Where the Light Lies

Hope if a funny old thing. We manage to find it in the most unique and desperate places.

It isn’t always called Hope. Sometimes we call it Faith. Sometimes it is called Surviving.

Sometimes it doesn’t really have a proper name.

In the darkness – it is simply a facet of your being.

A glimmer deep in your soul that reaches out for life. For love. For peace. For something better.

Sometimes, it is very simply, your soul searching and reaching for where the light lies.

The light of laughter on a cool evening.

The light of joy in a smiling baby.

The light of faith in an everlasting.

The light of healing in the face of illness.

The light of enduring when faced with devastation.

The light of a God, when you know you didn’t get here by yourself.

The hope that the light will find you and love you and accept you anyway. Even when you don’t love yourself.

It is always there. Even when you see only darkness.

It is there in the people around you, the ones that are light.

The ones that are hope.

Because they are there.

And they see the you that, just for a moment, you cannot.

May the light find you.

And may you find where your light lies.

 

Today, I felt Reproach

Anyone who even vaguely knows me, knows that I believe in my God fiercely! Not your God, not the God of bibles or organized religion. Rather, the Being that I can sometimes see in my daily life. The Being that, when I don’t forget and drift too far, I can feel around me. To be quite brutally honest, it doesn’t even really matter if you believe in Him – He is my God, my Truth, my Hope. And my Peace.

I have been taking a bit of strain lately. It all started when I took the words of someone I considered a friend, and I allowed them a power that only I can give. Destructive and hurtful power. 

It got in, and it festered and bubbled and, by inches, I withdrew and internalized and added just a little bit more weight to the concrete core of self doubt that I wear like a mantle.

Without ever really seeing it head on, it twisted thoughts and brought on a sadness that was made up of millions of featherlight layers of doubt. No single layer will break you, or is even really noticeable. Each individual layer so light that you don’t even feel them settling their little tendrils of malaise into you. Until one morning you wake up, and you are tired. For no reason that you can think of. But tired nonetheless. The weight of millions of feathers and hundreds of tendrils, brought on by inches.

And the vicious circle begins.

I always get like this, when I give others a power they don’t deserve, and when I drift too far from my God. Every time, it sneaks up on me and I don’t even realize it. Until I do.

I have never been one of those believers that hears God. And I am still not. Mostly, I just feel Him as I would a feeling of warmth in the cold. Or a cool, soft breeze when it is hot. Or that full, contented feeling you get sometimes, when you just know that the moment you are in, is completely perfect. 

Today, as it has been lately, my mind was in a whirl of unhappiness. Of taking chance words completely out of context and elevating them to stinging nettles of discord. Of borrowing the worries of another day and of another person. Of spiraling crippling where to from here doubt.

None of it in my forebrain, none of logical really. But still there. Still powerful. Still exhausting.

Until I walked out the front door of the place I live, to do something as mundane as throw rubbish in the bin outside. There was no choir of angels. No voice in my head. No burning bush. 

There was an ache in my heart that had been there so long that I stopped noticing it, and then there wasn’t. In the space of a step, a thought popped into my head that was so clear and alien to that specific moment and bit of my reality, that it literally altered my entire state. 

Have I ever not provided for you, in your time of need?

I am not saying that my God spoke to me.

I am saying that….somehow… I had a thought that was completely unrelated to the train of thought and task I was, at that moment, focused on.

Somehow, I had a thought that was so profound that I felt the shift in my thought pattern like an actual weight lifting. 

And that somehow, that thought was powerful enough, loud enough, grounded enough in the warm, calming, cool comfort of feeling loved, that a granite slab lifted off my soul. 

And my soul sprang a leak. A wet one. Because suddenly, again, for the hundredth time, I remembered.

Not once, has He ever failed to provide. Protect. Comfort. 

Not once, in the entire history of the seriously spectacular crap I have availed myself of and to, has He ever failed me.

Everyone needs hope. Hope for something better. Hope for their life and their loves.

I don’t need you to believe in my God.

But I really, really do hope that you have a place where you find Hope. 

Because at the end off the day, we really have nothing else that stands between us and the darkness of ourselves and humanity. 

Except Hope.

