Holiday Wish List

Everything is different this year. Birthdays were celebrated, and yet not. New life happened, but there were no hospital visits and flower deliveries. Lives were lost, and a text message/phone call became the new way to comfort.

Christmas is different too. And yet… is it? Admittedly, my usual Christmas spirit seems to have gone on a vacation all by itself. We’ve had some dreadful humidity these last few days so perhaps it has sought out a cooler climate. I wish it had thought to take me with it!

Last night, as I sat thinking about Friday – Christmas Day – (my goodness, how did it get here so fast!!!!) I also started thinking about seasonal things. I had shared the following on my personal Facebook page last Friday, with just one week to go till the ‘big day’ :


I went to look at it again, and it suddenly struck me that this has been my wish list all year, for a few years.
If someone asked me what I would like my life to look like, it would be all of the above. Circumstances are not always conducive to these things… but I could still make the effort.

Here is hoping that in these difficult times….

May you all have the least of the less… and an overwhelmingly encouraging abundance of the more!
Not just for this holiday season… but every day 😉

Plea and please

The picture below is a photograph of my son and I, taken four years ago, on the evening of his final school dance. Many people have commented that he ‘looks a lot like me’. (I softly curled my hair for the occasion 😉 )

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Although there is a resemblance in our appearance, it stops when it comes to height and body shape. He’s slouching a little in the picture, for Mom’s benefit 😛 He’s just over six foot tall, and slender. I am a shorty, and rounder 😛

The similarities with us are not just physical – he seems to be very similar to me in a lot of other ways too. He has a kind and tender heart, a gentle spirit, and like his momma he can be quite sensitive. He and I are the ones who will sit and cry in a movie, or an episode of a series – not always out of sadness though. In fact, most times, if it’s heartwarming, it gets our tears 😉 When we try to retell stories of acts of kindness, our voices wobble a little – and if it’s one of those ‘overwhelming type stories’, we’ll have to stop to try and ‘get a grip’ and prevent ourselves from crying.

We’re just too soft 😛

But I am proud of my young man, and who he has become. He may fail in some ways, and may be a bit of a slow starter in others – and yes, he still has his moments where he frustrates and irritates me, ha ha ha! BUT his good qualities FAR outweigh any bad, and I am very grateful for that!

One of the ways that he is VERY different to me though is when it comes to the social side of his personality. He’s great with the friends he has known since he was 13 – there is no struggle for him there. But he is, for the most part, shy and introverted. It takes him a while to come out of his shell around other people. (He partially struggles with self esteem.) And yet, like his mother 😉 , he doesn’t struggle to connect with his online friends. He met them through the world of online gaming, and soon they were social media friends, which means chatting and voice noting and connecting. And through all that, he has made good friends – friends he has never met in person. And I even ‘know’ a few of them – sometimes it feels like they are part of our ‘real world’ and have been to visit 😉

SO…. why am I telling you all this?

Last night, my very precious ‘boy’ came to me, still in shock and unsure of how he felt. He had just received a message from one of his other friends to say that their ‘mutual friend’ had committed suicide on Saturday. She was only 18 – we had all ‘celebrated online’ on her 18th birthday this year.
We knew she was struggling with depression. We knew that she had started new medication earlier this year. We knew that a couple of weeks ago, things were bad for her and she was withdrawn.
But it still came as a shock. 
Because we also knew that we had all offered help, that she had reassured us that ‘it was okay’, that she had her meds. She never once told anyone that she wished for death.

I didn’t hug my son. He’s not one for physical affection, and I respect that.
But we talked. Briefly. And I made it clear that I am always available if he needs to chat – he can even wake me if I am sleeping.
Then I watched my young man as he left my room, shoulders stooped, heart hurting.
And I cried a little bit.

