I think it’s fair to say that as South Africans, we experienced one of the most sad and shocking few days last week.
For me, there were more questions than answers. In the midst of feeling angry, lost, worried and everything else in between, one thing I was conscious of is that I wanted to focus on the solutions rather than the problems.
I personally find answers in history, books and stories. Those who have come before us have let us little clues and those who seek, shall find.
A particularly good story is from the Fables of Aesop: The Dog and the Shadow.
“It happened that a Dog had got a piece of meat and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat in peace. Now on his way home he had to cross a plank lying across a running brook (stream).
As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own shadow reflected in the water beneath.
Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also.
So he made a snap at the shadow in the water, but as he opened his mouth the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water and was never seen more.”
The moral of the Fable is, “Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” In other words, BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE.
In the past week, I have looked at a warm plate of food with a renewed sense of gratitude.
My only wish is that as we navigate the chaos of these times, and we consider the solutions for our situation, that we do it from a place of thanks and not anger.
I started going for a lunchtime “run” with my love. Now, how it is that I would be on the road and in running gear, at lunchtime, is still a little bit of a mystery to me.
Firstly, I’m not a runner, never have been. In fact, it’s something I have always loathed to do. Going for a walk, yes, any day, a run, not so much.
The only explanation I have is that I was trying to be nice. I was trying to be that nice person that does things with their partner that the partner loves to do but they don’t. Like a bonding experience. Something to grow the relationship more and an activity to enjoy together.
Now I do remember declaring right at the beginning of the relationship that running was the one thing I would NOT be joining him on. I put it out there early and yet here I was going on lunchtime “runs.”
I think that somehow his sweet little invitations got to me. “We’ll just take it easy, you can walk anytime, you set the pace, no rush, take your time.” I wanted to whine and make excuses, but I couldn’t.
So, I started doing this lunchtime walk/run thing with him. And I wanted to hate it, but I couldn’t.
You want to know why?
Because he is just so damn supportive, and kind and encouraging.
OMG good people.
I started to enjoy it.
And here are the 7 lessons learned running from me, the non-runner:
1. Mind over Matter
The more I told myself I wasn’t a runner the less I enjoyed the run. This was an early lesson. It’s so easy for negative thoughts to consume us and we end up convincing ourselves that we can’t do things. Who wants to be out running if they not enjoying it? I became very conscious of my thoughts. I kept repeating “I am a runner” over and over again until my mind started believing it. The more I believed it the more I enjoyed it.
The daily habit of doing it, same time every day, turned it into a routine that I looked forward to. I wanted to be out in the fresh air and the sunshine. Obviously when we first started I walked more than I ran, but the more consistently we got out there I was eventually able to run more than I walked. Every day I found joy in the achievement of running more or beating my previous time.
3. Positive affirmations
I found it a great time to do my positive affirmations. It was a way to get my mind to focus on something else besides feeling tired or out of breath. The more I said, “I can do it, I can do it I can do it,” the more I did.
I convinced myself that the deep breathing (read being out of breath) was a form of meditation. I intentionally focussed on slowing down my breathing and trying to be more in control of it. By “meditating” I also got into a calm, relaxed zone where all I was focussed on was the road. Which leads to my next point.
5. Focus on the road
Being on the road, in the fresh air and the warmth of the sun gives you the opportunity to let go of all the noise in your head. All you need to focus on is the road. You automatically let go of everything else.
6. One foot in front of the other
It teaches you that the most important thing to do is put one foot in front of the other, to keep moving and to keep going. You learn that you can push yourself further and that it’s easier to keep moving forward with momentum.
7. It isn’t a race.
I’m so competitive that I wanted to turn the whole thing into a competition. At some point I realised that what I really wanted was to find joy in it. I didn’t want to be the best or the fastest, I just wanted to like it. And that changed everything.
While running is a physical activity I found that the struggle wasn’t with my body but with my mind. It is such a powerful tool that if you can convince it, with enough repetition and consistency, that you are a runner and that you enjoy it, eventually you will.
Now imagine if you apply the same principles to your life. Imagine convincing your mind that you are healthy, that you are abundant, that you are happy, that you are wealthy and that you are blessed, imagine then how your life could change?
I’ve heard a lot lately that our love story is giving people hope, which in itself is wonderful but if young singles have no hope, it is an indication of what the state of dating is like in 2021. And probably not just 2021 because I can remember as far back as 2012 when I was writing about what a jungle it was out there.
