Thank you…

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Thank you for ripping my soul apart in so devastating a manner that I have no choice but to stitch myself back together – properly this time.

Thank you for showing me exactly the type of man who will never deserve a space in my heart again, ever.

Thank you for showing me that I am strong beyond comprehension – something I have never believed about myself.

Thank you for showing me that I am capable of the most incredible and all-encompassing love that a person has to offer.

Thank you for showing me the greatness of the love I have to give and how to keep that so fiercely guarded that I never waste it on another undeserving boy playing at being a man.

Thank you for showing me who you are and teaching me how to listen out for someone who is narcissistic and subversive, in effect teaching me exactly the toxic type of man whom I need to stay away from. 

Thank you for teaching me how to not be so selfless that I (almost) forget who I am.

Thank you for teaching me that I cannot pour all of my love into another in an attempt to heal them.

Thank you for replacing me so easily that I had no choice but to excise the cancer that is you, move on and keep moving on, every day, one foot in front of the other.

Thank you for teaching me that my boundless love does not come from me (it comes from a Source so much bigger than me), and that despite pouring all of myself into you, I’ve in fact gained more than you could ever have taken away.

Thank you for teaching me that I am not hateful – not in the least – because even after all this, I don’t hate you.

Thank you.

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What is love?

What is love?Some people will tell you that love is an emotion that stands on it’s own, that it is independent of all others. I am not one of those people.

I do not give any credence to statements like “love is enough” or “sometimes love just isn’t enough”, whichever the case.

Love is not security.

Love is not sex.

Love is not companionship.

I believe there are three pillars upon which love is built. Essentially, I believe that love is a by product of these foundational elements, which are;

Honesty

Trust

Respect

If you look at these three qualities it’s quite easy to see that they are what love, in it’s fullest and purest form is made up of and they all need to be present to enable love to exist in the first place. Unless you have all three of these elements, you don’t have love. You may have what appears to be love, infatuation, lust, affection, amongst others but you’re kidding yourself if you believe you have love.

So with this in mind, let’s look at these three elements.

Let’s start with honesty, because it’s a big one and one with which we all have the most trouble.

Honesty means more than just telling the truth. It also means being sincere with your words and your actions, being fair, true to yourself and your partner, and having integrity. Honesty vastly begins and ends with you.

Unless we can be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our shortcomings, we will have a very difficult time being honest with and accepting honesty from others.

There are many people who claim to be “honest above all else” yet, in my experience, it is usually these very people who when confronted with dishonesty or lies, all do one thing; they get angry and/or defensive. Understandably so. We hate to confront our shortcomings especially when anything less than perfect is “undesirable”, certainly in modern popular culture.
I’m no psychiatrist but I do know that anger and defensiveness are often used to deflect that which we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves and if you refuse to accept your own shortcomings, how is it that you can be so audacious as to call out the shortcomings of your partner, or anyone else for that matter? We are not all guilty of the same behaviours but we do all have shortcomings and unless we can sit down and be truly honest with ourselves first, how we expect honesty to survive in a relationship? For this element to build a foundation for love it must not simply survive, rather it must be cultivated, nurtured.

I am not saying that we should run around the surface of the earth blurting out every subjectively honest thing we think our loved ones should be made aware of or that we try to use honesty to justify unhealthy or unkind behaviour within a relationship romantic or otherwise.

This brings us to trust, the timid, nervous and extremely fragile little animal inside each of us that is often the one who takes the most abuse in life.

Trust is not simply a placing of expectation that we will not be hurt in another person’s metaphorical hands, it is also the placing of one’s hope, confidence and faith in another person with the hope that person does not hurt us. An action that demands we make ourselves vulnerable and this scares us.

It scares us because to a large extent vulnerability has a negative connotation in an age where we are continually told we—both genders but especially men—must be strong; yet strength and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.
Being vulnerable and placing one’s trust in someone else takes an immeasurable amount of strength and is therefore not weakness at all, especially given how trust in others can take such brutal beatings.

