Breath

9 flights of stairs doesn’t sound like much right?

9 down and 9 up.

Most people fly through it. It is the 9 plus that gets them.

Me?

Today I stood at the bottom of a stairwell and listened to breath.

The panting rasp of someone with the lungs I have.

The laboured inhalation of someone with the fitness level of an overweight rock.

It used to embarrass me – the thought of someone hearing me breath heavily. The idea that I would be judged and found wanting. It is why I never did sport at school. The sound and the jiggle and the red face and the sweat. And yes, the coming last.

Children can be cruel. But sometimes, we are our own worst tormentor.

So today, I stood at the bottom of a stairwell, 40 minutes into a seriously hard gym session. A gym session full of the things I thought I couldn’t do.

I listened to breath.

And I thought –

How Blessed is that sound?

How Joyous is that sound?

How many times has that sound meant something else?

How many times has that sound been accompanied by panic, because I just couldn’t get enough breath?

How many times has that sound, slightly twisted, echoed around a hospital room – for weeks on end?

You feel free to judge me all you want.

The breath. The sweat. The red face. The jiggle. The coming last.

Until you hit a wall one day, and breath becomes a thing you actually have to think about….

The breath is what matters.

The doing.

The being.

So who gives a crap if I came last?

At least I took part.

At least I was there.

Sometimes, when breath is all you have, that is where your Hope and determination lies.

 

 

Picture found on – https://embodypilates.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/pilates-breathing/

The Small Things

Sjoe, I have been gone a while.
Thing happened. Reality shifted. Time passed.
And here we are.
Life has this really annoying and occasionally cool habit of throwing stuff back in your face. At your lowest, or your highest, or somewhere in between. A little memory. A little song. A little blog.
A little bit of God.
I forget sometimes how far I have come. How hard this road was to travel. Sometimes I traveled it alone. Sometimes with family. Sometimes with friends. I have written before about being the Black Sheep. About being the Fat Chick.
Reality is – we are who we are in the moment. As kind or vicious, as generous or selfish, as alive or dead, as happy or sad. All we have is a moment. Because the next moment may be a life ender. Or a reality shifter.
In a moment, a Blessed moment, I walked into a gym with a little bit of hope. And I met a lovely lady who runs a gym, a lady of passion and laughter.
In a moment, an Inspired moment, I faced a lifetime of fears around what I look like. Around inherent sporting ability. And I thought screw it. I joined a gym.
In a moment, a Divine moment, I remembered that even though it is hard. I really do like exercising. I am crap at it. But that doesn’t change the Joy.
I have written before about finding Joy in the small things.
Sometimes the small things are the ache that comes from 18 flights of stairs.
The laughter that comes with trying to skip.
The giggle that accompanies a burpee done in the style of a deranged alien.
Sometimes the small things are driving on a farm road at 5 in the morning. In the mist.

Just you and your God.

Sometimes the small things are realising that you came from here….

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And you have gotten here so far…..

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With a whole world still to go…..

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A rant at anarchy

So…

The 4 biggest cities in South Africa just made it onto the list of the 50 Most Dangerous Cities in the World.
9. Cape Town
41. Durban
42. Nelson Mandela Bay
47. Johannesburg.

I am completely and utterly horrified that even one of our fabulous cities makes the list, never mind 4.

It caused a little chain reaction in my brain. And something that has been bothering me for a long time now, decided it needed to be written about. Because they relate on a fundamental level.

I drive into Cape Town at about 05h30 every week day morning. That is the only way to miss the chaos that is N1 traffic.

There is a little bit of highway, at the off-ramp to the M5, that suddenly drops from 120km/h to 80km/h. It doesn’t matter why. Or who decided it. Or whether I agree or not. It is what it is. This little stretch of road is notoriously well known as being a trapping hotspot.

Except at 05h30 in the morning obviously.

So I should put a little context in here. I have car insurance with Discovery Health. In order for me to maximize the cash back I get every month, I trend to drive as well as I possibly can. Obeying all the rules of speeding, harsh acceleration, cornering.

I like money. And smoothies (new driving reward). So I drive appropriately.

Another little bit of essential information. I suspect that quite a few traffic officers report for duty at 06h00, or thereabouts, at a traffic department in Town. Because every morning I see at least 2 traffic officers on the N1, heading into Town.

I have yet to ever (and I really do mean ever – in all the time I have been driving to work in Town) see one drop his speed to 80 in the 80 zone. They all merrily maintain their speed, whatever it may be.

