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The truth is that part of me was resisting doing what I knew had to be done. You have to be the change you want to see and I’m finally seeing that in one of the key areas of my life.

You see I fought against him for months in fact it was really the only thing that we argued over - me blaming his excessive drinking on my anxiety but frankly I wasn’t prepared to put my money where my mouth was. I was expecting him to be the change but it had to be me, it always does.

I made a commitment to myself that I would give up drinking from the beginning of January until my sisters wedding towards the end of February and that is what I’ve done - am doing - and it feels utterly liberating. Utterly liberating - it has to be said twice it’s that powerful.

Even as I’m writing this there is a smile that has formed on my face and a depth of emotion deep inside me that feels like I’ve released a flock of white pigeons into their freedom. But it’s me whose been released.

So many times, daily even, I remind myself that the only person I have any control over, and even that control is limited at times, is myself. And yet a thousand more times I shouted words of displeasure about a situation that was really mine to control - as least my involvement in that situation. it seems utterly ludicrous that I paddled around in that quagmire of despair for so long when all it really took was the decision, by me, to change it.

I can hardly believe the simplicity of that decision but I know it’s never that simple - the decision is the hardest part really and I’m experiencing that now. The months I agonised over where I seemed stuck - acting in victimhood of the situation refusing to see that everything is a choice.

I don’t know what kept me stuck but I do know that, now the decision has been made everything has shifted and I’m eternally grateful for that. It reminds me that at times my mind becomes attached to limitation rather than seeing it simply as a distorted version of reality. What wonderful innovations could I create if I surrendered my preconceptions?

If we remain committed to letting every thought, word and action come from their perspective I know that everything unfolds as it should.

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And just like that it’s another year; the planning, shopping and mania giving way to the calmness, excitement and the peaceful energy of the festive season all of which is now being drowned out by retail sales, building work pressures, resolutions, goals and a general surge in the direction of the new year.

Don’t get me wrong I’m one of those pushing into the New Year but this year I’m trying to do it on my terms.

Every year seems to be a watershed year - some basked in only good memories others smothered in anxiety and stress. 2014 had, for me, some desperate lows (losing people who are marvellously loved is going to leave a blip on anyone’s radar) but ultimately it’s coming out in the wash as a great year.

Perhaps as we get older we learn the innate task of remembering only the things that please us and plastering over those that don’t (and no, Jo, this isn’t a spongey moment for me … there’s plenty of time for that!). I just can’t see the point in holding on to things that don’t serve us - negative thoughts, unkind people, bad experiences, lost ideas, misplaced words, unfilled ideas or general dissatisfaction.

My sister donned a phrase when we were younger (when the quantity of friends was may more important than the quality) and that was a ‘friendship audit’. It sounds mercenary (and coming from a lawyer perhaps could have been deemed as such) but really the aim was simply to learn to choose, keep, and be the type of friend who pushes you to be the best version of you, always. 

In some goal-setting and planning for 2015 I’ve come to realise that there’s not a single soul in my life whose not an absolute God-send and, for a moment it seemed quite startling to me - who knew i could have become that good at auditing!! In actual fact it’s nothing as well-planned as that it’s simply just being conscious, deciding - finally, who I wanted to be and being that. The rest just seems to fall into place.

So beautifully put ‘ the future belongs to whose who believe in the beauty of their dreams’ (Eleanore Roosevelt) so here’s to dreaming.

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Cliched as it may be but this rainy Jozi afternoon has got me thinking about another watershed year. 2014 has been, for me, about getting real with myself and those I choose to have in my life. I passed the 40 mark last year and with it I shed the need to please … which is hard for a people pleaser like me! But in shedding something I'm faced with the ‘ what now’ and ‘is this it’. If you leave something behind then doesn’t the ‘what am I without my story’ resonate?


We all play many roles in our life and mine include, amongst others, friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, student, teacher, helper, listener, learner, provider but I think our true role has to be pioneer into the unknown. We need to lift the veil for each other, be courageous and heroic, push out our own boundaries. I’ve said this before, so this is a reminder to me, that we need to give beyond reason, to care beyond hope, to love without limit, to reach, stretch and dream - in spite of our fears.


