How to restore balance in your life

Franschoek, Western Cape, South Africa

Pause, Reflect, Re-evaluate, Purge,  Restore

Oh my word . . . can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write a post. This blog is all about the “journey called life” – my journey, and yet, I’ve allowed “life” to get in the way of so many things to cause me to go totally off centre.

I think at some stage I wrote a post about how my life trying to earn a decent living was consuming me to the point that I didn’t have a life.  I reached a point where I was working three jobs causing me to work until midnight seven days per week just to put food on the table.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t about getting rich. It’s never been about getting rich. I’ve never been a money chaser. It’s been purely about earning enough money to keep a roof over my head and some decent food on my table instead of baked beans on toast three times a day.

I wasn’t happy being sucked into this big, black, dark hole but it was like I was on a hamster wheel and just couldn’t get off.  The one job I was doing at night which I thoroughly enjoyed up to a point, became what was consuming me. Instead of only working 2 hours per night three days per week, I was working 4 hours per night seven days per week (more on weekends). I was not an employee of this organisation, I was working freelance and instead of appreciating my efforts they abused and took advantage of me and my time by just expecting more and more. It was like giving my hand but they grabbed the whole arm.

This was not how I expected my life as a freelancer to turn out. This is not how I expected my life leading up to my retirement years to turn out. Something had to be done – and fast!

What was the solution? How did I get myself out of this big, black, dark hole I found myself in and back into the light?

 

 

I had to pause, reflect, re-evaluate, purge, and restore my life back to what I want it to be.

Pause: I had to physically stop! I had to physically move away from my desk and put myself into a space where I was removed from the current environment that was consuming me. The place I live in is tiny so the only way to do this was to go for a long drive somewhere where I could be removed from my “normal” surroundings.

Reflect: Being away from my “normal” environment, gave me the opportunity to reflect on what my life had become, where I was heading and what could potentially happened if I continued along this path.

Re-evaluate: I forced myself to take a good, long look at my current state of life and re-evaluate where I really want to go. Is this really the kind of life I want for myself? Is this really how I want to spend what could be my last few years on this earth? Okay, granted, I’m not in my sixties yet, but I’m not far off.

While I took care of my mother during her short illness, I realised that there is so much more to life than “things”. My sister and I stopped buying each other “things” a few years before our mom became ill and rather focussed on experiences – to focus on our bucket list instead of buying more “things” but somehow, when my work became all consuming, I seemed to have lost sight of this aspect somehow and it was time to get this back.

 

Purge: The time came to do a real purge of what was pulling me down. First step was to get rid of the job that was dragging me down but this had serious implications and consequences. I was not earning much from this job but the little I was earning was helping to pay the bills each month. How was I going to live without this money? What was I going to do to fill the gap? Where would I get another job from to close this financial hole?

One consolation was that I had reached the point that my credit card which was maxed out at one stage was now at a point where I was able to manage my monthly repayments and it was no longer maxed out. I continued to cut my expenses to the bare minimum. I don’t spend any money unless I can pay cash. My credit card (yes, I only have one) is for emergencies only. I do not have store clothing accounts ANYWHERE!!

So, I resigned from the job that was dragging me down with immediate effect. This was such a shock to my system, that it took me about a month to get used to the idea of no longer having this job and once my mind and body made peace with the fact that this particular job was no longer there to drag me down, it felt like a huge boulder was lifted off my shoulders.

 

Guess what? I now have more time to devote to my third job (which has now become my second job), I no longer work till midnight every night, I have my weekends back to do whatever I like (I can choose to work if I want to but not obligated to) and this job, now covers the hole I thought my second job was going to leave.

I survived!!

 Last night I purged again . . . a committee I was an Executive member of, also draining me of time and energy without adding any value to my life, I resigned from.

The message I would like to leave with you today is don’t be afraid to take that leap into the unknown. Get rid of whatever it is that is holding you back. Yes there will be consequences for your actions but you are stronger than you think. Somehow you will manage to absorb the shock and you will cope.

I hope this post has left you encouraged and motivated.

Let me know if it has motivated you in some way. I’d love to hear from you.

Comes the Dawn

 

I cannot believe it’s been so long since I’ve written a post. Where has the time gone?

I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to survive financially that before I know it, not one week, but a whole month has gone by and I’ve not written anything to post.

It’s rather strange, really, because when I started out with my blog, I religiously wrote every single week, I put so much pressure on myself to make sure I posted at least once per week, and yet my blog never really attracted any followers. Yet now, in the past six months when I’ve not written at all, I’ve had so many new people sign up to my blog.

