Saturday, 13 December 2014

Writing As a Catharsis...

Suicides. Horrible, arent' they? 
We have become a depressed generation. We are overwhelmed with the pressures of life and don’t know how to handle it. This morning I woke up with a lump in my throat. My heart was jolting, and I had thoughts haunting me. My heart was in angst, but I didn't cry, shout or scream at anybody. I could have smashed a cup or two. I did not consider praying because I did not feel I could at the time. To process my emotions and my thoughts, I did something else. I wrote my troubles away.

We all have moments like these, and each and every one of us have our ways of coping.

If you had told me that writing brings about relief and healing to the soul some ten odd years ago, I wouldn't have believed it. Now having sat through my book 'A Life Steered,' I can confirm that indeed writing does that - heal! As you spend minutes, hours and days clicking away or scratching on that piece of paper, pouring your heart out, you do expend a lot of energy.  Your heart will ache even more as you delve into the depth of your soul and scrap all the muck away. Tears will flood your cheeks too as you do so. But after you have written your last sentence what you’re left with is just you- a clean slate. At times not so much but you will certainly feel a lot lighter.

I am an avid watcher of real dramas, crime stories and there is consistency when it comes to the reasons psycho-analysts give as to why people commit all kinds of heinous crimes. They will tell you that these people were abused as children, that they never were never shown love or affection or that they experienced some kind of loss. As you listen to them digging deep into the human mind, one can be forgiven for believing that these people are indeed the real victims. You can almost sympathise with their circumstances. Then there is another group of victims who when life gets heavy resort to all kinds including prostitution, drugs or suicide.

As long as you’re still walking this God’s green earth, it is inevitable that at some point you will experience loss and suffering. So what do you do when there is no one around to share these difficult moments with? Who do you turn to when no one is interested? It is easy to find ourselves in a rut and overwhelmed as events and emotions spiral out of control. And in the most unfortunate of circumstances, a voice will start banging in your head, telling you that your life is over and that it isn't worth living. The voice will convince you that it is OK to do drugs, to drink yourself into a stupor and to shut the world out as you numb the pain and drown your sorrows. And before you know it you are caught in a web of depression and, heaven forbid if you don’t kill somebody you will kill yourself!

It is widely reported that we have become a pill-popping generation with antidepressants being among the culprits. Therapists will often encourage you to talk about it, draw it, or write it down to help. Personally, I find that when I put pen to paper, I discover things about myself that I never knew existed inside me. I lose and find myself at the same time as I birth my thoughts and feelings. Once the thoughts and feelings are out there, it’s out of my hands. They can no longer haunt me as much. I may have more haunting thoughts but not the same ones. I could choose to publish my thoughts and feelings like I’m doing right now or I may choose to keep them somewhere safe. It’s really up to me how I handle them. The most important thing here is that my load would've become a little bit lighter and more manageable. I no longer have to carry it around like before.

After I had finished writing my first book 'A Life Steered' I shed tears. They were not tears of joy but tears of relief. I felt less burdened. As if a heavy load was lifted from my shoulders. I didn't write this particular book for money or fame. It was a book I wrote mainly for me. For cathartic reasons and I know that it is a story which has and will inspire other people too. Most importantly I was able to discover my real passion and a thing or two about myself. I read somewhere that we should embrace challenges, discomfort and pain for without that there is no growth.

So if you ever find yourself stuck in a spiral of emotions that you can't deal with try putting pen to paper. Writing may be the only drug you will ever need!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Whose Dream Are You Chasing?

