The New Normal

The smile on my face… plastered.

How is lockdown going for you? Over the past three weeks, I have gone through ALL the emotions, and none of them have involved much productivity. There’s a strange thought that started spreading across mainstream social media channels that this is a time to learn a new skill whether that is playing a new instrument, learning a new language etc. Basically if you’re not doing any of the aforementioned things, then you’re a wasteman. Yesterday I was speaking to my supervisor who is part of the covid-19 response task force and he said something that is aiding in shifting my perspective in regards to what life post covid-19 is going to look like. Until we get to a point where scientists have created a reliable vaccine, we are going to have to find a way to go back to living not as we used to , but as our new world requires us to. Life is not going to look like what we previously knew, and in all honesty, we should be very glad about that. The normal that we were used to was unhealthy with ethnic groups with people that look like me, left on the outside. The old way of living was toxic. I suppose if you benefited from the old way of living,, you’d be resistant to accepting the reality that things are never going to be the same again.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Y’all please don’t come for me and loop me in the same group as the crazy Christians who say covid-19 was sent by God for a mass cleanse to restore the good in humanity. RUN from those peeps!!! What I am saying, like Isaiah writes in the verse above, God can make our world (individual or collective) better in the midst of what feels like a crappy season in the wilderness. The one thing that we do know for certain, and that I think we can find some comfort and safety in is this: things are never going to be the same again, and that’s okay! It might actually be the best thing to come out of this., We’re still gonna have bad days, and that’s normal. It is a global pandemic after all. It’s okay to feel as though you’re not coping, and if you need a little bit more support, don’t be afraid to reach out. The only thing I’m working on is actually found in the title of a very popular Bee Gees song, ‘staying alive,’ and you know what? That is good enough.

Resurrection Sunday

Last night my mom asked me what Easter means to me, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. One of my favourite things about this time of the year, (Resurrection Sunday) is the fact that a woman (Mary Magdalene) was the first to have seen Jesus. Throughout the Gospels , I’ve always found it so beautiful (& comforting) to read one account after the other where Jesus saw the value of what was traditionally thought to be the insignificant sex, growing up in a traditional patriarchal African household it was a big deal to know that I was loved and valued beyond measure… beyond just one day growing up, getting married, popping very cute babies out & that’s it Jesus beam me up 😂 Jesus lived in a time when it was scandalous to allow women to speak, let alone treat them with respect, yet He did it… might He have been the first male feminist? On that cross, in a moment that seemed to be marred by darkness, Christ poured out His love for us, placed value on all of us. I suppose you could call it a homecoming of some sorts, one that we work out everyday. A journey of us becoming who we were always meant to be. ♥️

‘Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.’

Going back to Uni: 5 Tips for the mature student

If someone had told me that in 2020, I’d be halfway into completing a FULLY FUNDED MSc. programme, I would’ve slapped them in the face and said ‘get behind me Satan’. Granted a lot of that statement would have been rooted in the negative lense that I saw my life through at that time, and a crippling inability to see the ways that Jesus was working things out in my life. Thankfully, things are slightly different now. When I first started working in research, I had been unemployed for about two months, when I went for my interview I had no idea what my bosses were going to ask me to do. I’d been away from academia for about 3 years and the practical aspects of my Honours degree that I thoroughly loved, were more than a little fuzzy. On that day, my mum told me to go in and just give it all I had. It was a huge boost to my self esteem then, and now as I think of how cute I looked on that day. I thought I was going in for an interview but praise God, they had actually decided that they wanted me onboard but needed to see me face to face. My plans after my Honours degree was to specialise as a haematologist. Now I’m building my professional life in HIV research, with an emphasis on early infant diagnosis, and I couldn’t be happier. So what are the traits you need to get to where I am? I’m glad you asked!