Preteens, Teens, Young Adults, Grown Ups – please hear the cry from my heart today :

Depression sometimes has a way of ‘creeping up on us’. In society today, it’s ‘common’ – and yet in some cases, there still seems to be a stigma attached to it.
If you think you may be suffering from it, or know that you are, please DO NOT BE ASHAMEDno matter who has tried to shame you for it. 
Please reach out and try to ask for help.
I know that sometimes we get to a place where we just can’t ask.
Please force yourself. And if you need to, then please force yourself to accept help.
Your life IS worth something.
YOU ARE WORTH SOMETHING!

Tessie Tribute

Last night, I tossed and turned in my bed. And it wasn’t because the dogs had taken over and there was a very small space for me to try and settle in. The memories that flooded me, of a beautiful soul lost to this world, my dear friend, Therese, were overwhelming. I smiled for the most part, while my throat burned and tears fell at the same time.

Lock down has had me in a confused state regarding days and dates. Each morning, I have to check on my cell phone to make sure I’m in the right space of time, so to speak. I didn’t check properly yesterday, but I knew it was Saturday.

I woke this morning, after eventually falling asleep sometime in the early hours, to a beautiful sunrise that I enjoyed with my coffee. The memories still flooded me as I sipped and relished in the beauty in the sky, and the ache in my heart was so real that it felt new, like I was living in that exact moment that they told me you were gone all over again.

It turns out that our sub-conscious mind is sometimes a lot stronger than we think or know – but then again, that’s sort of the point of ‘sub-conscious’, isn’t it? I came inside to make my second cup of coffee, and checked my phone for messages and emails. And I noticed the date. 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

 

tentacles of life

Many years ago, as soldiers fought in the heat of the jungle, they experienced something very frustrating, to say the least. It was bad enough that they were hunting, and being hunted, by an unseen enemy. But they also had nature to contend with. There was a prickly vine that would attach itself to them, trapping them in such a way that the more they struggled to get free, the more the plant would send extra tentacles to entangle them. They named the plant the ‘wait-a-minute’ vine because they were not able to move forward and would have to call on their team members for help. “Hey, wait a minute, I’m stuck!”
Now if they didn’t ask for help, they’d probably die of starvation and thirst eventually.
They called out for help though. But what would the result have been if, upon arriving on the scene to help, the entangled soldier did not allow them to help? Yes, death, but this time with an audience. (we all know they never would have watched their man die, but for the purposes of this blog, let’s just go with my chosen outcome 😛 )

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We all get stuck sometimes. Things happen in life that
send unseen tentacles our way that entangle us and
prevent us from moving forward.

Retrenchment, a failed relationship, the death of a loved one – these are only three in a very long list of life occurrences that can have detrimental effects on our happiness and general well being if we don’t handle them correctly.

Acknowledging that you need help and asking for it is NOT a sign of weakness – it is in fact a very strong and courageous thing to do. 

These occurrences will often have emotional responses attached to them. It’s important for us to be careful of the effects our responses may have on our hearts and thoughts, and the impact of that later on in our journey.

We shouldn’t make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.

And getting back to those soldiers…. it’s easy, particularly in the blogging world, to pour out our hearts and our emotions and acknowledge that we may need help in certain areas because of external influencing factors. It’s easy to tell our friends, ”I lost my job today. I may need to call on you for some help at a later stage.”

The actual act of doing so is where it gets tough.

Because it makes us vulnerable. Because there may be a learning curve attached to whatever it is we are going through in that moment. Because we may actually have to deal with something painful within ourselves so that we can grow. And because human nature is proud and stubborn.

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Photo credit : picturequotes.com

Being able to admit you need help is half the battle won. But if you keep saying ‘no’, you’ll never win the war.

You’re going to stay stuck.

And if you choose to just give up on that tentacle that is weighing you down – ”I’ll never find another job with the current unemployment status of my country”?

You’re going to stay stuck.

The most important part of getting unstuck though is this : moving forward.

The soldier acknowledges he needs help – ”I’m stuck”! The soldier then accepts help – his mates thrash away at those tentacles and eventually free him. But then…the soldier HIMSELF is the one who has to move forward.

