Despite the gloom, let’s focus on the bright side

Despite the gloom, let’s focus on the bright side

The rain will come!

Recent events in the country have escalated to levels that can no longer be denied, and as we are bombarded with all manner of information, points of view and narratives, this might be as good a time for us to reflect as we come to the end of the year.

Needless to say, notwithstanding our own personal opinions, we have all been affected by the current political and socioeconomic events in South Africa.

We have experienced loss in the form of the deaths of many inspirational South Africans, we have seen the economy struggle to grow. We continue to experience the #FeesMustFall protests that also continue to rage on undeterred.

Young girls have had to rise up against discrimination aimed at them by the very school that should have been protecting them.

We are in the middle of one of the most severe droughts the country has ever seen.

It is easy to wallow in the doom and gloom at a time when it feels like that is all we have, but what about the good and the positive that surrounds us?

What about the sporting heroes who have brought glory to our country at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the CAF Champions league? Do you remember the proud moment when Caster Semenya defied the odds and chose not to hear the naysayers?

The feeling we all had when she stood up on that podium with victory written all over her face?

What about the fact that we have the most progressive constitutions in the world? What about our hard- earned democracy that’s been lauded by the world?

What about everyday South Africans we encounter who have gone above and beyond to make this country what it is? The doctors and nurses who work endless shifts in crowded hospitals because they want to save lives? The police men and women who leave their families at home everyday to stand in the line of fire? The teachers who continue to give themselves to the children who will become the future leaders of our beautiful land?

As I reflect on 2016, I ponder on what we have been through as a people and as a nation. There is no doubt these are tumultuous times, but we must remember that we are only going through this moment, we will not be staying. We have to hold steadfast to the strength we have cultivated through the years as we overcame the challenges of the past.

It is time for us to direct our energies for the collective good. The rain will come, both literally and figuratively. It will energise the soil for new growth and endless possibilities. But until it does, bravery, courage and tenacity are what we need. Hope for a better tomorrow and not losing heart is what will sustain us, and a relentless pursuit of our dreams is what will move us forward.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, whatever the difficulties we are facing, together we shall overcome. Call me an optimist, yes I am an eternal optimist!

 

Refill with what you love

Refill with what you love

Self-compassion is both a simple and profound concept.

It is one of those concepts many of us were not exposed to because of the nature of our communities. Growing up in large, close-knit families where one is not pre-occupied with the self, teaches us to give to others in the interest of the collective. Perhaps that same spirit of giving might be the reason many of us fail to realise when our bodies and minds are quite literally “running on empty”.

There are many ways the body shows us it has reached the end of its tether and cannot go any further: aches and pains, recurring infections, the feeling that no matter how much sleep you get, you are still tired. One can then go to the doctor for a prescription and possibly a few days off for recuperation, but what happens when the non-physical parts cry out for attention?

What I know as truth is that the heart and the soul need to be taken care of and protected from harm. We do in fact have a responsibility to be actively good to ourselves – to practise positive internal dialogue, to cultivate habits that build the physical, mental and spiritual being.

In my case, the act of switching off my phone and spending time with my children un-distracted, cooking meals for my family, finding new books to read and share, going out to socialise with my friends, are all the things I do in aid of my heart and sanity. I also find great joy in acts of service. So I do things for others that please my soul.

You too, dear reader, have a responsibility to be good to yourself. As you go about your business giving to others and working hard at your career, nurturing your family, recognise the need to provide for yourself as well.

You cannot proceed through life empty. So refill yourself daily with the things you love to do. You are no good to anyone anyway if you are running on empty.

It could be as simple as walking barefoot in the garden after work, or physical contact with your significant other. Perhaps you love to watch movies, but haven’t had time to go to the cinema. It’s time to book that ticket and go, laugh as if you are the only one there and eat loads of popcorn.

Give yourself permission to find joy, so that you, too, can have a gleam in your eye, and a spring in your step. Cut yourself some slack!

Four guides of my life

Four guides of my life

The Four Agreements, a book by Miguel Ruiz was first brought to my attention when I was granted the huge opportunity to interview Oprah Winfrey in 2002.