1. Believe in your sauce. When I decided that academia was for me, to say that I was nervous was an understatement. For the first few months at work, concepts that used to be familiar now felt foreign to my very much matured brain (I was 28 at the time). I am grateful that I had my lovely husband rooting for me all the way. He would listen to me telling him about concepts that were new to me too, and engage in conversation with me. He would also remind me that had I not been capable, they would have FOR SURE not hired me. This is something that I have had to remind myself of especially when I’m hit with a heavy dose of imposters syndrome. Believing in your own sauce doesn’t mean that you’re oblivious to the things you don’t know, or that you blag your way through things (in my industry blagging ain’t gonna get you anywhere). Believing in your own sauce means being aware of where your strengths lie and not being afraid to utilize them when needed.

2. Speak up. My bosses are ridiculously good researchers in the field of HIV. THe more publications I read and found out just how good they are, the more I started to feel like I didn’t have anything to offer. When I commenced my MSc. programme, the awe & admiration I have for my bosses, became crippling. I found myself saying yes or keeping quiet, even when I didn’t agree with a certain course of action. As I grew in confidence (and also had my husband speak to me on this), I realised that my voice was important too. It may not have carried as much wisdom and knowledge (yet) as my supervisors but the last thing they wanted was a parrot who regurgitated their ideas and was a yes (wo)man.

3. Don’t stop learning. This is one that I had no other choice but to do. I had no idea of how testing was conducted for HIV diagnosis. My understanding of it was elementary, and definitely not on the level of someone who wished to work in that field. I can’t tell you how many journals I’ve downloaded in recent months. How many terms I’ve gotten acquainted with, and how many more terms I still haven’t gotten acquainted with. Being aware of how much you still have to learn is important BUT unless you take action, you’re going to stay in the same place.

4. Be flexible and laugh… A LOT! In this journey of being a student, ESPECIALLY a more mature one at that, things will go wrong. Balancing being a great partner, daughter, employee, student, sister and aunt is tough work. I’ve dropped the ball countless times, and guess what you’re not immune to ball dropping. This isn’t a negative prophesy I swear! The reality of life as a student, especially in research is that you’ll drop the ball somewhere. Your supervisors will drop the ball somewhere. The Gantt chart mapping the expected timeline of various tasks will become something that mocks you, reminding you of how far behind you actually are. Sometimes I feel as though mine laughs at me every time I look at it. 🤔 Experiments will fail, your controls will invalidate specimen results and leave you in tears, you’ll save over recent versions of your thesis but you know what in the end it’ll all work out.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. When my supervisors told me that they’d be paying for my studies, I felt very much like what the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 41:14, I am but a worm, how do I even deserve this. It sounds extreme right? But isn’t that the trajectory our mind follows when we believe very little of ourselves? This point is very tightly tied to point 1, believe in your own sauce. Believe that you have something to offer, believe that you’re there for a reason. This can sometimes be a tough one to remember as your progression begins to grant you access to rooms more advanced and intelligent. HOWEVER, if at the core of you, you’ve built your self-esteem and value to be unattached to anyone or anything else, it may be difficult to remember but it won’t be impossible. You think Beyoncé cares about the people who don’t believe in her talent? You shouldn’t either. Show up, set the place on fire (with your talent, not literal fire), and then let your work speak for itself. Accept that you aren’t like anyone else, and that is your greatest gift. Stay in your lane and excel in your lane!

BONUS TIP: Get comfortable with your work being critiqued. This is the hardest one for me, and the one that the Lord continues to humble me through. The first iteration of my research protocol was horrible. The more that precious document bounced between my supervisors and I, the better it got. When I submitted it, I couldn’t believe how far it had come from that very sad first version. To get to the masterpiece that my protocol is, was a labor of love. I remember the first email where my supervisor had removed information that I had become personally attached to. I had to swallow my ego, cry at home…sometimes at work, to come to terms that the prerequisite for life in research is being comfortable with sometimes having your work critiqued. Sometimes your ideas will shine bright like a diamond, and other times those more experienced than you will offer a different angle that you perhaps hadn’t thought of. There is a time to defend your ideas, and there is a time to realise that maybe your idea isn’t as great as you thought it was.