Now it’s probably even worse. I mean, I was in the singles game for a while and even I didn’t fully understand the terms “it’s complicated” or “friends with benefits” and as for online dating and Tinder, don’t get me started.
I lasted half a day on Tinder and not even that on other dating apps. What I would do is spend time creating a wonderful and witty profile, knowing that witty would be wasted on most but hey, I was trying I told myself, and then I would start swiping.
And then I would swipe and swipe. And swipe some more. I don’t know what you might have heard from other people about online dating but let me tell you it was horrifying. So much so that I didn’t even last long enough to contact anyone because all I could see (and granted maybe it was just my dramatic mind) were serial killers.
Life is all about a sequence of events and you’ll meet people, mostly strangers, who have a message for you, all you need to do is listen.
I was visiting my brother-in-law’s parents and while I was there a few other people came by. Amongst them was a woman who was over the moon because she had just met her dream man. My aunty, who is not really my aunty but my brother-in-law’s mother, then proceeded to tell her that I was single and needed some advice on how to find a man.
This was her advice: WRITE A LETTER TO GOD. She told me that this is what she did, and she got everything she asked for. Well, to say that I rolled my eyes at the time would be an understatement. I was like, yeah sure, I’ll do that.
Fast-forward to 2018 and my non-existent yet disastrous experiences with online dating, dismal social life, and a lack of desire to even try getting out there, I decided to write a letter to God. I detailed very specifically everything I wanted in a man from physical appearance to personality to values etc.
And left it at that.
At the same time, I decided to take control of my life, get my health in check, change my lifestyle, and ultimately work on making ME happy. My main focus was on loving myself more and just being happy every single day.
I would go back to that letter every now and then and read it to remind myself of what I wanted because don’t be fooled if you think that Little Toads are not going to show up. They start popping up everywhere.
This is the point where it can go two ways. Either you recognize the Little Toad for exactly what it is and continue to wait patiently or your build that Little Toad up into a Fine Prince and convince yourself that this is it. Surely, it must be. So, you date the “Fine Prince” until his little toadish behaviour becomes so apparent and obvious that you can no longer convince yourself the this is a Fine Prince.
You feel distraught that you made the wrong decision, that it didn’t work out and that you are right back where you started.
All I can say is, you made a decision (right or wrong is inconsequential), it taught you a lesson and you are better for it because in that process you probably learnt more about yourself.
I can’t say how long you will have to wait for. I waited for 2 years because it was only in 2020 that I met the man in my letter to God and it was when I least expected it and on a platform that I had completely written off; online.
With everything that we desire in life, whether it be a partner, a new house or a dream job, we need to be VERY specific about what we want, we need to set an intention and believe that we will get it, we need to ask (write a letter to God) and then we need to let it go.
There are so many stories lately of people who have been sick or have passed on due to Covid. There are so many more of people living in fear. We may or may not get a chance to say a last goodbye to those we hold dear and while the thought is terrifying it is even more so to just EXIST in a world that is still so full of LIFE.
This poem is a reminder for us to truly LIVE because this life we have is but for a brief moment only. Be SAFE by all means, but also be joyful. Shake things up a little.
“You start dying slowly,
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
if you do not listen to the sounds of life,
if you do not appreciate yourself!
You start dying slowly when you kill your self-esteem, when you do not let others help you.
You start dying slowly if you become a slave to your habits,
walking everyday on the same paths,
if you do not change your routine,
if you do not wear different colours,
or you do not speak to those you don’t know!
You start dying slowly if you avoid feeling passion,
and its turbulent emotions,
those that make your eyes glisten and your heart beat fast!
You start dying slowly if you do not change your life,
when you are not satisfied with your job,
or with your love, or with your surroundings.
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
if you do not allow yourself,
at least once in your lifetime
to run away from sensible advice!” ~ Pablo Neruda
I find myself in the throws of wedding planning, in figuring out my professional path, in sorting out which continent to live on and mapping out a personal plan for at least the next year or so.
Adulting isn’t really for me on most days and now suddenly there is a plateful and more of it to do.
I often fantasize about living off the grid in a cabin in the woods and surviving off the land. We all know I probably wouldn’t last a day or two so now I am forced to apply my mind to things that are of great importance. And I have to make decisions. Big ones.
The fact that I haven’t yet lay on the floor and had a little melt down like a 3-year-old is in itself a miracle. Growth has occurred friends.
In all seriousness though this is just a short note to say that even though I have no idea how to plan a wedding, I’m learning. Even though I have no idea where or how I am going to work, I’m preparing. Even though I have no idea where I’m going to live, I’m researching and planning.