I saw this picture quote, and it jogged something in me. In this modern world where everyone has something to say about everything, including what you should be doing with your life, it is so easy to get sidetracked and lose focus. You may be bombarded with information and ultimately end up answering to somebody else's calling and not your own. Before you know it, boom, you're chasing a dream have no business chasing. A dream which does not benefit you, grow you or inspire you. The conundrum with that is that when you are not inspired, you will not and cannot inspire other people. This is the surest way of setting yourself up for failure. When you find yourself on such a slippery slope, you may need to take some time to retreat into a cocoon. Take time for silence and dig deep. Pray. Meditate. Do whatever you need to do so that you can have the revelation of where you need to be.
As you go through this process of self-discovery, ask yourself some questions. Who are you? What moves you as a person? What is that you want to achieve? Also, ask yourself where it is that you are headed and how you want to get there. Identify your real talents. List them if you have to. Know your value and your worth.

Half the time we sell ourselves short because we lack understanding of where our real talents lie and how valuable those talents are. We are dragged along and are willing to settle because we are constantly being told what we ought to be doing with our lives by people who do not even know us. No harm in listening to advice and reaching out for help. But, when we are constantly bombarded with advice on how we ought to be doing things a certain way and not taking the time to digest it for ourselves, we lose track and ourselves along the way. When we do not take the time to challenge what is fed to us, scrutinise information and sift, we are left confused and lost. We should be able to do things in the way which is comfortable for us and that which will see us succeed.

When we take time out and listen to our inner voice and our heart, we will realise that we may not always have to align ourselves with everybody who comes our way. There are times we may have to be selective and prune away certain associations. You may lose a few friends too, and that's okay. If you align yourself with the wrong people, you run the risk of deviating from your real purpose. What that means is that you run the risk of having to make a U-turn when you finally realise that you have been chasing somebody else's vision. So if you want to reach your destination then do not allow yourself to be dragged along. To be blown by the wind. Discover your real path and stay on the right road. Pursue your real calling and move at your own comfortable pace. If that means going it alone sometimes, so be it. Because it pays in the long run!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

My Reflections....

It was disability day at church today. I do enjoy most sermons, but I found today’s sermon particularly inspirational. It touched the very core of my soul. And so, I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

When we look at people who are/appear different from us, what do we see? What flicks into our minds? Do we judge them by appearance? Do we approach them with a pre-conceived understanding of who they are, what they represent or where they are coming from?

Often, we regard disabled persons (all forms) as individuals to be pitied. When they are going about their business, be it in wheelchairs or appear awkward or uncoordinated or incoherent than we are, we jump to their aid, at times take over; because we assume that they can’t cope, therefore, need us. There is nothing at all wrong with helping or wanting to care for the ones we consider to be vulnerable. But there are times when we need to take a step back and let them get on with it as our help could be doing more harm than good.

Have you ever stopped to consider that, perhaps, for someone who has endured years of physiotherapy, psychotherapy, encouragement and/or persuasion, to be able to move, crawl from A to B, feed themselves, read a word or two, whatever, is a precious achievement, and is indeed something to be celebrated and cherished! A sacred territory not to be tampered with? That stammer that riddles their speech, or the quiver of their hand when they make a squiggle of their name is just them getting on with it. 

Eating may be a doddle for you and I, but of what consequence is it to us if it takes them a bit longer to move a spoon from hand to mouth? They are only living their life the best way they know how. Why pity them because of it? Why take away their pride, dignity and independence? Why make them feel unequal and less worthy than others? We alter our body language and speak in condescending tones (well-done dear, you're so lovely, that's good etc.) just to let them know that we recognise how different from us they are. It got to stop!

A story was told about a disabled boy who thought had found a good friend during his years of primary school. When primary school ended, on the very last day, the friend walked up to his disabled friend and told him he had a confession to make; and they had the following conversation:

‘I have something to tell you,’ said the friend.
‘Go ahead,’ said the disabled boy.
‘I don’t really like you that much,’ he said, ‘I was just pretending to be nice to you because, well let’s face it, you’re in a wheelchair and you can’t be nasty towards someone who is disabled.’
So you can imagine the shock and horror that resulted from this revelation. 
After having composed himself, the disabled boy said,
‘Just because I’m disabled doesn't mean that I am different from everybody else. You didn't have to pretend to like me simply because I am in a wheelchair……’

The tendency we have is to judge people by the way they look, heap them in a category or give them labels. We pity the disabled because our brain has been wired, or we have been socialised to view disabled persons as helpless beings not capable or deserving of an independent and fulfilling life. We can't accept or phantom the fact that they could be leading a full life just as they are.