I wish I could tell you that moving forward when you’ve become unstuck is easy. It’s not. These tentacles usually bring with them a fair amount of emotional pain. But these tentacles are very often the obstacles that are representations of opportunities for personal growth. And we all know that personal growth can be painful. A big part of accepting that help is also accepting the need for change within yourself – a change in attitude, if you will.

It’s not the time for flight. It’s the time to fight. To reassess your values, put an end to the limiting belief that ‘it will never happen’, embrace your mistakes and challenges, and continue on in hope. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi :

It’s the time to be the change you want to see in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time

You know that expression, ”I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus”? Well, yesterday afternoon I nearly was that expression!

A bit of background : It’s been raining non stop, a steady drizzle interrupted by the odd downpour, for the past 40 hours. I am celebrating. And not just because I love the rain. 😛 Water restrictions came to town last Friday. September is our heavy rainfall month around here – we didn’t see more than a few drops. Our main dam is now sitting at less than 35% capacity. The last census in 2011 showed that there are 267 007 people living here – we have largely increased in numbers since then. This rain is nowhere near to filling the dam, but it sure is helping!

And the roads are very wet as a result.

So I leave the house at lunchtime to perform Mom’s Taxi duties with a smile on my face. The garden beds in front of my house are overflowing with water. The bucket next to it is almost full.

My celebration of happiness has been extended.

Now, as ridiculous as this may sound, one thing I don’t do is break the speed limit. That doesn’t mean I am a slow driver though – because I hit the speed limit in the given areas. 😉 But when it rains? I stay in the slow lane where possible and I drop my speed by 10 or 20 – depending how fast I’m allowed to go in that spot 😉  I suppose you could call me a careful driver, who isn’t a hazard on the road.

So there I am, pulling onto the highway, still in the euphoric state brought upon by this much needed and beautiful rain (and cooler weather – added bonus!) and I see that on the bridge up ahead, in the fast lane, there is a massive truck that has come to a complete standstill. This is a two lane highway, and I’m in the slow lane, so no problem.

Big problem, when there’s a massive bus coming up fast in the same lane as the truck! It was a good thing I glanced in the rearview mirror to see if I needed to warn anyone. I put my hazards on and slowed a little – but that didn’t help the bus. When you have that much steel at that sort of speed, and the roads are wet, braking hard isn’t going to do anyone any favours. So he did the next best thing, and swerved. While the front of his bus was in the clear and one could just say that he ‘cut me off a little’, I think he’d forgotten that there was a back side that would follow. I was reminded when I saw it coming to meet me at my drivers side window, and braked a little harder than I like to in wet weather.

Of course you know that my car skidded a bit – but the side of the bridge came nowhere near me. If I had been going faster, this ending would have been very different, and I’d be celebrating wetness in the river below that bridge. Although, as my son pointed out, if I was a speedster, I may have cleared that truck way before the bus arrived on the scene 😛

Admittedly, I was in a small amount of shock – but as I continued on my way, I actually laughed because I thought, “My gosh, I nearly was the back of a bus”! My friends often tell me that my reactions to close calls, where I laugh and think of something funny, is a very dark and unhealthy coping mechanism. Well, it is what it is, and I am what I am.

Right, the point of sharing this silly story with you is this :

I am not totally afraid to die. Fear of death is a very real thing, and is known as Thanatophobia. It affects people so deeply that even the thought of death gives them an anxiety attack. This is one thing I cannot completely identify with, but because I have other phobias I can understand and be sympathetic to their plight. I say ‘cannot completely’ because there was a time when I admit that I couldn’t think of anything worse than dying!

My journey in the past four years has been filled with epiphanies. The turning point for me was looking back on my life and accepting that my pain had purpose – I had lessons to learn and painful roads of the past to travel, because I needed to grow.

When I made the choice to accept the pains and hurts of the past, changed the way I viewed them, and turned them into opportunities of growth, changed for the better.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not mean that I will put myself in dangerous situations or do anything intentionally that will cost me my life. Neither am I advocating that you do, if you’re not afraid to die. It’s not about suddenly being irresponsible. And it’s certainly not about taking life for granted.

And I am not saying I want to die.

