At the beginning of Spring each year, I find myself in my little front garden, weeding and planting seedlings. One year, I found myself sitting in mud, almost up to my elbows in it! Ha ha! It had rained heavily the night before, but I had planned to do my gardening that particular morning, and a little mud definitely wasn’t going to stop me!
My neighbours came home, and stopped their car next to me. The boys were 3 and 4 years old then, and were both very amused, and rather amazed, that Aunty Meg was as dirty as they normally are when they play outside. Their mom just shook her head at me, asking me, ”How do you do that? I can’t stand to get my hands dirty, let alone the rest of me!” And I just laughed, and explained that I found it therapeutic, even the mud 😉
(She has since started her own little front garden, and has garden gloves a little bit longer than usual so that she is less likely to get dirty 😉 )
It’s been a really tough week for me here where I live, both personally and compassionately – plus everything going on in the rest of the world! I didn’t want to blog about all of it though – there’s just so much sorrow and pain out there, that you don’t need little old me to feed you more. SO!
In an effort to find goodness for the purposes of this post, without harping on about ‘small things and little blessings’, I went to see what Days of the Year had to say about today, and this new month.
Apparently this month it isINTERNATIONAL MUD MONTH!
In 2009 the children of Bold Park Community School joined forces with the boys of the Nepalese Panchkhal orphanage to celebrate the visceral and primal connection we all share with Earth and the outdoors.
Bold Park used this opportunity to raise funds to help support the less fortunate children of Nepal. Since that fateful beginning, schools, families, and ECE centers from all over the world have worked together to promote the idea that we all need to play in the mud sometimes, just to remember what it means to be human.
In 2015 it was decided that one day of playing in the mud simply wasn’t sufficient to ground us after a year of being lost in the technological glitz and digital glamour of our modern world, and so it was changed from “International Mud Day” to “International Mud Month”, and thus the celebration continued!
It’s not all about our personal connection with the Earth, but also about how we as humans connect to one another, and the relationships we form throughout our lives. Like any two ponds of mud, no two humans are exactly alike, and so International Mud Month encourages us to share that diversity and celebrate it!
Naturally, as you will know if you read my blog often, I like that it celebrates that we are all different…because we really are! We all deal with things in our own way, we grow differently etc. Less judgement, more acceptance…. 😉
On their site, they share that we should celebrate this month by ”First off, get ye to the mountains and fields! Out among the blooming flowers and down into the flowing creeks. Head out over the airy mountain, and through the wooded glen, and get muddy up to your neck in search of fairy dens!”
Can I just say right now : I LOVE THE THOUGHT OF THAT!
And it was a great reminder to me that although doing those things won’t solve my problems, or change anything, it will feed my spirit some goodness, a therapy with no cost, and we could all use more of that! 😉
I’m off to make some mud with a hosepipe and some dirt. (But not a lot because we have water restrictions, ha!)
I also like to think that that is how the light shines through.
It’s a nice thought : some of us are perfect. But it’s not true. Even if that is how we may perceive some people to be.
I painted this weirdo about ten years ago :
My favourite thing about him was his cracks. I loved filling them in, and in the odd spot? Adding in some of my own. 😉 For me, when he was finished, he was ‘perfect’. Just the way he was. He still stands in my home, and is one of my sources of joy.
This morning, I read (for the umpteenth time) this little story, and wanted to share it with you :
”A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
If you’re feeling a little bit broken… (Side note : broken crayons still colour 😉 ) If you’re worried that you may not measure up… If you’re struggling to reach perfection in areas you are certain that you should have achieved it in… If you’re feeling inadequate, and imperfect?
Please remember : Without you being just the way you are, there would not be ‘this beauty’ (the beauty of you) to grace the world!!! You may feel like your light has grown dim, but it is still shining – and even dim light can brighten up the darkest room!
(And yes, we should all try to do better and be better… there is always room for improvement. But along the way, while you are trying, it’s important to remember that there is still beauty in you. You are loved ❤ )
This morning I sipped my coffee and pondered the three different blogposts in my head, struggling to decide which to post first. As WordPress loaded on my computer, I found myself thinking, ”you should at least try to catch up on a few other blogs before you even think of typing a post”! I was stopped in my tracks at the very first page I visited. A memory popped into my head, from about ten years ago – as clear as if I had seen it happen yesterday!