In the interview, which became more of a masterclass on her life, we covered topics far and wide.

We unpacked the life philosophies of people like Dr Martin Luther King Junior, whose writings had set the tone for Winfrey’s incredible life, and then she spoke about the profound impact the book had made on her.

You don’t walk away from such a powerful conversation without the motivation to seek more for yourself. So I got my hands on the book.

I cannot begin to describe how these unassumingly simple “guides to personal freedom” touched me, how they still ring true for me in my daily interactions. Let me share these learnings with you.

Rule 1: Be impeccable with your word

In an age where we are compulsively interacting with other people in one way or the other, it is imperative that we become good at listening to our inner voice, the most honest and authentic part of ourselves which always rings true. By doing so, and in realising the power of our utterances we can show others that we can be trusted.

When you are honest in your interactions, you don’t have to keep a record in your mind of what you said, to whom and when. You liberate yourself from exposing your energy to negativity.

Rule 2: Don’t take anything personally

The book says the things people do and say to you are almost always informed by the way they are feeling, and by their own experiences. It hardly ever has to do with you. Your reaction to it then makes it about you.

Imagine if every tinge of guilt, or confusion, or contempt you have ever felt at the painful things people say should illicit an unnecessary response, giving it undue power. If you were able to keep this principle in mind, you could quite literally stay rational and calm, even when things done by others are unfair or unwarranted.

Rule 3: Don’t make assumptions

I learned this lesson when, as a young Miss SA, I heard the unassailable Doreen Morris say these very words to Paul, the driver who often would get me to events late, assuming this or that. The thing about an assumption, is that it disempowers everyone involved, by not allowing them to confirm their position.

Rule 4: Always do your best

This is my personal favourite: if you have done your best, that is good enough. We are only human, prone to imperfection by nature. Your best is the standard you should use to determine your performance. Nothing more and nothing less. Your best is circumstantial, and is therefore set to change. It is therefore important to never force ourselves to operate on levels beyond the circumstances, what’s important is to keep giving your best.

Let’s all be active citizens

Let’s all be active citizens

Active citizens can, and do make change!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” so said Margaret Mead.

This quote captured me this week as I considered the topic of my weekly piece. As I witnessed student protests raging on all over the country, gaining momentum and becoming more intense, I found myself distressed, to say the least.

Wall-to-wall media coverage of this issue has fuelled some very polarised views regarding whether what the young people are doing is constructive or destructive.

Many bemoan them for destroying the same property they will actually need to study when the dust settles, while others point out that what they are fighting for is in fact not economically viable.

Others still, stand with them in solidarity, because they believe they are fighting for a just cause, not only for themselves but future generations as well.

I dare say they are fighting for their parents as well, who are struggling to pay for a potentially life-altering education.

I am concerned about the student protests because I am passionate about youth development, education and the future of our country. I actually believe that if they are not given the tools they require to better themselves, we will never be able to reverse the trajectory of our past and open a new chapter.

Then my thoughts wandered to the issue of active citizenship, as it relates to the rest of us, the parents, uncles and aunts of these young people who look on and comment from the sidelines. The same people who may have been involved in the 1976 uprising when they were younger.

What are you doing to add your voice to the narrative of South Africa?

Picture a situation where we were all involved, actively making change through dialogue. Imagine if we had structures in place where youth issues where not just discussed, but advocated and acted upon before they turned into a painful, violent show of desperation.

Active citizenship has a key role to play in allowing each of us to find real solutions rather than indulging in scapegoating, discrimination and mere commentary.

It is the only way we can really have a finger on the pulse and find constructive solutions.

What is taking place today is no different to what happened in 1976 when I was two years old. I may not necessarily have understood what was happening at the time, but that changed the course of our history. Today, our youth are still fighting for education, for free education !

This column is dedicated to the youth of our country, who have chosen active citizenship.

Whether this was executed in the correct manner is for us all to decide for ourselves, but maybe instead of talking about it, we should act on it.

Be active citizens!!!

