeling of fitness.  The sound of running shoes hitting the pavements in unison, the soft chuckles with running friends, the early morning sunrises and sometimes sunsets in the forests.  The sweat, the screaming muscles, the literal pain and glory. I tell him this, and I sense he gets it. My first session is varying balancing exercises which I am dismal at as I discover rapidly that I have been relying on my left foot and leg for everything.  He ends that first session with “rules” and I know then that I am not going to break them.

For the last three weeks I have been balancing on a small piece of blue sponge on my right foot, knee locked, knee bent, calf raises on a toe that I never thought would bend, lunges backwards onto my stiff foot,  I pull him across the room in a harness to activate my toes and foot muscles he then pulls me back so that I am forced to resist, I have to repeatedly climb up and down a bench with just my right foot,  I squat, I stretch, my calf screams for release, and the exercise changes.  The beads of perspiration build more from the concentration than the exertion.  I see him quizzically studying me from time to time and I’m still not sure if he is amazed  at how weak I have become or at my tenacity.  There is the odd laugh when I get the movement wrong, but back to the drawing board we go.

“So, what’s your dream?” he asked last week.  “To be able to run”I answered.  “How far? he asks  as he cocks his head to the side.  “Far enough to sweat.” “I’m going to break my own rules, come with me.” I follow and find myself at the treadmill. “1 km only and let me know exactly how it feels, I’m going to study your take off and landings”  OMG  I’m like a kid in a candy store, Chariots of Fire may as well be blaring out loud.  My 1km is soon over, I am ecstatic,  stiff….but not sore.  “Right, come, lets discuss the rules”  We sit on the mat.  He puts my foot up against his chest, he applies his body weight, I return the pressure, then he says “just relax your leg.”  This proves to be the most difficult ask of all.  He quietly urges me to let the pressure go, let the pain go, free yourself of this foot, free yourself of all the foot has meant to you.  I am slowly lulled and feel my throat thickening and tears in my eyes.

This week I am allowed to do 2km on a flat treadmill.  It is life changing for me. Even though the other parts of my life still feel like Kalk Bay traffic at Christmas time I am teetering on the brink of becoming a self-governing individual.  I am actually feeling kind of delighted about all the compartments of time and space that are appearing in my days, during which I can ask myself the radical new question, “What do you want to do Shan?”

My time on the couch has brought this ray of hope, a new life, accompanied with a  new little village, my time with my match has unlocked my crucial physical well being.  I bow down before both your talents.  You have possibly unlocked a demon….

Ambivalent.  I was.  No longer.  I know exactly what I want.

“I do not want to change anything in you, I love you the way you are”

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Whenever I attend a school function I am reminded of Goodbye Mr Chips where the teachers grow older and the boys stay the same.  Year in and year out, the school calendar remains unchanged.  Academic programs are maintained, swimming galas come and go, rugby and hockey seasons pass, athletics days come and go and in a flash yet another academic year is over and the next hundred odd boys enter the school to repeat what just past for some.

I spent some time alone this morning at a little coffee shop in Hilton and easily remembered exactly how I felt on the morning of Athletics Day.  My sleep the night before was always a little compromised, I woke earlier, I could barely eat, that empty, hollow feeling prevailed all day.  I was aware of peripheral noise as my non competitive friends enjoyed a day off school and the pitch became noisier and noisier before the chanting of  war cries. My palms were always clammy, but somehow I managed to pass off as cool and calm, and I know instinctively this is just how my child is feeling this morning.  He has to sit through two and a half periods before the bell calls for the games to begin.

The background noise that is sports day, the whistles, the flags, the starter gun.  The tea tables for the parents, and the idle chit chat that accompanies these events as eyes dart in all directions hoping to catch your son’s eye in the  crowd. The boys commotion as they shout for a team mate, the camaraderie as the slower competitors run past in the longer races.  The anticipation palpable among the parents watching. Many of us are part of divorced families and there is some inherent awkwardness that can accompany school outings when not only are your two parents there, but also  a step-father, a step-mother, and a Grandmother thrown into the day and the pressure to please and perform can be overwhelming.