I am sure many of you are familiar with the statement : ”Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse…” I am seeing a lot of that of late. More friends have passed in such a short space of time; our crime has escalated to a point that is even more frightening than what it was; I am seeing more and more people suffering in so many ways. And I feel utterly helpless.
I remembered : sometimes we also just need to share the little that we have. (And to quote another line from that same blog post : ”It’s a Law of the Universe that we get in order that we can give and then the Universe gives us more.”)
The only thing I have in excess is a heart full of comfort and caring, and my smile that comes from an unexplainable happiness within me. Those things?I freely give and share,because it is easy to.
The struggle comes in when it comes to the things I don’t have in excess… And discernment is important in situations like that! I may not have in excess, but there are times where I have had to share what I did have – a loaf of bread halved so that we can eat, and so can someone else.
The memory that jumped to the forefront of my mind this morning was this :
About ten years ago, we were still relatively safe driving along, and parking, on the esplanade of our main beachfront – so long as you kept your doors locked and your windows up. I had been at a government building and had another couple of hours until I needed to get back. Since this was the route I was driving, I decided to stop and just watch the waves for a while. As I was driving along, looking for a good spot for me, I noticed an old beggar shuffling along, stooped low and leaning on his stick heavily. I pulled in at the shop along the way and purchased the largest soup of the day that they had, and a loaf of bread. It was all that I could afford that day. I then doubled back to where he had settled on a bench, and went to give him the bag from the shop. He smiled, and thanked me, in his native language. I returned to my car, and looked back at him from its warmth. And what I saw made me cry – even now there are tears in my eyes.
A short distance away was a group of street children – about five of them in total, varying in age (the smallest looked about five years old). They were sitting on the wall, messing about in their ragged clothes. The oldest was scratching in the dustbin nearby, and unfortunately making a mess with the contents. The old man shouted something to him, and from the expression on his face I think he was chastised for his behaviour, ha ha! He hastily began putting the litter back in the bin. When he was finished the old man called him over, and they spoke for a short while. It looked serious. Suddenly a look of disbelief came over the child’s face, and the old man nodded and shooed him away.
I watched the encounter with great interest, wondering at this point what on earth had happened.
The child ran back to ‘his crew’, and the next thing they all jumped up and came running over to the old man. Some sat on the wall opposite him, two sat on the ground at his feet… And I watched him share out that loaf of bread, and place the soup in the middle of their little group so that they could all dip their bread into it. As the tears rolled down my face, I found myself thinking, ”But what will the old man eat tonight?”
I remember that that night I was so very grateful for the toast that the kids and I ate. And the thought that then went through my mind was : ”I suppose it was all he had to give them, to try and help them. It wasn’t much, and it didn’t solve any of their problems, but at least those kids had a meal that day!”
I don’t understand what is happening in this world right now. I can’t help everyone, all the time. But what I can do is help at least ONE person, in ONE moment! Perhaps someone will notice that… not to pat me on the back, but to be inspired to do the same. The whole ‘Pay It Forward’ concept in a way. I know everything is broken. But we can still try and bring small bits of sunshine to dark and gloomy days. ❤
In my early twenties, I found myself ‘between jobs’ due to a retrenchment. A friend of mine begged me to step in and assist her husband for a few months before applying elsewhere. He had just started a small company in the telecommunication industry, and office work and administration was not either of their strong suits. So I agreed to help out.
In the office was my friend’s husband – late forties; a guy in his late twenties who was our ‘technical wizard’; and two young men showed up to try their hands at sales. They were fresh out of high school, and overly enthusiastic with far too much energy, ha ha! I was only four years older than them… but it felt like a lifetime! Our tech wizard affectionately called them ‘Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumb-er’! And whenever the two of them called me, ‘Mommy Meggie’, I’d reply, ”yes, yes, Laurel and Hardy, I care.” (I’ll name them Jason and Dave for the purposes of this blog post.)
They really did look like Laurel and Hardy!
I chose this picture, because even the driving scenario was the same 😛
Once there was successful implementation of procedures, I moved on from the job and took another. But we all stayed in touch, and all still were, until circumstances changed 😦
Jason and Dave were actually part of a trio. They talked incessantly about a guy named Thomas. And even though I’d see the other two regularly (we’d meet for lunch, or go out dancing – and I was always only around for my nurturing… their sober driver, and to take care of them when they’d overdone it 😛 ) I only met number three (Thomas) in 2012. The day I met him, I felt like I already knew him. Unfortunately, I stopped ‘socialising’ with this trio in 2013. We were just on completely different paths. Jason and I still spoke regularly on the phone though – and he’d often tease that ‘one day when he grew up, he would marry me because I was marriage material’. I’d always laugh and say, ”why on earth would I want to marry you?” and then we would both laugh, because – again – despite the small age gap, I was just plain OLD in comparison!