I’m tremendously conscious that as I clock up the years it’s all too easy to get comfortable and I’m not going there, into a comfort zone that is. So I’m surrounding myself with people who will remind me that we need to push ourselves, be more, give more, to illuminate the darkened paths, lift broken spirits and change the course of our history. So, together, let’s do that?


I read somewhere that 'A joyful life isn’t about others; it’s about the brightness that is associated with being alive. Your path to it is through anything that replaces thinking with pure flight, pure joy.’ As 2015 rolls around I wish you, and me, the clarity that comes with knowing we can choose our path and in that choosing life becomes the meaning and measurement that we’ve craved all along. Life is good. I wish you that, and more. Onwards friends.

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I think it will always be like this. 

As I sit quietly at home this morning - in the wake of his rage and drama I just feel quiet and tired and simply exhausted by it all. I am grateful he’s broken another promise - I need a break from the mumbling harsh words under his breath juxtaposed with the accusations and threats - I am pleased for the quiet. 

I get stuck in my home and in my head. You see I think I'm easy on him now - I take the path of least resistance and we mostly just live separate, like college room mates who - at times - sit over individually prepared suppers and idly comment on the tv.

How do you know when it’s enough?

I don’t know if it’s another broken promise or sheer exhaustion on my part but something has clicked this morning - as I write these words I don’t think I even trust myself anymore which is the saddest part for me. I’ve begged, pleaded, prayed and promised and that’s just with myself. There have been so many times that I’ve talked myself off this ledge promising him just one more chance but what about me? When do I get a look in here?

Last night I dreamt that I received a call - this guy was on the end of the phone asking me if I understood what he was saying correctly because he’d been accused of not being clear before - he asked if I could hear / see a helicopter in which was someone who was going to come and take care of my life. He kept asking me these three questions:

Do you know who you are?
Do you know what's happened to you?
Do you want to live this way?

I hung up - perplexed of course. The very next minute I heard then saw this chopper, in no time it had landed - right outside my sitting room door in my tiny garden. I was immediately nervous - I forced myself awake long before my alarm fearing that this meant something was wrong. But the longer I am awake the more this all made sense to me.

Do you know who you are?
Do you know what's happened to you?
Do you want to live this way?

Yes I know who I am. Yes I know what’s happened to me and no I don’t want to live this way - not any more.
 
Like a helicopter I can rise above this situation, this relationship. Like my garden I can cultivate new life, new energy.  This is my life

A love for almost 15 years isn’t something easy to question or let go of but I feel like I’m the one whose been holding on so tight, I’m the one whose been fighting here and if I’m truthful to myself I think if I stop the fighting he’ll just let us go.

This morning the first email I receive has the heading ‘Today is the best day of your life’ and I thought why not. Let’s see where this takes us.

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Our housekeeper is a good news story in a bad news tale - so far that is - but getting here hasn’t been an easy journey. She noticed a lump in her neck and took herself off to the clinic - after hours of sitting and being ignored she was seen by someone who said she needed to be admitted.

I received a panicked call from my hysterical housekeeper who, having been pushed around from pillar to post prior to being diagnosed with HIV, she had spent weeks in Baragwaneth and memories of that experience linger just under the service. I suggested she come to me and we visited my local doctor for their opinion.

This has led us to spending, over the next couple of months, endless hours at the Helen Joseph trying to make our way through the chaotic and seemingly broken system. The system is so clearly represented in the misery of the buildings, a place that meant to be healing or at the very least helping people. The Helen Joseph is, I believe, one of the better government healthcare facilities which is shocking to the nth degree.

Determined that Lindiwe not fall through the cracks of this broken system I’ve held her hand and asked the questions that, out of fear and perhaps a degree of unsophistication, needed to be asked. In the hours we spent at the hospital I looked around at the seemingly hopelessness of it. There are literally hundreds of people lost in those corridors some so sick they can barely raise a voice to ask a question that may just get them seen.

But through it all and just when I wanted to tear my hear out we would always find someone to help us take the next step up. Once you finally get in front of a person who isn’t just there to push papers you get the help that is so desperately needed and I was buoyed by the belief that they do actually care. There are just too few trying to help just too many.

