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.

Tips To Navigate Entrepreneurial Pitfalls

follow-your-dreams

We see these memes online all the time. Not all bad, somewhat inspiring, not entirely realistic or practical, and they belie how very hard it is to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true. We look at people like Warren Buffett and Sara Blakely and think to ourselves “Hey! If they can do it, I can do it!” without giving much thought to how incredibly hard they worked and how many setbacks they encountered en route to where they are today.

Few people in this day and age have the courage of their convictions never mind the business savvy necessary to turn their dreams into reality. We all want gigantic success and we want it NOW. We want to ‘go viral’ or we want to win a reality television show to make our dreams come true.

Well, here is a dose of reality for you; making your dreams come true is damn hard work. Probably the hardest work you will ever undertake. It’s damn near impossible to cultivate the self-discipline and motivation required to yield good results on a consistent basis if you are not prepared for the disappointments and failures you will doubtless be faced with. Expect it to be one of the most difficult things you’ve done and prepare accordingly; keep in mind there will be just as many troughs as peaks and know you are going to have to steel yourself to weather the bad times, and there will be bad times. There may even be times when you sit down and wonder; “What on earth was I thinking?”

Well, the good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. If you get the formula right the rewards are great! You start living to work and you stop working to live. You start creating your own wealth. You are no longer just working a job, you are crafting your own career. And there are few things as rewarding.

Here is a list of 8 things you must master if you intend on turning your dreams into a commercially viable commodity;

  1. Hone Your Skills

Assuming that you are starting a business because you have some base of knowledge and/or valuable skill set to offer in the marketplace, take the time to perfect said skills. Complacency is the cancer of any business and you need to keep up to date with trends and advancements in your chosen field if you intend on staying ahead of your competitors. You don’t exist in a bubble and there will always be someone out there looking to get the edge on his or her competition – that’s you – so ensure you stay educated and informed.

  1. Think Like A Sales Person

Not everyone has an affinity for sales but the good news is; selling is a skill that can be taught! There is a veritable plethora of information on how to better your selling techniques. Do some research and practice.
You cannot run a business if you are not generating revenue and that’s the bottom line. (Pun intended).

  1. Get Branded

Having a presence both on and off line is vital in this day and age. Good content is essential to your success but know that bad content can be equally as damaging. If you need help getting your brand out there and creating a formula for success, get some help from a professional. If you cannot afford that, there is, once again, an almost inexhaustible source online to help you craft a brand. Get social, link them all up, and learn what SEO is.

  1. Do Not Peddle Garbage

I cannot stress this enough. Do not attempt to hoodwink people with fancy sales talk and gimmicks. It will catch up with you! In a world full of lies, deceit and people trying to make a quick buck, set yourself apart by dealing in honesty. Let your good word and work become your currency. You will reap the results down the line. Furthermore, in this digital age you do not want to be exposed as a fraud. Even if you make reparation, it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the market.

  1. Learn How To Communicate Properly

Take a business writing class; get help from a professional writer or copywriter. Learn how to talk to people both through the written word and in person. Develop your interpersonal skills. Nothing wipes out your credibility like bad communication skills. While we are on this topic, learn to listen. Listening is a skill very often overlooked yet one that is vital to your long-term success. If you are not listening to your clients, how are you going to be able to provide them with the very best service?

  1. Service Is King

A great product, competitive edge and good marketing are incredibly important but they will all mean nothing unless you provide great service. (This is where those interpersonal skills will play a key role.) Bad service turns loyal customers who advertise for you by word of mouth and give personal recommendations into one who spews “those utter incompetent fools who took my money and messed me around, don’t ever use them” to anyone who will listen.

  1. Learn From Your Mistakes

There are few things as frustrating as making the same mistake over and over again. If you are in business for yourself, you can scarcely afford to repeat mistakes. We all know that making mistakes is unavoidable so when it happens, acknowledge it, apologise for it and don’t let it happen again. Communicate with your client and do whatever it takes to keep them as one. People appreciate few things like they appreciate service providers who are candid, listen to them and who go the extra mile for them.

  1. Get Financially Savvy

I have deliberately left this one for last because finance is often the facet of a business that entrepreneurs and sales people deem secondary to their success and it can be a grave error in judgement. It is also the one that can cost you the most in time and money to rectify. If you see sales as the life-blood of a business and marketing perhaps as the brain, then finance is your musculoskeletal system because it affects all areas of your business, will lend support through unexpected lows and will regulate spending. Poor financial management alone can sink a business that is selling well.
If you are not at all financially minded, enlist the help of a professional. You cannot do a computerised bookkeeping course and deem yourself CFO of your business.
While we are on this subject; take SARS (or the Internal Revenue Service relevant to your country) seriously and fulfil your obligations to them. If you duck and dive I guarantee that they will find you and when they do, it could mean the end of your business when they slap you with outstanding returns which all carry with them compound interest and penalties. I have a background in auditing and I have seen it happen time after time.