Perhaps I am being petty. Perhaps I too would not drop my speed if I didn’t get money back. Perhaps. Perhaps.

All I know is this.

When did we stop holding those tasked with upholding our laws accountable?

Is the message being sent not one of:

‘If I know I am not going to get caught, it is ok to break the law?’

‘If I am not yet on duty, I don’t have to follow or enforce the law?’

‘I am a traffic officer, so I am above the law?’

All I know is that our country is bleeding. There is no accountability anymore. There is no morality anymore. There is something very close to situational anarchy. I will do as I please because I probably won’t get caught.

This is beyond race. Beyond colour. Beyond economics. Beyond it all.

It is fundamentally about right and wrong.

It is a traffic officer speeding with impunity at 05h30 in the morning, on a stretch of highway he will probably set up a speed trap on in a few hours. After his coffee. And breakfast.

But what has he taught every single person who sees him in the morning. Consciously or not.

That it is okay to break the law when it suits you.

And I am also in no way trying to excuse the folks who do chose to break the law. Whichever law it may be. Small, or big.

You have to live with your own conscience and at the end of the day, you and your conscience have to be okay with the choices you make.

Whether you stand in a uniform and are supposed to uphold, and by default obey, a law, or in civilian clothing and chose to ignore a law.

Part of why South Africa has 4 cities on the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world?

Because no one gives a fuck anymore.

Until it suits them.

There is injustice in this world, stop ignoring it.

I happened across this blog the other day. And watched this video.

And my world changed.

I spoke to a lady at work that farms with pigs. And she brought me to this picture –

images1.GestationCrate

This is a gestation cage. A pregnant sow gets put in it and she will never leave it. Never. This becomes her world.

The enclosures measure 2 m x 60 cm.

We are talking about an  animal that likes to play. Is smart. Has good long-term memory, and can be socially manipulative. An animal that can tell which people are nice to them and which aren’t. An animal that can distinguish between pigs they know and pigs they don’t.All traits that we think are unique to being human.

And then I happened on these pictures –

 

I just cannot fathom how big business has managed to create a world where normal, rational, smart human beings have completely disassociated themselves from the fact that bacon comes from a pig. A pig that lives in conditions that are vile. That biltong comes from a cow that is so mistreated that it cannot even stand on it’s own. That chicken comes from an animal that is barely a few weeks old and pumped so full of crap you may as well just inject yourself with that crap and save yourself the trouble.

I grew up on a farm. I have a fundamental idea of where the meat on my plate comes from. I also consider myself an animal lover. One of those fruity folk that will double back to try and rescue the dog running lose in the street.

Yet I have somehow bought into a consumerism that enables the mistreatment of animals on a massive scale. I have turned a blind eye to the fact that a creature somewhere suffered to feed me? A creature whose life is as important to it, as mine is to me?

I have no doubt that humans, once upon a long ago, were supposed to eat meat. Needed to eat meat. That was before big business. That was before animal cruelty became normal.

That was before I knew that over 56 billion farmed animals are being killed every year by humans. That more than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. And that doesn’t even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes.

And just so you know – the pictures above? That is factory farming in America. That is exactly what our Government has signed a deal with Barrack Obama to let into our country by the bucket load. Oh and in the process just completely destroyed our own agriculture and farming sector.

I have to date never had a problem eating meat. I would even say I have always loved the taste of a good steak, on a open fire.

I have a problem with how that animal died. And I have a massive issue with how it lived.

And then there is the niggle…..

It will not leave my head nor my consciousness….

Babe is really no different to Blossom.

Babe
Babe
blossom
Blossom

I would never even almost contemplate eating Blossom.

One day we will all be asked a question. Perhaps by our God, perhaps by our children. Perhaps by our own conscience.

How did you live, that bettered the world? Did any thing or any one suffer needlessly because of you?

I will no longer eat Babe and all those like Babe.

For the sake of my own soul.

Quote attributed to Johnny Depp - There is injustice in this world, stop ignoring it like it's not real, animals or humans.

Me

Hello.
You don’t know me. Not yet anyway. I am you, 27 years on.

You turned 40 the other day. It came and it went much like any other day. There was some celebration, there was some sadness. But it passed. Much like any other day.

You worry so much about not fitting in. About not having friends. About what people think of you. About whether your mom and your dad value you. About whether your brother and your sister love you.

Stop worrying. All those nights of tears and fretting get you absolutely nowhere. Not one bit of the energy you expended ever changed anything anyone ever thought of you, did for you or meant to you.

Stop worrying Jessie. You will be ok.

