Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.
joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘
The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.
2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!
I’m going through a crappy period with my weight and it’s hard not to get down on myself, especially when everyone keeps asking if I’m pregnant 🤰🏽 I’m not, I’ve just gained weight. I’m on a solid reset plan that involves zero sugar and mostly veg. So far so good, BUT it’s tough. I looked at my body today and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. There’s the quiet voice from my bulimic days that sometimes taunts me. My plan is to see a nutritionist and find out how I can potentially do plant based eating alongside long distance running and CrossFit. Right now I am being as gentle as I can be with myself while on this new journey of bettering myself and shedding a few kilos. Choosing to go on a health kick during the festive season is probably not the best idea 🤦🏾♀️.
In a few weeks 2019 will be done and dusted and we will be entering a new decade. When you look back at the last ten years of your life, what marks those years? Were they tough, knocking the wind out of you at each turn? Or was it a decade marked with growth? The last decade of my life was a little bit of both. One event that marks this decade was the loss of my sister. Her death is something that I don’t think I will ever truly recover from, however her death is no longer as debilitating as it was when it first happened. My sister passed away shortly before her 33rd birthday, she passed away in October, we buried her in November and a mere 3 weeks later her first birthday without us occurred. It’s something that will stay with me and my family forever, however when I look back at it, I see how Christ has infused His strength through not just this situation but through every difficult situation that I encountered in a decade that in the thick of it, felt marred by difficulty and struggle.
It was in this decade that the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) incorrectly detained me. I was given nothing more than an apology and while an experience like that would scar the best of us, somehow I found the strength to rebuild my life after an event that felt as though it had stripped so much of my dignity and worth. The maladministration of the UKBA I believe, is what led to is being closed in 2013. I hope to never forget the desperation so clearly visibly on the faces of so many other women who were in there much longer than the three days that I was detained. When the time and opportunity for it comes, I will find a way to help women who are in detention to ensure that they never forget their beauty, their worth and their dignity. In the midst of what felt like a storm that would spit me out with significant bruises, I didn’t see that resilience was being added to my character. I only saw what I could see, which is normal. When you’re going through something, your mental and emotional state of being can be tested and as well-meaning a Christian that you think you are, so much of what is going on around you can cause you to doubt and wonder whether God is just being so rude, and so nasty, allowing all of this mess to carry on in your life.
At the end of this decade going into the next one, I have realised that I am not always going to understand why certain things happen and why God permits it to be so. For years, I have found solace in the words Jesus uttered in John 13:7 “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
I love the explanation of this verse on the ‘Knowing Jesus’ site: ‘When like the apostle Peter, we come face to face with a series of bizarre circumstances that seem to shatter our lives, we may not understand the reason for life’s twists and turns but we can trust Him, knowing that His ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient. Like the disciples on that night before the cross, we may not be comfortable with the shock-horror that we witness or the unjust way that life seem to be unfolding. We may not understand the spiritual significance of all that is happening in our life and the lives of those we care about, but we can trust our heavenly Father for He is still in control. He knows the end from the beginning and all His ways are perfect. Although we may not know the meaning and mystery of all that we are called upon to bear in this world, let us remember that we may not understand what is happening now, but hereafter we shall know as we are known. May we learn as Peter did that what may be shadowed to our understanding today is being used by God to work together for good, to His praise and for our eternal benefit.’
This verse becomes harder to believe when you are on a rollercoaster of unfortunate things happening to you or those you love, but I have concluded that walking with Jesus and going through trials & tribulations (how dramatic sounding), is by far better than not walking with Him. When I was detained by the UKBA, one thing that brought me comfort was the account of Paul and Silas praising God while they were in jail (Acts 16:16-40) and I remember laughing to myself that on that day for some very odd reason, I had taken my Bible with me. In that moment I believe I experienced a taste of what Paul and Silas must have felt; the desperation, the disbelief, the pain, the betrayal that God would have allowed this to happen, and then afterwards the realisation that even still, He remains God. It took me a long time to get over that pain and once I felt that I did, I lost my sister. As I type this I am still in a hazy phase of my relationship with God. There are days when I can easily declare His sovereignty over my life, and then there are days when I wonder how a God so big and so great could have allowed so much to occur not just in my life but in my family’s lives as well. All of these questions always lead me to the same conclusion; God is God and He knows why. I believe God has given us freedom of thought, and is by no way offended by any questions that we may have for Him. How fragile would God be if He was offended by everything we did?