There’s just been a shift in me. I still will say, ”I don’t want to die”, but I will not allow that to be my focus or make me negative. Time’s a-wasting, and life is short, and you just never know. So while I’d like to have the mercy of being around for a very long time still to come, I’d also like to LIVE while doing so.

Living means different things to different people. And it means different things to me, depending on the context in which I am saying it. The context today means this:

I want to feel alive. In order to do that, I need to remain in alignment with my values. I must not waste my days. I need to change lives, one life at a time. My values mean that I have an insatiable need to show kindness, motivate and inspire, and be courageous even in the face of pain and grief – especially when dealing with areas that need tweaking in my personality…to never stop growing and learning! These are to just name a few. And these are some of the reasons that I get up every morning – they put purpose in my life… along with the kids and dogs who kind of NEED me to get up every morning 😛 😉

My friends, think about what it’s like to be alive. What drives you? What are your values at this moment in your life?

Because it’s TIME TO BE ALIVE!

Chase after the things that get your blood racing, follow your dreams, reach out if you have a need, spread kindness like a disease, feed your soul.

TAKE CARE OF YOU! 

Because YOUR LIFE MATTERS, YOU MATTER, and despite what you may think or feel, YOU make a positive difference in someone’s life and they’re very glad they have you!

Getting busy living

I woke to screaming, and sat up in a daze. Then there’s a blank.
It was difficult to open my eyes – the vision in my right seemed blurred. The sky was above me, grey, and I am sure there was a light drizzle (but that may be because before all this happened it had been raining). My friend was next to me, saying “Hold on, Meg. The ambulance is coming. Please be okay.”
I remember that my chest hurt – it was really sore to breathe. I tried to take in my surroundings, but it was just too much effort.
I remember gasping out, in stammered breaths, “It hurts to breathe. I think I’m going to go to sleep.”
The next 24 hours were a haze – very brief moments of memory that can be recalled when I talk about it. The rest? Things that those who were there have told me.
I was wearing all my favourite clothing items that day – they cut them all of me.

I had been asleep, on the journey home after a weekend away with my friends, in the back of a truck (under the canopy). It was four days after my 18th birthday. The truck lost control on the icy road – I was later told that it was due to driver negligence – and hit rolled a few times, landing on the edge of a cliff. For whatever reason, even after the canopy had been flung off, I had remained in the truck bed and was only thrown out just before it came to a stop. (Thinking back now, if I had been thrown out earlier, maybe I would have been crushed and dead, instead of very much alive, as I am today?)
My body was broken, my face cut up, and I was bruised all over – and yet the mirror in my bag was in tact. It hadn’t even cracked!?!?

I was in hospital for 15 days, and brought home in an ambulance because I still couldn’t walk. I’ve healed well, other than the scar tissue and pain that comes with cold and rainy days – and yet I LOVE those type of days 😉
I had a long list of injuries, but the ones that matter for the purposes of what I am actually wanting to share on my blog today, were the injuries to my ‘arms’. I broke my right collarbone in two places, and my left wrist. This means that on top of everything else, I couldn’t use my arms.
Still bedridden and healing up, I became incredibly bored. My pile of unread books  were calling me, but I wasn’t able to hold them or turn pages. So my brother provided me with a bunch of movies, the next best thing. Much to my mothers horror, in this collection was the movie Shawshank Redemption. And I watched it at least twenty times.

It’s a difficult movie to watch – so much sadness and a bit of violence, and scenes that leave you feeling a little ill to your stomach. But buried in that movie are so many little inspirational things that it makes it very much worth watching, if you can tolerate and get through the rest.

Let me set the scene for those of you who haven’t watched the movie – and refresh the memory of those of you who have.

Andy (played by Tim Robbins) has been convicted of killing his wife and her lover. Surprisingly, he’s probably the only man who winds up in that prison who is actually innocent. It’s not easy, and he definitely suffers. One day, out in the yard, he’s having a conversation with a new ‘friend’ he has made, named Red – played by Morgan Freeman. They start talking about what they would do if they got out, and for a man who has been institutionalized for a very long time, it is no surprise that Red fears that he may not survive on the outside.