As you can see from the illustration above the revelation by the disabled boy’s ‘good friend’ was, indeed, the greatest deception you can imagine. Not only that, but it also demonstrates ignorance, and as the narrator of the story explained, it left a huge scar on the disabled boy. A scar which will set him back and take years to heal.

Food for thought, I think...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Art of Bragging....

When it comes to bragging, there can be a thin line between singing one's praises and being downright conceited. There, I said it!

I am all for singing one's praises because I feel it is our right. Having worked hard and persevered to accomplish a goal or a dream, isn't it only natural that one would want to celebrate? After all, hiding only deprives the world of your testimony. How will we ever learn of your accomplishments and drink from your well of inspiration if you do not shout from the rooftops? How is the world ever going to see the light if it is hidden under a bushel? Most importantly, who would we admire and emulate? I reckon not blowing that trumpet would be a sin against humanity. 

But here’s what has become apparent to me over the years. When one brags, they face the real danger of 'pissing' some people off and unleashing the green-eyed monster. We all know how the monster operates - it will despise you for your success, and wishes you to vanish from the face of the earth. These days the word ‘hater’ is commonly used. Some prefer to call these negative recipients of one's good news 'naysayers.' What it all boils down to is that when we brag others will gag!

 One day as I was having a symbiotic conversation with a friend about our current pursuits, the conversation became one-sided as the other person became more condescending and implied they were better than me. Well, it felt that way to me. They also thought I had a superiority complex. Then we both became defensive and the conversation deteriorated, turning into a slanging match. The kerfuffle left a vile taste in my mouth. Upon reflection, I realised that had we spoken tactfully; perhaps mastered the art of bragging without putting a choke on it, the argument could well have been avoided. I felt proud of what my friend had achieved and deep down I knew they wanted to celebrate me too. So after this incident, I compiled a few suggestions on how we can indeed brag without making others gag? 

a)   If you’re going to blow your own trumpet, then do it within context. Know your audience and stick to the subject at hand. You’re allowed to mention some things in passing if it drives a point home, but let it be the end of it. Only dwell on it if others ask you to, which brings me to the next point.

b)   Let others brag about you. And when they do point out the good that you've done, graciously acknowledge and accept their compliments by thanking them. After all, they are your accomplishments, and you deserve the recognition.

c)    Strike the right balance when you brag. Usually, accomplishments come after a few failures, rejections, resistance and so on. Don’t make out like you’re superhuman. Painting a different picture will only undermine your hard work, the effort and determination you would've put into it. Showing that you've beaten the odds will encourage others too!

So, my dear friends, by all means, brag. It’s your right. You've worked hard to get to that place, and you owe it to others to teach them how it’s done. But for goodness sake, don't alienate those around you. Humility goes a long way.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Please Call Me What I Am...

Don’t be alarmed but it offends me that you think I am offended when you call me what I am…BLACK

I have contemplated writing about this subject for quite some time now but have put it off because I didn't think it was necessary living in the twenty first century. Then something happened which gave me a little nudge.

One day as I was having an interesting discussion with a friend, it occurred to me that they felt they could not describe a black person as that - black! The discussion we were having was such that they needed to be explicit in order to drive a point home, but when it came down to it they couldn't describe the person in the way they needed to so as to keep the conversation flowing. For the sake of being politically correct they tip toed and meandered, throwing words like coloured, brown, from Africa and so on. Although I understood, I could not help but feel a volcano brewing inside me, so in the end I had to say it for them - BLACK. Immediately, I could see the relief sweeping across their face. 'Blackk' was better coming from my mouth rather than theirs, so they thought.

Well, excuse me!

