Conversations with myself: I remember . . .

Birthday Cake - colour

Good morning daddy. Remember me? I remember you. Not only today (on your birthday) but every birthday and everyday. We’ve had absolutely no contact for the last 11 years and I have absolutely no desire to contact you, see you or hear from you . . . still . . . I remember you.

Did you have a good birthday today? Did your new family spoil you like we used to do? Did you get presents and a cake? Do you remember the 50th surprise birthday party we had for you? You were speechless and did not eat for three days afterwards because you could not believe that we could arrange an entire party without you even being one bit suspicious? You who always made sure you were in control of everything all the time?

Do you remember us, daddy?

As I go through life, memories of you intrude my thoughts. I try to avoid saying “my dad used to say . . .” I often want to, but stop myself because I don’t want people to think that I idolise you or think that you’re my hero.

You stopped being my hero when, at the age of six I wanted to sit on your lap and you pushed me away saying “don’t be foolish. You’re a big girl now” and I walked away feeling rejected and alone. Demonstrating affection did not come naturally to mom because of the way she was raised, so I could not turn to mom for solace.

You stopped being my hero when, one day we were driving home after you picked me up from school. I was in Sub A (Grade 1) at the time, and you asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I very proudly said I wanted to be a doctor (medical doctor) and you said “forget it. Being a doctor is not as glamorous as it appears to be. It’s a thankless job. You have to work long hours, on your feet all night for a little money. In any case, because of your disability, you will not be able to be on your feet for so long anyway so forget about being a doctor.”

Later, when you asked me what else I wanted to be and I said a pilot. Again, you said “forget it. With your disability, you will not be able to climb in and out of the cockpit”. “You will have to be a typist or a secretary like your mother”.

When you came to visit me in hospital or when you and mom left me to stay with grandma while you and mom went out, you never said goodbye. You would always “disappear” and I would be left wondering what happened to you? Would you come back? To this day, I live with separation anxiety issues. I still find it very hard to say good bye to anyone.

You see daddy – you destroyed my dreams very early on in my life. Still I remember you.

You ruled our house like it was a Nazi Concentration camp with all your rules and regulations. It was your way or the highway but still, I remember you. I lived in fear of you all my life. Just the threat of a beating with your belt, was enough to “make me obey”, but still, I remember you.

To the outside world, you were the perfect father. To me, you were always an “absent” father i.e. you gave me everything materially but emotionally you were always absent and distant. You blamed everything on your job. Your job (as a Paramedic) made you cold and hard to enable you to deal with the medical emergencies you had to deal with everyday. That was always your excuse. That was your excuse why you could not allow yourself to get “emotional”. It was the excuse mom had to live with when she accused you of not being able to show affection and love. You asked mom to teach you how to love, but how do you teach someone to love when they made up their mind so long ago that they would not show emotion and affection? After 38 years of marriage (having known you for 44 years) mom finally gave up and divorced you. For this reason we have chosen not to have any contact with you for the last 11 years (since the divorce).

Still . . . I remember you . . .

You live in my heart, you intrude my thoughts (even when I don’t want you to), I’m more like you than I’ve ever wanted to admit, and more than you will ever know, so I remember you . . .

You used to say:

• [When crossing the road] – look left, look right, look left again. Cross the road quickly. Don’t dawdle.
• [when dropping a sweet paper or tissue] – who do you think is going to pick that up? Pick it up and put it in the bin.
• [when leaving dishes on the table after a meal] who is your servant around here? Are those dishes going to walk to the sink and wash themselves? [if time did not permit me to wash the dishes immediately you would say] put water in the dish to make it easier to wash later.
• Always say “please” and “thank you”. It does not cost you anything.
• [on the days when I did not smile] – what do you have to look so miserable about? The world does not owe you anything. SMILE!
• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you [treat people with respect and they will respect you].
• Honour your father and mother. Even if your parent or both parents are alcoholics, they will always be your parents and you have to respect them irrespective of who or what they are.
• Time management: Always leave home one hour before your appointment to make allowances for delays along the way. You car could break down, you could get a flat tyre, be involved in an accident etc. There is no excuse for being late.
• Always work according to a system: If you check your car’s oil and water every week, you will never lose track of when last you checked and topped up. [Message: consistency eliminates problems later]
• Planning – always plan before you start something, don’t jump in feet first. Before you get into your car, plan your route, plan what you are going to do when you reach your destination, and plan what you are going to do on your way back so you are not a nuisance to other drivers on the road because you don’t know what you’re doing or where you are going.
• Answering the telephone – always have a pen and piece of paper in your hand when you answer the phone. While greeting the person on the phone, write down the date, time of call and person’s name so even if you forget the message, at least you will be able to say who called and what time they called. Also: if you are not able to give the message on the same day, at least you will be able to say when the person called.
• Driving – when driving in the rain, never put your foot on the brake pedal when driving over the white/yellow road markings in the road. Your car will go into a skid because of the oil and water mixed on the road surface and you could lose control of the car.
• Never drive fast through a puddle of water when it rains. Drive slowly through the water if you cannot go around the puddle. You don’t know what lies beneath the puddle.
• In everything you do, make sure you do it right, first time, every time. It wastes time to go back and have to do it again and time is money. Don’t waste your time or anybody else’s time.
• If you use the last of something (tea, coffee, sugar, toilet paper etc) replace it. If you can’t replace it, TELL SOMEONE. Don’t just walk away.
• When you heard someone complain about their job you used to say: someone has to do it.
• It never rains, it pours
• Trouble always comes in three’s
• There’s always two sides to every story (even though you never gave us a chance to tell you our side)

You see daddy, no matter where I go or what I do, I still remember you.

Do you remember me?

Hope you had a wonderful birthday today with your new family.

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Conversations with Myself: Finding the time to read

Woman Reading in bed Animation

Towards the end of 2007 while recovering from surgery, I started reading a book – fiction, very well written, one of those that really hold your attention, which you find very difficult to put down. I, however, only managed to get three quarters of the way through the book when sadly I needed to put the book down so I could return to work. I drive myself to work, so I cannot even read while sitting in traffic. I usually work through lunch (which is only half an hour) so no use taking the book with me, is there?

Around the same time, I developed trouble with my eyesight which makes it very difficult to read in artificial light (especially at night), so my reading has to be restricted to daylight hours. My daylight hours over weekends are usually taken up by family responsibilities making it virtually impossible to continue reading my book. Here and there I manage to “steal” a few minutes to read and what fascinates me about this book, is that no matter how long it’s been since I’ve managed to read, I can pick up immediately where I left off the last time.

Is it because of the engaging way in which the book has been written? Is it because it is a topic close to my heart? I really cannot say, but there is something about this book that makes me want to finish it in spite of the difficulty I’m having in doing so.
The book is called: Eyes of Elisha written by Brandilyn Collins (bestselling author of Web of Lies). The story is about an ugly murder. The killer was sure no one saw him/her but someone did. The twists and turns in the story keep one guessing and gasping and wanting to know more. I am so anxious to finish the book, so reluctant to put it down each time, yet I struggle to find the time to finish the book.

Do you also struggle with finding time to read? I read so much – I’m connected to various networks via the internet and have so much reading to do through e-mail updates and newsletters sent to me. This reading I do at night on my laptop while sitting in front of the TV after work multi-tasking while having my supper. After supper, I go to the study to do more reading relating to my part time studies towards my BA Criminology degree through University of South Africa (Unisa).

I’m reading all the time, absorbing information like a sponge, yet I just cannot get to finish reading this book I so desperately want to finish. I have so many books piling up on my bookshelf which I have bought to read either because I am passionate about the topic and want to know more or because they relate to and can help me with my studies, but when will I ever get to them?

Do you struggle to find time to read a book? I’m not talking about work or study related reading, I’m talking about a book/novel? What do you do to make time to read? Do you also struggle like I do?

Conversations with Myself: When will we ever Learn?

wheelchair_rolling_md_wht

Why is it so difficult for landlords and business owners/managers to make their premises accessible to those with mobility problems?

Renovations (reasonable accommodation measures) as legislated by law are implemented reluctantly and in a manner that leaves the mobility impaired feel that they are a huge burden to the establishment owners or managers.

Hotels in South Africa are particularly at fault. For example: out of more than 100 rooms or suites, they will have only one (or maybe two if you are lucky) rooms/suites specifically for disabled people. What happens if more than one or two disabled people arrive at the same time (like with workshops and conferences)?