There are very few people, if any, who have not at some point had the trust they placed in someone completely decimated but it is the one thing we need to be able to give that defines the trust you receive in return.

The final foundational element is respect and as with honesty, unless you respect yourself, you will be unable to give respect to another.
Respect–are you also singing Aretha Franklin in your head or is it just me…?–is not just esteeming a person for their position in your life, but respecting them in how you treat their body, their feelings, their thoughts as expressed to you and how you conduct yourself when they are not around.
Respect is taking into consideration how your actions will directly affect that person, especially if this effect is negative. It’s more about recognising someone else’s position in our life as important, valuable and worth honouring. If you do this your treatment of that person will be positive. If you don’t, it’s likely to be quite negative.

So with this in mind, I think it’s easy to see why I don’t believe that love is an emotion that stands on its own merit. If you have neither honesty, trust or respect there can be no love. This is because love in its fullest form is honest, it is trusting, it is respectful.

As three strands twist together to make a rope, so honesty, trust and respect twist to make love.

The twist of the strands in a rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.

It is the same for love. If there is uneven distribution between partners, friends, colleagues etc., one person will always be bearing the bulk of the emotional load and if there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that this uneven yolk will breed resentment and like I have said before resentment is relationship cancer.

More than this however, uneven yoking in a relationship will cause one person to become fatigued, unbalanced and will set the stage for abuse in some form, be it physical, emotional or psychological and this will eventually lead to the demise of the relationship. If it doesn’t, it will perpetuate unhealthy habits within the relationship and that is not good for anyone.

Thank you for reading.

Plastic Kids, Gay Marriage and Defending Dolce

Tolerance, kindness, defending Dolce

I was not going to weigh in on this particular debate initially and have been biting my tongue but now that most of the fracas seems to have abated, I can bite no more. Mainly because my tongue is beginning to swell and my jaw is aching.

So “the gays”–let me quickly interject and say that I use this term very affectionately because I have many gay friends, whom I love dearly–Elton John and David Furnish had a bit of a tiff with Messers Dolce and Gabanna recently.
If you have been under a rock or perhaps are not on Twitter or Facebook (which is really the same thing), the ubër designers came out in support of heterosexual marriage, heterosexual families and natural conception vis-à-vis gay marriage, gay adoption and IVF babies.

I am not opposed to children conceived by means of IVF. I have friends who have IVF babies, beautiful little creatures, every inch as human as any other child, obviously because that’s exactly what they are.
Chatting to my mom about this D&G thing and about the “plastic children” remarks, she remembers the day news broke of Louis Brown, the very first baby conceived via IVF.
Initially, she recalls a lot of people with raised eyebrows and unsure expressions, mutterings and conversations filled with “You know it’s not natural” and “It’s a little bit too much like playing God” even.
And then you know what happened? Louise was born and pictures of her started to circulate and no one looked at her like she was any different from any other child, because she wasn’t. What people did see though, was hope.

I can scarcely imagine the utter horror of a miscarriage. It shakes me to my very core to try and conceptualise it and I have friends, and a family member who have struggled through a miscarriage and in some cases, multiple miscarriages. How that has not devastated them and their marriages is just beyond the scope of my understanding.
To say that I have the utmost respect for them as women and as couples would be a gross understatement.
What IVF did for the few couples I know who chose to go that route has been utterly joyous and wonderful and looks a lot like a miracle, to me anyway because I believe in miracles.

Then we have the comments that Dolce & Gabanna made about how they support the traditional family. A bold statement, apparently.
Am I in agreement? Yes and no.
Am I condemning homosexuality or homosexuals? No
I am a believer in Christ? Yes
I am a Christian but there are so many of us who have it so wrong that I almost don’t like being called one. However, that’s another story*.

Personally, I have always felt a much stronger pull towards adoption of a child who has no parents and no home rather than bearing my own children because I see the children who have no parents as my first responsibility. There are so many vulnerable and at risk children who need love and care and before adding to the tally of people on this earth I would rather take one of the children already here into my care. And there are other people who feel the same. Those other people happen to be gay. Okay. Surely the child benefitting from a home and love should take precedence? If you agree, okay. If you don’t, that’s surprisingly also okay.