A friend named Tess

I have a friend. 

She has multiple sclerosis. 

Her name is Tess. 

She tagged me in one of those Facebook picture quotes today. Me specifically. Like I was something special. Or had done something special. 


She sees herself as broken. And as an elephant apparently. Cause I am sure as hell the tiny doggo.

The thing is though Tessie… Sometimes, there is no lesson to be learnt.

Because you are the lesson.

The lesson in humility, when asking for help and saying thank you is a gift you give to the people who love you.

In Grace, under so much overwhelming fatigue.

In knowledge, because your prison will never hold you back from your truth.

In laughter, because finding joy in the tiniest places, is an ability not many embrace. 

In strength, because what you carry, would crush me.

In steel, because every day – you get up. No matter. You get up.

In hope, because even on the worst days, I have seen you laugh my Tessie.

I have seen very few of your worst days. But I have seen some. That you manage to find a way back to Light, from those dark places?

I have a friend.

She has multiple sclerosis.

Her name is Tess.

I visit her as close as dammit to every Tuesday.

Not because she has multiple sclerosis.

Not because I have to.

But because I need to. 

She, and her Knight of Shining armor, are as surely my family as any blood I share with anyone.

She is where I look, when my Hope is hidden.

She is my lesson.

Sometimes

Everyone gets sad sometimes. When we think about the things we have lost. The things that have lost us.

But mostly I think we get sad when we focus too intently on the things that we never had.

Today is a one of those days, for someone I know. Someone laid low and immobile by life, and by circumstance.

A day of reflecting on the whoever’s that left, the whoever’s that stayed, and the whoever’s that never were.

Perhaps a day spent reflecting on the things that we just, quite simply, can never get right. No matter how hard our brain tries.

A day of ache’s and a pain that is constant. Powerless to stop. Right now anyway.

A day wondering about the losses we still feel so very keenly. And the injustices. And forgiveness.

A day of feeling wholeheartedly sorry for ourselves. Just because we do. It is length of time that becomes an actual problem.

Pain is not less because another suffers more.

Pain is pain.

Sadness is sadness.

Sometimes the weight of unshed tears is heavy. Unbearable. Like concrete.

Except think on this, for one moment.

A quote from my current favourite author –

“…there are more flavors of pain than coffee. There’s the little empty pain of leaving something behind – graduating, taking the next step forward, walking out of something familiar and safe into the unknown. There’s the big, whirling pain of life upending all of your plans and expectations. There’s the sharp little pains of failure, and the more obscure aches of successes that didn’t give you what you thought they would. There are the vicious, stabbing pains of hopes being torn up. The sweet little pains of finding others, giving them your love, and taking joy in their life they grow and learn. There’s the steady pain of empathy that you shrug off so you can stand beside a wounded friend and help them bear their burdens.

And if you’re very, very lucky, there are a very few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realized that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last – and yet will remain with you for life.

Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don’t feel it.

Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it’s a big part, and sometimes it isn’t, but either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you’re alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.”

This pain, right now and in your face, is fleeting. This sadness. This sorrow and difficulty.

Soon  – Grace will return to it’s full light. To shine on the things that we do right. On the souls that occupy our heart. That should occupy our heart. The ones that have earned places.

On the gains, instead of the losses.

Hang on. Just for one moment more. Wait for Grace. It is always there, it never really leaves, I promise. It is just hidden, by ourselves sometimes. So wait till you see it again.

For the clouds in your head to clear a bit.

Hang on.

Quote is from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Life and loss

They say it gets easier with time. It really doesn’t. You just learn to live with it. You make a little space in your soul for the loss. The missing. The profound ache.

You make a little space in your head for the memories. The sound of them. The smell of them. And you visit it, sometimes.

You fill up the void they leave behind with life and noise and tears and people. But it never moulds completely to the void.

Blommie. Life is too short. I am so very sorry your mommy had to suffer. But she is with her God now. In His hands, healed and whole.

Blommie. Life is too short. Hold onto what is left behind with everything you have.

Make your space. In your head and in your soul. Your mommy will always live there.

I carry you up to my God every day. You and yours.

Your mommy lives on in the spaces left behind.

I will wait.