I don’t know why, but in the year 2015, everything changed as far as staying in touch went. For all of us. Jason and Thomas were housemates, and worked together – but Dave had started moving in a different circle, started his own business – and we were all just ‘busy’. Before we knew it, the year had almost passed us all by. And then I got the news. Jason had driven to a ‘famous bridge’ a few hours away, and ended his life. I was shattered. (Later, I heard the ‘why’/ circumstances – it sounds strange to say, but it helped ‘knowing’.)
On this past Easter weekend, I got another message that almost broke my heart. Dave also took his own life – age 40. I instantly reached out to Thomas – the last one of their trio – because I knew he would not be okay. A lengthy phone call followed – brokenness, heartache and plenty of tears, from both of us.
Initially, I planned on blogging all this. Then I changed my mind. But a couple of days ago, I saw an image on Facebook, which I will share at the end of this post, and it was almost as if I was physically nudged to just ‘type the darn post already’!
In that lengthy conversation, something that Thomas kept repeating, every time his voice broke and I could hear he was crying, was this : I’m sorry, Meg. I know I’m supposed to be a man and be strong. But how? I am just so broken!
As I mulled that repeated statement over in my head, I got really cross and upset. I had conversations with my adult son and teenage daughter about it. I also spoke to a couple of other men that I encountered that day about it. The general reply was this (and this is GENERAL… I am not saying that everyone thinks this way or is this way, so this is in no way a personal attack on ‘every person in society’) :
”Men are expected to be the strong ones, and the definition of that strength seems to be that they are not allowed to feel or have emotion, like women. Crying is a definite no. Being sensitive is also a no. Unless you get permission from ‘your woman’ to be that way. If a man is not hard to the core, he’d better be ready to apologise for failing. And heaven help him if he admits to having mental health issues!”
Well, good grief, ”society”!
I KNOW I am not alone in the saying this…. here’s the image from Facebook….
MEN! YOU ARE LOVED TOO! YOU ARE WORTHY! YOU ARE ALSO STRONG WHEN YOU ARE BRAVE WITH YOUR FEELINGS!
And don’t listen to the naysayers, please! Find the people who will cry with you, and still appreciate the value within you! ❤
I decided to even out the sadness of yesterday’s post by sharing what else happened on that day – yesterday, four years ago!
(But before I do that, just a quick note in response to an email received from someone : I neither completely lack intelligence, nor am I a full blown narcissist! Not able to properly articulate all that I say, perhaps! So let me repeat, hopefully more clearly : I have not ‘become’ Tess, in an effort to be a copy. The qualities have always existed within me – and I have countless Facebook memories with Tess, and others, to back this up. What I was trying to share was how odd I found it that since her passing, those qualities seem to have intensified within me! I suspect that this, in large part, has something to do with someone who has become a good friend as well, and has a very positive influence in my life, encouraging me to be a bit more open to ‘stuff’ in general and is teaching me without criticism or disdain. I am still me – not a copy of anyone else! Moving on…)
On that day, I arrived at the funeral ‘strong’. I had done so much crying up to that point, that I honestly didn’t think there were any tears left. Boy, had I misinformed myself! If I hadn’t been sitting in the second row, reserved for family (to which I was invited), I would have got up and left, simply because I could not control the flow of tears! I didn’t even join in the tea afterwards, but pretty much ran from the church. All I knew was that I needed to get out of there because I could barely breathe! I drove home in a blur, to try and fix my make up and fetch my daughter.
(And here’s a bit of irony : One of the movies on my friend’s list of favourites was Four Weddings and a Funeral. Partly my fault. For some reason I watched it about one hundred times when I was pregnant with my son, and she was with me for half of them, ha ha! Her ultimate favourite movie though was Love Actually and so her revenge was to make me sit and watch it just as many times with her, ha ha ha!)
Exactly two hours after the funeral, my make up not fixed very well and my eyes looking rather disastrous, my daughter and I were seated in a different church, waiting for the bride to make her appearance. Only the bride, groom, and their families knew what my morning had entailed. Other people gave me strange glances – I am sure they thought I was ‘crying over the preciously gorgeous bride’ already! Ha ha!