In closing, the hardest part of following your dreams is not taking the first step but rather it is having the self belief to take the second and the hundredth and three thousandth but if you cultivate these skills and if you work as hard as you do smart, then despite the coming troughs and hardships and with a bit of luck, you will be able to look back one day and say that you did in fact, make your dreams come true.

Thank you for reading!

A Year In the Making

What a difference a year makes.
It is amazing how much you can accomplish, how much it can bring you, how much it can take away and how much you can learn.

I leave my finance job tomorrow. I open my own business in a week. I am now a content developer. I have been invited to collaborate on a women’s lifestyle book. I am emotionally in the best place I have ever been in and I am living a love that makes me light up every time I think about it. All of this is of course not solely thanks to simply starting a blog but it is largely due to the fact that writing has served as the catalyst in helping me reset the tape inside my head. It has served as a way for me to work through all the hurt and pain of the past and to look at it objectively, learn and grow from it and allow that pain and those experiences to change me. To make me better.

It has helped me redefine myself, clarify what I want from life, who I want in my life and all of this has ultimately helped me to find a meaningful balance. Still lots of learning and growing to do, most assuredly, but I am far more centred and at peace now than I was even a year ago.

It is from this vantage point that I can see not only the great strides I have made to get here but I can also see the bright future ahead of me, an exciting, fulfilling and promising future and that is truly priceless.

When I was younger my father would ask me why I was so angry. I never had an answer for him because I never understood my own emotions and thoughts enough to make sense of them, much less communicate them to someone else. This journey, however, has led me to uncovering and exposing the empath side of me and that knowledge alone has made me more consciously aware that the feelings I am experiencing are not all mine. Awareness of this has enabled me to better choose my reactions to external stimuli. I don’t always get it right, sometimes my conditioned response–especially when under stress–is a negative one but I’m working on it and that’s what matters.

Not long ago I received a text from an ex-in law. She berated me, my blog, issued a kind of threat and an instruction. My reaction to that message partially baffled me and impressed my nearest and dearest. Once so quick to speak up, lash out like the cornered animal I felt, this time I swiped to the left and hit the ‘block’ and then ‘delete’ buttons.
On another occasion, I received hate mail from a toxic former associate. Once I realised who it was I simply deleted the messages.

The overwhelming sense of peace and relief I experienced was heady. I realised that I did not have to get into the ring on every single occasion. Of course being told this by people is one thing, coming to a realisation through your own experience is vastly more meaningful and empowering.

I never understood how liberating simply walking away is until I did it, until it was the only reaction I wanted to have. I was never able to do it until I started analysing, organising and categorising my feelings. Until I started searching for the “why” underneath it all.

Nowadays I don’t always have to get the last word in. If you don’t understand what or why I’ve said something, I don’t need to fight tooth and bloody nail to get you to do so. All that got me was statements like “You just want to be right” or “You just want the last word”. It’s at that point that I now walk away because that person is really just telling you that they are not willing to part with or see past their dogma, which borders on wilful ignorance when you strip it down.
Instead of trying to get them to understand, thank them and walk away. Seek out people who are intelligent and open minded enough to see more than just their own subjective view, who will converse with you and explore with you – you learn a vast amount more that way. It’s also how you solidify or change your own opinions based on new information. I’m not saying one should be blown about like reeds in the wind, have the courage of your convictions but don’t shut out every other voice in favour of your own. You will come off as arrogant and the only thing arrogance will do for you is make you a wholly unattractive person to converse with.

So with that in mind, I aim to take the lessons I have learned and work at putting them into practice daily. I really believe that life is that simple.
Be graceful when you are being taught a lesson in life, knowing that you are partially responsible–in small or large measure–for where you currently stand in life and you can either let it make you stronger or you can let it defeat you.

Thank you for reading.

Childless and Happy…? Surely not?!

As I sit and write this, in a favourite haunt of mine near home, I sit opposite a young couple with a small baby. They are cooing and stroking the child’s head and making lots of kissing noises and smiling at the child and at each other, which in turn makes me smile.

It’s a scene I have seen often in my life and it’s a question that gets posed to me with uncanny regularity. “So… when are you and Mr M going to tie the knot and have babies?” I cringe inwardly every single time that the question is posed, mainly because my honest answer is met with abject disbelief more than ninety percent of the time and it’s usually virtual strangers who feel they have the right to question my response; which is usually something like this: [Me smiling] “I don’t want children”.
It’s this apparently unconventional response from a woman that sparks in people a desire to change it, regardless of the fact that they do not know me, my lifestyle, my potential health issues or upbringing remotely well enough to do so.