I have to tell you that your dad dies soon. A massive heart attack. Norine comes, and Stephen eventually. And then they leave and it is just you and mom.

In time, you forget what he looked like. You forget what he sounded like. You forget who he was. Because you barely knew him. All that becomes important is whether or not he was or is proud of you. And it doesn’t matter one way or the other. The only person who has to be proud of you, is you. Learn this now. Learn it well. Because you will fight this demon all your life. And it will win. Every time someone doesn’t measure up to the ideals you have set for them. Every time someone leaves. Every time someone disappoints you. Somehow, you manage to turn it into something you did wrong.

Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t take other people’s shit on as your own. And try to remember your dad as best you can, for as long as you can. Because you will miss who you think he was, who you hoped he was, who you believed him to be every day for the rest of your life.

Over time, your mother develops an unhealthy attachment to you. Your nature, and her nature, clash and crash and nothing good comes of it. It will shape you and affect you in ways that no one will ever understand. Don’t let it. So much of the heartbreak you face, comes from this one simple fact. Your mother, however unintentionally, will mould you into a soul that is very damaged. Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t let another person’s weakness become your own. But remember always, she did her best. It may not have been good enough for you, but it was her best. Don’t turn away from her. Love her as best you can. Because she is your mom. And one day, she will be all the family you have close to you.

When you get a bit older you are going to fuck up monumentally. You will think your life has ended. You will think you will never recover. You will believe that you are done. Don’t. Stop. It makes you strong in ways that no other person will ever be strong. Although the fear of it will haunt you forever. You will recover. You will get better. You will be okay. I promise. Just keep breathing. One breath at a time. This one moment does not define who you are. You fucked up. You are not a fuck up.

Even older still and you will get sick. Some weird mystery illness that they still argue about. Stop. Don’t let any doctor who you think knows better, tell you who you are. Don’t let them pump you full of the meds that will balloon you to 170kg’s. Don’t let them. Question everything. Make sure it makes sense.

Older still, and you will realise that you are ok alone. But that being alone all the time is hard. It is hard to never have anyone to rely on. It is hard to do everything alone. But you will find a few souls that hang out in the periphery of a life. Always there. They love you. Find them. Keep them close. You will need them.

One day, you will realise that your family is made up of so many animals. People will laugh at you when you call a dog your closest. Don’t care what they say. Every single life in this life, is worth love. Love them completely. Time will come when they will become your reason for waking. Your reason for going home. Your reason to be.

So much doom and gloom. So much to face in a short life.

And I haven’t even really started.

So let me tell you this.

You are beautiful Jessie. You are compassionate and kind and generous and smart and funny. You are loyal and true.

You are beautiful.

I am proud of you.

Every little bit of you.

Every big bit of you.

Every broken bit of you.

Every whole bit of you.

Learn your lesson Jessie. You matter to the only person that matters.

Yourself.

You are exactly who you are meant to be.

And you are awesome.

I saw Faith today.

Once upon a while ago, I am certain I saw Grace.

And today, I saw Faith.

I get into Town really early in the mornings, in part to miss the madness that is rush hour traffic in Cape Town but also so that I can do my daily exercise. I walk various routes around our beautiful city and due to the very nature of the time, I get to see allot of the homeless.

Mostly still asleep. Some just barely awake and perhaps wondering why they bothered. Some, like a rather well-known figure along Adderley Street, having a bath in the fountain.

My city could be any city. Homelessness is not unique to Africa. It is not unique to this city. It is everywhere. And it is heartbreaking.

As is the nature of humanity, we desensitize. After a while, you don’t notice the sadness or loss or pain or fear anymore. You don’t hear the voices. Worst of all, you don’t see the person anymore. They are just one more thing in a landscape of things.

That being said – I love my country. I love this place I live. Not because I have to. But because it is me, and I am it. So I try to keep my heart and my mind and my soul open to the beauty. To the hope. To the joy. But also to the faults. To the corrupt. To the bits that are broken. No one thing is ever perfect. And, as with so very many things, sometimes the bits that matter the most are the bits that can’t be seen.

Today was a good walk. I missioned along a route I don’t usually take. Past the taxi’s and the vendors.

Past the station and the folks slowly making their way to work.

Past the doormen and street sweepers.

To the most amazing sight I have seen in a while. Another one of those moments when time stops a bit. Reality becomes thick and amplified and loud.

Many of the homeless get a meal from one of the many shelters or soup kitchens around town. It is usually a styrofoam bowl of maize and a jam sarmie. I have even on occasion seen them munching happily on a bowl of rice.

