The Desolate

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At the funeral, I had the pleasure of meeting some of Mr M’s friends. Pity it was under such sad circumstances but pleased to meet them I was. I’ve battled to make friends my whole life. I joke with acquaintances that “To know me is to love me” but there lies no confidence in that statement, at all. Another saying comes to mind, “Fake it until you make it”, perhaps that’s where I am going.

I say I’ve battled to make friends because I was bullied as a child for two years in junior school. After the hell of junior school ended, my brother began a difficult struggle of his own with panic disorder and agoraphobia and took out his frustration on me for the next five years. We fought constantly and bitterly. This pre-conditioning made me quick to anger and even quicker to speak as well as highly distrustful of people and their motives. I am not naturally friendly because I am highly suspicious of people and their motives and to top it all off, I was painfully shy as a result of the bullying. Afraid to draw attention to myself, say anything deemed to be ‘stupid’ or singled out for any kind of attention. I was always an introvert and this treatment at the hands of my peers threw my internal world further into chaos and made me retreat further. To this day I refuse to do anything unless I know that I will excel at it. Needless to say, this has held me back from experiencing a lot.

My ex-husband’s family disliked me intensely. I never knew what I had done to warrant this behaviour and I was never afforded the opportunity to discuss it and clear the air, perhaps dispell inaccuracies and half truths or apologise. I do know that my ex never spoke of the good times we had to his friends and family, I know this because I was told as much by the girlfriend of one of his close friends. So when someone talks only of the negative, it’s very hard to see anything good about that person. It led to me being ostracized, particularly at family gatherings, where members of the inner circle would not speak directly to me. It didn’t take me long to realise it but it was impossible to get Gerald to see it. Being the passive aggressive he was, he refused to engage in anything that required some sort of confrontation with anyone. I tried to make the best of a bad situation and believed that with our wedded union, I would make them see how much I loved Gerald and they would accept me. It is all I wanted and hoped for. I especially believed this to be possible when his sister in law came to me at our wedding and said these words to me: “So, clean slate from now then?” I was completely taken aback, not out of delight but out of utter incredulousness. She had never deemed me worthy of ever discussing why the slate was dirty in the first place. In any event, I chose to roll with it. Needless to say, things never got better and eventually the marriage crumbled. This lack of acceptance and being treated like a pariah within my ‘family’ was one of the main reasons I chose to leave. There are many other things I came to learn after the marriage but they do not warrant discussion here.

The reason I’ve chosen to take you down this path to my past is because it goes to my character today.

At the wake, after the funeral, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the friends who live far away and I hadn’t met. I scarcely knew these people and at one point a man came up to me and said, “I’ve heard you are awesome!” Quite the first impression. He had enquired as to who that girl was with Mr M and the people who knew me had very complimentary things to say. As much as I want to believe this and take it to heart, I am unable to. I appreciate that people say they think well of me but because I am so mistrusting of people and their motives, I battle to believe it. I have gotten better at saying ‘thank you’ and meaning it, so that I don’t come off as graceless. This also does not mean I do not believe that they are sincere when they say it. It’s hard to explain.

The compliments though have not been in short supply and I have to stop and think that perhaps it was not me. Perhaps I was just one of those kids who got picked on, was unfortunate enough to marry into a family who never heard anything nice about me and decided it wasn’t worth making up their own minds about me.

Lesson learned. You cannot let what other people think about you affect how you think about yourself. Other people’s opinions of you are muddled with their own experiences and often, they are holding up a mirror to themselves. A very well known quote by John Wooden comes to mind here: Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

It’s taken me years, and I am still not accomplished at it–I doubt I ever will be–but I care less than I used to about what other people think. What goes on in their heads is hardly of consequence to me or anyone other than them. They are walking their own path through this life, just as I have walked my path. We will each answer only for what we have done.

Thank you for reading.

The Storm

Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over but one thing is certain, when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the person who walked in. 

That’s what this storm is all about. 