The shuttle services provided by hotels from airport to hotel – why do they only have 12/15 seater Kombi’s available? Those with mobility impairments who do not use a wheelchair are not able to climb in and out of a Kombi but can comfortably (and with dignity) get in and out of a motor vehicle (sometimes with some assistance required).

However, no matter how many times you ask, plead, demand, shout and scream for them to send a motor vehicle (car – sedan) to collect you, they will insist on sending a driver with a Kombi and the driver will do his best to convince you that he will pick you up and put you into the Kombi (never mind the fact that you could be twice his weight). No consideration is given to the fact that one adult picking up another is not the most dignified way of being transported (especially for a lady).

Also – in most cases there is a particular way of lifting/picking up a disabled person and not doing this correctly could actually cause injury to the disabled person.

For the purposes of keeping this as short as I can, I will assume that accessibility from the outside of the hotel is possible – I will therefore focus my attention on inside the hotel building.
Once inside, you have another set of challenges to face, i.e.

a) Size of the room allocated – very little room for movement within the room so if you’re in a wheelchair, it is virtually impossible to move around within the room.
b) The TV – is usually placed on a wall bracket so high on the wall that you have to lay on your back on the bed to watch TV (and hopefully not fall asleep in the process). If the remote is not working or you cannot find it, you are unable to view anything on TV without phoning Reception for assistance from the Housekeeping staff.
c) Room with a shower – because you have mobility issues (not only those in wheelchairs), you ask for a room with a shower (because you cannot climb into or out of a bath). You are allocated a room with a shower, as requested, only to find that you have to climb into a bath in order to shower. Now how is someone in a wheelchair or someone unable to lift their legs high enough to get into a bath supposed to shower? Surely one would not go to all the trouble of pointing out mobility issues and specifically asking for a room with a shower if you could actually get into a bath?
d) The restaurant (within the hotel) – why is it necessary for the restaurant to either have steps going down into or up into the restaurant? When a wheelchair ramp is provided, it is not thought through at all – for example: it is either not wide enough, too steep and too highly polished which makes it slippery (as was my recent experience on Mother’s Day this past weekend). One is left with the impression that the ramp is provided because “we have to” because “it is expected or required of us to do so” and not because we really care.
e) Lifts (elevators) – why is it that nobody bothers to check whether the lifts are in working order? Coming back to my recent experience this past weekend on Mother’s Day, before making the reservation at the restaurant which was situated within a hotel, I made it very clear that I have mobility impairment and that I cannot climb stairs. I was assured that I would have no problems getting to the restaurant because there is a lift inside the building to the restaurant. On arrival, however, the lift to the restaurant was not working and the closest alternative was not working either. The third option available meant walking a long distance which was not possible for me either and only when I threatened to leave and have lunch elsewhere, was I given then option of being transported to the restaurant in a wheelchair, which I accepted. The Porter finally arrived with the wheelchair and off we went on one of my most traumatic experiences in a wheelchair. I nearly fell forward out of the wheelchair on my face three times because the Porter had no idea how to transport someone in a wheelchair. He admitted that it was his first time and that he had no training. To make matters worse, he was disabled himself which I only noticed at the end of my traumatic experience. Getting into the restaurant was as traumatic as already explained in point (d) above i.e. the ramp was too narrow, too steep and too slippery.

Why is it that Banqueting Managers or staff dealing with (restaurant and hotel) reservations don’t make sure that the lifts within the hotel and from the parking garage into the hotel are in working order? Surely if you know a disabled person is coming, you can check to make sure the lifts are working and get maintenance to fix them before the date of the reservation – especially on celebratory days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (when many mothers or fathers themselves are aged and have mobility issues – that’s besides the disabled people).

f) Staff training – everyone in the hospitality industry – the entire staff from Front of Office, to kitchen, waiters etc receive exceptional training and one seldom has any reason to complain about their service. However, nobody within the Managing structure deems it necessary for Disability Awareness training – why is that?

Coming back to my recent personal experience when trying to take my mother out for lunch on Mother’s Day – besides the Porter not knowing how to transport someone in a wheelchair, the restaurant Manager also had no idea what to do when I finally reached the restaurant.