Can you imagine how shaken I was when I realised that God was not offended by me not believing in Him. He loves and pursues relationship with us, but He will never force His way into your life. He’s a gentleman like that. At first this was unsettling but afterwards it brought freedom in my relationship with God, I was no longer scared to bring my raw emotions to Him. Things that I had never spoken to God about (which sounds kinda weird to type, considering He is all knowing…) suddenly came spewing out of my mouth and the pages of my journal. The journey isn’t perfect but it is a lot more authentic.
I close out this decade happier than I thought I would be. I’m married to the most wonderful man, working in a challenging but fulfilling role, and the role I cherish the most: being an aunt to the two most incredible humans. I wonder whether any of this would have been possible had my life not followed the trajectory that it did. I didn’t think I’d be writing this, but I am so grateful that God allowed for my life to play out as it did. As you reflect on the last decade of your life, what are some of the things that you have learnt or have been through that you are unexpectedly grateful for?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘build the kind of life that you don’t need a holiday from.’ There is an aspect of truth to it, however just because I love my job, it doesn’t mean I don’t want another holiday…or two! I am 4 days into what seems to be the longest week ever already dreaming about my next escape! I took my laptop with me on holiday but spending time with the love of my life was a lot more fun than keeping tabs on things that I wouldn’t be able to physically change should an emergency have cropped up. The night before my first day back at work, I had to physically stop myself from checking my emails because what exactly would I be able to achieve at midnight when most people were already sleeping? I got to work on Monday not particularly jazzed about checking my emails, with damn good reason. Ninety-seven emails, TOO MUCH! Do you know what’s never too much? Seaside sunsets!
Luckily in just over a week, I have a mini-escape coming up in the form of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. This is my first marathon and to say I’m excited is an understatement. I started training for this marathon while I was in recovery from a terribly injured knee (do not start training for a CrossFit competition 2 days after a 25 kilometre race. IT IS STUPID!!!) The sudden increase in training volume all while I was meant to be recovering after the 25k, was detrimental and too much for my knee to keep up with. Nevertheless I continued training until the final hour when I got to a point where the simple action of bending to tie my shoe lace left me in pure agony. Training when you’re injured applies a considerable amount of pressure to your body and if you’re not careful, this kind of pressure can be detrimental. Did I learn from that? Not really, because a mere four weeks into recovery, I signed up for a marathon…this will go down in history as one of my finer ‘how could I be so stupid?’ moments.
In the same way, living life with open wounds from pain that you haven’t dealt with or sought help, applies unnecessary and detrimental pressure. In the 29 years that I have been alive, there are a few moments that stick out when I think about wounds that I left to get unnecessarily infected before God and a few loving friends and one hunk of a man, brought me to an awakening. Being sexually abused at the age of 6, the death of my uncle, the death of my nephews that I never got to physically hold in their short time on Earth, the sudden and unexpected death of my sister. It took me a long time to get to a place where I realised that shutting people out or getting angry at the world…at God, didn’t achieve anything. We should never trivialise any painful experience we’ve gone through, but we need to awaken to a new dawn where we want better for ourselves, don’t attach an end date to our healing and don’t allow ourselves to be swayed to and fro by our valid, but also sometimes silly + erratic emotions.
To be someone who is mentally healthy has nothing to do with having a perfect life or in lieu of the world not being perfect, being a perfect human. Perfection is unattainable, and chasing it can leave us feeling inadequate, obsessive and annoying to be around. Excellence is what we should be chasing. Excellence in character, in action. Excellence in dedication to our personal, and oh so beautiful journeys to growth. The smallest increments of improvement in our everyday lives, is what we should be living for. Always do one thing a little bit better than you did previously, that is how growth happens. Growth is not linear. There are days where you will mess up but instead of dwelling on your mistake, acknowledge that it happened, recognize those feelings for what they are and then get your (metaphoric) spade and dig yourself (or get some really great friends to help you) out of the hole you’re in.
Growth is painful but if you embrace it for what it is, a process to strengthen & better you, it can also be the most beautiful journey that you will ever go on!