~ Haruki Murakami

I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on grief. I’m still sad, still crying–sometimes at the most inopportune of times–but then it’s only been five days. I vacillate between tears of sorrow and those of anger. I’ve been highly emotional. If I can compare it to the teapot… someone has shaken it and all the leaves are aflutter and I am ill at ease. I’ve been picking fights where they don’t exist. They are not unreasonable but they are topics I should steer clear of in this state.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Mr M’s best friend. Tomorrow his widow, his parents, his brother and his friends bury him.

People say very complimentary things about people posthumously. Not all of them deserve it. Mr M’s friend however, was the embodiment of life. Always right there living in each and every moment, cramming an unfathomable amount of life into life. Last week Wednesday he sat opposite us, regaling us with tales of life in Israel, laughing uproariously all the while. He stopped at one point, looked at Mr M and I and said, “You know bru (a South Africanism for ‘brother’), there is so much I still want to do, so much but I have to sit back and remind myself of how much I’ve already done because I’ve done a lot, hey!”

I guess it’s up to us now to live the lives he would have wanted. To honour his memory, zest for life and electric attitude.

I will miss you my friend. I will miss who you are to Mr M and I will do my very best to look after him in the way I know you wanted me to. Thank you for the laughs, the inside scoop into Mr M’s psyche and dispensing some of the best hugs I’ve ever had the fortune of experiencing.

May your beautiful soul rest in peace.

The Loss

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Mr M lost someone very close to him on the weekend. Someone who has played such a pivotal and stabilizing role in his life. Someone who has been there through every storm and loss that Mr M has suffered and there have been many and at a very young age. The sheer magnitude of what this is doing to him is truly heart breaking to witness.

The loss was sudden and unexpected, which makes it worse. At least if a loved one succumbs to a long illness you have time to compute, to adjust in some way. No such luxury, if you can call it that, exists here. I am experiencing this tragedy through Mr M’s eyes. I scarcely know what to say or do. Every possible word seems contrived and trite. So I just sit with him, hold his hand and let him know that he’s not alone in this. That I will be there and be whatever he needs during this time.

What I am struggling with are my own emotions. I am hardly adept at controlling them. I’ve gotten better at controlling things like my temper and my words but for one such as me who is melancholic for the majority of her day, I am unsure how I’m going to navigate the emotional rollercoaster that I can see on the–not at all distant–horizon.

It’s not easy to put it into words but I’ll try.

I feel something at every moment of every day, most often on a visceral level. Oft times I feel a lot of things concurrently. I am quite deeply affected by events that have nothing to do with me, hurts that are perpetrated against strangers. I have to be very careful how much of the news I read and what kind of news I read. Spending too much time reading all the horrors that are going on around me can send me into, what I can only describe as, a depressive state. I am not depressed, to be clear, but I have periods of extreme sadness. It’s so hard to focus on the good, as it were, when so many people are suffering hardships and loss. I feel the need to help humanity in some way, yet at the same time, I am completely and utterly disappointed in humanity.

Not long ago, I sat back and through a lot of contemplation and prayer, realised that I am at peace, despite the storms raging inside me and the sadness in my head and my heart. My faith gives that to me. Since the death of Mr M’s friend, I have battled to understand how people with no faith in anything, deal with loss and grief. I simply do not understand how they do it. I am thankful for my faith, every day. It affords me a place of refuge when things become too much. It’s the one thing that unequivocally, never lets me down. Were I to lean on my own understanding, I would have, in all likelihood, swallowed a bunch of pills a long time ago. There hardly exists any reason to do anything worthwhile in life or with your talents, if it all just results in nothing. You may disagree. You may believe that all Christians believe a fairy tale, that we are delusional. That’s ok. I’m not here to preach to anyone or shove anything down anyone’s throat. I am just unable to make sense of the nothingness theory and we’d all be better off blowing up the planet in a spectacular nuclear display and saving human and animal kind the pain of ‘going it another day’ into the nothingness. If there is no point to life, that after death we are just dead, why on earth should we subject ourselves to the hardship and pain that this world brings us?

It’s hardly a popular thing to be said these days but I am thankful for Christ, who He was, what He did and who I am in Him. This is how I will deal with what is to come. This is what makes me the person I am, so sensitive to everything around me yet calm at my core and able to let Mr M lean. To let him see my light and know that he is loved beyond compare, for that light is not of me. I am only the person I am because of His light.