It’s Andy’s part of the conversation that made an impact on me though.
He describes how he may as well have pulled the trigger – that he had loved his wife so much and yet pushed her away, and that had ultimately caused her to be in a place that had caused her death. He talks about being caught in the path of a tornado, and how he didn’t expect the storm be lasting as long as it is.
And then he begins to talk about his dream : one day, when he gets out, he’s going to go down to Mexico and open a small hotel on the beach – the Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory. And that’s how he wants to live out the rest of his days – in a warm place with no memory.

Bearing in mind that Red is pretty much his only friend in those dark, dismal walls; you’d expect his response to be supportive. But sometimes our reality is just so dark that we can’t see any light – and when we do see a light in a tunnel it’s usually another train coming.

So Red tells him he has a silly pipe dream, and that Mexico is out there, and Andy is in here, and he should forget about it.

Andy’s response is :
”Yeah, right. That’s the way it is. It’s down there and I’m in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

And that’s the truth. We can either truly live life, or just wait to die.

Sometimes life is hard, and it can feel like we’re imprisoned by its harshness, circumstances and negativity. My country, my town, my immediate surroundings are in crisis at the moment. It scares and saddens me, because I have a passion for people and I see past how things are directly impacting ‘me and my kids’. I carry a weight for those around us too. It’s not a burden that debilitates, but it definitely causes crying in my heart and soul, and pushes a button inside me to ‘act’. I don’t quite know how to explain it, so I may take some heat for the way I’ve said it.

I often joke that I am a ‘Prisoner of Hope’. I still have dreams despite the reality. And something inside of me constantly lives in hope. I don’t know what the future holds, and I have no desire TO know.

I DO know that every morning that my children and I can wake up and face a new day, things are good. Every moment that we get to spend, breathing and living and laughing, things are great. And every opportunity that we are given to help others in whatever way possible to us at the time means that things are fantastic.

For me? That is getting busy living. It’s living my best life.
Pursuing my dreams, living in hope despite our realities, and making a positive difference and contribution in and to other people’s lives.   
And enjoying the simple things – laughter, a good book, cheesecake, coffee and rainy afternoons 😉

How do you ‘get busy living’?

I’m a match!

She was 44 and we’d been friends for 22 years when the call came.
“I’m dying.”
She had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before this, but the cancer had ravaged her body to the extent that these were the calls she was having to make.
She passed away about six weeks after that call. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to spend last moments in time with her, and that I was able to love her and say ‘see you later – keep me a place’.

But her life was too short and she was gone too soon.

I met a lady four years ago, on her seventieth birthday. Her life had been difficult and painful, having buried her husband in her thirties after losing their child, and then burying her other two children not even ten years later.
At the age of 65 she was diagnosed with cancer, and every day thereafter increased her suffering in this life.
On her deathbed, shortly before turning 71,she whispered to her sister,
“I’m ready to go now. I have been for a very long time. They’re waiting. Sometimes I think that this life of mine has just gone on too long.”

Some people say life is too short. Others say life is too long. I say that it doesn’t matter – it’s not worth anything unless you touch the lives and hearts of others in a positive way!

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That One Teacher

 

We all have that one teacher. The one who, when we look back at our school career, made the most positive impact in our lives just because of the way he or she was. We’ll call her Miss L. She’s kind of alternative, arty for the most part, firm with the children and yet loads of fun. She has a no nonsense approach, and yet it raises no hackles. She has the respect and love of every pupil, every peer, and every parent.

She’s passionate, patient and persuasive. She somehow managed to talk my son into abseiling on their school outing, despite his fear of heights. When he now looks back on his primary school career (which over here is from Grade 1 – Grade 7), she is the one. She is that teacher. He shared his sisters disappointment when she discovered that this year she would not be in Miss L’s class – but while talking about the excursion coming up next month, he told his sister ‘all the cool stuff Miss L does with you when you’re there’.

Today was a bad day.

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