Today was a happy walk. Singing under my breath to Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. Happily smiling and appreciating the weather. Greeting the folk that crossed my path.

Only to walk past an obviously homeless man with the most magnificent grey and silver beard.

Saying his Grace before tucking into his breakfast.

We may lose our way. We may lose our family, our joy, our jobs. We may lose ourselves.

Never lose your Faith.

Because where there is Faith, there is Hope. And Hope is where God lives. Hope for something better. Hope for peace. Hope for love. Hope for another meal.

Hope for that silver bearded homeless man who still found space in his Soul for Faith.

He will never know how much he Blessed me. I will most likely never see him again. But he showed more Faith and Hope in one moment than many people have in their entire lives.

Sometimes the bits that matter the most really are the bits that can’t be seen.

It is not what you own in this life.

It is how you conduct yourself in this life.

That man, that homeless soul.

He was Beautiful.

He was Gods perfect creation.

For all things, there is a time…

This is by far one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible.

At various times in my life I have gone back to it and reflected on the pain, loss, joy, hope that is inherent in it.

Today is one such day. A time for goodbyes. A time to leave. A time of loss. A time of hope. A time for new things and new beginnings.

A time to let go.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

 

So I shall let go. Look up. Look to the light. Wipe the tears. And find my new way of being. A new way of strong. A new kind of family. A new place to be me.

I shall look up. And look to the Light.

Because the Light has ever carried me.

The Lesson

This year has been a time of lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons in leaving. Lessons in what it means to be a family. Lessons in loss. Lessons in strength.

And a lesson in anger and mourning and heartbreak, again.

One more down,  one more to go.

As the clock ticks ever onward to another loss, another leaving – my heart breaks all over again. I don’t know how to bear this.

I don’t know how to forgive this. This being the one left behind. This loss of an entirety. This complete responsibility for another.

I don’t know how to be this.

And I don’t think I can ever forgive this.

Not that it matters. Life goes on. Life moves on. Stuck here in this pain, or there, in that joy.

I do not wish this on my worst enemy.

This loss. This profound emptiness. This raw hurt.

This abandonment.

I don’t know how to heal from this.

And I really hope I can forgive this. Not for them. They are gone. Whether I can bear that or not. They are all gone, or going.

For me. Because this hurts more than I can ever tell anyone. Because of who I am. And what they are to me.

Another one down, one more to go.

And then we will see.

Reflections

This last year has been a journey into the vast unknown for me. This is what I learnt:

I am not the black sheep I always thought I was. Yes, I once was a black sheep, but I have finally stopped letting that one moment of stupid define me. Mostly. Work in progress.

I am not the younger, weaker, less reliable sibling. Yes, in my life I have probably chosen or been manipulating into being that one, one too many times. That is not who I am. I have picked up a load that I would not have chosen for myself, and I have carried it rather well.

I empathize too easily. Far, far too easily. Sometimes, you have to let people deal with their own shit. Regardless of how much easier if would be if you did it for them.

I have more, and better, friends than I thought I did. Friends that take a mommy chicken when I can’t. Friends that bring me pretzels because I asked for them.  Friends that encourage and motivate and sometimes, just listen. Friends that go out of their way to be friends.

Making new friends is hard. So value the ones you have.

I need to sleep 8 hours minimum a night. If I don’t, the emotions in my head get too big for me. There is no fault in that, it runs in our family. Ensuring I get 8 hours plus a night, most nights, is me prioritizing me.

Losing a family is harder than I can ever tell anyone. But it is ok too. Loving someone means wanting what is best for them. Even if it doesn’t suit me.

It doesn’t matter how good you are, how loyal or true or kind or generous or understanding. Sometimes, because of the space that others find themselves in, you have to close a door and leave someone behind. Mourn the loss, forgive the hurt, remember the laughs. And move on.

Sometimes the load you carry feels like it will crush you into the ground. It rarely does. Unless you let it. Beyond all else, this year has taught me that actually, I am pretty damn fabulous.

Stronger than I thought.

Smarter and funnier than I believed.

Truer to my nature than others would have me believe.

Fat, fabulous, in control.

I think that sums it.

My weight is still an issue. Because I let it be. Because of massive doses of medication. Because I never learnt how to control it. But I keep trying. And despite what others say – trying matters. None of us are perfect.

Fabulous because I am me. And those that know me, will attest to that.

In control. Because what else is there?

Picture by Ann Gadd – http://artforewe.co.za/ and http://dogmaticart.co.za/