And here comes the clincher, gay men who don’t support gay marriage. Gay men who don’t agree with gay parents raising children. As one can imagine there have been boat loads of people who have taken umbrage with their views and have taken to social media to share (spew) their distaste (utter hatred) and voice their disagreement with (condemn) Dolce & Gabanna for their opinion.
Many have gone as far as to boycott their fashion label and products, an action which I initially laughed at, but then I recall Asher’s Bakery and Sweet Cakes and the smile fades from my face because I find it disconcerting, to say the least, that people who speak of (march, protest, picket and demand) tolerance and acceptance of their different way of life cannot put their money where their mouth is, frankly.

Not everyone is going to agree with what you like, what you believe or what you want and guess what? That’s ok because, by your very own standards, people who preach tolerance should be tolerant. Honestly, I think this entire issue reeks. This issue is not about tolerance. It is about militant acceptance of the views, beliefs and life choices of other people.

I absolutely do not in any way condone the harming, bullying or otherwise treating unfairly people who do not subscribe to your way of life, your world view or practices so long as your way of life, world view or practices do not cause harm to anyone either. Seems fair right? Right.

Well then, why was it not within the scope of possibility for Elton John to just ignore them? The D&G views are in no way affecting the fact that John and Furnish have a family and they are happy.
Why was it not within the scope of possibility for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer (in the Sweet Cakes debacle) to just say, “Fine, we will take our business elsewhere” because there are plenty of bakeries who would be only too happy to have their business.
Why was it not within the scope of possibilities that tolerance was extended to people who had values that differed from Elton John and David Furnish, and Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer? Isn’t that exactly what you want for yourself? Well then, be the change you wish to see in the world.
I find it unacceptable that Sweet Cakes were shamed, humiliated and threatened with harm for having views that differed from the views of someone else. Do you see the pattern?
I have known gay people who have been bullied, called names, shamed, belittled and had their businesses and lives threatened because their view, lifestyle and practices differed from others’ and do you know what I do not find acceptable? Doing the very same thing to someone else, over a cake or a comment about plastic kids.

Dolce and Gabanna don’t support IVF or gay marriage, I’ll hazard a guess that they are not going to get IVF or gay married. They told people their opinion. Great. If you are offended by it, ignore it.

At any rate you won’t change their opinion and I dare say their business is not supported only by Elton John and his friends. People are so fickle that their desire for a pair of Dolce & Gabanna frames or handbag or t-shirt is going to overshadow the fact that Elton John asked that people boycott the designer duo.
Companies like Asher’s Bakery and Sweet Cakes however are not so fortunate. I hope the people who insulted them, sent death threats and had a hand to play in their business closing feel proud of themselves. Do you see the pattern here too?

When you insult, shame or threaten to harm you become the person/people you hate. Instead be loving, be tolerant, be kind to the people who are not because they need it the most.

Thank you for reading.

 

*One day I’m going to have to actually get to these other stories I keep talking about and perhaps one day I will.

Fight Club: How To Fight A Fair Fight In A Relationship

Fight Club: How to Fight a Fair Fight In a Relationship

Relationships, especially romantic relationships require work, they require love in action, they require compromise and a necessary element of working out our issues comes in the form of a fight.

A fight does not have to be a screaming match, nor does it necessarily have to be something we look at negatively. A fight that is fair, has boundaries and is constructive can do your relationship the world of good, clear the air, set things straight and often bear some pretty tasty fruit aka make-up sex.

If you want your relationship to be one that weathers the stormy days, then implementing some clearly defined boundaries when you fight is essential. Though not an exact science because no two relationships are alike, here are some practical and helpful guidelines to ensuring that you are not only heard but that you hear what your partner is saying, which will in turn help you to address concerns levelled at you and most importantly, deal with the issue at hand and move forward. No one wants to fight over the same thing time after time, it’s frustrating, not at all constructive, demoralising and largely unnecessary.