P.s. Try keeping yourself in as much of a positive circle as you can. If I had married anyone else, I may truly have ended up setting things on fire… literally! 😂

Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

Unexpectedly Grateful

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?

When Everything Looks Okay, But Isn’t

From the outset, I had already decided that 2017 would be amazing and it already is! My prayer for you today and for your 2017 is that God would pull you closer into Him, no matter what you have been through, I pray that He would restore joy, internal and external peace, as well as a heart of gratitude; whether that be through you hitting numerous clean & jerk PR’s (I’m hinting for myself to God here,) or through new promotions at work, may His love usher in so much goodness that it absolutely takes your breath away and all you’ll be able to say is “thank you, God that was totally you!”

No, it’s not a typo. I know we’re in 2019. This is an excerpt of a post I wrote two years ago.

I had a bit of a brain lapse at work and (God forgive me,) I went on my blog and started reading some of my blog posts. Listen if you can’t stand to read your own blog posts, then you my friend are doing something wrong. I landed on one that I had written when I bought my Metcon 3s on which I had scrawled on either side of them, Colossians 3:23 and Hebrews 12:11, pasted below.

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,’

‘No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.’

At the end of this blogpost, I wrote about how my expectation for 2017, that it would be an amazing year. Prior to 2017, I had been heavily depressed and life did not fill me with joy. I partook in things but I got no joy from them. It was almost as though I was existing. My sister Nadège, my sunflower 🌻 , was instrumental in getting me out of that deep depression. I have often written that depression is like sticky tar, you can wipe it off you i.e. learn to manage it, but it always leaves a little bit of a residue. My sister understood this better than anyone else did. Coming from an African family, we were often taught to be strong and carry on. My sister made it her mission to remind me that I was not made to just survive, I needed to thrive.

I know these words have become rather popular this week with the release of the documentary covering the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s trip to South Africa, however Jesus said it first: ‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, until it overflows]’ John 10:10 (AMP) Paraphrased you could read it as ‘depression comes to steal, kill and destroy my life. Jesus fills me with strength and hope so that I may enjoy life to the full, and overflow with joy’. This does not negate the need for therapy and/or medication that one may need in order to manage anxiety and/or depression. In fact, I think it is foolish that there are STILL so many Christians that will say to someone who is battling depression to pray harder. I have heard that one before, and I cannot even tell y’all how much more it made me want to break that person’s jaw à la OG’s threats from Basketball Wives (it’s a trash show I know).

2017 was not a great year. It was the year that my sister passed away and as I write this blogpost, the second last week that she would be with us, I find myself battling to write what she meant to me. I find myself tearing up and crying as much as I did the day that she passed. When my sister passed away, it felt as if air had been knocked out of my lungs. My older sisters have always been my sounding boards and I never thought the day would come where I would have one less older sister. The pain is raw, at times crippling and always unbelievable. I have all our last messages saved and I message her frequently each time foolishly believing that I will see ‘Ya Dena is typing…’ I find myself haunted by questions of what more I could have done to reach out to her for those periods when she went off the radar for a day or two. I ask myself if I could have better spotted that she was sick and done something sooner.

I ask myself if I will ever find the acceptance my family is still so desperately searching for since her death. It doesn’t feel like we will. This past month has been difficult. I find myself always sitting on the periphery of breaking down. I find myself faced with things that remind me of her and the illness that took her everywhere I go. The reminders are on my phone when I get tagged as my sister, when I’m at home recounting memories and I realise that she will never be able to take part in new ones I make. The reminders at work are in everything I do because it is so heavily tied in to what took her from us so soon.

The sweetest girl ever!

On the surface, I look like I’m okay right. I’m smiling, glowing (all thanks to my highlighter and NOT the 2 hours of sleep that I’ve been getting). Inside I feel as though I am crumbling. I miss her so much, it is a pain that only those who have lost a loved one dear to them, will be able to comprehend. She was wonderful, and I shall always carry the memory of her with me.