Thank you for reading.

The Acceptance of Self

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Does the decision not to have children mean that a woman is selfish? Or is she self accepting? Or is she crazy?

Personally, I have decided not to have children. To those who know me, I am warm, nurturing and care deeply for my loved ones. So why the decision not to have children? Is there something wrong with me biologically? Psychologically? Emotionally?

I’d have to stop there and give an unequivocal ‘No’. From the time I was young I was never one of those girls who planned the white wedding or envisioned the big house in the suburbs with the bay windows and white picket fence with a husband and 2 children.

Sure, I saw myself getting married and when I did, my thoughts did drift to having children. Most of my friends have children, beautiful kids whom I adore! I started to really consider the option. Marital problems however, will put the kibosh on thoughts of kids faster than you can say ‘morning sickness’. Rather, they did in my case.

We all know the women who have children to either get a man, or keep a man. To my mind that has got to be the single most asinine reason to have children. You cannot tie a noose around the neck of someone and expect them to love you the way you want them to love you. Love is born of free will. This is the only way. The caged bird is yours, simply because it is confined. Same thing with having a baby to keep a man. Unless he is there of his own volition, how long do you honestly believe you can keep up the charade? Were the shoe on the other foot and a man was holding you to him by means of emotional blackmail or a chain around the leg, how long would it be before you grew to resent him? If untethered love came calling, how long would it be before you jumped the fence for greener pastures? How is it then that women are surprised when their nefarious little plan results in pain, heartache and separation? Contemplate that for a very long while before allowing yourself to be impregnated with the child of a man who is not on exactly the same page of the same book that you are on.

[I do acknowledge that no method is 100% foolproof and that these things happen. If this has happened to you, then you are not of whom I speak.]

Moving along. I have heard people list various reasons for not having kids. “I like my independance”, “I am cultivating a career”, “I don’t like to share my toys”, “I’m past it now, too selfish and set in my ways”. That last one came from a woman in her mid 30’s. If you really believe yourself to be ‘stuck in your ways’ by 35 you need to re-evaluate a few things.

Those are some of the most vacuous reasons I’ve heard for anything, nevermind having kids.

That being said, what would you think, for instance, if I told you that I don’t have any concrete reasons? That’s right. I don’t. I do not want children. Period. I am in a healthy, happy, monogamous relationship with a truly wonderful man. A man who has made it his business to show me how wonderful all things love can be and how wonderful he believes me to be even when I do not believe it myself, which is most of the time but we’re not talking about my self-esteem issues today.

Let’s call him Mr M (he’s a musician). Mr M has a child of his own, one from a previous relationship. He too, never wanted children and it was ‘an oops’. He was young and he felt compelled to ‘do the right thing’ by the mother-of-his-child-to-be. Under the pressures of parenthood and for various reasons the relationship crumbled. One woman’s loss is another one’s gain, I always say.

Honestly, it’s a bit of a relief. I’d be happy to be involved in Mr M junior’s life but I am not about to give him a half sibling. The decision to not have children was, while not made before I got married or even during the hardest of times during my marriage, cemented after the divorce, regardless of what or whom the future may bring. I would never assume to tell any woman that she must not have children. I would never shove my views down anyone elses throat. Kindly, respect my decision, with which you are free to disagree but that which you must respect as being my decision to make.

I am at complete peace with my choice. This self-awareness and acceptance lends itself to being more accepting of other people. Not everyone will have my views and this does not mean their views are not worth hearing and considering. Be a little more considerate to those people who do not agree with you. They have their own reasons for the choices they have made and continue to make.

Thank you for reading.

An Open Letter to Melissa Bachman

Absolutel STUNNER of a piece by Ben Trovato. Brilliant read!

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

Dearest Melissa,

I just wanted to say how much I love that photo of you posing next to the lion you killed in South Africa.

The picture has gone around the world and everyone thinks you are absolutely wonderful. Well, apart from those who think you are a coldhearted filthpig who uses a gun to deal with issues of low self-esteem and other unresolved childhood pathologies.