Fight Club Rules
1. You do not talk about fight club
Aside perhaps from trying to gain perspective and guidance from only your closest and most trusted confidants do not get caught up in the trap of bad mouthing you partner every time you have a disagreement.
Constant bad mouthing will create a negative and one-sided perception that you would not appreciate were the shoe on the other foot. After you’ve kissed and made up, your relationship may lose credibility in the eyes of your friends.

2. You do not talk about fight club AT ALL on social media
This really should go without saying but having witnessed couples having a go at each other whilst still together or shortly after having broken up, it warrants repeating.
Break-ups can be messy, emotional, and traumatic events for the couple going through a separation, yet are largely storms in teacups taking place in a land far away for bystanders and friends.
If you condemn your partner or ex on a public platform, prepare to be judged for every utterance, which can severely affect relationships with mutual friends. Always remember, when you fling mud, you’re likely to get some on yourself.

3. If Someone Says Stop, The Fight Is Over
No two people have the same temperament, tolerance levels and attention spans. To expect your partner to sit through an overly detailed account of everything they’ve been perceived by you to have done wrong can be exhausting. When tensions rise and you are nowhere near to resolving the conflict, you may need to take a break and calm down.
No one likes to be shouted at. No one likes shouting because they feel they are not being heard either. When it stops being constructive, take five (or fifty) minutes to breathe. Come back to resolve the issue when you are both calm. Be respectful of your partner’s desire to take a time out and conversely, don’t leave it for too long if you know your partner likes to sort things out and move on faster than you do.

4. Only Two People To A Fight
There are two people in the relationship, there should only be two people involved in any given argument. The moment you involve a friend or family member in your intimate relationship, things are going to get messy. If you are arguing about what a third party said or did, look at the incident in and of itself and put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If someone close to your partner offended you, for example, speak to that person directly and do not take it out on your partner. If a friend says something that is unwarranted of your partner, have your partner’s back and do not undermine them because you want to put on a show for your friends. This will damage the trust aspect of your relationship in the long term.

5. One Fight At A Time
Multi-tasking is an illusion – so are 2-in-1 shampoos but that’s a story for another day. Give arguments the attention and closure they deserve to prevent them from rearing their ugly heads time after time. It is not constructive to dredge up long buried events, especially if you are using that event as a form of defence against a gripe levelled at you by your partner. That tactic is tantamount to emotional manipulation and has no place in a healthy relationship. It may be that you don’t like what your partner has said; however when we face the truth about ourselves and the effect our actions have on others, it can be painful. Put your pride in your back pocket and commit to working on your flaws as much as you would like your partner to work on theirs. If one person is doing all the compromising—which in fact is no longer compromising but sacrifice—it’s going to cause resentment and that is relationship cancer.

6. No Fists, No Weapons
Ever.
If you or someone you know is trapped in an abusive relationship, please contact one of the following organisations;
Lifeline South Africa’s National Helpline on 0861-322322
Stop Gender Violence Helpline on 0800-150150
POWA – People Opposed to Women Abuse on 083-7651235
Family & Marriage Association of South Africa on 011-9757106/7

7. Fights Will Go On As Long As They Have To
Though do whatever you can to prevent an argument lasting past bedtime. Take the time to listen to your partner. Too often we listen with the intent to respond and are busy formulating our counter argument before that person is finished speaking. This will cause undue frustration.
I once heard of a couple who fought over text message in different rooms of the house, so they did not shout at each other, talk over each other or have their children witness their spat. They did have some guidelines like one message at a time and at intervals of a minute. This may not work for everyone but find a method that helps you minimise fallout, as it were.