What to do when things look okay but are not okay:

  1. Talk to someone. I tend to bottle things up until I explode. It is not healthy and I am working to change it. I want to thank my darling fiancé for being my safe place to come home to. He was the first person I spoke to when my sister passed and I am grateful for his beautiful spirit that knows mine so well.
  2. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. This one ties in with the first point. Sometime this week on Twitter, I posted that I had been struggling with my mental health and to my surprise Lovette Jallow reached out, and she even gave me a suggestion on what to ask from my doctor to help with the zero hours of sleep that I have been getting. Don’t get me wrong, I am transparent with my fiancé about how I’m doing mentally but there is a liberation I felt with being vulnerable on Twitter as I believe it was the catalyst I needed in order to make that contact again with my therapist.
  3. Keep calm… try to keep calm. It may feel like the world is going to end, or is ending but I have survived many dark storms to know that this too shall pass. I have also learnt that if it doesn’t pass, there are things that I can do to better manage my mental state of mind, which leads me to point four.
  4. Exercise and eat as healthily as you can. You do yourself a lot more damage if your diet is as crappy as you feel. Treats are okay in moderation but make sure that you are giving your body what it needs to physically function at an optimal level, exercise to release endorphins and be patient with yourself.

To anyone dealing with bereavement, I am sending you mega hugs right now. Things will never get back to normal and that is completely okay. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Understand that everyone deals with grief differently. Don’t be ashamed of needing to take time out if you need it. Life may not always feel beautiful, in fact, sometimes you’ll want to punch life in the face. In those moments remember that the person you have lost is always there with you, loving you as hard in heaven, as they did on earth.

You Grow Girl!

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.

After having many of them, I have since learnt to laugh at my 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.

Alice Walker

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.

Vince Lombardi

Audit, Analyse, Attack!

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.

On holiday in my favorite city, Cape Town!

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.

pinterest // @ lovecaitx

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 opening of the LUSH store in Cresta had me and my then regional manager Yvé completely naked underneath our aprons to highlight the Naked Campaign celebrating the package free products at LUSH. You had to put on your bravest face, smile, and just have fun with it! Would I ever do anything like that again…maybe!

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.

Mental Health Matters

Instead of writing this post, I should be working on the final changes on my slides for my presentation later this week. The changes are not that many, yet I find myself here undeniably stuck, uninspired. Sad without a reason to be sad. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary bothering me, my health is good. My family’s health is good, yet for about a month now, I have been unable to shake this feeling off my spirit. A feeling of indifference, a numbness that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I try to make an effort to tend to my mental health but since the start of the year it is something that I have neglected. The meditation and daily Bible reading that kept me as mentally healthy as I could possibly be, gradually got replaced by deadlines and more deadlines. My physical and mental fatigue is at an all-time high. I do believe that some of this is due to not having taken a break from work during the festive season in order to stay on top of deadlines. Now, it would seem that my mind & body are close to reaching their deadline. I am functioning but I know I could do better. The manifestation of this mental imbalance has led to me experiencing greater anxiety. I’ve felt this on a larger scale at work where I’ve been doubting myself an unhealthy amount and performing for approval. I am the most junior in my office and at times it has led to me feeling inadequate, underqualified and pretty much like a fish out of water. It has led to me reading too much into comments made by my boss and in some ways has been a hindrance to my improvement.

Now that I’ve noticed this, it’s time to get back into a routine where I prioritise my mental and spiritual health. I am in the process of drawing up a routine to ensure that every hour of the day is maximised and used as best as it can be. I downloaded a weekly planner from Savvy Spreadsheets, laminated it and will be writing down the things I will be doing on a daily basis.