Without consulting me, he removed one chair from the table assuming I was going to sit in the wheelchair for the entire time I was there (it is not only uncomfortable but in certain instances could cause pain or discomfort if in the wheelchair for too long). When I asked him to bring the chair back to the table so I could get out of the wheelchair to sit at the table, he kept pushing the chair right up against the front of the wheelchair even after I made it clear to him and the Porter that I needed space between the two so I could first get up out of the wheelchair and then sit on the chair. All this caused such a stir I had all the patrons in the restaurant staring at me, which was very embarrassing to say the least.

Why is it that people in general are so totally clueless when it comes to dealing with those with mobility impairments? I am not the first and only person with a mobility impairment (not in a wheelchair) and certainly will not be the last. My experience this past weekend was not the first of its kind and I can guarantee will not be the last.

The problems I have experienced this past weekend, I have experienced at hotels/restaurants in Johannesburg, Limpopo, North West, Free State – just about every province I can think of, so it is not specific to the Western Cape only.

The disabled (those in wheelchairs and those who use other assistive devices) have been with us for generations and will be with us for generations to come. When are we going to open our eyes and try (even if just for one day) to live life through their eyes?

How long is it going to take for able-bodied people to realise that they could become disabled within a second and have to live with the limitations of the disabled person?

When will we ever learn? Will we ever learn?

Conversations with myself: Mandala(s)

Mandala (complicated)

My post this week has been inspired by the Gupta wedding held in South Africa recently. Why? I hear you asking . . .

Well, I noticed from a few photographs I’ve seen that in the area where the wedding reception was held, there was a very colourful Mandala. I’ve seen very colourful mandalas in my lifetime (not knowing that’s what they are called) and seeing one again in these pictures, inspired me to find out more about them – what are they and where do they originate? Is there any symbolism attached to these colourful drawings?

Thanks to my good friend Google and http://www.wikipedia.org I discovered the following:-
• A Mandala is a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically. It is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism representing the universe. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a centre point. Each gate is in the general shape of a “T” and often exhibits radial balance.
• Mandalas may be used for focussing as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.

To learn more about Mandalas, I then went to http://www.mandalaproject.org and learnt the following:
• Mandalas represent wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organisational structure of life itself – a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and our minds.
• Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun and moon as well as conceptual circles of friends, family and community.
• Creating a group mandala is a unifying experience in which people can express themselves individually within a unified structure.
• Creating a group mandala can be an enjoyable activity with friends. It can also provide an excellent closure to an event or workshop.
• Labyrinths are a type of mandala found in many cultures and are used as a tool for centering.
• Carl Jung (a Psychologist) said that a mandala symbolises “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” It is “a synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence.” Jung used the mandala for his own personal growth and wrote about his experiences.
• According to Tibetan Buddhists a mandala consists of five “excellencies” viz
– The teacher
– The message
– The audience (viewer)
– The site
– The time

An audience or “viewer” is necessary to create a mandala. Where there is no “you” there is no mandala.

With my keen interest in Psychology and everything that goes with it, I then decided to dig deeper to find out more about what Carl Jung said about Mandalas and this is what he said (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-healing-arts/201003/cool-art-therapy-intervention-6-mandala-drawing)

• Jung believed this symbol represented the total personality also known as “self”. Jung noted that when a mandala image suddenly turned up in dreams or art, it was usually an indication of movement towards a new self-knowledge. He believed that mandalas denoted a unification of opposites, served as expressions of self, and represented the sum of who we are.
• According to Jung, mandalas have the potential to bring into being something universal within, perhaps even the recognisable typical self, at the same time, they give us an experience of wholeness amid the chaos of everyday life, making the “sacred circle” one of the best art therapy interventions for both soothing the soul and meeting oneself.

Mindfulness – is maintaining attention: focussing. It usually starts with mindfulness of breathing, then expanded to all bodily sensations, bodily aspects of emotions, and thoughts. It is attending without curiosity, without judgement or reactivity, to whatever arises and passes away.

Mandalas are patterns containing minimal information that the logical part of the brain can process.

So the next time you need to enhance your mindfulness, use a mandala to activate the intuitive part of the brain and quieten the logical you.

To find out more about mandalas visit: http://www.evenstarcreations.com