But if you ask the right questions, if you put in the time, if you refuse to be pushed on without getting the right help then the help is there - it’s not hopeless and there are good news stories, so far my beloved Lindiwe is one of them.

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We might be in the dark, literally (for us South Africans) and figuratively (for the rest of us) but it’s upon is - the silly season that is. I’m one of those who relishes this time of the year - decking our house with Christmas decorations (much to the chagrin of the grinch I live with!) and generally donning a jolly attitude about life.

 

That said you’d have to be plank not to realise what’s going on. I read in our local papers this weekend how so many have been drastically affected by the insanity that is the power(less) situation - businesses halted, homes brought to a standstill and the lack of any obvious action by the people who should be responsible.

 

This isn’t really news to me though because I live in an the area forgotten by City Power (Or Eskom or any municipality in South Africa for that matter). The glorious open spaces around us have sprung complexes and now we hide in obscurity and relative peace (well a LOT of peace nowadays). Increasingly our power has diminished - what were monthly outages became weekly then daily and over this time we all became increasingly voiceless. I’ve been raised to take action - don’t talk about it, do something. So I’ve done something … well mostly just logged complaints in any forum possible (Twitter rules!)

 

The collective rebuff seems to fall on stoney ground and it’s that which riles us. We get that there are problems, we understand that everything takes time but don’t treat us like idiots. As a stalwart for and with South Africa I refuse to be defeated by stupidity or idle frivolity and, as Jodi Foster said in her 2013 Cecil DeMille award speech, "we need to be heard, we need to be understood - deeply - and to be not so very lonely...

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This week hasn’t been good when you count up the tally of the fallen. Sadness engulfs and words, songs, platitudes do nothing but fill the space where the person we’re grieving for should be. Losing another family friend did nothing more than reinforce the fact that we’re just not present. I was shocked to hear of her passing and it rang way too close to home to clock it in as ‘just one of those things’.

In standing, again, listening to the life of one person been spoken about by another, made me think that I guess that’s what it all comes down to - our legacy - what we stand and stood for.

We’re remembered for what we did, who we were and how we’re remembered.

Our friend sure did leave a legacy - her family, love, beauty, talent, commitment, laughter, concern, care, love, generosity, integrity, authenticity, boldness and individuality. We stood in her bountiful garden listening to the words and the wood and the birds who live there because she gave that to them. We creaked and cried and wished we’d be more of ourselves whilst she left us her flowers, love and the slight breeze of her smile. 

One of the speakers mentioned how she would welcome us ‘Hello my dear, how are you?’ and I heard her voice echoed in that breeze. I looked up, I could feel her, the speaker continued. 

We gathered, drank water or wine, mingled and smiled at each other when all we wanted to do was withdraw and lick our wounds for what we really know to be true. We miss so much and our fallen friends remind us of that. 

I would try and remind us all to wake up but we know that. I’d remind us to be present but we know that. I’d remind us to take the picture but we know that. I guess that all that is left is to remember to smell the flowers. 

I got home today, after this blessing and, after busying myself with nothingness, I sat down at my desk and dropped my head, a small flower dropped out and I realised that, from her garden, a small flower had carried its way to me. It didn’t seem much but it was everything. Call me sentimental but what I felt was she had wrapped her arms around me, in her selfless way, and sent me home, safely with the love and care of a mother, friend, companion, confident that will be missed and loved, forever.
 
"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time. When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy. It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable." Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening
 

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My sister moved house today and in a way we all moved on. It was a melting pot of people all armed with much love, good intentions, manic mayhem and sporadic bursts of ‘what now’. But I think that’s life, well I guess it is.

In the quiet moments I looked around with sincere appreciation for who and what my family is - a complicated bunch of people who are just doing the best we can and loving each other along the way.

My sister and I sat, whilst the men went off and did more chest beating (I think they would like it referred to as work), and put the world right over wine (is there any other way) and what we figured out today (perhaps we’re slow learners) is that actually none of us have this life figured out. We’re all just making it up along the way, but we are making it up together.

And that’s what matters, I think,  is that we’re together. Life might be a mess (guaranteed) and we'll get it wrong (probably) but we will learn (hopefully) to do it better tomorrow. Here’s to tomorrow.