In all honesty, if it had been any other wedding, I would have stayed at home. BUT!
I have mentioned this particular young lady in my blog before. I became her neighbour when she was four years old, turning five. Her mom and I became friends – and I was a part of their family in no time! So many adventures to share, and stories to tell, ha ha! But back to this young lady, K, on this day. I met, and was privy to, every boyfriend and every detail from her very first official boyfriend at age 13. All the excitement, all the drama. Every heartbreak! She found ‘the one’ at 24 years of age.
And when I stood, and turned to look at her entering the church on that day?Fresh tears fell. But they were ones of beauty and happiness – and a smidgeon of pride. I am the type who immediately then looks at the Groom. I want to see his face when he sees his bride. I was not disappointed!
The very best part? Four years later, he still looks at her that way!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤
Here is my takeaway from that day : even now, when I remember it (and it’s one I remember often) it serves as a reminder to me of something I find myself saying often :
There are mountains and valleys in life. I can’t just have the one, because then the other wouldn’t exist. But there are definitely both – even though in trying times it seems like there are just multitudes of valleys! That day proved it to me. Overwhelming sadness consumed me… but then so did overwhelming joy!
In a way, it is the ‘story of life’. And so I will keep turning the pages of that book, with a heart full of hope, knowing that ‘the mountains’ are in there ❤
Below is an extract of a blog post I wrote a little over two years ago. I will explain a little later why it’s fitting for me to share it today.
”Today, exactly two years ago, I got the news that you had succumbed to the cancer that ravaged your body and you were gone. You were in your early forties. And a part of me broke in a way that nothing has ever broken before.
I type this, and I can’t stop the tears. I have to stop typing every now and then, because my vision is blurred and my nose needs blowing. How is it, that after two years, I can be reduced to this much pain and heartache for a friend?
I found the small tribute I wrote to you that day :
RIP, beautiful Tessie bear. You taught me SO much about grace, peace and unconditional love…not just during this difficult journey, but every day in the 25 years I knew you. You loved me so much, despite me being me when it was tough for others to ‘see’. You believed in me in a way no one ever did, and ever has since you’ve been gone. That’s a gift more precious than any other. So many wonderful memories, so much love and laughter. I’ll see you again one day, when we’re walking all the dogs in heaven. Till then, precious soul. Love you always, your Meggie.
I didn’t see you every day. We didn’t talk every day. We didn’t need to.
The amount of ‘little things’ moments of happiness we shared could fill more than 500 pages. Because we were strange like that. And the tragedies and difficulties, another 500, I’m sure.
I remember the time we were mistaken for a couple. We laughed about that for years afterwards. Nothing could be further from the truth with regards to our romantic interests and sexuality. But if I could have chosen a ‘partner’, without sex and romance, to live the rest of my life out with, I would have chosen you.
You were the first person I ever saw who brewed actual tea and used a strainer to pour us each a cup. (My mother used a teapot all the years, but with teabags.) I still can’t get my veggie and feta stir fry to taste like yours did. I have followed your recipe exactly… maybe it truly was you that made the difference. I am still not persuaded that pink is my colour, just because it was yours 😛 But I wear those ridiculous pink pyjamas you forced me to buy with pride and a smile as often as I can. (You’ll be please to know that I bought a pale pink top last year in the weakness of missing you, and made a pink beaded necklace to match it. My wardrobe is no longer all black. I hope you’re happy 😉 ) I still don’t like spending hours on the beach like you did, but every year you made me spend the morning there for your birthday celebration – breakfast on the beach – and I’d go, in my jeans, ha ha ha! I went last year on your birthday – yes, in my jeans. This year, the beaches are closed 😥 so I couldn’t go. But because I was outside in my own backyard with my breakfast, celebrating you, you finally got me in a pair of shorts! 😉 The weather outside today is windy and overcast – you’d think it’s miserable, and I can picture your horrified expression when I tell you once again how much I love it. You always loved the sunshine and heat. Today, it seems even the sun has disappeared in it’s longing for you. I remember fondly the lengthy visits where no words were exchanged, other than the occasional offer of something to drink, as we sat in the same room, engrossed in the books we were reading.