SOME PERIODS OF OUR GROWTH ARE SO CONFUSING THAT WE DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THAT GROWTH IS HAPPENING. WE MAY FEEL HOSTILE OR ANGRY OR WEEPY AND HYSTERICAL, OR WE MAY FEEL DEPRESSED. IT WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO US, UNLESS WE STUMBLED ON A BOOK OR A PERSON WHO EXPLAINED TO US, THAT WE WERE IN FACT IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE, OF ACTUALLY BECOMING LARGER, SPIRITUALLY, THAN WE WERE BEFORE. WHENEVER WE GROW, WE TEND TO FEEL IT, AS A YOUNG SEED MUST FEEL THE WEIGHT AND INERTIA OF THE EARTH AS IT SEEKS TO BREAK OUT OF ITS SHELL ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A PLANT. OFTEN THE FEELING IS ANYTHING BUT PLEASANT. BUT WHAT IS MOST UNPLEASANT IS THE NOT KNOWING WHAT IS HAPPENING. THOSE LONG PERIODS WHEN SOMETHING INSIDE OURSELVES SEEMS TO BE WAITING, HOLDING ITS BREATH, UNSURE ABOUT WHAT THE NEXT STEP SHOULD BE, EVENTUALLY BECOME THE PERIODS WE WAIT FOR, FOR IT IS IN THOSE PERIODS THAT WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE BEING PREPARED FOR THE NEXT PHASE OF OUR LIFE AND THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY, A NEW LEVEL OF THE PERSONALITY IS ABOUT TO BE REVEALED.
We live in an age fit for heroes. No time has ever offered such perils or prizes. Man can provide a full life for humanity – or he can destroy himself with the problems he has created. The test of this century will be whether man confuses the growth of wealth and power with the growth of spirit and character.
Today is not a significant day. I am not celebrating any special occasion, it is not my birthday (sadly) but as I sit in front of my laptop, I am inspired by a quote I read recently on Twitter:
If you aren’t seeing the progress in your life that you want, then take the initiative to audit your life, analyse your daily habits and actions, and reassess your goals as necessary, this winning in life thing takes deliberate effort, it doesn’t just magically happen.
I am slap bang in the middle of a study I am part of at work… I say slap-bang but it feels like I have just started. If you follow me on Instagram…why would you not? You will have seen my updates on the dried blood spot specimens I am collecting. The tally stands at 16…only 384 more to go. My workweek is spent travelling to hospitals that are a stretch to get to. I sometimes get home feeling as though I have given the best of me to the earlier part of my day. It is rewarding work but it is also hard work.
Lately while taking internal stock (something we should all do,) I realised that more than my workload, my mind-set was what was leaving me more fatigued than I needed to be. I have had to train myself into believing that I have just as much to give at the end of the day, as I do at the start of it when I’m as fresh as a daisy. I learn everyday what it means to give 110% to everything that I do, regardless of the working hours. It is about applying the strong work ethic and spirit of excellence in everything I do. One hundred and ten percent in being a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, an athlete, a blogger… the list is endless. Did you notice that I didn’t include my job title? Life and the effort you put in it, is about more than what your job title is. It is important to find a work-life balance that does not leave you overworked and always just on the verge of burning out only just being saved by a holiday.
One of the things that I often times allow myself to be burnt out by, is finances. It is something that even if I don’t say it… (I mean hello why would you speak about your finances to every Tom, Dick and Harry.) I’m thinking about it and in months where there’s a lot going on, I tend to obsess over it, more specifically, lack of money.
Some of it is down to my anxiety-riddled personality but most of it is because of my childhood when we really struggled to make ends meet. I am learning to manage it and one person who has helped me through my neuroses, is my boyfriend. He is the most handsome, kindest, most caring human that I have ever met and I cannot think of anyone better to procreate with haha! I cannot wait to have little ones who have ALL of his kindness and none of my sarcasm tempered into their cute little personalities.
Aside from the gorgeous boy, here are a few of my rules to live by:
Your health is, and should be your highest priority. Here’s the caveat: if any part of your life, exercise included fills, you with anxiety and you no longer enjoy it, stop doing it and switch to something else. Shortly after my sister passed away, the last place I wanted to go to was the box. Instead of CrossFit, I ran and when I was ready for CrossFit, guess what? The box was still there.
