vulnerable bridges

It’s been an interesting 24 hours. I’ve felt quite overwhelmed, with good things, and bad things. And loadshedding (read the post here) continues…although not quite as bad as it was – we’re down to only being without power for four hours a day – I can handle that!
The funny thing is that even though we’re conscientious with the scheduled times and switch off plugs etc to prevent damage from power surges, the surprise cuts seem to have affected things somewhat. My modem appears to be confused – it seems to think its function is now that of a strobe light 😛 It’s rather fun watching the internet light go on and off every minute or so. Green…red….green….red…. it’s a special kind of Christmas tree 😛 adding holiday spirit to my home 😉

With regards to yesterdays post :

Thank you to those of you who have offered support, prayers and encouragement. It is very much appreciated at all times, please know that.

Up until a few months ago, I wasn’t aware that I could be reached at my private email address through WordPress. This isn’t a problem for me at all – as you all know, I love to communicate and make new friends – and of course I am always there for support and encouragement. I’d like to thank one lovely lady in particular for emailing me – I won’t mention her name but she knows who she is – your continued encouragement and outpouring of love and prayers touches my heart deeply. 

I did receive another email though, from someone that I wasn’t even aware was reading my blog. The irony of this email is that it’s from an ex-South African, now living overseas, who only returns to SA every few years for a week or two on holiday. I haven’t responded… I guess I’ll do so a little later… or maybe I’ll just leave this here :

I am well aware that yesterdays post was rather negative, and reveals that I have ‘that side’ to me. Unfortunately, living with, working with, seeing and being emotionally involved with the atrocities that are occurring here daily, it sometimes does affect me in a negative way. My heart is not made of steel. While I have the ability to practice ‘tough love’ in situations where it is called for, this does not mean that I do not shed tears when I am alone, and that it doesn’t affect me in any way.

So in a round about kind of way, this post is actually about vulnerability.

I am an extremely vulnerable person. And no matter how you try to convince me otherwise, I will never see this as a weakness. 
I AM an open book. You can pretty much ask me anything, and I will answer you. But I won’t just give you facts. I will share in a way that exposes my emotions and will ultimately open me up to the possibility of getting hurt. How else will I connect with you?

And you see, that’s the thing…. I truly believe that I am designed for the purpose of connecting – not just with God, but with other people. In order to achieve that purpose, unfortunately, I need to make myself vulnerable. 

And yes, it means I get ’emotionally hurt’ sometimes. (Other times it is the most rewarding thing for me!) But through all those experiences, the rewarding ones and the hurtful ones, I learn life’s greatest lessons, and the crucial skills that I need to continue with living this life.

Raw truth is necessary to connect. But it has another function too. If I am not prepared to be vulnerable and share the truth of my experiences and failings, then how will anyone ever be able to walk away from me knowing hope, kindness, goodness, grace and joy? 

I am about to make a statement that many are going to possibly attack me for :
I understand and a part of me has to agree with Ghandi : ”I’d be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.”

Except I AM a Christian. And now you’re as confused as a chameleon in a bag of skittles.

So I’ll explain it like this : I grew up in the church. And there were some who didn’t preach God, but showed me who He was. But from a little girl, through various stages in my life, I was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by people in the church who were in positions of leadership. I left in my late teens. I have returned many times, to different places, and found much of the same, sadly – except now it has added judgment for some of the bends in the road of my life.
It has been preached to me on numerous occasions that I am a dying ember – because to be a burning light, I need to be with the coals in the fire – a church. While I understand what they are saying, and agree that it is an amazing thing to worship with a group, I remain a dying ember. I guess? Well, in the churches opinion (and the opinion of most of my family members too). That’s where it all gets confusing, even for me…and we’re talking about me… so confusion reigns! 😛

It has taken me a very long time to fully appreciate the statement that ‘God is God, and I am not.’ In the same way, all those people seated in church, as well as all their leaders, are also not God. Which means that like me, they also suffer from sin – hidden or exposed, their choice. They choose to wear masks, instead of being vulnerable enough to admit to their failings. And this means that they never learn anything, and can never be helped. It discredits any good that those who know their secret sins could ever glean from their words or their seemingly perfect lives. By not making themselves vulnerable, they have prevented growth, not just in themselves but in their ‘victims’, because many of those ‘victims’ have turned their backs on God as a result.

I am no longer angry about the abuse I suffered personally. It’s been a long and very difficult road to get to that place. The circumstances surrounding those different types of abuse affected the options that were open to me – and while I could have made different choices, at those times the circumstances affected me negatively and I made a long list of bad choices.

In the past few years, I have grown. And here’s what I know :

I will never come into contact with someone who isn’t loved – I need to be kind always.

I have learned NOT to judge – because I don’t know what choices you actually had. And here’s an additional thing to add to that – take time to find the person they are at that very moment, and not who they were yesterday or last week – based on fact or rumors. Change takes time, but the choice to change takes a minute. By judging and making it known, you may just undo that choice.