 

Welcome to all my new readers who have joined in the last few weeks and months. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. I hope some of them at least make sense and resonate with you on some level. Do leave some comments sometimes so I know what you enjoy reading and what I need to focus on more.

One of the reasons why I’ve not really written these last few months is because of the lack of readership, I thought that I may have to change direction and re-look at the focus of my blog and try something new. At the same time though, I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to refocus and re-brand my blog.

During these last six months, I’ve written many posts (some complete) but just never got around to posting and when I had the time to post they were no longer relevant. Then there were posts that just never got finished and are no longer relevant anymore.

Now, with so many new people joining, maybe I should keep my blog as it is right now and see where it takes me. Please help by sharing your thoughts on my ramblings and let me know if I should continue writing or just totally throw in the towel.

I will now make a more concerted effort to write more often so I don’t lose all you lovely new readers so, watch this space!

5 Great Lessons . . .

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Five great lessons

  1. Most important lesson:

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

 

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.

 

Just before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello”.

 

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

 

  1. Second important lesson: Pick up in the rain . . .

One night, at 11:30pm, an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s.

 

The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.

 

Seven days went by and a knock came to the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant Console colour TV was delivered to his home.

 

A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.

 

God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely, Mrs Nat King Cole

 

  1. Third important lesson: Always remember those who serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

 

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped the table.

 

There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

 

 

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  1. Fourth important lesson – The obstacle in our path

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.

 

After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

 

The peasant learned what many of us never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

 

  1. Fifth important lesson – Giving when it counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed antibodies needed to combat the illness.

 

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

 

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the colour returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

 

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

 

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You see, after all, understanding and attitude, are everything.

How to find the balance between work and home life

Life is not about waiting for storms to pass

Throughout my fourteen month journey of being primary caregiver to my dying mom and even now through the last five months of grief/mourning, I have not (yet) asked the question “why?”

When someone you love dies – especially when you were so closely and deeply connected throughout the whole process, it is natural to ask questions like “why me?”, “Why did he/she have to die?”, or “Why now?” I have not questioned what I previously believed about life and death and even about God.

Life not about finding yourself

What I would like and know that I can never get again, is my old life with mom – sharing jokes, going for coffee, the arguments, the difference of opinion, sharing the box of chocolates or slab of chocolate, going for a scenic drive, learning new things together, sitting at the beach eating ice cream . . .

Bereavement and mourning is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. Someone once said:

“Tears are how our heart speaks when our lips cannot describe how much we have been hurt.”

The question I have been asking up to now has been “What is the meaning of life? What really matters?”

Life_Calvin and Hobbs

The answer that I have come up with is that I want more of a life/work balance. I want to work smarter and not harder. I don’t want to be rich, I just want to live comfortably, able to enjoy what life I have left on this mortal earth. Watching my mom on her journey to eternity made me realise that all that matters is having your loved ones around to support you through your journey – something money cannot buy.

The last nineteen months has therefore taken me on a journey to discover “who am I really and what exactly do I want out of life?” The answer for me has been that I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk for eight or nine hours per day. I want to earn an honest living to survive but I also want time to enjoy moments sitting on the beach or in the park watching children play.

Life_Hand releasing butterfly

While preparing to write this blog I came across the writings of David Whyte on How to Break the Tyranny of Work/Life: Three marriages work/life balance he mentions the following quote:

“We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show totally different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel”

Life_John Lennon

I also came across the following quote by Dave Hedges asking the question: What is life really about? And the quote goes like this . . .

“Life’s not about the things you’ve bought, it’s about the things you’ve built.
Life’s not about what you’ve got, it’s about what you’ve shared with others.
Life’s not about your successes, it’s about the lessons learned along the way.”

What lessons have you learned along this “Journey called life”?

Meaning of Life_Peanuts Cartoon

Recommended reading:
• The Three Marriages Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship Find it here
• How we grow by John Emmerson: Find it here
• Glorious Meditation on Solitude: Find it here
• The Importance of Excess in Creative Work by Anais Nin: Find it here
• Letting your life Speak by Parker Palmer: Find it here
• Floundering to find his purpose: Van Gogh: Find it here

Christmas and New Year blessings . . .

Thank you to all my loyal readers and followers who have been with me on this journey called “life” this past year may you have a blessed, peaceful and safe Christmas and a joyful and prosperous 2015.

The past year has been a long and difficult road but by the grace of God I made it through to the end.

Looking forward to sharing my journey with you in 2015.