I’m on the train and it’s moving and that’s all that’s important right now.
The destination is unknown, and I have learnt in the last couple of years to be wonderfully comfortable with that.
I am sitting in TRUST.
That all will work out as it’s meant to. That the train will stop at the “right” stations. That the journey will unveil itself as magnificently as it has so far.
New seasons present new opportunities. Exciting adventures await. My hands are open, my mind alert and my heart is overflowing with love.
We are all going on the ride of a lifetime. You didn’t think I’d leave you behind, did you?
Love abounds, Life is good, and Miracles are aplenty.
“Who is that Tall Drink you’ve been hiking with?” A question from an old friend. Well, that Tall Drink is now my fiancé. HA, who would of thought?
My father is certainly having a good chuckle wherever he is.
I’ve been gone for a while, I know. An explanation for March I do not have but for April, all I can say is that I was busy living my best life in the best month of the year so far. It was a month of birthdays, celebrations, engagements, and family reunions.
I have to admit that there were moments where I completely forgot about Covid. After such a long time of isolation and separation it felt so good to have some company and pure unadulterated fun. That’s not to say that going out and living life was not without it’s stresses. Constantly sanitizing is still a thing, wearing facemasks constantly is still a thing, social distancing as much as possible is still a thing but somehow within those confines we found a little freedom.
And that felt good.
At the beginning of April I found myself anxiously waiting at OR Tambo for a man I had met more than 30 years before and yet it still felt like we were about to experience a 1-month long blind date. I often wonder about the synchronicities of life that it would come to be that his Dutch parents and my South African father would come to live and work in a tiny village in Big Bend, Swaziland.
We first met as kids, in a place surrounded by nothing but sugar cane fields. After a long absence and lots of life lived in between, he in the Netherlands and me in South Africa, we “met” again online during Covid. Three trips had to be re-scheduled and a lot of patience exercised before he finally landed back on African soil in April.
I’ll never forget first seeing him pass by the glass on the way to the exit and our eyes locking for the first time; the hug and the first kiss. It was so surreal and so special. And I guess that’s why my protective instincts kicked in. I wanted to keep it private, protected and personal.
During the month of April I found myself constantly questioning whether I really wanted to share details of my life or keep it sacred. (as in private, personal and special) As time passes I find myself leaning more to the sacred.
I’ve been more conscious and curated on social media, monitoring what I put out there.
Somedays I feel like being totally private and others I want too share. I guess I’m finding my own balance and boundaries. We are all different. There are no rules.
It’s the same dilemma with this blog. I constantly question whether what I’m saying is important or even of value.
I’ve read so many articles that say only blog about a niche product or area of interest. I’m sure they are right.
But, for now I have no niche, all I have is life.
For now, I want to write about life: the realness of it. I want to write about love, relationships, feelings, experiences that are messy, sometimes ugly and also good. All these things affect and reflect our Wellbeing.
For now, I want to be a wildling like my father. No rules, no expectations, no filter.
For now and probably for always, I want to write just to enjoy the process and not to care about the outcome.
I want to share and I also want to keep sacred. In the flow of it all, we find the balance.
The thing about life though is to stay in the flow.
Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale through the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.
A note on life and a few reflections from the past couple of weeks.
I like organization and order and for everything to be planned and in it’s place. I like linear. I struggle with the zig zag and the up and down and the scribbles all over the place.
I would describe my childhood as a Jackson Pollock painting, all over the place. No offence to Jackson. I have therefore tried to create order in my adult life. Anything that threatens to disrupt that order throws me off course a little. Like my head starts spinning and I feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable.
There was a point last week where I wanted to cry because I was in the middle of a scribble. Everything was all over the place and I was trying to find the linear point, the part that made sense, the part that I could understand and be comfortable with. The part that would centre me.
And I was struggling in that moment to find it.
My solution of course was to be dramatic and to start thinking about giving up everything, this blog included.
I got stuck in a moment and I wanted to use that moment to throw my big girl panties up in the air and say, “That’s it, I’m done.”
I personally cringe at the mention of Valentine’s day and the visions of red in every store. I tried to celebrate it once and it was such a half hearted effort that I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I feel like my mental health takes a bit of a dip on this day so I thought I’d share some tips on how to preserve your mental health on Valentine’s day.
Whatever your situation is trust me someone has it worse. Try being in your 40s, unmarried and childless on Valentine’s with all those ‘I feel so sorry for you’ looks. As if your expiration date has been reached and you need to be pushed to the back of the shelf hidden out of sight.