  • I have gone back to journaling as I find that this was the best way for me to express my emotions and release them without fear of judgement. My favourite place to get stationary is Typo, they have the cutest items that you didn’t know you needed.
  • Reading. During my time, working as a product & brand trainer at LUSH South Africa, my then trainer Georgie Hopkins gave me a book by Patsy Rodenberg called ‘Presence’. I was a nervous ball of energy when I first met Georgie, one was because watching her train LUSH staff, you could not help but be captivated. She is a ridiculously good trainer. This coupled with the fact that being a trainer kind of thrusts you in a position of leadership, the introvert that I was, could not handle that. I learnt a lot from this book and I’ve realised that it is by reading that I learn the most about myself and how to maximise my personality to get what I want from life in a healthy way. I am going back to this book to rebuild some of the confidence I have lost.
  • I will be meditating for 15 minutes everyday. My favourite meditation app is 10% Happier. I find it to be fuss-free, practical and very applicable and easy to follow. I like to call it the meditation app for intellectuals. No chanting or ohm-ing, just connecting with your thoughts and learning how to manage your emotions and not the other way round.
  • Bin the negative self-talk. This one is probably the hardest to do. For every negative thought that comes in, replace it with a positive thought on something I can do well.
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Yesterday I saw a friend of mine filming her friend up in a coconut tree chopping down coconuts. He was also sawing off a few dead palms and he said something that really got me thinking. – The dead palms draw a ton of resources from deep within the roots in an effort to stay alive. In fact, it can starve the rest of the branches and eventually compromise the whole tree. – But if you prune the dying palms, then the ones still alive and the rest of the tree will flourish. – Our consciousness operates in much of the same way. – If we use up our valuable resources to feed unproductive thoughts that don't get us to our goals, we are wasting valuable energy. – And if those runaway doubts, fears, insecurities, and grievances keep being fed, they suck up all our energy and life force eventually leading to the demise of our dreams and goals. – But just like pruning the trees of the coconut tree, we can lop off the thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us and redirect our vital resources to feeding the thoughts and feelings that put us in direct line with our dreams and goals. – And when we do that long enough with consistent action it bears fruit. – When we've invested literally tens of thousands of hours in patterns of thought and behavior it can be almost impossible to unwind that on our own. – That's why I just opened up a handful of one month laser focused one-to-one coaching spots to help you do just that. It's designed to help you identify whats holding you back, get to the root of your current challenge, and set and attain 3 crystal clear soul goals this month. – If that resonates with you, just DM me and we'll set aside some time to chat. It's priced so those who are committed can easily afford it. – Chat soon 💜🔥🤙🏽

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The next few months will be challenging and I know that the only way I’m going to survive is by prioritising my mental health. My current state of mind has reminded me that we never finish working on our mental health, healing is not linear. It should be something we work on as consistently and frequently as physical exercise…it is probably more important than physical exercise. I refuse to live according to the cycle the world has created of working to the point of burnout, that is not living. I love this post by Kristina of the wildly popular blog ‘Fully Raw Kristina’. Growth happens in waves and maybe that’s just what I’m going through right now.

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Sometimes God breaks your heart to save your soul. 🦋 We all go through tough times, and sometimes it feels completely debilitating and devastating. The truth is: without rain there can be no rainbows. Difficult experiences allow us to truly appreciate what we do have and how far we’ve come. These times build character, integrity, wisdom, and strength. I know it’s not always easy to see the positive when you’re in the core of it, but trust that you are protected and loved. It’s through the notion of learning to pick ourselves back up that we gain not only self-respect, but also compassion, forgiveness, and self-love. Also keep in mind, sometimes the things we want most are not the best for us…or are not meant for us. Perhaps there is BETTER that is yet to come. Growth happens in waves—I say this from personal experience. Faith. Time. Some things haven’t worked out, but still may turn out better than we could have possibly imagined. 🙏🏽💕✨ I send you love today for all the good things coming. I love you. 🦁🐞🐛🦋🐬🍉✨ ✨ 📸 @cashgotwings ✨ ✨ #inspiration #motivation #waimeacanyon #waimea #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #hawaii #girls #life #health #healthy #vegetarian #confidence #positivevibes #womenempowerment #positivity #happy #rawvegan #mountains #canyon #travelphotography #travelphotography #travel #traveler #sunset #fullyraw #vegan