Coleske; most books (although mostly crime thriller), Midsomer Murders, Chinese food – as much as possible on our budgets); freshly brewed tea on the veranda in the sunshine; Pharaoh and Age of Empires computer games – oh my gosh, and the time you got my son addicted to Mall Tycoon!; Camembert, Brie and Cranberry Cheese with crackers as a treat; all the scarves I knitted that we shared; love and devotion to dogs; movie nights with ice cream and popcorn and biltong and cheese, whatever we could afford as much as we could afford – these are, but a few, of OUR favourite things. (How many times did we watch The Sound of Music together, anyway??!!)
I celebrate you and everything you are to me, and the person you were. There are a lot of smiles and laughter in my memories and I promise I still smile and laugh when I think of you. I know you’d be upset to find me crying, but I can’t help feeling this sad. You’d understand though. And you’d love me anyway.
To say that I miss you is not adequate. Thank you for the memories. I love you always and forever, my Tessie Bear. Your Meggie”
Why do I think this share is fitting for today? On this day, four years ago, I said my final goodbye to the amazing lady I wrote about above. I have lost far too many people in the last few years, but none impacted me like Therese did (I called her my Tessie bear, or Tess). When I think of those I have lost, I feel sad. Every time, to this day, when I think of the loss of Tess, I don’t just feel sad. It makes me cry all over again.
Here’s what is incredibly weird for me…
My friend was gentle, kind, compassionate. She was non-judgemental in every way. She accepted everyone as they were, without expecting them to be how she wanted them to be. Even in the most dire circumstances she held onto a hope that seemed completely and utterly ridiculous at the time. She was always excessively grateful, even for the smallest of things. She had a warmth about her that drew people to her. She truly connected – even on the internet. The incredibly weird part for me is that all of the above seems to have intensified within me in the last three years! 😮 😮 😮 (Again, I am probably a psychologists worst nightmare 😛 )
I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I find myself, every. single. day, pausing and thinking, ”I wonder what Tess would have done/said/thought”. And most times, as I go about my day, I can hear what I heard for so many years when she was alive, ”I’m so proud of you, Meggie.” It’s not about mimicking her, or actually wanting to be her. It’s about appreciating the abundance of value she brought to life, and striving to continue to shine her light, in my own unique way.
When I first met her, at the age of 14 (ah, youth!), I was so in awe of her, ha ha ha! I remember saying to her, ”You are so cool! I hope I’m like you when I grow up!” (She was already 18/19 at the time – I don’t remember! Age is just a number 😉 )
And I can still only hope that I will continue to adopt her amazingly positive attributes, and live a life that would have made her proud. The funniest part? She was always proud of me, just for being me!
If she could read this right now, she’d probably phone me and say, ”Hello, my Meggie. Great blog post! But you still haven’t written that damn book I said you must write!” 😛
Today I will make myself veggie stirfry, with just a sprinkling of feta, while Coleske plays in the background. And tonight I will watch Midsomer Murders in my ridiculous pink pyjamas – but with no snacks, because I have to watch my cholesterol!
Cherish the special friends in your life who impact you in the best ways, my blogging friends. Time is far too short. Thank you for reading, and for being here ❤
Years back, Facebook introduced a question in the place where you type your ‘status’, quite possibly to help inspire people as to what to post. Everyone jumped on that bandwagon for quite a while. I seldom see those answers anymore.
The question? ”What’s on your mind?”
The multitude of answers were along the lines of ‘you don’t want to know’, and ‘wouldn’t you love to know’. And I laughed at each one, in relation to the person who had responded. It was just so applicable!
Facebook also has ‘Quizzes’. This is not a techy post… I do not know what basis is used for their results. And many of the results are really just ‘generic’. Occasionally, there are some that are just so true about me – well, things that I can ‘see’ as being ‘me’. Sometimes a Facebook friend will post their result, and I find myself curious enough to go off and play as well, just to see what Facebook comes up with for me!
And so this is a fun blog post. Just because.
(Mostly because I had a memory pop up on Facebook from 3 years ago, and it made me smile. So here goes some sharing 😛 )
Apparently my classic rock song is : Don’t stop believin’ ~ Journey And the added Facebook caption is : ”Giving up isn’t in your vocabulary. You will stop at nothing to achieve your goals.” Wellllll…. actually…. I’ve been known to say, ”I give up” 😛 and there are definitely circumstances that would cause me to stop and not achieve my goals – like if it meant hurting someone else etc. I highly doubt that the Facebook caption is intended to be so ‘overthought’ though, ha ha!