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Get out of your own head and ego.

You have gifts, talents, skills and abilities that are unique and specific to you. Stop questioning the Divine.

It’s like a bird with powerful wings walking in circles wondering if it deserves to fly - nonsense!

It’s not about deserving, it’s about fulfilling your purpose and honouring the Divine showing up as you. Get out of the way.

It’s not about you! It’s about life expressing through you.

Cynthia Ocelli

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The smell swept through my house and into my room, I was avoiding the day with a cup of tea and a cuddling cat ... The smell pulled me out of my funk and into the gratitude that is my life.

I am all too often wracked with the hamlet questions. Am I on the right path? Should I be doing more? Knowing more? Achieving more. The enormous questions that my conscious mind refuses to let up on but it's that voice, that constant evaluation that keeps me moving, keeps me pushing for more. The question I'm currently tripping up on again and again is 'what exactly has my life proved so far'? Where is the legacy? What am I leaving in my wake? How am I improving this world and when I'm gone what will I be remembered for?

I don't know and this morning I was wandering around in those thoughts until the grass came calling.

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This morning I woke, like most other mornings, blissfully drifting into my day. My world, both the inner and outer one, is for an instant a blank canvas—an emptiness of infinite potential. I remember, but often don’t, that the unshaped world will take shape according to my state of being, consciousness, awareness. Moving from deep sleep and dreaming to waking, the world is not yet formed, it is waiting for us.

But this morning the world wasn’t waiting to form in some instances and its beyond my comprehension. As I grappled with the thoughts I read something that offered some perspective “ .. the perfection of every issue is beyond human comprehension. We can’t be fooled, there are no mistakes. The territory behind us and the challenges at hand are precisely crafted to deliver us the wisdom and insights that’ll continue us in life.”

I know we didn’t come here to face hurdle after hurdle; it’s not as if that, by mastering our issues today, more will be added tomorrow, that only happens when we deny our issues in the first place. So we master them and move on.

So today let’s get through what we must get through, understand what troubles us, do what we can do today. So little can really yield so much; a new perspective, an admission, a surrender to truth - no matter how painful - changes everything. So, I guess here we go, into the wild.
 

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... but I know that being happy is choice. I know, it's bloody annoying and one of those things some bumper sticker would instantly put me in a bad mood by displaying but, in my opinion, it's true!

I've said before but when I was younger I remember not being consciously happy but rather consciously, painstakingly, melancoly. After many years, and way too many Sarah Mclachlan songs I came around to understanding that being happy was a daily practice and one that was worth practising.

So instead of this beautiful melancoly song I choose this uplifting song - both equally moving but, for me, I'll choose happiness every day and twice on Sundays!

Happy daze one and all.

 

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For years I felt that I was on the outside looking in. Everyone around me seemed to just get on with life and yet I agonised over every day; sure there were moments when I was just a kid and life went on around me whilst I laughed and played and enjoyed my adventurous life - but nothing was ever random to me.


I’m into my fourth decade now and still the conversations go on only they are different now; there’s a sense of wonderment about life and everything I’m so blessed to have seen / experienced and garnered so far. A while ago I decided to just stop tolerating bullshit, my own and others. Plastering a smile onto a shit situation helps no-one and perpetuates the feeling that we’ve all got to keep pretending that living and learning is easy when it isn’t.


In doing that, in being honest - with myself mainly - I feel like I’m lighting my own way, making a difference, building a bridge, living the truths that are revealed to me and perhaps that will help others do the same. I’ve always seen the world differently and now I’m grateful for that.

 

Remember the fire's always within.

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There is this glorious song by Birdy and every time I hear it the words catch in my throat, I end up slowing down to look around and tonight was no exception.

I was driving home and, pulling up to a traffic light there, in the middle of the road, was a woman curled up into herself - dejected and crying tears of utter desperation and loneliness. As I rolled slowly up to the lights all I could feel was the immense sadness of those tears; I think we’ve all cried them for different reasons. The tears that pull us to the ground and engulf everything around us - like a black hole of nothingness sucking us into it for the belief that there was just nowhere else to go.