Self-care is more than a facemask. Self-care is therapy; self-care is journaling in order to have an outlet for managing not erasing your emotions. Self-care is putting your health first, all aspects of it: mental, physical and spiritual.
Find your tribe and love them hard. This one is a funny one because the people that know me would probably say that I hate people…I don’t hate people, I just prefer to surround myself with people that I TRULY enjoy being around. There is no point in being friends with people who make you feel crappy about yourself.
Having a schedule that you discipline yourself to stick to, will go a VERY long way towards keeping you sane. I wake up at the same time every single day, and I try to get to bed at the same time. Currently I am working on a routine for my eating and training because I have come to the realisation that my life revolves around 3 things: eating, training and sleeping.
Setting small goals is a lot better than having one big chunky goal that fills you with anxiety. When I went back to academia, I felt like I knew nothing, which is impossible because everybody knows something even if it is the lyrics to the theme song of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I told myself that I would read for an hour and a half each day…by the 30-minute mark, I was thinking about how much time I had left and not at all focussing on the material that was in front of me. I changed my goal to reading two journal articles per night. This was a greater success and a goal that I have been able to stick to.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. I had an almost two year stint working at LUSH South Africa as their product & brand trainer. Working at LUSH meant that everyday when interacting with customers, you had to put on your bravest AND most fun face. No one wanted to listen to a walking encyclopedia, instead you had to play up to the innovation of the products. It was tough not just because you were on your feet the whole day but because of the fact that no matter what you were facing, the minute those roller doors went up, you put on your smiley face. Life is a bit like that too isn’t it? The show must go on…
The biggest take home message is this: when all else, fails, have a second, a third and if necessary, a fourth look at the steps you took to get to where you are. What do you need to audit, what do you need to analyse and what do you need to put into action? You can achieve great things, but you have to hate the comfort zone.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve used the featured image for this post in another post on this blog where I spoke about something else that girls with melanin often struggle with…hair. If you want that post click here and it’ll open in a new tab for your reading pleasure!
Growing up, I never thought much about race but when you’re growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think about race, other people will do that for you. My first 2 years of high school I had a massive crush on this guy called Paolo and as most crushes go, I didn’t say anything. It was simpler that way. Eventually, I grew in confidence and decided that this was it, sure he didn’t really know who I was, did he even know my name? There was enough time for us to become high school sweethearts and live happily ever after once we’d matriculated. Looking back on it I realize that I was a bat crazy teen. How had I constructed a future with someone I didn’t even know let alone had a conversation with? I’m twenty-eight now and while I wish the younger me had this sage wisdom, guess what? She didn’t! Fast forward to grade 10 and convincing myself that I had received enough signs from the universe that Paolo and I were meant to be, I decided to write him a 4-page letter. Just kidding, it wasn’t 4 pages, I just felt like putting in an Aaliyah reference. I wrote this boy (that I hardly knew) a letter chronically when I had first seen him. It was at prize-giving, I sat behind him and thought ‘wow he has a lovely head of curly hair. Gotta have him!’ Okay maybe that last phrase didn’t feature. I wouldn’t say I’m the smartest person in the world but I am a hard worker and in high school for a boy to have taken my attention away from the books, he had to be special.
He wasn’t special and neither were his friends. Teenage boys are not known for their maturity and Paolo and his friends were no different. He showed the letter I had written to him to all of his friends and they’d make comments here and there about my crush on Paolo. The more he behaved like a jerk, the easier it was to get over him. I would love to say teenage wisdom kicked in and I learned from that occasion BUT I didn’t. My next crush was on his friend Wayne. Wayne was different, I was convinced. For one I actually knew him properly and had exchanged more than just a word or two with him, in contrast to Paolo who was a lot more serious, Wayne was funny and made not just me, but the whole class laugh. He was different, and at a school where I wasn’t black enough for the black girls because I wasn’t South African black, and was too black for the white girls, he made me feel like I fitted in somewhere. It took a while for me to admit that I had a crush on him but when I was ready to, I was convinced it was reciprocal. I’d helped him with homework before, I had his number, who remembers the good old days of the pioneer to WhatsApp, Mxit? It never felt as though he was ashamed of being seen talking to me. I sometimes felt that way around certain people. I went back and forth with the decision to tell him how I felt, between that time he had a girlfriend, meanwhile, I waited in the shadows (…jk not really in the shadows because South Africa in summer will burn your skin off) for my turn. When he broke up with his girlfriend, we would speak a lot more frequently on Mxit, he would say that I meant a lot to him and that is all a teenage girl foolishly in love needs to hear to believe that her crush loves her too. I waited a couple more weeks before I made my move, after all, I didn’t want to be a rebound, rebounds are only cool when you’re doing ROMWOD.