I see my beautiful boy, he stands out among men, not only because he is taller, there is just something about him.  He appears to be advising a younger boy. His chiselled face is white and strained looking.  There is no time to talk, there are too many of us, his first race is a difficult distance.

The starter gun explodes, the vibration of their feet can be felt in the earth. Legs and arms pump in unison.  This first event is not his race to win today, I feel the loss for him and know the disappointment.  From where I am sitting  I can see his chest still heaving, I see him graciously congratulate the winner, I see the slight slump in his demeanour, he doubles over to catch his breath.   He then begins to make the long walk towards us and I wait to connect.  In that moment when our eyes do meet he knows absolutely that his best is adequate, this is unconditional love, he knows I came to support and see him, not expectant of wins or dependant on them.  This love is unparalleled.  His eyes soften, his shoulders relax. The pressure is off.  He is instructed to “go and have fun”.  He does, and many medals later he is the gold of his age group.

I write this article not as a  brag, but as a reminder that the gift of love is so precious and tenuous.  As Mothers we are given the power to make or break a spirit.  Be gentle with your love.  No matter how old your little boy is, he needs to know that he is enough.

I was blessed with this gentleman who loves every member of his family fiercely,  he shows respect to both of his ageing Grandmothers. He is quiet and unassuming and goddammit the boy can draw too.

 

 

 

 

“Stick it to the man, power to the people”

Although I am not of the Millennial, I am however, thrust into the lives of Millennials through my children and through this ever speedy paced society we live in.  I  am now totally at loss when my wifi is not working and streaming takes forever.  I hit Google search whenever I need to know anything and rely on social media to stay connected to my friends and see what is topical.  The Olympic Games has been fabulous on these platforms with our time zone differences.  As parents of the Millennials we affirm these beautiful creatures and enforce that it is essential to follow careers that are passions, every social media platform promotes “following your dream”, “live in the moment”.  Articles abound with success stories of people as old as me changing their career paths drastically and wishing they had done it years ago.  I am part of that group like my parents before me, that slaved away to obtain the house with the picket fence, but left with a feeling of discontent or should I say unhappiness. The thing is, if you procrastinate in choosing what you want, inevitability will make sure that the choice is made for you by circumstance.

Captain Fantastic, the most epic movie of Ben Cash who with his wife Leslie (manic depressant) decide to “stick it to the man, power to the people” by removing their family from the norms of society and take them to the wilderness of Washington State.  They live off the land in every way, with some pretty gory kills and rights of passage thrown in.  Ben educates, disciplines their brains, puts them through physical gruelling exercise, music, dance, kindness and a deep seated love for each other.  Their whole life is thrown into disarray when they have to return to the city and their system is compromised by what society expects of them.  I won’t carry on with the movie as I am not trying to write a review, the essence is however, be brave enough to find your path and achieve it.  The most notable part of the story is at the end, when the oldest son is leaving and Ben holds his cheeks in his hands, their foreheads touching and eyes searching and commands him above more than anything “to be kind”.

A dear friend from years back coincidentally sent me a beautiful letter written by Hunter S. Thompson in 1958 to his friend Hume who asks for advice for his future, he opens the letter quoting Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be; that is the question, whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles”.  He put that to Hume, did he want to choose to float with the tide or swim for a goal.  Every outcome is a result of your initial choice.  His advice in the letter is most significantly STIVE TO BE YOURSELF.  Do not conform to goals, or rather make sure you choose paths that let your abilities function towards the gratification of your desires.  He finishes his letter saying “it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it.  There is more to it than that – no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life, if thats what you end up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it,  you’ll have lots of company”.  Hunter became one of the most important writers of the 20th century, and Shakespeare before that was quoting the identical mindset.

I was always one of those with lots of company hiding behind what “I had” to do.  I have taken the step.  I have moved on.  My life has taken a 360 degree turn.  I have a new career, and a new lifestyle about to begin.  It will be more frugal, more true.  My heart has started pumping again, there is excitement (and a bit of terror) in every day.

“Carpe Diem, make your lives extraordinary”