8. If This Is Your First Night At Fight Club, You Have To Fight
It’s much easier to lay down some ground rules for a fight before you actually have one. Some rules that I apply to myself are as follows;
Never use absolutes (pun intended) – No matter how valid your point, you will derail your entire argument by using absolutes.
Cruelty is unnecessary – In my experience, cruelty is only ever used to detract from a valid argument. Don’t fall into the trap. When you calm down you will likely regret having said something awful and you will be unable to take it back.
Afford your partner the same courtesies you seek – For instance, if you hate being spoken over, do not interrupt your partner. If you don’t like being sworn at, do not swear at your partner. If you expect your partner to change minor behaviours, you should be prepared to do the same.
Do not use accusatory language – Speak in the first person, say ‘I’ more than you say ‘you’ and try not to point. If you appear to accuse then your partner will go on the defensive and is less likely to listen to you.
Apologise when you are wrong – When you realise you are wrong, apologise, sincerely and do not use the words “I’m sorry” as some sort of fix all that you bandy about to get you out of trouble or the words become meaningless.
Make amends – If you have unintentionally hurt your partner and are sorry, make amends immediately. Find out what your partners love language is and make it up to them.

If you still find yourselves unable to navigate the stormy seas, you may want to enlist the help of a relationship counsellor.
Before you balk at the idea of therapy, take cognisance of the fact that your car needs fuel, oil, and regular services to keep it in good mechanical health. Your relationship is the same. You can take precautionary measures and stop problems before they start or you can address the problems when you encounter them. Long gone are the days where couples therapy was perceived as a failure or something to be ashamed of or laughed at. In fact, it demonstrates your desire to maintain and in many cases, improve your relationship.

You often hear it said that ‘all you need is love’ and I am not here to argue that. Love is essential but you need more than love to preserve your relationship and couples therapy is one of those tools that can help you do that.

Why The “Don’t Poke the Bear” Defence of the Charlie Hebdo Killings is No Defence At All

quote-i-disapprove-of-what-you-say-but-will-defend-to-the-death-your-right-to-say-it-voltaire-334856

In the wake of the utterly reprehensible murders of 12 people including a policeman and ironically a Muslim man in Paris, there have been a vast many things said regarding the incident, one of which said that if you insult someone by exercising your right to freedom of speech, you should not be surprised at the consequences.

Firstly, let me start by saying this; it is never acceptable to kill someone for what they say. You can insult them back, you can ignore them, you can walk away, you can take an inexhaustible array of actions – not all of them enlightened, intelligent or sympathetic – but it is not acceptable to kill someone for saying something you do not like.

It has also been said that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well if you know anything about how Islamic children are educated, you will know that Christians, homosexuals, and Jews in particular, are referred to as pigs, thereby utterly dehumanising and debasing them as living, breathing people who have as much right to their place on earth as anyone else. The Charlie Hebdo satirical comics, therefore, can in fact be seen as a reaction to those anti-Semitic teachings, if you want to split hairs.

It has also been said that it is “a stupid thing to do” to poke fun at something that someone holds dear. But is it really? A great number of comedians have made their entire careers out of doing exactly that.
There are plenty of people who hold a great many things dear to them and someone is always going to have something to say about what you believe. It is unlikely you will be able to change his or her view and honestly, are you going to waste energy trying to convince someone of something? If you need to try so hard, who are you really trying to convince?

It is acceptable to poke fun at Hinduism for their reverence of the cow, or the Christians for reverence of Jesus, or to vegans, or any other number of things across the known universe, so why not Islam?

The overwhelming question burning in my mind is therefore this: What is it that Islamists and Imams are so afraid of? Are they afraid that their prophets and intolerant god, Allah will be found out for what they really are? Are they afraid that education of women and girl children will expose said women and children to the truth of how maligned they are? Let us not forget what the Taliban did to Malala Yousafzai, effectively showcasing that they are indeed afraid of the power that a 12-year-old girl with a book can yield.
The Catholic Church kept the peasantry illiterate and uneducated for exactly the same reason, until the protestant reformation by Luther, Calvin and others.

If that fear is loss of control of the masses then let me be the first (not even close but for the sake of emphasis) to stand up and defend the right to freedom of speech that every single person is entitled to, Christians, atheists, homosexuals, Buddhists, Hindus, etcetera alike.