Don't get me wrong; I am not naive, neither am I ignorant of the history behind the prejudices, the need to be politically correct, slavery issues, the whole enchilada! I also realise that it works both ways as some of my black brothers and sisters play the race card every chance they get which scares the hell out of those not black. Some simply do not want to be identified as such and are offended when they are called black. They may not say it out loud but it shows on their faces the moment the word 'black' is uttered. But why is that, I find myself asking.

Let's look at this for a minute, shall we? Doesn't it mean that the person who thinks that it offends me for them to call me black is showing me just how prejudiced they are? Are they in fact not telling me that there is something wrong with my being black? And if you're the black person taking offence just because someone has called you black, doesn't that imply that you haven't fully embraced your blackness? What is it exactly that you think is wrong with you being black?

It saddens me that every day I have to remind my daughter that she is just as beautiful and precious as her white Caucasian best friend. Her friend has never said or done anything to make her feel that she isn't lovely, but she as a child she can't help notice that she is different. As a mother it is not only important for me to tell her that there is nothing wrong with being the way she is, but to live what I say. How can she believe and embrace what I say if it is apparent, through my actions or otherwise, that I don't in fact believe my own words?

I have to admit that the issue of blackness can be a very touchy subject especially for sisters out there. I will admit, I have the occasional braids, extensions but like most sisters out there, it is because it saves time in the morning when we have to rush to work, is easier to manage and because I simply get bored very easily wearing the same hairstyle every day. But when my hair is out I also should be able to wear it with pride because it is beautiful the way it is. As a mother that is what I want my daughter to understand.

I have read Maya Angelou's 'I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing' and I have to say that I cringed when I read some parts where she talks about some of the derogatory terms that were used to describe black people. But I have to say that it has been a breath of fresh air to note that more and more people, especially women, have embraced the natural black look to the extend of appearing on the covers of some glossy magazines.

I believe that it takes a certain degree of understanding, intelligence and maturity if you like to reach a stage where you realise that there is nothing at all wrong with being different. In fact different, in my book, is good. Imagine a world where everything looks the same, tastes the same and behaves the same. How boring. I would like to think that it is our differences that make life exciting and fascinating. If someone doesn't accept you for who you are then isn't it fair to say that they are not worth your time anyway? I also believe that it is only when we embrace what and who we really are first that others can do the same. How can we expect someone else to love and appreciate the real you when you don't like yourself? It is an impossible task, I think.

That is why I say that it offends me when you think that I am offended to be called what I am....A BLACK LADY!

Stay cool out there!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Too Busy to Blog...Well I Guess I Have Just Blogged!

I have been busy editing my new book I haven't had the time to write one of my monthly blogs/articles. I am not going to either this month because I have to remain focused on it. It's got to be done as it has gone on long enough. You all know how taxing writing can be, especially with a full time job. I was also hoping to attend a writers' conference in York in September with a finished manuscript, but at this rate. I don't see it happening. Hmmmmn, but got to try and do it. If I miss this conference, I am sure there will be other conferences to attend where I can be given professional feedback on my work. I am one determined bird! I do fall from time to time but one thing for sure, you can never keep me down!

Stay cool!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

My Father's Day Tribute...

You could be a step-father, an uncle, nephew or indeed brother. Sometimes we are left to play the role of father due to one circumstance or another. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that you are playing the role to the best of your ability.

It's been a few years since my father left this world but the pain of losing him still lingers. I just want to wish all the wonderful dads out there a wonderful day filled with love, happiness and appreciation. No one can ever replace you. You play a very important role in our lives and no matter how old one gets, their dad will always be special.

The following is an article I wrote a while back published in my local paper, paying tribute to you all wonderful fathers out there. I hope you will be blessed by it. Just click on the link below:

Happy Father's Day Article

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Is Mr Right a Rare Breed?