Don’t preach it – be it. At the end of the day, my words are meaningless if I can’t show you.

Unconditional love. The hardest of all. So important though because it sums up all of the above, and so much more. I struggle with this particular one a lot. It is hard to love others, especially those who have hurt us. It’s a journey all on its own. 
I love my children dearly – but they know when they disappoint or upset or anger me – a statement often used in my house is this : I love you, but I don’t like you right now because…..
And my children have free reign to use it on me. And they have. I have learnt from those moments – sometimes I am unreasonable, and sometimes I have worded things in a hurtful way. If they did not have the opportunity to tell me, “Mom, I love you but I don’t like you right now because…”, we would all live in a war zone in our own home right now. Being able to say this, and then walk away, leaves time for what has been said to sink in. When the initial anger and hurt has passed, there has always been apologies, calm discussions and resolution. And the freedom to continue loving and liking one another.

So yes, I am vulnerable, even with my kids. How else do I teach them that not everyone is right all the time, and that even parents/adults fail?

Vulnerability HURTS sometimes! It opens me up to judgment and criticism, and nastiness and negativity. But it also grows, helps and heals.
There may be ten people judging me, attacking me, and hurting me when I am vulnerable enough with admissions of guilt and failings. But there may be ONE person who is listening…. and hurting…. who connects with me and experiences hope in their seemingly hopeless situation; who somehow finds healing in a broken piece of their heart; or feels a kindness that no one else has ever shown them and sparks a ‘kindness seed’ that they in turn sow themselves. 

Vulnerability is also sometimes VERY REWARDING! I would not make the beautiful connections and friends that I do along the way if I wasn’t. And many of them patch up broken pieces of my heart in their own way.

And that, for every person who is reading this, is MY purpose in life.

Words and actions WILL hurt me. I WILL spend time crying and experiencing a form of brokenness. I WILL wish that I had a steel heart. And I will have my moments where I fight being ‘good’. I have tried being bitter and angry – I even think nasty thoughts. I have the potential to be all those things – and I’d probably be very good at it. In my head, I do great…for about twenty minutes.

But I WON’T change. And I have come to accept that. I am, and always will be, vulnerable. 

(there’s green light on the modem, so I’m hitting publish! 😛 😉 )

striving for seed-ship

I was introduced to someone new the other day.
“This is Meg, my friend that I was telling you about.”
Pretty standard introduction, although it usually somehow elicits the panicked thought, ”Uh oh! What exactly has been said?”

The reply was not standard.
”Ah, Meg… the seed.”

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Photo credit : quotes.yourdictionary.com

In that moment, I certainly felt that I had achieved genius status! I have a very expressive face and so I knew my confusion was evident, but I followed up with,
“Um….hi. Seed?”

Yeah, I know, really eloquent!

There was a slight shrug, and a knowing smile exchanged between my friend and the ‘new person’. Her reply knocked me off guard completely,

“I’ve been told that you’re a great encouragement and inspiration. That you’ve been through so much, and yet you continue to smile and spread love and kindness. Your friend here says that you’re the one she turns to when she needs joy.
My husband and I call those sorts of people ‘seeds’. Because they inspire and encourage growth.”

This morning, I saw a picture on Facebook and had to smile :

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Now I have to be honest here, I am sometimes a bad seed. Although I don’t quite fit this description! 
a person who is dishonest, evil, or unprincipled by nature : an innately bad person

I’d be extremely dishonest though if I said that I have never had a moment of being any of the above. Worry and negativity creeps in every now and then, which messes with my character and sends my whole being into chaos. I then become frustrated/angry/disheartened/disillusioned and ‘act out’ because I am not in alignment with my core values.

And this is why I KNOW how very important it is to continuously be aware of, practice and educate ourselves to handle correctly whatever bad thing comes our way. 

The words that were spoken about me above definitely boosted my ego a bit – but they also spoke to my core being in a way that I very much needed at the time.
(And I have to stress that while they were lovely, and very true of my relationship with this friend because we’ve been in each others lives for 20+ years and that has always been my place in her life, I don’t think that everyone views me that way. In fact, I know that they don’t.)

So this is not a boasting moment.

Instead, it was actually a type of ‘wake up’ moment for me.

Do I want to inspire and encourage growth in everyone I come into contact with? YES!
Am I doing that? Sadly, no…. not always and not everyone.
Can I change that? YES!

But it’s going to require courage and commitment. It’s going to mean hard work. It’s going to mean some pain. But this is an area I NEED to grow in. And so I have to accept all those things.

And I am not saying that I need to be perfect. It’s in my imperfections that I can actually inspire others – but I need to handle those imperfections correctly in order for them to achieve the purpose of helping others to grow – in their lives, in kindness and in love.