I am not quite sure why, but today I thought about death. About suddenly passing on, with no goodbyes. No final curtains. No warning.

I thought about what would be left. What is still unsaid. What will maybe never be said. I wondered if people would say good things about me? Or if it would barely register?

I thought about the things I love. And the things that love me.

The things that I carry. And the things that carry me.

And I thought I would write this. So that it is forever. It is not meant to be a eulogy. Maybe one day. But not right at this moment.

To anyone that reads this. To whoever needs this. To whoever.

Please take care of the things I love. The places and people that have been important. Love the creatures that have kept me warm. The beings that comfort and give me life.

Please care for the things I leave behind. The little things, that matter to no one but me. The shared moments that form over a lifetime.

Please be kind to yourself. In the going about of your life. I have been so hard on who I am, that sometimes I have forgotten to be who I am. Never make that mistake.

Please believe that you are stronger than you thought. No one survives this world with their perfection intact. That does not make you any less perfect.

Please believe that someone, somewhere, loves you. Here or not. Aware or not. Alive or not. Someone, something loves you. Gives you Grace. Hopes for your Grace.

Please remember to breathe. And enjoy the things that really matter. For too long, I missed the little things. The fluffy things. The hopeful things. The pure joy of the breath. Don’t let a moment pass without finding a joy in those little things. In the breath of life. The breath of a friend. The breath of hope.

I have always loved you.

If you ever doubted it, I miss you.

If you ever thought you needed it, I forgive you.

I hope you forgive me.

Please believe that I wait. We all do. When that time comes.

I will wait. For all the things that I love. And all the things that I have ever loved.

I will wait.

I saw Hope today.

Today, I saw Hope.

I have already seen Grace and Faith in Town. Both of them Gifts that could so easily have been missed and overlooked.

Lost in the busy and the noise and the life that we live. Lost in the numbness of humanity.

Today was much like any other day. I got up, fed the things I love, drove the farm roads to work.

Today, I categorically did not feel like going to gym. From the moment I woke, I fought my own head.

“It’s cold.”

“It’s too early for this today.”

“I am so tired.”

“My ankle is sore.”

“My back is sore.”

“I have a sniff, people in the office are sick, I am probably well on my way to another session of cortisone / hospital.”

“I don’t want to.”

Sometimes, the thoughts in my head win. Sometimes, I fall back into bad habits and negative ideas and a uniquely twisted reality that is all mine, finely crafted from years of being way harder than I need to be on myself.

Precision honed to be cutting, demotivating, devastating and soul crushing.

There it is.

“I don’t want to.” Because what is the point? I have been doing this for a month and a half. And I have not lost 1 kilogram. Because everything is weight to me. And weight is everything to me.

“I don’t want to.” Even though I can climb a flight of stairs faster now, than I did a month and a half ago.

Even though I love it and it makes me feel like I am accomplishing something.

Even though every step is a journey to better. To healthier. To stronger.

I don’t want to. Because today it was just hard. Hard to be positive. Hard to be kind to myself. Hard to be motivated. Hard to be me.

Every step into the office a fight to convince myself that I am worth it. It is worth it. Get up and get going.

I am not sure why today was so hard. It just was.

Even when I was sitting taking my takkies off at Redemption Fitness Centre, my head was still at war with itself.

“You know you are probably getting sick so why bother?”

“You know you will fail in the long run, like you always do, so why not just give up?”

“You know you look especially large today and all the beautiful people are going to stare at you right?”

You get the idea.

And don’t get me wrong. None of these are formulated thoughts that run through my head. These are all just dark and oppressive snippets of thought, accompanied by the overwhelming weight of sadness and desolation.

I sat in the stillness of my heart and my mind and looked into the darkness that lives so very close to the edge of my soul, and I thought about letting it engulf me again. I thought about failing again.

Instead. I stood and looked out into the lit darkness beyond the windows. I thought about my path and who I am and where I am.

Again – none of it consciously formulated into structure. Just snippets of an idea and a feeling of light. Of potential calm. Of cleansing tears.

A moment in a moment where the dark of my soul fought the light of my soul. And I found a bit of Hope.

Hope for better. Lighter. Love. Laughter. Joy. God. Peace. Family. Strength.