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The Train of Life

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To my family, and friends

“Life is like a journey on a train… With its stations… With changes of routes. and with accidents! At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

“As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant I.e. Our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of our life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats! Which is very sad when you think about it.

“This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all the passengers… requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

“The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way – love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty — we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

“I wish you a joyful journey this year on the train of life. Reap success and give lots of love. More importantly, give thanks for the journey!

“Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!”
Unknown

Through windows and doors

Door opening with butterfly border

Through the window right now, I am watching my mother fight the ravaging destruction of colorectal cancer. I see a mother who is fighting to beat the odds, not allowing the cancer to get the better of her. She has an idea of the road she will have to travel but is doing the best she can not to let it get the better of her. Mom will not let this put her to bed until she says so. I think mom can sense the end is not too far away but while she is still able to get out of bed each day and help herself to breakfast and lunch, that is what she will do and I will not stand in her way. I will help her to live her life with independence and dignity for as long as it is possible. I will not deprive her of that for as long as I am able to.

Through the window right now, I see a road of uncertainty for me. I do not know how long the road will be. I do not know how many twists and turns there will be in the road. I do not know how many obstacles or challenges I am going to face along this road, but it is a road I am on right now. A road paved with hope and trust in God because He is the only one who knows where this road is going to lead. I have been placed on this road which I need to follow, not knowing where it is going to lead.

The door through which I had to travel in September 2013, was a door which lead me to being primary caregiver to my mom after her Colonstomy. I have had a taste of what nursing and caregiving is all about. I come from a family where we don’t believe in fate/chance. We believe that everything happens for a reason. I now joke about the fact that I’m living up to my namesake . . . you see, when I was baptised as a baby, the second name I was given was Florence (so my joke about living up to my namesake refers to Florence Nightingale).

Although my mom was reluctant to name me Florence (after my paternal grandmother), she gave it to me anyway (mom only wanted me to have one name), not knowing that I was going to end up nursing her in the end. How ironic is that? Again, we don’t believe in fate/chance. God had a plan for me when He convinced my mom to give me a second name i.e. Florence.

I have learnt a lot about nursing and care-giving since September 2013 but I still have so much to learn. It really takes a special kind of person to do this type of work for eight to twelve hours per day 365 days a year. We really do take our nursing staff so for granted when we are hospitalised.

Once mom leaves us to her eternal resting place, I will have to enter another door. Another door of uncertainty as to where it will lead. I will take some time out to grieve, rest and do some soul searching to try to make sense of the next chapter of my life. How it will all end, I don’t know at this stage. All I know is that I have to take one step at a time, one day at a time and all will become clear as I travel along that road.

Through my window right now . . .

Dear Diary: HIV and Me – I know my status: do you know yours?

AIDS Ribbon 3D_Stick figures

Newspaper headline recently: “36 percent of South African women in early 30s have HIV”

Quoting directly from the newspaper the article went on to say . . .
A number of shocking statistics have emerged from a major national HIV study (The SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey) launched by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

• More than one third (36 percent) of women in their early 30s in South Africa are now HIV-positive
• HIV incidence (the rate of new infections) is higher among unmarried couples living together than among single people
• Females between the ages of 15 and 19 are eight times more likely to be infected by HIV than their male counterparts
• A disturbing trend among both genders is an increase in multiple sex partners for the 15 – 49 age group
• More males are losing their virginity before the age of 15 years (increased from 11 percent in 2008 to approximately 17 percent now) but girls having sex before 15 years dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent
• More females than before were having sex with men who were much older than them
• 15 – 49 age group: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men infected
• 30 – 34 age group: 36 percent infected
• 25 – 29 age group: 28 percent infected
• 40 – 44 age group: 28 percent infected
• 15 – 24 age group (new infections) is 4 times higher than boys of the same age. Could this be due to the “Sugar Daddy Syndrome”?

Is HIV infection a greater risk for women? If so, why?

• Increase in risky sexual behaviour/multiple sexual partners?
• Infrequent use of condoms?
• Women are more vulnerable to rape?
• Socio-economic issues?

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MULTIPLE SEXUAL PARTNERS:
Having sex before marriage and having multiple sexual partners no longer carries the stigma of shame it used to in years gone by. Sound Biblical morals have been replaced by self-centred selfishness in that “I have needs (sexual) which need to be met” and these “needs” don’t need to wait until I am in a committed relationship to be met. Women also bow to pressure from men to sleep with them for fear of them moving on and finding someone else, believing that if they sleep with the man, he will commit to marrying them.