The rebuttals. I have heard them all!
“What? You don’t like kids?”
“Oh, you’ll change your mind! I was just like you once, then I found my soul mate.”
“You can’t focus solely on your career, you’ll end up lonely!”
“I’m sure you think yourself too selfish now, but that all changes when you have a baby”
“You just don’t understand the mother/child bond” – this one I find incredibly narrow-minded but we’ll come back to this.

The truth is, I am not too selfish, I am not too career driven and I do not dislike children. I completely understand why people have children. To celebrate their love and spawn the next generation, full of promise and wonder. Quite.
Lots, but not all, of my friends have children. Most of whom I like, some whom I absolutely love. I also have a niece who is one of the most beautiful souls in the world!

So what influenced this decision? Was I always this way? The honest truth is simply; no.

I had a somewhat normal childhood (bullying not withstanding). I had a difficult relationship with my brother in my pre-teen and teen years but those issues resolved themselves eventually and as mentioned before there were bigger things at play which we didn’t understand then but because it’s a very personal topic for my brother, I will not get into it here. I also have a sister, with whom I am very close and with whom I have always enjoyed a special bond. I love my siblings and am very protective of them. Lastly, I had and continue to have a great relationship with my parents, in particular my mother.

This brings me back to the response I get from a lot of women and recently one man; “You just don’t and can’t possibly understand the mother/child bond”.
I said that I find it incredibly narrow-minded because I have first hand experience of this bond – I am a child. I understand perfectly well what it is to love someone more than you love yourself, to love someone so much that you would–without thought or hesitation–give up your life for this person. I have five such people in my life–my parents, my siblings and my niece, so to say that I don’t understand that bond may be true of you but it is not true for me.
I won’t postulate as to the reasons why it’s not true for you but as I have mentioned before I am an intuitive empath.
I don’t have to have experienced something first hand to feel, on a visceral level, the pain or love or sadness or guilt or happiness that someone else is feeling. I get a sense of these emotions just by being near some people, which explains why I struggle with crowds and have to spend time alone after social gatherings to decompress and find my centre.
Oft times I will be inexplicably upset, angry, sad or happy and I cannot tell you why exactly but it’s in large part due to the people I have spent time around that day. It’s only because Mr Mr mentioned to me how striking it was that I could identify, empathise, sympathise with and vocalise things he had experienced that I started looking into what an empath is. Furthermore, he is not the only person to have said this of me so, to be told I simply don’t understand is not only narrow-minded but shows just how little you know about me, which then begs the question;
Why do you expect me to answer to you on this very personal matter?

I read a child free and happy blog post a while back and for the life of me I cannot remember who the blogger was but what she said stuck with me. (If I ever find her blog again, I will credit her in full).
This blogger mentioned that she had a friend who could not have children and went on to describe how deeply it hurt her friend when she had to try and answer some very personal questions without actually divulging her real reason for being childless.
In truth, the blogger’s friend was wracked with pain and longing and was ripped apart every time someone questioned why she was childless. It’s one thing to divulge these details to your inner circle but quite another to go into very personal medical details with someone you hardly know well enough. Someone who is trying to tell you what you should feel or do without actually knowing who you are.

When did people become so invasive and when did we feel it was the norm to offer opinions on such deeply personal issues without being asked for them?

I was not always intent on not having children. I was married and those thoughts crossed my mind regularly, especially in the dying throes of my marriage where my reticence to have children was the reason I was given that the marriage was not working.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

In truth, I was not prepared to have children to fix my marriage and when I said to Gerald that he could simply replace me with another womb to get the job done because it had nothing to do with how much we loved each other, he issued me with the ultimatum to have kids or get divorced.
I rested my case. No only was the blame for our faltering marriage being laid squarely and unequivocally at my feet (as it continues to be to this day), it showed me the reason why Gerald refused to do any of the work necessary to make our marriage work; because he did not believe he had any culpability for the breakdown. So whilst I was in two minds about having kids during my marriage, my decision was set in stone when he uttered those words.

Unless a child is forged out of love, in a mutually respectful and caring relationship, what are you trying to achieve by having one? Being a parent is one of the most honourable, difficult roles in life and is chosen far too glibly by far too many people. I have vastly more respect for what my parents did.

In closing I’d like to ask: Why is it then, that women who decide to forgo having children are the ones who have to explain themselves?

Has raising children suddenly become easier? Less costly? Less of a responsibility? Are there fewer dangers in the world?
I do not look down my nose and question why women choose to have children and it would be nice to have my choice respected, regardless of whether you agree with it or not because it’s not your choice to make in the first place.

Thank you for reading.