Hope for me. For who I am. Who I have become.

Who I will be.

Hope. Just for me.

Sometimes God lives closer to you than you think.

Humanity

I work very hard for the money I earn, to pay the bills I have, to eat the food I eat, to have pets, to live on a smallholding.

I work very hard every day to afford uncapped Wi-Fi, a Telkom line, a Vodacom contract, a washing machine.

My middle class family worked very hard every day to send me to a middle class High School, where I mingled and learnt the way of other middle class children from middle class families.

I succeeded, in spite of my best efforts not to. Despite being a black sheep. Despite being ‘the emotional’ one.

I work very hard every day to live the life I live. I don’t have millions in the bank. Don’t even really have thousands. Most end of the month, I don’t even have hundreds.

I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t own a house or property. I grew up into the very middle class I grew up in, with very middle class views. Views on whether or not our country is functioning. Whether or not it is safe. Whether or not I should stay or flee. Whether or not our President is corrupt. Very middle class.

With the privilege that comes with it. Having a job at all, a stable one that affords me 3 warm meals a day, a roof over my head, a dog, a house with an indoor toilet, a phone, a cell phone, a car….

Let’s say that all vanishes today. Let’s say I get fired or retrenched. Let’s say I am suddenly brain damaged or deaf or blind or poor. So poor, that R150 a day becomes something you are willing to die for.

Let’s say your life condenses into a moment where the hope of earning R150 a day for a very long day of work, is something you will die for. Because that hope for R150 a day, is what will feed you.

That hope of earning R150 a day – which you get up at 4 in the morning to get ready for.

That hope of earning R150 a day – that you use your last R10 to catch a taxi to.

That hope of earning R150 a day – on an empty stomach, because the hope of R150 a day from yesterday was in vain.

Let’s say your whole life condenses into that moment. Where you and the thousands like you, in that moment, are not middle class.

You are not well off. You are not rich. You are not even really poor. Because in my mind poor equates to at least having something, even if it is not enough.

You literally have nothing.

Then who cares if our country is functioning? Who cares if it is safe? Leaving is not even the beginning of a thought you may have. What your president does or doesn’t do is of little concern.

What happens on the day you wake up, and your first thought is “Where am I going to find money for food today.”

Do you perhaps lose hope?

Do you perhaps turn to crime?

What do you do?

Where do you go when your country, your people, your government fails?

I grew up into the very middle class I grew up in. With all the opportunities it affords me by default.

The next time you judge the hell out of a government that is failing you, just for one moment consider what you have.

As of last year, 22% of the people in my country live on R11 a day.

When last did you spend R11? What did you spend it on?

The next time you sit in judgement from your very middle class dining room suite, in your very middle class house, in the middle class suburb you live in:

Consider for one moment whether or not you can survive on R11 a day.

Rethink your life.

Find your humanity.

Donate something if you can.

Support someone if you can.

Be more than some middle class douche.

Be someone’s Hope.

** The featured image is a photo I took of a young boy and his brother (I assume) while travelling on the train home from work one day. Just two little souls, with their parent, trying to live any kind of life in our country. Be their Hope.

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.

My South Africa

My South Africa is not Shiren Dewani and the men he may or may not have hired. It is not Oscar Pistorius, a temper and a gun. It is not the mall robberies or the torching of train stations. It is not Steve Hofmeyer and his attention seeking tweets, nor is it Busani Ngcaweni and his bigoted generalizations. It is not the death of a soccer player or a granny in Observatory – both to violence.

Yes. That is a facet of South Africa.

But my South Africa is the spirit of Freedom. It is a boy on a train, cradling his brother. It is all the souls that make the trek to work and back on an aging infrastructure every day. It is every charity and charity worker that looks past the filth and pain and sees a person. Past the fear and hurt and sees an animal needing care.

It is every single one of us who love our country. Who want it to be better. It is every person that doesn’t break us down, but rather builds us up.

My South Africa is me. And what I chose to be. Who I chose to be.

It is you. And who you chose to be, in this country of pain and liberty, desolation and beauty.

It is a boy, on a train, cradling his brother in the summer heat. We should all be better, for him and everyone like him.

 

a boy on a train