When I saw this picture on Facebook the other day, I could not help but burst my lungs out , laughing. As you can see, it would appear that this woman waited for the impossible!  As I scrolled down through the comments, I wasn't at all surprised that most of the reaction came from women! 

Later on I got to thinking. Could this be true of women today? Are women that fussy when it comes to finding the perfect man?

I am not what you would call an expert on relationships, but from what I have gathered the ‘I am going to take my time to find the right one’, 'I don't need a man to make me happy and/or ‘If I don’t find what I am looking for in a man, I am happy to stay single for the rest of my life’ are pretty much common mantras among my sisters these days.

I used to be a huge fan, still am, of the TV show ‘Take me out’. The way the women on 'parade' come to the decision to turn off their lights astounds me. Some do it at the first glance, some the second he opens his mouth to speak and some when they learn about what he does during his spare time or to make a living. What is perceived to be a potential suitor differs from woman to woman. And to be fair the world wouldn't really function that well if we all had the same taste in our partners. Imagine if all men had a disliking to short petite looking women *wink*. But having said that it would appear that women’s priorities when it comes to dating have changed over the decades. Women are becoming less and less tolerant of certain qualities, characteristics and/or behaviours by our male counterparts.  

Not so long ago I was chatting to a friend of mine about a relationship crisis they were having. We talked for hours; and the gist of the matter was that they believed that their girlfriend was turning out to be an impossible challenge. Even though they had gone out of their way to display acts of chivalry (roses, candlelit dinner, opening doors for her, that kind of thing), the girlfriend wasn't appreciative. It was just one disaster after another and the more he tried to please her, the further apart they grew. But when I zoomed in on the situation it turned out that all these gestures of love were not really what the lady considered a demonstration of love. They had their own 'list' in mind and my dear friend wasn't ticking any on the list! Ah yes, the list. We've all had a list at some point but rarely does it work and the word compromise comes to mind.
Every now and again I like to read around various subjects, and I once read an article which revealed some amazing facts about women around the world today.

Ø      According to a BBC report (28 June 2010) research has shown that women in their late 30s are freezing eggs because they are still hunting for ‘Mr Right’. Speaking at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference, Dr Julie Nekkebroeck confirmed that most of these women had had partners in the past, were currently in a relationship, but they had not fulfilled their desire to have a child because the thought that they had not found the right man.

Ø       Research has also shown that the average woman dates 24 men before finding “Mr Right”. Apparently seven per cent of women have been on between 41 and 60 dates before finally finding someone to share their life with ( The Telegraph 23 April 2010)
Ø      A survey published by the China Association of Marriage and Family Studies revealed that 41.2 percent of women in China were worried that they may not be able to find Mr Right. Of those interviewed 40 percent admitted they had high expectations for their future husbands.

Ø      According to The Romance Report published in 2003, 68 percent of the majority of women in North America are less willing than they were the year before, to settle for someone who is less than ideal. The women argued that a permanent relationship would be impossible if they didn't have enough in common or if he wasn’t ambitious enough, among other things.

So then who is Mr Right? Is it somebody you have something in common with? Is it that person whom you may not necessarily have anything in common with, but one who makes your heart flutter when they walk into the room, one whose attributes may be different from yours but still they capture your attention and are able to inspire you? Could it be that man your parents have hinted, the boy next door you have known all your life or is he the one whose future looks promising?  

In her book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough
Lori Gottlieb, purports that women who refuse to commit unless they find a man with whom they feel a deep, romantic love are consigning themselves to a lonely future. Gottlieb, a single mother of 40, admits that she wishes she had "settled" during her search for Mr Right. It is well documented that unlike the olden days where women used to rely on men for stability in terms of material support among other things, the modern day woman is self-sufficient, therefore, is not under pressure to get married. It would appear that the woman of today has options and is becoming more and more independent.