I may not agree with your view that poking the bear remotely justifies the killing of 12 innocent men and women, but I acknowledge that it is your right to say so and in doing so you have exercised the very right you deem others should not.

I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo killings and I pray that they will, in time, find solace and comfort in the knowledge that their loved ones did not die in vain. It is my hope that this tragedy sparks a wake up call to the clear and present dangers of Islamic, in fact, all religious extremism.
May their memories be a blessing.

Thank you for reading.

The Christmas Not So Jollies

christmas

‘Twas the eve(ish) before Christmas and I spied on my Facebook feed a post that said simply “I am feeling so down”.
I immediately thought to offer some words of encouragement and as I looked at the comments on the post, I noticed a particularly ill thought out response that read; “Don’t be, it’s Christmas!”

Let me first say that this time of year means little to me. It is at best a time to spend with those close to me and share a meal. Though I am Christian, I do not celebrate this particular holiday. I did as a child but as I have grown and delved deeper into my faith, the reasons and machinations of what Christmas is became less of a production and more of a farce. I am however not here to discuss that—or any person’s choice to celebrate the holiday but it means more to some than it does to others and offering that as a suggestion to fix what may in fact be causing the problem in the first place is largely callous.

There is what feels to me to be a deluge of forced joy and displays of ‘look at how fabulous I am’ that you can only wonder if any of it is genuine or if people are merely trying to keep up with (or out do) everyone else, which is not a little farcical, and don’t even get me started on the metaphor that is the gaudy bauble and tinsel draped trees that are hacked down, dressed and lit up and left to die a slow death as some sort of symbol.

This time of year is loaded with so much expectation by way of bombastic and for-the-sake-of-others’ show, social media plugging about what a wonderful time I’m having on my island holiday or on my destination ski trip, that it creates a very skewed yard stick against which we measure ourselves.

With so many high expectations and people running around behaving like pseudo jetsetters and hotel chain heirs, there are equal, if not greater, amounts of people who succumb to the pressure that this time of year is known to bring.

However, getting back to the “Don’t be, it’s Christmas” statement on my friend’s page, it struck me first as glib and then as a little insensitive. I’m certain that was not the intention but Oscar didn’t intend to kill Reeva, and well, she’s dead… but I digress.

I believe it is paramount that we feel free to acknowledge and express our feelings in order for us to deal with and move past them. Unless we do so, we have little hope of ever overcoming them and growing as individuals.
Furthermore, there still exists an inordinate amount of stigma where mental illness is concerned.
Speaking up is one of the scariest things a person can do because saying the words “I need help” can lead to feelings of incredible shame and failure.

So what am I trying to say with all of this? Well I guess it is that we need to encourage people to talk about the things that are bothering them without fear of recrimination and judgement. That we need to foster an attitude of acceptance regarding how we feel, especially when those feelings appear to be the opposite to what’s going on around us and/or despite what is going on around us.
It can be murder to constantly force a smile because we are expected to be happy and fulfilled.
It takes a super human effort to pretend that everything is okay when you feel like you are breaking to pieces inside. We can often feel a great sense of isolation and loneliness as a result.
The good news is, if we do not feel able to talk to a friend or relative, you can seek the help of a professional. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, everyone—including myself—has at some point had feelings of extreme sadness and/or depression and the important thing to realise is that there is always a way out!

My personal philosophy is “Throw the closet door wide open, monsters hate the light and the more you shine the light on them, the smaller and less scary they become.”
To some this will come relatively easily but for others this can be very intimidating and even frightening. If this is the case for you, reach out to someone, which you can do anonymously but make the effort to reach out.

If you need help or if you need someone to talk to, here is a list of places you can find help:

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group http://www.sadag.org
Depressed Anonymous http://www.depressedanon.com
Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/

Alternatively, contact a support group in your area.

In closing, I hope that everyone reading this does find some joy this holiday season. Be safe and may the next year be a better year than this one.

Thank you for reading!