I think you are great. I wish you were my wife. My dream would be to travel the world, just you and I, with matching His and Hers .357 Benjamin Rogues, shooting animals in the face just for the hell of it.

I can’t believe the size of your telescopic sights. This is not a euphemism. That thing mounted on your gun is huge. I’m surprised you even had to leave America. It would have been cheaper to just get on a stepladder out…

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Paris Calling

Paris Calling

Eiffel Tower

So, after surviving a divorce, losing a very close friend–and some not so close ones I’m really not too upset about, honestly–I decided that I needed to do something just for me. I don’t buy into that “you deserve it” stuff but I do believe that you need to take time out, just for yourself once in a while because it’s necessary, if for nothing other than your sanity.

Being an INFJ, time alone is something I do often and I relish it! I have absolutely no qualms avoiding the social scene and serving my own interests, be it listening to music, baking, reading or just sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and letting my mind wander. That being said, I do enjoy spending time with those members of my trusted inner circle, discovering new sights, sounds, food and culture.

I have always loved all things French. I have had a fascination with the language, the history and the culture since I was a young girl and I overheard an elderly tourist couple conversing in French.  I took French lessons for 8 months, once a week, before my first European holiday and I was able to get by, barely mind you due to my limited vocabulary, when visiting Calais and of course, Paris. The dichotomy of that trip was that Gerald and I took it towards the end of our marriage and yet it was on of the most amazing holidays of my life. My most vivid memory was sitting on the bench underneath the Eiffel Tower, looking up at that masterpiece of construction, the sheer magnitude and beauty of it and realising that my marriage was truly over. So despite actually being at the iconic symbol of Paris, that I had stared dreamily at pictures of and touching it with my own hand, the most overwhelming memory was one of sadness. I can recall with perfect clarity the tears that ran down my cheeks and the look on Gerald’s face. On some level I am convinced he knew, though we never spoke of it.

I say one of the most amazing holidays of my life because something else happened to me in those few days in Paris. Something in me positively blossomed and I fell in love with that city. It was everything I had dreamed of and more than I could have hoped for. Because of the short duration of my stay I did not get to see all the things I had hoped to see. I did not visit the Louvre, Monmarte, Sacre Coeur, the palace at Versailles, Galeries Lafayette, Shakespeare & Co. or the Opera Garnier. Needless to say these are on the top of my list for my next trip, one that I shall be taking in January 2014. I have enrolled in a language school in the 9th arrondissement (district), in the heart of Paris. I shall take classes every morning from 9am to 1pm, with one cultural trip per week. The rest of the time I am free to go wherever my fancy takes me, without worrying about anyone or anything else. To bolster my understanding of the language and the ‘French experience’, I have chosen to stay with a French family. My hostess lives just outside central Paris. I am nervous and excited in equal measure.

I have never been overseas on my own and not for longer than two weeks. That being said, I believe you need to move towards the fear. That way you continue to grow and experience new things and isn’t that the point? We become accustomed to our daily routines, work, home, dinner, sleep, do it all again. That banal monotony is the reason we find ourselves so bored or depressed or restless, longing for adventure but because we are also afraid of the unknown and are ‘comfortable’ in our routine, we find reckless methods of alleviating this boredom or depression and we delve into illicit relationships, alchohol, drugs, gambling and even adrenaline sports to inject some excitement into our self-induced, comatose inducing ruts.

Enter; the fear! You hear people say “It’s easier said than done” all of the time with equally boring monotony. This is categorically untrue. All it takes is 60 seconds of bravery. Take the path less travelled, do what frightens you a little but all the while respecting the people who love you. Don’t up and leave your husband and children and flit off to join The Sea Shepherd permanently, noble as that may be. I don’t advocate being recklessly selfish.

Do, see and experience things you have not done before and I promise you that not only will you grow, but you will feed your mind and your spirit. You’ll be happier and more available to experience life as it should be. If you can’t pack up and go and live in Paris for 6 weeks, do it on a smaller scale. Just do something!

I will surely keep you updated on what I get up to in Paris!

Thank you for reading.