Rose, a colleague of mine, has been married to her husband John for 45 years. They met during a summer holiday abroad and they were married in just under 3 months. Rose reckons that there is no such thing as Mr Right. In her own view Mr Right is someone who ‘balances you out in terms of strengths and weaknesses’. Rose also made an interesting comment about how women have changed in terms of expectations, considering we are living in the 21st Century, whereas men haven’t, which makes finding the right partner difficult for women in general. Words like compromise, accommodating and acceptance were also highlighted during this conversation.

I also read somewhere that society will have us believe that we shouldn't want certain things in life, or be known to prefer certain things lest we be placed under a certain umbrella. For example, a lady who values the finer things in life, and one who will not give a man who is not wealthy a second look is often dubbed a 'gold digger'. Should this lady then pretend not to want what she wants for fear of having a label attached to her? Does the society expect her to go for a man who does not have anything to his name hoping that one day he wakes up with an epiphany?  Isn't she then settling for what she thinks is his potential and not the man that he really is? If love is all that matters to a woman, fine! By all means 'be in love' with the man. I am a big believer in the magic of true love, but for Pete's sake if you chose love then don't turn around further down the line and start calling that man all names under the sun because he hasn't become what you hoped he would be. 

The message here is simple honest about what it is that you want in a man. Don't marry someone to please those who are watching. But at the same time bear in mind that there's no such thing as a perfect human being. No one man will tick all your boxes. Compromise a little.

Just saying......

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Falling madly, deeply in love with myself this Valentine's week....

I hope you don't wait for Valentine's Day to show him/her how much you love and care for them. Everyday should be an opportunity to do so. Here's wishing you lots of love, happiness and prosperity!!


Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Power Of Vulnerability

Half the time we walk with wide grins on our faces, pretending that everything in our universe is okay or indeed perfect. We laugh out loud at lousy jokes, choose our words carefully, and wear beautiful clothes. And if you are a woman like me you spend hours at the beauty parlour having your hair fixed and your nails polished.

We may do this because we really care about one another's feelings and about our looks, but sometimes it's because the thought of having a hair out of place or being seen as 'that' terrifies us. Even though our worlds are falling apart, and are far from perfect, we walk with our heads held high, looking people in the eye, convincing them that we have everything under control. But inside we are like a volcano, waiting to erupt.

A little prod on the right spot is all it will take for us to explode, destroying everything in our path. It is when this happens that those around us turn in awe, wondering what the hell happened. They are puzzled why a woman or a man of such a stature and human decorum could snap and lose it like that. Well, I reckon it’s because human beings don't allow themselves to be vulnerable!

For me to understand human vulnerability is to draw from my own life experiences, and perhaps experiences of others. Making yourself vulnerable takes a lot of courage and may be the bravest thing you've ever done. As human beings, we want to be accepted for who we are, warts and all. And yet half the time we hesitate to reveal our true selves to another human being. The thought of being rejected or being judged terrifies us. We hide instead of coming out in the open.

But being vulnerable implies the opposite. It means loving someone with all your heart even though there is no guarantee that they will love you in return. It’s not being afraid to not be perfect and revealing your true self, warts and all, giving them the choice to fall in love with who you really are and not who you think they want you to be. It’s taking that leap of faith as you go after that which your heart desires.

Being vulnerable is looking someone in the eye, confessing your deepest fears. Standing in front of someone, admitting your wrongs and asking them to forgive you. You can’t always tell how you will be perceived after that, but it is trusting that they will appreciate your effort and gesture regardless of the outcome.

Have you ever had to shed tears in front of someone? If you're anything like me, you probably have. Being vulnerable is crying in front of your pastor, your friend, your wife or indeed your boss without having to worry that they will think any less of you. It's being able to turn to someone admitting that you are hurting, you need help, you can't cope, and that you've had enough. It's letting them see you in your weakest state and allowing yourself to feel what you feel without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

I reckon if we all exercised a healthy amount of vulnerability, this world would be a better place. If only we could allow ourselves to be who we are, to feel what we feel, I believe there would be fewer, no suicides, abortions, resentment, pride, anger, frustration among other things.

Take care!