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Photo credit : bigcommerce.com

 

I want to be THAT beautiful!

What’s Really Important?

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We all have a heart condition – it’s just not always physical. And the condition of your emotional/spiritual/soul heart is very often based on what you put in. These things will form your thoughts and in the end they will shape you. When you allow the wrong things to room in your heart with free board and lodging, all they’ll do is continue to steal from you.

Confucius said : “When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him. When you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self.”

Examining our inner selves and continuously revisiting our personal core values, being receptive to learning lessons even when they hurt, taking responsibility and turning our pain into something powerful – all these things bring change… growth. All these things affect our hearts.

And my heart is my responsibility. The same way that yours is, well, yours.

We grow everyday. We make mistakes and learn lessons. We give each day our best, and the next day we give our best in an even better way – because in growing we learn new things, and the new things raise us to new heights of achievement. 

I love this part in The Lion King :

Simba: Going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been hiding from it for so long…
(Rafiki whacks Simba on the head with his stick)
Simba: OW! Geez, what was that for?!
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past! (chuckles)
Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.
(Rafiki swings his stick, but Simba ducks)
Rafiki: Aha! You see? So what are you going to do?
Simba: Well first, I’m gonna take your stick. (grabs Rafiki’s stick)

 

When we are prepared to learn the lesson, we will grow, and our hearts will change.

In most cases, this takes time. It’s a process. And it can be painful.

We all have our own journey. Our own hearts. Our own painful lessons to learn.

Be kind to others, because you never know which part of their past is busy growing them.

And always try to remember that even if you knew a person before, they may just have changed in a good way (we all know that this is very likely because as we grow on our own journeys we see the positive changes within ourselves) –

don’t use their past to invalidate who they are now. 

Let’s yank our hands back and try to remember what is important!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

teaching learning moments

Yes, the pictures above ARE ME! (I usually avoid sneaky captures, so this is a rare moment 😉 ) What I am doing here, however, is not rare.

On this particular day about a month ago, I had collected three girls (one being my daughter) from school, and taken them to the dance studio they are all a part of. I’d been rushing around for two hours prior, and was desperate to relieve my bladder, so I accompanied them inside (okay, so me going inside with them IS rare – keep reading 😉 ).

The conversation in the car had been centered around a particular teacher, who had left them feeling rather uninspired and completely demotivated for the upcoming exam period. They needed to vent and have their own discussion, and so I didn’t interrupt. But I listened – partly because other than driving, there wasn’t much else I could do!

While I was in the bathroom and thinking about what had transpired in the car (because a bathroom is a place that inspires great thought), I remembered a story about a similar type of teacher that we had had when I was in high school. There was also a lesson in there, so I decided to share. Upon entering the room, the audience had grown and now there were two other younger beings, as well as the assistant dance teacher present. (The assistant dance teacher is the ”capture culprit”.)

To my daughters horror (oh the shame, my mother speaks, uttered by most teenage girls her age) I opened my mouth and began to recount what I remembered. I know it doesn’t look like it from the pictures, but they did all laugh with me at the end, including my kid 😉 I don’t know who it was who commented how lucky my daughter is to have a mom that is not only good at story telling, but is such an inspiration. Her reply was, “Yeah, well try living with it. Every moment is a teaching moment.” This was followed with a roll of her eyes – and then everyone was rushing about getting ready because their class was about to start.

I’ll admit it. I was a little disappointed with her reaction, and her comment. But it wasn’t new to me. I also know that she really didn’t mean any disrespect , nor was there the intention of emotional harm. I know this, because I know her. She’s often frustrated with me, and queries, “Why does everything have to be a teaching moment with you?” We had a long conversation about it a couple of weeks ago. I understand her frustration – she’s 14, and I am ‘the mother’. At 14, any instruction offered by those in authority (even when intended to help, inspire or uplift) is always taken as if it truly is a bitter pill. And since my daughter simply doesn’t swallow pills (we’ve tried in jam, cheese, chocolate, yoghurt – that small thing simply isn’t going down her throat) it’s a little more difficult with her.

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Photo credit : Facebook

(Ah yes, teenagers! Don’t get me wrong – she’s a great kid. But she’s still growing, and tends to be a little more defiant when it comes to seeking out lessons to learn. But then again, look how long it’s taken me!)

And she’s sort of right. Because I suppose there comes a time when it can get really annoying. She has also pointed out to me that I am ‘worse’ these past few years when it comes to teaching moments.

I think that this may be because in the past few years I have opened myself up to experiencing more learning moments. As I have mentioned in many previous posts, something has shifted. And although this process is painful, it’s bringing with it a lot of very positive outcomes. It’s changing my character, for the better.