I should have learnt from that incident with Paolo to stop with the letters BUT I didn’t. I wrote him a letter and gave it to him when school had ended. My friends and I watched as he read it, waited for a reaction and then watched in teenage shock and disbelief as he crumpled it and threw it in the bin Things were altered from that moment. We hardly spoke at school yet on Mxit, you’d swear we were the best of friends. I was happy to get anything from him but it felt as though I was living a lie (so many teenage dramatics). At least he hadn’t told his friends, right? WRONG! The fact that he didn’t show his friends the letter (mainly because I had salvaged the letter and tore it in a million pieces!) didn’t mean that he hadn’t told them about it. A couple of days later, the taunts began. The highlight was when my friends and I were walking past him and his friends and they threw banana peels at us. I am the biggest advocate of not using race as an excuse for my behavior or anyone else’s behavior. My last resort in any situation is to call someone racist and while my friends had warned me against Wayne. I didn’t want to believe them. I didn’t want to believe that in post-apartheid South Africa, there were people that existed who would draw closer to you, or keep away from you, based on the amount of melanin you had in your skin.
This incident opened my eyes to the reality of
inter-race relations in South Africa. There was work yet to be done. On that
day when the banana peels were thrown at my friends and me, it didn’t feel like
a typical ‘stupid teenage boy’ thing to do. It felt racially motivated and an
act that as I think of it now, sent the indirect message of who did I think I
was? A black girl brave enough or perhaps in their eyes, foolish enough to
think a white boy could ever be interested in her. I began to see things differently
from that moment and thankfully it was my last year in South Africa before I
started university in the UK.
London was different. There it felt as though while people saw my race, I wasn’t my race if that makes sense. Does it? I was lucky enough that for the most part when I encountered a rude person, it wasn’t because of my race that they were being rude to me, but because that person was honestly just a crummy person. The attention from the gorgeous Polish tennis players was also nice 😉 I could freely speak to people of all races and never once felt as though there were indirect/subtle jabs being made about my race and what anyone thought I deserved based on that. This time when I had a crush, I made sure that it was crystal clear that my crush was interested in me and I said goodbye to the letters. At that time, it felt as though my race didn’t matter and it was refreshing. Fast forward to 2019 and not too many other romantic or rather embarrassing escapades to write about, I find myself head over heels in love with the sweetest man who is not the same race as I am, yet makes an attempt at understanding and learning about the struggles of being a black foreigner…mostly because I rant a considerable but not unhealthy amount to him haha!
Globally, there is a wave of racism that is somewhat surging. The general sentiment is very much anti-immigrant/anti-foreigner/anti-anyone who is not like me. As someone who has never been a born & bred national of the countries I have lived in, it is something impossible for me to ignore. It is something that is painful to witness. On all sides, tensions are high and while we remain busy blaming the other side (whatever the other side looks like for you) for all the problems we have, we will never be able to see how we can move forward.
Through love, tribes have been intermixing colors to reveal a new rainbow world. And as more time passes, this racial and cultural blending will make it harder for humans to side with one race, nation or religion over another.
I have often heard the phrase ‘I don’t see race’, to which I say don’t be stupid! It is impossible to ignore someone’s race and in my eyes, I think it foolish. Openly transparent conversations need to happen where we say ‘I see your race but I will not define you by your race. I am willing to learn about your experiences.’ There needs to be a greater acceptance that some experiences will be limited to race. There are things that I have and will experience as a black female that my boyfriend will never have to. Some of them funny things like detangling my afro hair, and others less funny like having to deal with the suspicious glances or conversation that arises when someone sees your passport.
Differences are not meant to divide us, they should unite us in common thinking resulting in action on how we can make things better for each other, where we all benefit. We have to open to learning, understanding and realizing that maybe, just maybe: WE DON’T KNOW IT ALL!