Then there was this one…
The job that suits me is apparently that of a teacher, according to another Facebook quiz. Not too surprising, I suppose, because an aptitude test once told me that I am best suited in a role of teaching and counselling.
And apparently the summary of my life is as follows :
Nope. I am not ‘all that’. Clearly most of the images that I post to Facebook are in the general theme of the analyses above 😛 I am very far from perfect. And just to confirm :
Apparently I am not at all good with pick up lines. My particular pick up line, that I would apparently use, is : ”Let’s flip a coin. Heads, you’re mine! Tails, I’m yours!” (Shaking my head and laughing here!)
And according to a Facebook quiz, if you hurt me, I turn into a wild lion that is hard to tame! 😮
I’ll close with another job related one. This one honestly shocked me, and had me laugh so loudly that both my dogs went to bark at my front door, thinking someone was outside! The job that suits my face? A PRIEST!
Oh my goodness! Thank you, Facebook, for the laughs. At least I can find some fun in you sometimes 😛 😉
I am well aware of the detriments of having a soft heart, and being willing to practice kindness on a level where your immediate response is to give/help. There have been plenty of naysayers in my life, who make enough noise about it, for me to not know. I suppose this is where my stubbornness (and rebelliousness, ha ha!) comes in… I still choose, and want, to have a soft heart, and give to others, and be kind. I still choose to sometimes sacrifice self and ‘nice things’ in order to that. I am not looking for a pat on the back here, and I do not expect anyone to ‘follow in my footsteps’ in any way. We are all different, and the world needs each and every one of us and whatever contribution we make to it. We are not all the same, and this is not always a bad thing. I am, however, setting the stage for ‘something’ that is close to my heart, and it’s something that I wish more people would at least consider… because there was a time that I didn’t.
Growing up, everything for me was conditional. Including love and acceptance. But that is a story for a book, and not a blog post. I am going to focus on one particular thing though, and I’ll explain at the end of this blog post my ‘why’ for today.
The something? The one thing? Well…. I was always taught that you nevergive money to beggars/street people. ”They will just waste it on alcohol or drugs. You are causing them to sin.” (Nope… we are not even going to discuss religion here… suffice to say I am fed up with religiosity in general. Another book topic, ha ha!) And I carried that with me my whole life… that attitude… that refusal to give any of my hard earned money to the beggars and people on the street so that they could purchase drugs and alcohol.
Until about six or seven years ago… I can’t recall the timing of it exactly, but I remember what happened.
An acquaintance of mine was on holiday, in a very cold place, and posted a picture on Facebook of her sipping a very full glass of sherry, captioning it, ”This seems to be the only way I can get warm tonight!” We were also experiencing a bit of a cold spell then, and I smiled as my mind went to all the people I knew who were probably doing the same. It was only the following evening that I had an epiphany and ‘my world changed’.
It was really cold, and had started raining, and I realised that I had forgotten to buy bread. I grumbled and moaned at myself as I drove up the road to the 24 hour convenience shop, to pay extra for a loaf of bread – my complaints were chastisement at the small amount of extra I’d be spending, ”how could you forget bread?”; and having to be out, again, in the cold and rain. I left the shop, climbing into my car and still grumbling because now I was wet as well…
And then I saw him. And something inside me broke.
The old African gentleman who was one of our homeless people, snuggling as close as he could get to the wall in order to try and take advantage of the small roof overhang to shield him from the rain. I was suddenly so ashamed of myself! It definitely stopped me in my tracks. I watched him pull a bottle of a well known brand of cheap alcohol around here from inside his coat, and take a long sip. And nowhere in me could I find that response, ”Typical. Probably starving, but bought alcohol instead.”
It was more like my mind screamed at me : ”If you lived on the street? If you had to stay exposed to this cold and rain all night? What would YOU do, Meg? Would you not have also opted for something to ‘dull’ the experience and hopefully somehow keep you warm, if possible?” I left the warmth of my car to give him the last of my cash that night – we were in for a cold spell with more rain for the next few days. And I went home and tearfully told the story to my children, and since then all three of us have different attitudes regarding this particular thing.
(I am well aware that we all make choices, and suffer the consequences thereof. But something I am very sensitive to as well is that sometimes there may seem to be NO other choice : the drug addicted street lady who sells her body, for drugs and not food? What if she ended up there because someone repeatedly robbed her of her innocence from a young age for years, until she ran away? What if the drugs help her forget that nightmare, because no one else has even tried? What if… what if… what if… Do I know their whole story? Who am I to judge? Sorry! *covering my eyes with my hands* These are things I am incredibly aware of, sensitive to, and passionate about!)
