New beginnings

December 31, 2014 § 5 Comments

I find myself in a curious place at the end of 2014: it’s been a year of wonderful highs and terrible lows, a year of elation and heartache, of carefree fun and raw, unbridled pain. My future feels more uncertain than it ever has, and yet, I’m at peace.

I think I feel this way because 2014 was a year in which I came back to myself. I remembered who I am, I grew a backbone, and I found my voice in ways both literal and metaphorical. And that journey has not been without its repercussions.

So I face 2015 with some trepidation, but at the same time I know that eventually I’ll be okay. When I get to the other end of this tunnel, if I just keep going I will eventually lift my face to the sun and smile at the warmth on my cheeks, my nose, my brow.

How do I know that? Well, I’ve discovered amazing reserves of strength, resilience, creativity and adaptability within myself. And I have my family and a vast tribe of truly astonishing friends who have loved, supported, encouraged and laughed with me, and held me tight when sorrow threatened to overwhelm.

I might not have the world’s most impressive balance sheet, but I am rich beyond measure, and privileged beyond belief.

So this is my wish for you in 2015:

A year in which you learn to live in the present, in the moment, because ultimately, that’s all we have.

A year in which you find your tribe – even if it’s just one or two people.

A year in which you learn to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, the abundant beauty in the everyday.

A year in which you find joy, fulfilment, contentment and peace.

A year in which you can be truly, authentically yourself in every situation.

A year in which you feel loved and heard and seen.

Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to new beginnings.

Hope in a queue

December 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

If you pay attention to the mass media or hang around on social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that South Africans are constantly at war with each other, that we’re a hotbed of racism and hatred, and that there’s no hope.

But today I stood in a queue in a bottle store, and that queue gave me renewed hope for our future.

It’s Christmas Eve, you see, and everyone in the mall beyond the shop’s entrance looked a little harried. You could feel the stress, the busy-busy-busy of the rush to buy those last few things for tomorrow’s celebrations. But in that long queue in the bottle store, South Africans of every hue and persuasion were smiling and chatting.

One woman laid a calming hand on the forearm of another, a stranger who looked like she could cheerfully murder whoever was giving her alcohol shopping instructions on the other end of the phone. The security guard behind me assured another shopper that if required, he could drop his beers and draw his gun in an instant. An older gentleman on crutches in front of me advised a student on where to find the cheap plonk he was after. I pondered whether to buy a cinnamon or orange-flavoured liqueur for someone else’s party.

And all the while we shuffled patiently forward, waiting our turn and making way for those trying to shop in fairly cramped quarters. There was no aggression. No-one scowled or pushed or shouted.

South Africa has its problems, yes. We have things we need to work on. And there is still racism and discrimination of other kinds. The poverty and power and land issues need to be sorted out. And that’s just for starters.

But I think we’ll be okay. Because on the streets and in the shops, we know how to pull together. We know how to get along.

We just have to remember to do it, and not pay too much attention to the doom-and-gloom that fuels the media.

Resolution

December 17, 2014 § 11 Comments

I’ve made a decision. Slowly but surely over the next couple of months, I’m going to work through my house, space by space and get rid of everything that doesn’t bring me joy.

There will be some exceptions of course – getting rid of joyless items like my tax records might be frowned upon… But you know what I mean.

There are things I’ve hung onto for all kinds of reasons – and they’re all the wrong reasons. They are things I never use, things I will never use. Things that just gather dust and occupy space and cause clutter I really don’t want anymore.

There’s a big part of me that would love to live a simpler life, and I had always tacked that idea onto living in the country. I had it all mapped out in my head – a small cottage in the Karoo, with whitewashed walls, a wide stoep and a tin roof for the rain to dance across. A rug or two on the floor, a comfortable bed and a fireplace to warm my wintry bones.

But I realise I don’t need to go anywhere else to have that. I don’t have to move. I can do it right here in the city, and I can live any way I choose. I don’t have to buy into the hustle of being busier than everyone else, of constantly buying, acquiring, collecting. I don’t have to prove anything; live up to anyone else’s expectations.

No. Only I choose my lifestyle. I choose my life. And for the year ahead, I choose joy.

10 lessons from a retirement village

December 10, 2014 § 9 Comments

I’ve been staying at my parents’ retirement village for a couple of days, and it’s been a welcome change of pace for me. It’s so different from the world I inhabit at the moment: life is slower here, and not just because the village is peopled by those in their twilight years.

I’ve been watching the comings and goings: the morning and evening constitutionals, the friendly greetings ringing across driveways, the groups of women who seem to be permanently shaking out and folding tablecloths at the community hall a block or so away, and here are some of the things I’ve learnt:
1. A cup of tea should always come with a biscuit – two if possible.
2. When good music is playing, you get up and dance with whomever is nearest – even if it’s 9.30am. Life is too short to just sit and applaud.
3. You keep an eye out for your neighbour, and check up on them if they’ve not been on evidence for a day or two, because that’s what neighbours do.
4. It’s always a good idea to go out for a coffee or a quick meal with friends, even if you are supposed to be at the bank or the medical aid. Friends always trump admin, and the bank can wait till tomorrow.
5. We can all do something for someone else – disconnect their car battery if they’re going to be away, water their plants, feed their cat, buy groceries or cook them a meal when they’re feeling poorly. They’re small things, and they don’t cost a lot, but they can mean the world to the recipient.
6. A lot of pleasure can be gained from a tiny garden. Big isn’t always better.
7. Taking care of an animal, whether it’s owning pets or simply feeding and watering the wild birds, can feed your own soul. We need to look out for our fellow species.
8. You really don’t need all the stuff you think you need, there’s a lot to be said for a simpler life – less stuff, less housework, less stress.
9. Your health is the most important thing you have. Look after it while you’re young and old age will be easier to navigate.
10. Any excuse for a party is a good one. Life is there to be celebrated.

Choices

December 3, 2014 § 5 Comments

I’ve had a really hard year, and it ain’t over yet. And if the difficult things in life are what grow us, then I ought to be ten feet tall.

Instead, tonight, I’m feeling depleted and worn down by life, and at the very end of my very threadbare tether. But I will go to bed shortly, and sleep, and then I’ll get up again tomorrow and keep going, just putting one foot in front of the other and doing my very best to do what I need to do.

Because some of the choices I’ve made recently are hard ones. Damn hard. They have far-reaching consequences, and life is pretty uncomfortable in parts at the moment.

But buried beneath the layers of exhaustion is a deep sense of peace. And when I’m not tired, I’m actually happier than I’ve been for a very long time.

And that tells me everything I need to know.

Where Am I?

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