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I came across the featured image for this post on Pinterest, I hope it helps, I will definitely be using it!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: how to survive the holiday season

I have two more weeks of work left before I go on leave. To say I’m tired is an understatement. My poor boyfriend has heard me complain about being too tired to do EVERYTHANG: working, training, breathing, you name it! Life is just A LOT right now and this girl needs a holiday. The festive season is one where we can very quickly get caught up in activity and miss out on what should essentially be a good time to recharge the soul and body for the year ahead. How does one survive the holiday season? Is it possible to partake in the festivities and still come out standing on the other side? I think so! Here are my top tips  on surviving the festive season and holding on to as much of your sanity as possible.

  1. Take 5 minutes out of your day to write down what you’re grateful for. This one was suggested to me by the love of my life. After my sister passed away, it was hard to think of anything that I was grateful for and life was more painful than I could bear. I was dreading the first Christmas without her and that’s when the boy told me to think of one thing that I was grateful for.  It could be as grand or as small as I wanted it to be. The idea is that from that one thing, a type of snowball effect is created and you’re able to think of other things that you’re grateful for. It’s like Thanksgiving at Christmas. Eventually you’re so busy thinking about all the things that are right in your life that it lifts your mood up and opens you up to the fact that while life may not be perfect, it isn’t so bad. 


However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.’

Stephen Hawking

2. Get some exercise in. It’s easy to want to spend ALL of your free time sitting on the couch eating as much chocolate as humanly possible and while I won’t deny that I won’t be doing that, I will be trying to maintain as much of a healthy balance as possible. Exercise gets the blood flowing releasing endorphins also known as the happy hormone to leave you with better clarity of mind and if you’ve really pushed as hard as you could in your workout, you’ll need to fuel up by eating again right? 😉

3. Meditate. I started meditating last year as a means to manage my thoughts and stress. I felt on the edge ALL the time and if you find yourself laden with a lot of responsibility over the festive period, then I’m sure you know all about being on the edge. Meditating has taught me that it isn’t about changing the way I think but more so about accepting certain emotions as they come. It’s about acknowledging what you’re feeling, learning what you can from that emotion and then you move on. You learn to not dwell on circumstance and realise that your feelings while valid, are not important dictators of what mood you should be in. Over time you’ll find that you’re able to process feelings without them derailing you. The biggest thing I’ve learnt through mediating is to be kinder to myself and from this abundance, being able to lavish kindness unto others. So often we get the balance wrong and berate ourselves yet somehow find it within us to uplift others. It’s time to turn that that habit on its head; lavish all the love you can on yourself [self-care] and from learning how to love and support yourself unconditionally, do the same unto others.

4. Remember the reason for the season. I’m like the Grinch…sometimes. I hadn’t realised how much I didn’t like Christmas until my boyfriend pointed it out. I suppose it’s one of those things that unfortunately happens as you get older and go through trying circumstance in life. This past year falling in love with my boyfriend and that love being a conduit to rediscovering Christ again, I’m genuinely excited for Christmas this year… ok maybe excited is a bit extreme 😂 As a Christian, I know that there is much debate on the date that Christ was born, the date bears zero significance to me. The thing that is significant is this great act of love & kindness from an Almighty God to give everything up for a sinner like me. This is what will be at the forefront of my thoughts. I can’t promise that I won’t be that mom who will tell her kids that Santa doesn’t exist, sorry boyfriend 🙈

5. Have FUN! Yes, it’s bound to get stressful and crazy at some point but relish this moment that you’re alive here on earth. My late sister celebrated every single day that she was alive because she’d say ‘you never know what tomorrow will bring.’

BONUS TIP:If you want to avoid being unhappy, make sure you’re spending Christmas/this festive period, with the people you love and can tolerate without ripping their heads off 😉 what are your tips for surviving the festive season?