I can’t explain fully, because it needs another book… but the situation around here is dire, to say the least. My town no longer has a ‘government’ children’s home – the privately funded non-profits are full to capacity, and some overflowing. We also don’t have a homeless shelter. (Our current unemployment rate is more than 50%.) On any given day, in the short distance of just 2km (about 1.2 miles) I drive past at leastNINE ‘street dwellers’ begging for food or money. And those are just the ones I notice when my eyes are not fixed on the road. I travel roughly 90km per day…. I see a LOT of people in need.
Yes… my soft heart wants to help every. single. one. But I know my reality, and I know it is not possible for me.
But I have got ‘my people’ – specific individuals that I help – who live in my area. One older lady, I only encounter once a week.. so when I don’t see her one week, I get concerned and am always relieved to see her the following week. There’s a kid of about 13 that I see a couple of times a week. etc. etc. etc.
I mentioned earlier I would explain my ‘why’ for this post…. so here it is :
There is a guy who begs at the traffic light up the road from my house – I drive through there possibly six times most days. He’s a little bit wild looking, ha ha! His dreadlocks are mid neck level, and stick out all over the place most of the time. He has a lot of personality, and sometimes even does a cartoon-like jig for people waiting at the red light, to entertain them. Most ignore him, but every now and then I see someone hand him a coin or two for his effort. He has the biggest smile on his face most of the time too! He’s been hanging out there, every day, for the last 2 years. And I’ll admit it, initially I was a little afraid of him, because he really does look crazy. Nowadays, my kids and I affectionately refer to him as ‘our crazy friend’. And even though he sees me six times in a day, he knows he only gets something from me once in a day. He always says thank you… even if it’s a ‘drive by drop off out the window’…. he shouts it to me while I am driving away in traffic. He interests me, I wanted to know his story… and so I asked ‘my friends’ who work at the petrol station right there about him, about a year ago. All they could tell me was that he is actually a ‘clever man’… he finished high school and so he has some education. But his house burned down. And he lost his family. And had ‘bad friends’ and started using drugs. It made me sad. A couple of times, I have actually stopped and sat and chatted with him. Unfortunately, his way of living means that he doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense anymore. And we battle a huge language barrier – my Xhosa (the African language spoken in this area) is extremely limited! So our chats were always very animated – lots of pointing and gesturing, ha ha!
This morning I popped onto Facebook for a quick scroll. And I burst into tears.
I drove past my crazy friend at 5:15pm last night. He waved at me, and gave me the biggest smile. At about 6:30pm last night, some horrible person doing a STUPID speed, drove into my crazy friend. And drove away!!!!!!! Yes, it was a hit and run. And they still don’t know who that person is. The report is that my crazy friend is in very bad shape, and his chances of survival are slim – he was unconscious with severe head injuries at the scene. I know that if doesn’t survive, in a way it’s merciful, because his life on the street was extremely hard… especially here. But I am still sad. And angry with that careless individual who could just drive away!
And I know I am making myself vulnerable to all the thoughts of ”how ridiculously silly that this could affect her”, ”good grief, she’s way too soft”.
Perhaps it does make me weak... perhapsI deserve judgement for it… It doesn’t matter to me, either way. And I am not complaining about the sadness things like this bring to my life because yes… this IS the way I want to be, and what I choose. My consequences for my choices, I guess. Ha!
The take-away from all this? The thing I am ‘really trying to say’?
Perhaps the key to trying to ‘change the world by changing ourselves’ is to reflect on our giving? Are we giving, sharing, and being kind to only those who ‘deserve it and have earned it’, or are we willing to step forward and break out of the ‘box of conditional’ and give, share and be kind to those who ‘don’t seem to deserve it’? Can we change things if we stop expecting something in return, and stop demanding that people meet certain requirements in order to be loved?
(I don’t know what the right or wrong answer is in any of this! I just know I need to keep being me.)
Hoping that whatever the outcome for my crazy friend, that somehow he knew that he mattered to someone… he mattered to me!
According to Google/Oxford languages : An OPTIMIST is a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something. “only an eternal optimist could expect success” Merriam-Webster says that a REALIST is a person who recognizes what is real or possible in a particular situation : one who accepts and deals with things as they really are.
