Life is like a journey on a train…

Life_Hand releasing butterfly

Life is like a journey on a train…

with its stations…

with changes of routes…

and with accidents!

We board this train when we are born and our parents are the ones who get our ticket.

We believe they will always travel on this train with us.

However, at some station our parents will get off the train, leaving us alone on this journey.

As time goes by, other passengers will board the train, many of whom will be significant – our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of our life.

View from our table

Many will get off during the journey and leave a permanent vacuum in our lives.

Many will go so unnoticed that we won’t even know when they vacated their seats and got off the train!

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, good-byes, and farewells.

A good journey is helping, loving, having a good relationship with all co passengers…

and making sure that we give our best to make their journey comfortable.

IMG-20140213-WA0008

The mystery of this fabulous journey is:

We do not know at which station we ourselves are going to get off.

So, we must live in the best way – adjust, forget, forgive and offer the best of what we have.

It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to leave our seat . . . we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.”

Thank you for being one of the important passengers on my train . . .

Reflections on a year that’s passed . . .

New Year 2016

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself.
The challenge is to silence the mind.

The new year . . . a time for introspection and re-evaluating our priorities in life.

I’ve learned a lot this year . . . I’ve learned that:

• Things don’t always turn out the way you planned, or the way you think they should
• Things that go wrong, don’t always get fixed or get put back together the way they were before
• Some broken things stay broken
• You can go through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you
• Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood
• I need to stop turning on my emotional television to watch the same programme over and over again, the one that shows how much I have suffered from a certain loss: this only poisons you – nothing else
• Nothing is more dangerous than accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised but there is no starting date, decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment”
• Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: I need to tell myself that what has passed will never come back
• I need to remember the time when I could live without that one thing or that one person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need
• I need to remember to close cycles – not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance but simply because it no longer fits my life. I need to shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust. I need to stop being who I was, and change into who I am.

Change is a process

As 2015 draws to a close and I reflect on what’s happened in my life and the lessons learned there was good mixed with the bad, but through it all I’ve been blessed. What I’ve learned in 2015 was . . .

The mourning/grieving journey has a lifespan of its own. There is no set time-frame, there is no way of knowing how and when it will manifest itself and you have no way of knowing how you will deal with the emotions attached to it until it happens. Then you will find the strength within yourself, given to you by God, to deal with it in your own way and in your own time.
I mourned the loss of a 30-year friendship that seems to just have died a natural death. I failed to see how one-sided this friendship was all these years until I stopped making contact. I’m waiting to see how long it’s going to take for this friendship to be revived and who will be doing the reviving (for now, it will not be me). The lesson learned that relationships need to be worked on from both sides and that sometimes we need to let go of certain people in order to let new people in.
People unexpectedly come into your life, add to the emotional rollercoaster you are on and you have no way of knowing where the new path will lead. Do you trust your gut and “go with the flow” or do you let it go? Do you take the chance?

The lesson learned here is that no matter how dark the stormy clouds around you, there is always the possibility of a little bit of sunshine waiting to shine down on you.

Kitty hiding amongst flowers

This all being said, I suppose the main lesson I learned in 2015 is no matter how many obstacles are thrown your way, you will find a way to survive.

I release all things from the past year that has caused any negative attachment. I prepare and welcome new changes, new lessons and new adventures. I welcome new opportunities to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I have been truly blessed to always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it takes me longer to get there but I do get there eventually.

Frangipani_Single

In the year that lies ahead, let’s strive to do the following:

Make time to bond and connect:
The oxygen of a healthy family is time together not merely time of physically being I each other’s company but quality time of connection and engagement, a time of bonding, talking, sharing each other’s dreams and anxieties, hopes and concerns about life today and tomorrow.

Do you . . .
• Grab food and run off to your next meeting, appointment, sports game?
• Technologically distracted – are you constantly checking messages on your phone i.e. text messages, e-mail, social media? Are you constantly on your laptop, tablet etc? are you glued to the television screen?

Review important relationships:
Re-connect, revisit and reinvigorate your relationships (sit around a table and share a meal while sharing the tribulations and triumphs of the week or year gone by, share Biblical values and thoughts, debate, laugh and sing together.

Strengthen awareness and understanding of Biblical principles, keeping families together . . .
Take a critical look at your religious value system

Nurture strong loving families:
Securing sacred uninterrupted time together for families is universal and absolutely vital if we are to nurture strong, loving families.

Parents (mothers and fathers) need to take responsibility to create space and time which is completely devoted to bonding and connection for the whole family, in an atmosphere of engagement – not distraction love not dislocation, awareness not distraction, loyalty not expedience, belonging not alienation.

What do you think?