While the word purpose is inclined to draw our focus to goal-based achievements – the type where we set a target that is usually ‘verb’ orientated (get a promotion at work, gain new customers, publish a book) – I have allowed myself to broaden my thinking 😉 Yes! Goal-based achievements are important. They are long term, future focused and give us a direction in which to head, often with a  tangible result.

But what about the other types of goals? While those achievements are great, if they never happen in your life it doesn’t mean that you lived a life without purpose, or that you somehow failed to achieve in your journey.

I have many ‘verb based goals’ and, truth be told, I happen to be falling behind. Tomorrow is not promised and I may never reach them. This thought is a little bit frustrating for me. BUT…

I am already aligned with the greatest purpose of all that I can hope to achieve when I choose to act in kindness, compassion and love. This ‘personal purpose’, while it is based on verbs, may not always have a visible outcome. I may not see the end results. I won’t always know if I was able to help guide someone, or influence them in a positive way. I won’t always know if I helped others change the course of their lives to a better direction, or whether my smile that day was the one thing that changed their mind about taking their own life. I won’t always know.

But it won’t stop me from being kind, sharing a smile, showing compassion.

And in the same way, as frustrating as my teaching moments are, I won’t stop dishing them out.
(Although I may need to be a little more sensitive regarding their frequency 😛 )

Most importantly of all, as painful as the learning moments are, I won’t stop being more aware of me and my surroundings in an effort to find them and determine what it is I need to know about them. Because it’s an ongoing process, and I am very aware of how it affects my emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical health.

So, for me? I am quite happy being a goal setter, go getter, in matters pertaining to the heart. And who knows, the rest of it may just follow 😉

effort to grow

Last night I was reminded of the lesson of the butterfly. I had read the story many years ago, but somehow it had got lost in the back of my mind somewhere. It was a story written by Paulo Coelho :

A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.
 
The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.
 
The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
 
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.
 
Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
 
(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)

In life, we are so often presented with situations and circumstances that restrict us. The things that we face sometimes require great physical and mental effort on our parts to break free from those restrictions, and it’s exhausting!

I know that for me, sometimes those things come as a result of my own choices, based on a particular set of circumstances. Those times I have bruised shins from kicking myself 😛

Other times, they seem to come out of nowhere!

There was a time that I looked at the struggle, conceded defeat and wallowed in my misery, asking myself over and over, “Why me?”. I never learnt anything, and it affected who I was as a person in a negative way. Admittedly, it was easier to be miserable about it because then I didn’t have to own anything. Ownership requires great responsibility, and I had enough responsibilities as far as I was concerned!

An attitude adjustment was needed, but denial was so much more comfortable. And soon the heart of the problem, became a problem with my heart.

I can’t pin point an exact moment when my attitude shifted. But I can tell you that I am very glad it did, in fact, shift. Heads rolled….well, mine did 😛

It wasn’t just a case of making better choices despite the circumstances, it was having a whole new attitude with regards to the things that seemed to hit me out of nowhere!
The activation of positive changes in my life happened when I started to view each struggle as a ‘learning curve’. When things happened (as they so often do) I was more inclined to pause and reflect – behaving like a raging bull (or cow, since I am female 😛 ) always had such negative results!

Viewing the obstacles in a different light inspired growth within me (I’ve also grown on the outside, but that’s just because I’m getting older, and I like food 😛 )

I won’t lie. Growth and change hurts a lot of the time. (Ask my jeans 😛 ) The lessons can sometimes be painful. It’s NOT the easy way out and doesn’t happen overnight. But as with the butterfly, with the extra time and effort, we can not only get over the hurdle, but gain wisdom for the next hurdle that’s going to come our way – and it will!

In the growing, I have learnt that the important things of life WILL come to me
…and that they’re not things at all!

I’ve become more compassionate – more understanding towards those around me. I’ve become a little wiser (and not just because I am getting older 😉 ) and I am more inclined to think things through in an effort to eliminate hurting others.
My thought patterns have changed and I no longer want to know ‘why me’ – these days it’s more like ‘why NOT me?’- because I realise that ‘this thing’ has happened to inspire growth within me. Somewhere there is a lesson I need to learn. Somewhere there is a piece of my heart that needs changing.

For me, at the stage of life that I find myself in, the most important thing of all is that all the pain, and misery, and growing, makes me empathetic to so many situations that other people find themselves in. And people matter. Parts of my story help others.

And that is the key to the essence of me. 😉

But here’s a shocking little piece of info for you : I don’t always get it right! There are moments where I fail miserably to do some or all of the above. But that is the only failure. Because I try again.

There are times where the negative emotions resurface, and I need to forgive myself for that, and remind myself of how far I have come. I need to remember that there is a bigger picture – pick up my backpack and push through the thorny brush on my journey. I need to stop being so hard on myself and give myself a break – growing pains aren’t easy. Not sure who said it, but I think about it often 😉 : If life was meant to be easy it wouldn’t have started with something called labor!

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