Spring, a season for rebirth

Spring, a season for rebirth

Let go. Spring, a season for rebirth, renewal and regrowth, is upon us.

Beginnings. It’s time for new things to take root and blossom, as we let go of everything that no longer serves us.

But how do we do this?

Six months ago, I had a very bad fall while attending a concert at my son’s school. I broke my right ankle on both sides and dislocated it in the process. I had to undergo surgery twice, and was incapacitated for months.

But I decided not to have a “pity party” about it and focus on recovering, getting strong and remaining positive, while asking myself what the lesson from this journey was and what changes I had to make in my life.

It felt like God was telling me it was time to slow down, take stock, smell the roses and remember the little things.

Any working mother will tell you about the never-ending cycle of planning for kids’ extra mural activities, lunch boxes and dinners, while being a mother, working and spending quality time with one’s husband.

For the better part of my adult life I’ve never stopped working, only taking maternity leave when our kids were born.

But when the accident happened, I was forced to re-evaluate what was most important and realise that there was a reason and season for everything.

One of the things I had never gotten round to doing for 20 years was de-clutter my dressing room. So, I undertook a spring clean of my wardrobe.

While doing this, I remembered a moment in time each item represented. I am truly blessed to live a life where I stand in the light of my own truth.

But the clothes were not the reminder I needed. I decided to take time to meditate, be fully present in the moment and to let these choices be an integral part of my spirit .

You don’t need to wait for an existential crisis to make changes to your life.

The first step is to realise you cannot receive with closed hands and create space for what is to come by spring cleaning yourself emotionally and physically.

Iyanla Vanzant says: “What would happen if just for today, we allowed ourselves to imagine what our lives would be like if our hands and hearts were to receive something better than what we are holding onto right now.”

This spring, I encourage you to let go of whatever does not serve you.

Death, be not proud!

Death, be not proud!

I have been at a loss for words since the sad and untimely passing of Gugu Zulu. In deep reflection and in a prayer, all I can offer to the Zulu family is a prayer of comfort and peace, especially for his wife Letshego and their baby girl Lelethu. O’ death where is your sting! (1 Corinthians 15:55).

The #Trek4Mandela expedition on Kilimanjaro, should be commended for taking on this epic challenge in order to raise funds for sanitary pads for more than 350000 impoverished girls. Their selfless quest to climb Africa’s highest peak to celebrate Madiba’s birthday is nothing short of extraordinary! We thank you for your courage and will to dare your own lives to make a difference to the girl child. My tribute to the 42 climbers. Salute!

My husband #fatherofthetribe climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2006, he had been training diligently leading up to the climb. I was seriously nervous that he had made up his mind to climb. As a supportive wife I encouraged him. Day 1, I didn’t hear from him, day 2 passed and by day 3, I had lost my nerves, had palpitations, and I couldn’t sleep or eat. I prayed, then hoped, and prayed again. It was towards the end of day 3 that he called to tell me he was fine but had been ill because he was battling to acclimatize to the altitude of about 4600m. He was dehydrated and was feeling very weak, but he was going to continue on his trek. There are three routes, the Mweka, the Shira and the Marangu routes, which he took, and so did Gugu. By grace he did summit and put up his flag! It takes 3 days to go up and 2 days down!!

There are many poignant and sacred moments that climbers do share, which perhaps, you and I who have never attempted to climb the “Roof of Africa”, will never understand. I read in one of the publications the songs that were sung to honour this great son of the African soil. The signature Kilimanjaro anthem, and Jambo, a popular tune, then Shosholoza were sung for Gugu in an emotional final farewell, which “echoed through the mountains”.

Letshego and Lelethu, I don’t know what song to sing for you to ease your heartache and pain, I don’t know what words to say to comfort you – there is nothing clever to say. But remember this though, you married a brave heart, a man who loved and adored you implicitly, and would climb a mountain for you!

Duduzeka Sisi, aluhlanga lungehlanga!

Lala ngoxolo Zulu, Ndabezitha, Zulu omnyama ondlela zimhlophe!

Rest In Peace Gugu Zulu, usikhonzele!!!