One would think that the two could not possibly go together – especially when considering harsh realities – how could there still be hope?
Apparently they do!
A couple of years ago a friend came to me for advice. She chose to ask me because she wanted ‘the dream’. She was seeking a purely optimistic perspective – ‘of course it will work! Go for it! You’ll be a great success!’ She relied on the fact that I am always an encouragement, and always hopeful. She relied on my positive energy. She probably should not have led with, ”I want to ask you about something, because I know I can trust you to be honest!”
This is not to say that I am dishonest in my encouragement or hopefulness. Repeating the words of a very good friend, again, ”We interpret things from where we are. One person, using their window to the world will see it/you as this, and another will view it/you completely differently.’’
My ‘window of being an encouragement’ is predominantly based on, ”be who you needed when you were younger”. And… I’ll add… who I need in my life now as well.
I find that for me personally, my need for encouragement from others usually appears at the point where I have already heard enough reality. It comes at a time where I’ve already received input into something, sometimes from people who weren’t even asked to provide input 😛 , and it’s all just been so negative… to the point that it actually limits my potential in unrelated areas because it starts to affect my mindset in general – for example : While I see realistically that ‘those people’ are right, and it won’t work, their voices have been so loud and ‘so much’ that I start feeling that nothing will work. And I find myself seeking encouragement in other areas, just to remind me that ‘one failure’ is not ‘total failure’. That I’ve still got this 😉 – just without ‘that’.
More often than not, the people who turn to me for encouragement seem to have reached that exact same point. They’ve been slammed with so much negativity that they just desperately want to hear something positive! And, to be honest, if I can find nothing positive about whatever it is that they are asking, or struggling with…. I’ll admit it : I deflect. I try to distract from their reality, to remind them of the goodness that still exists.
I am probably wrong.
But in my personal experience, I have found that the result is usually this : the problem/reality still exists, and is still devastating, but they find an extra ounce of strength… and as small as it is, there is a definite increase in their ability to cope.
MY personal experiences and findings are probably a psychologists nightmare! 😛
Back to my friend…. She had specifically triggered the honesty in me… not the deflection. I owed it to her to be realistic. My response was hesitant – I carefully considered each word before I spoke it! And afterwards we were in tears – with laughter!!! She taught me something important that day! I learned that it is possible to be an Optimistic Realist! That the two really can be combined! I choose to put the word ‘optimistic’ first though, because I definitely lean more towards it… Despite some of my realities, and despite knowing that the arguments some make that ‘it is impossible’ are true, ”Hope Springs Eternal” in my heart! For better, or for worse.
And I was reminded the other day that this has always been a part of ‘who I am’. The Facebook Memory that reminded me made me smile, and cry. I smiled because I needed that reminder so desperately, at a time when my reality was overwhelming me. And I cried because I miss this particular friend so very much – I lost her to cancer. The memory?
I am not saying that being the way I am is an entirely good thing 😛 And over the years, many have tried to change this part of me – and I am well aware of ‘what a bad quality it can be’, because they have told me so! On numerous occasions! Ha!
But personally? From my window? It keeps me strong – in the face of harsh realities, it is what pulls me out of bed in the morning. So it really can’t be all that bad for me 😉
So… if you need a little bit of ‘deflected encouragement’… hit me up… I’m your girl 😉 I’ll even do it honestly and not deflect, if you so wish… but I’ll have to talk slowly 😛 😉
Somebody recently read, and commented, on this blog post I wrote in 2019… saying how relevant it was for them today still!
I vaguely recalled this particular post, because it was one I so enjoyed writing! I returned to it, not only to respond to the comment, but because there was a desire in me to read it again!
Talk about accountability! How strange that it would all happen now, when parts of me need a refresh 😉
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be a contributor to Paul’s blog. It was quite an honour that someone wanted my voice to be heard on their page! 🙂 Paul writes a lot about relationships – and about his lovely Kath. And so I thought it was fitting to write him a post about the languages of love. You can read the post here.
As I mentioned at the end of that blog post, there are now other quizzes available for growth 😉 There’s an apology language quiz, and a personal anger assessment. I did both, but with all that has been going on I got sidetracked! (To check out the quizzes you can visit here and click on quizzes.)
Last night I revisited the results of both tests.. (Because that’s what this single mom does on a Friday night, in case you were wondering…