There was this woman and, with no idea of her background, situation or the circumstances that led her to that spot, I felt ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. Her small face and dark sad eyes looked up towards me and I was completely lost. I don’t know what happens to us really - I know stuff I’ve learned and read but what really draws us apart? What really makes my journey this evening so remarkably easy and what makes hers so desperately difficult.

Birdy’s song is so idealistic it’s brilliant - people should help the people and nothing will drag you down? Right? Did I help this evening, sure but in my way, I’ve no idea if that helped her or me. On I rolled and there she stayed.

"Oh and if I had a brain … I’d be cold as a stone and rich as a fool that turned all those good hearts away"

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About a week ago I had finished at a client and I called him to say I was heading back to the office; he answered the call in a fairly customary 'Hiya' and I was immediately shot back in time.

There was my life, and it seemed like just yesterday for the vividness of my memories, and that life consisted of the voice at the end of the phone being of Jekyyl the well known alter ego to our Hyde. The moment he was left alone - or rather I wasn't around - his mind would immediately be pulled to his dealer and we'd lose him either to a craving or the giving in to that craving - either way the results were exactly the same - he was gone and in his place would reside a panicky, devious, gibbering, paranoid shadow of himself.

And last week I was reminded of those days - the panic I would feel when I knew I had to leave the house - I remember so clearly planning my day and days, weighing up the benefit of running all meetings in one day even if that day meant it would run from dawn 'till dusk because at least, then, the fall out would be just one day. But it was never just one day because a bender would start days before and end weeks later. It was cyclical. It was debilitating. It was all consuming. And it was my life for so long. I never thought we'd see the light of day.

Not so long ago he asked me if I ever thought he'd be rid of the drugs, the cravings, the alter egos and, in taking my time to respond, I said No. I had to admit I'd not allowed myself that optimism. It had permeated our lives - and the lives of many other people - for so long that I don't think I hoped that it could ever be different.

Life is different now - he white-knuckled his way through it working endlessly and tirelessly to rid his life of almost all of his triggers and I know the effort it took / takes; always looking to be more, say more, love more but you see the truth is an addict is always an addict; whilst the cocaine was replaced by coffee, cigarettes, sky-diving, running, mountain-biking and now booze it’s all different sides of the same coin.

It took me a long time to understand that addiction isn’t weighing up your options to make better choices it’s just an action and a reaction - the thing is that there are always choices then consequences and people being caught in the middle.

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..when I can take time to just be. I like being up early (when I wake naturally that is) because I can unfold my day with a semblance of quiet, I can slowly perform the rituals of breakfast feeding of my 4-legged companions whilst my 2-legged one still sleeps.

It's in the quiet and the calm that I'm reminded time and again that it's the little things that make a rich life and here's to a rich life.

 

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It can be easy to judge can't it? It takes no effort, no consciousness, awareness or thoughtful process. Imagine if every time we found ourselves in judgement of another we stopped and thought 'Where am I  like that? Where do I display that thinking / action / behaviour / attitude?'. When it's not in ourselves we can often see a challenged situation for what it is and without judgement - it's someone growing.

"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity" Pema Chodron.

 

 

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Isn't Mark Twain famous for (amongst other things) saying 'The more I know about humans the better I like my dog'? well I can echo that thought, a lot.

As an animal person, in that I love all animals, I find them fascinating to observe. Over my many years and the many animals I've been blessed to know and love I've learnt tremendously from them all - there's much we can learn if we just pay attention. 

This TED talk, by Laurel Braitman, is both kind and compelling - worth the time.

 

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We are the proud owners of three dogs and two cats (with loving memories of many more). About 18 months ago Sam, our golden retriever puppy, chose us and we've never looked back!

One day I was watching him play in the garden and I said to my Mum "If I lived my life like Sam I'd be perpetually happy." In that moment Sam gave me the gift of choosing happiness and since then I've tried to live my life more like him. I can't say I'm happy all the time but I'm certainly conscious that I can choose to be and, for the most part, I'm tremendously happy.

Those of us who choose to share our lives with our four-legged friends know what Matt McDermott is saying in his beautiful article in absolutely true. Enjoy the article and choose to be happy.

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"The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you"

Full article here

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