Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Our Country

One of the Old Boys from my daughter’s school in the Natal Midlands wrote this poem of appreciation of this country we call our home. (It also appears on the site South Africa - The Good News)

Gavin poses a question at the end, which I think anyone who has travelled out of SA for any length of time will identify with.

Towards the end of the 5 weeks we spent away last year, we began thinking of the things we missed about home.
For me it was the colourfulness of our lives here. There is never a dull moment!
When really crazy things happen I maintain my sanity and sense of humour by thinking, “only in Africa”.

Yes, we enjoyed the highly efficient public transport system in Holland and Denmark but it was also very expensive. A bus ride of 13km cost ~R30!
We saw some seriously armed police at all airports except in England and we experienced bureaucracy just as frustrating as here.
The sense of history, the old cities and the beautiful countryside were a lovely experience but I need to live with much more space around me.
And then it’s very difficult to beat our fabulous weather!

South Africa! What a place! A country of spirit, of beauty, of passion and a country of the people!
I long to wake up to the scuttling of guinea-fowl, and I long to go to sleep to the melodious howls of jackals!
I long to walk down a street with faces of all races! I long to sit by a camel thorn camp fire with the smells and aroma's of traditional South African cuisine!
I long to walk under the sparkling blanket of the African sky!
I long to smell the cool, fresh, clean air after a rain storm!
I long to hear our rich integrated accent!
I long to pay in rand!
I miss the spirit of our sporting fans! I miss Bafana Bafana, the Proteas and the Springboks!
I miss Vodacom, MTN and Cell C!
The Southern tip of Africa is a thriving, modern country, rich in history and alive with possibility!
I long for a braai, I long for a walk down our coastlines or a hike in the beautiful Drakensberg!
I long for a day in the African bush!
I long for Jo-Burg traffic and I long for the 'Sunlight' or 'Kaizer chiefs' taxi's thumping away with the base at the pace of Africa!
I long for a Castle, Black Label or Hansa!
I long for Mr Price, Pick n Pay and Woolworths! I long for the service at petrol stops, I long for our music and our Radio stations!
I long for Biltong!
I miss Leon Schuster, 7de Laan, MNet and the SABC!
Why is it all taken for granted when we have it, but missed so much, once it’s not in our grasp anymore?
Proudly South African! 'Nkosi sikilele iAfrica' God bless South Africa, because man... what a great place it truly is!!!

Gavin Mathews (working abroad) September 2007

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Throw away? - No I'll need it

I believe in the need to declutter. I really only started putting it into action at home, in a big way, about ten years ago.

The first time was a number of months after my then husband had moved out. I went through the house, cupboard by cupboard, over a number of weeks taking out things that belonged to him and setting them aside for him to collect. And finding other things I no longer used, needed or liked and readying them for charity. The more drawers, cupboards and shelves I finished the more energised I felt.

This has now become a pretty regular exercise once every year or so, with a super big one each time we move house. At those times the charity shops or struggling child care centres really do well with curtains and furniture joining the bric a brac.

With some encouragement my children have also picked up on the habit. They get a good feeling when they donate clothing, toys and books that they've out grown. Even my daughter who has a tendency towards hoarding, would periodically part with a few more of her (twenty odd) teddies saying, "I still love them all but they would be so loved by little girls with no toys".

The other day this topic of decluttering came up with a person who is a self confessed hoarder. They repeated the oft raised concern that once they throw something out they are going to find they do actually need it. I was asked if that ever happens to me. I have to admit that it has once or twice. I have a theory that it's in the throwing out that we stir up the energy that causes us to need that item again. If we leave it alone it won't be needed - possibly 'cause we forget it's there?!

So I have come up with a new variant for people struggling to part company. Anything that hasn't been needed, wanted or loved in the last twelve months can go out into a box in a garage or storeroom, carefully labelled so it does not get forgotten. Put the date on. Then in six months dispose of the contents to charity, recycle dump etc. That way if you have needed anything in the intervening period it will still have been available to you.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome. It doesn’t just start when the children leave home, it starts much earlier. And for those who don’t have children what would your nest be like without your life partner? Or for those who are married to their jobs, what would your life be like without that job?

My children are still teenagers but because I separated, and later divorced, when they were small, and then they elected in later years to live with their Dad and are now both at boarding schools, I have had plenty of opportunity to suffer from empty nest syndrome already.

When I first separated I made myself make plans to fill the time when the children were away, doing things I enjoy. Thank goodness, I already had friendships, hobbies and interests. Thank goodness, I knew what was joyful to me.

When the children later began spending more weekday time at their father it was difficult and uncomfortable. I had to redefine my role as a mother, but it wasn’t my only role. I already had other activities and purpose that I could now focus more time on.

People often ask “Don’t you miss the children when they are away at school?” Yes, I do a little but I am already used to not being with them all the time. For the most part, I am just excited seeing them grow into amazing independent people. They are finding their own strengths, their own needs, and being challenged to live to their own values, which were first developed at home. They do this in a safe environment with the knowledge that Mom or Dad is only a phone call away.

Recently one of the Headway members told me that her husband, who has just sustained a brain injury, had still been working full time. Looking at the membership form, I enquired whether I had the age right, as he is in his seventies. She said “oh yes, he couldn’t retire because he has nothing else to do.”

We set ourselves up during our younger years for how we will cope later when the children leave home or we retire. We make choices as to how much we live our own lives or how much we define ourselves by others’ needs: our roles of parent, spouse, employee or business owner.

Do you define yourself in terms of your job?
Do you spend all your leisure time either serving your family or accompanying them on their choice of activity? What would you do if those roles were no longer required?

Do you know what brings you joy, regardless of external circumstances?
Do you enjoy your own company?
What interests or excites you, without depending on others?

When you live your life through your children you do them a disservice. The poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet,

“…..And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

…..You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

The role of a parent is to prepare children for adulthood; for taking their place as contributing members of society, for living the life they were born to live.

And you were born to live your own life. Being a parent or life partner or employee is only one role in a life which has many simultaneous and consecutive roles. If you limit yourself to one role and that one goes away, the adjustment is huge. Adjustment will always be needed but the amount and the difficulty is reduced if your focus was more diverse to begin with.

We often forget our most important role – “Carer of Self”.
When we fulfil that role well we have a person with the capacity to fill many other roles superbly.

How do you insure against empty nest syndrome?

o Don’t lose sight of what is important to you,
of who you are as an individual,
of what you contribute to society.

o Keep up a variety of friendships

o Have a number of interests that bring meaning, enjoyment and fulfilment outside of family and work

o Make leisure time for yourself

Wishing you a day with “me” time in it.