Before long, they find that they have gone through a number of “sure thing” relationships still ending up unmarried in the end. What women fail to understand is that each time they sleep with a man, they are sleeping with all the sexual partners he has ever had in his life. Men are not open and honest about how many they have had so women never find out the truth. If the man turns out to be HIV positive, he more than likely will not even know how he contracted the virus.

INFREQUENT USE OF CONDOMS:
Those in abusive relationships find it difficult to negotiate sex and to tell their partners to use condoms. Some women are forced to engage in unprotected sex because they don’t have a choice i.e. they depend on the man for money (he is more likely the breadwinner in the family).

Women are more vulnerable to rape and therefore don’t have a choice in the matter. They are so busy trying to protect themselves from being raped that there simply is no time to negotiate with the rapist (especially if it is a date rape or husband raping his wife).

Women tend to date older men and therefore are at risk of being infected. Younger men have a lower HIV prevalence.
Rural women vs urban women are more at risk due to lack of education and resources.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS:
Most women are still financially dependent on their male partners and therefore are powerless when it comes to negotiating safe sex. Many women are also living in abusive relationships and fear leaving the man because they think they will not be able to cope on one income so they sacrifice their own health by giving in to the man’s demands regardless of their own concerns.

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TRIBAL CUSTOM/TRADITION:
The Ovahimba and Ovazemba nomadic tribes, based mainly in Namibia’s arid north areas have practised wife swopping for generations.

The practice is more of a gentleman’s agreement where friends can have sex with each other’s wives with no strings attached. The wives have little to say in the matter. The men belive that the age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity. They believe it’s a culture that gives them unity and friendship. It’s up to the man to choose among his friends who he likes the most to allow him to sleep with his wife.

Known as “Okujepisa omukazenda” loosely translated means “offering a wife to a guest”. The practice is not widely known outside these reclusive communities.

Tribal members don’t make random draws to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the wife or husband of the other party goes to a separate hut during the exchange. Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands. Most women are opposed to the practice and would like it abolished.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Dear Diary: Let mystery have its place in you . . .

Mystery Woman

Let mystery have its place in you;
do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plough share of self-examination,
but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring,
and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird;
keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God.
Then if a bird sings among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it.
If you are conscious of something new—thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being—
do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it;
let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten,
hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness.
Henri Frederic Amiel

Dear Diary: It’s been a while . . .

Fish

When I started this blog I made a commitment to post a blog at least once per week, however, since the beginning of 2014, there have been many obstacles in my path which has made it extremely difficult to live up to this commitment.

It’s been a real battle to keep writing down my thoughts when there has been so much going on inside my head. Since taking over the running of the household from my mom to give her time to rest when she needs to, has really thrown me off balance.

From the time I enter our home in the evenings after work, I don’t have much time to think about anything except getting supper going, serving mom and spending some time with her before she goes off to bed. This usually involves us chatting while having supper, chatting while watching some television after our meal while having tea/coffee and biscuits before she decides to retire for the evening. This is usually when I get myself off the couch to clean the kitchen of all the dishes and to get things ready for the next day. My day is filled with planning tomorrow’s meal, shopping for little perishable goods at least twice per week and of course, cleaning the house when I can manage it.

What goes on inside my head, I hear you asking? Well, when not making up grocery lists, planning meals, thinking of ways I can make things easier and more comfortable for mom, I try to work on my assignments (another two due in April of which one is a three-page essay which needs a load of research), there are personal e-mails to read and respond to, social media contacts to keep in touch with (especially the ones who can help with me finding another job or those who can assist with information for my assignments).

To give you some idea of what my life was like in March – our home telephone was out of order for approximately two weeks. This meant constant “fighting” with our national service provider to fix it. While this was happening, mom’s medical aid informed us that they need a new script for her monthly supply which resulted in another “fight” between government healthcare, private healthcare and myself (me being passed around like a tennis ball in a tennis match). At the same time, my other telephone line at home which I use for the internet connection, also died so now I had two telephone lines which needed fixing as soon as possible. Then . . . my car decided he needed a holiday and ended up at the garage for two weeks waiting for the spare part to arrive before it could be fixed.

A week before the end of March I managed to get both telephone lines restored, mom’s medical script sorted and collected my car on the last working day of March repaired and ready to go again.

Oh, also during the month of March, I re-typed mom’s Last Will and Testament and made a Living Will for her together with a document outlining her last wishes (which included her selecting the hymns she wants us to sing at her funeral).

I do apologise for not being able to post blogs as often as I would like, but life is rather hectic on my side at present. I do hope you will understand. I will do my best to stick to my commitment, though!