I feel like the demand on women to be married and having children is a little outdated and a tad patriarchal. We all make our choices in life and should be allowed a non-judgmental space to be unconventional.
For those of us who are a little jaded on Valentine’s here’s a few tips to preserve your mental health.
1. Pamper Yourself
Just because you’re single or in a relationship it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the most important person in your life. YOU! Pamper yourself and do things that make you happy. Cook your favourite meal, have a long bubble bath, get a pedicure or have a marathon netflix fix.
2. Celebrate All Your Relationships
Take a break from all the lovey-dovey stuff on social media and celebrate new and old friendships in your life. Reach out to friends, organise a zoom party or simply chill with your family.
3. Gifts Do Not Equal Love
In fact they are not necessary. Expensive gifts may not suit you or your partner’s budget at this time. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Remember that your love does not equate to money.
4. Take A Break From Social Media
Social media can take a toll on your mental health. Most of what you are seeing is highly curated and not a real representation of what’s happening in your friends or families lives. Save yourself from the mindless scrolling and take some time in nature.
Talk to a trusted friend or get together to watch a comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine. If you have no-one to reach out to write all your thoughts and feelings down in a diary. Dump all your thoughts out and you’ll feel so much better.
Whatever you decide to do be safe and take good care of yourself.
Let me leave you with this quote that I love: “loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself” (Rupi Kaur)
Self-love is a practice, it is a skill and it takes work.
If you are on a journey for love within, it will be long and it will be rewarding.
For love, that is within, is unconditional and freeing.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto to you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart” but rather “I am in the heart of God”.
And think not you can direct the course of love,
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. (Kahlil Gibran)
Last year sent major shock waves through our lives, affecting us in big and small ways and possibly even in ways we don’t even understand yet.
As we enter into full 2021 mode we know that our journey is not yet done. There is still much to learn and it has never been more important to look at our own needs – emotional, mental, physical and spiritual.
Practicing self-care is important in tough times AND at all times. If anything 2020 highlighted this for us.
Trying new wellness trends can help us get to a place of happiness and health.
Here are five simple ways to embrace self-care this year:
Tending to Our Mental Health
This will remain a top priority. Physical contact and connection is so important to our health but we have been forced by this pandemic to isolate, quarantine and social distance causing our anxiety levels to increase.
We have therefore transitioned into a virtual world of meditation apps, affirmation apps, breathwork classes online, phone counseling, telehealth therapy and other online mental health services.
When faced with everyday issues we have been given a chance to use these resources and see that they are effective, necessary and helpful.
There are many more mental health support groups online than ever before. If you can’t reach out to family or friends, try going the virtual route. Help is just a finger tap away.
Boosting Our Immunity
The popularity of immune-boosting supplements, herbs and superfoods reached new heights in 2020.
Strengthening the immune system will continue to be a major 2021 wellness trend across the board, from food to supplements and educational classes.
A good starting point would be a Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C supplement.
Other major trends will be energy healing and gut health.
Growing awareness of the effect that our gut microbiome has on our overall well-being, immunity, and brain function will also make cultivating good gut health a priority. (Stay tuned for a gut health series coming soon)
Renewed Interest in Nature
In response to more time spent in the home people have increased their interest in nature.
Design trends show more people investing in plants to create indoor gardens.
Plants help clean the air and provide a sense of companionship. We all know that not only do we have to water and care for our plants but we also need to talk to them positively to help them grow, right?
If you are looking for an indoor plant to purify the air with minimal maintenance from you, try the peace lily or monther-in-laws tongue.
New Workout Habits
Wellness is now being defined by both virtual and in-person experiences.
More and more people are joining live-stream workouts at least once a week and even more are seeking out pre-recorded fitness videos.
I, personally, am using Youtube more than ever to find a variety of workouts from yoga to HIIT.
We are all forming new workout habits. Even outdoor areas such as parks (when open) are becoming more popular for walks.
Technology boundaries are becoming the new normal. Screen time is being monitored and regulated.
Self-care trend forecasting shows that screen fatigue and technology burnout are real.
We’re seeing the effects of blue light and screen time on our eye health, mental health, sleep cycles, and more.
We will need to find a balance between being online and being present in our everyday lives, going back to engaging in real conversation and making real eye contact.
New wellness trends are a great indicator of shifts in behaviour in response to current crisis.
Changing our habits and starting self-care routines is necessary for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health going into 2021 and beyond.
We need to stay healthy and strong together.
Wishing you health, happiness and heavenly self-care spoils.