Relationships with the opposite sex

Head Banging Stickman Animated

Relationships – why are they so complicated or do we unnecessarily complicate them ourselves? I’m talking about relationships with the opposite sex.

In my world view created for me by my parents, it was socially acceptable for the man to be a year or two older than the woman – even up to five years older. On the other hand, when the woman was older than the man, it was questioned immediately. “What does she want from him?”, “she has a hidden agenda”, “she wants to corrupt the poor guy” etc.

You see, it was socially acceptable for the man to be older because this would usually mean that he was “wiser” than the woman (because of his age, he has more life experience and possibly even had one or more sexual encounters so he could teach her all she needs to know about life and what to do when it came to sexual relations). It was not acceptable for the woman to be older in age because this would mean that she must have had at least one (if not more) sexual encounter which meant that she could teach him a thing or two and this was totally taboo (socially, I mean).

In my world view constructed for me, when a man is 15 years older than the woman, she should run like mad in the opposite direction and get as far away from him as possible because all he is interested in is getting her into bed and “corrupting” her – making her sexually wise before her time. The woman (or girl as she would be referred to) would be forbidden from seeing this man to the point of being “kicked out of her parents’ house” if she dared to disobey the parents (usually the father) and continued to see this guy “without her parents’ permission. The father would threaten to disown her – cut off her right to inheritance from the parents’ Estate if she dared continue having a relationship with this man.

Having a woman 15 years older than the man was almost unheard of. If this happened, it was not spoken about in public – everything was kept behind closed doors.

Parents whispered about this when the children were all safely tucked in bed so they did not overhear the conversation.

Was this woman also made to suffer the same fate as the woman involved with an older man, or did they have different rules?

Mmmm . . . I wonder!

In Pursuit of my African Dream – My life is a reflective garden

Christmas Bear

As the year slowly draws to a close, I am in a reflective mood. Listening to the sounds of the Boney M Christmas Collection CD while driving in my car, my mind goes back 30 years when we, as a family, ventured out on our first camping trip, caravan in tow behind us as we listened to the very same music which was, of course, on cassette tape at the time and not on CD.

It took me back to sitting around a camp fire at night in a caravan park in Knysna – friends and acquaintances made, memories of a holiday romance that never went any further than being just that – a holiday romance. I think of “him” often and wonder if he still remembers me and the good times we shared? I know that “he” is happily married with two children (last time I heard), hence the reason why I will not give in to the urge to try to find “him” even though I have a pretty good idea of where I can find “him”. I am reminded of how various people we meet along life’s journey help to shape us into who we are now.

Maybe life is like a garden, is what I’m thinking right now. Maybe relationships are cultivated like flowers or vegetables. I like to see things as growing, flowering and producing.
What makes a garden? Can you walk into a shop and buy a ready-made garden? I don’t think so. You need to grow them . . . everything that grows, starts off as a tiny seed hidden from view. This leads me to asking myself three questions:

1) What seeds have already come to life in me?
2) What seeds remain hidden in me, waiting for the right time to grow?
3) Are the current conditions in my life the right conditions for some more seeds to start growing?

Gardens need water and sunshine. These are gifts which cannot be bought and cannot be demanded, but we can recognise and receive them. Where does this water and sunshine come from?

• The love of a friend?
• Time alone in a special place?

Gardens need pollination by insects, birds and the wind if they are to grow and flourish, so, within our personal gardens, there must be movement . . . exchange – how does this happen?

• By talking and listening to friends?
• By taking part in a group?

Gardening involves preventing infection and attack to protect what is growing. This can be hard work and does not always go according to plan.

• What might damage the growth in me?
• What needs protecting and who can help me?

Gardens need both cultivation and wildness. A garden which is too wild may not be too hospitable or practical. A garden which is too cultivated loses its connection with the rawness of nature.

• How and where do I find the balance in my life?
• How can I change this for the better?

Gardening involves cutting back and taking out. Sometimes the action seems drastic and we wonder if we have gone too far.

• What needs pruning or shaping in my life?
• Are there things I regret having cut out of my life? Why?

What type of garden do I have at this point in my life?
• A neglected garden – overgrown or healthily wild?
• A kitchen garden – full to overflowing, producing food for many?
• A formal garden – impressive, providing space for others?
• A suburban garden – both beautiful and practical?
• A cottage garden – modest, but with the potential for abundance?
• A secret garden – a place known only to me?
• Another type of garden, perhaps?

Which of the following statements make sense to you as you read this?
• I want to be hospitable, to bring people together
• I know I want to take these fences down but I’m not sure I can
• There is a part of me which will be amazing when it flowers
• I want to play and be full of joy
• I was excited about one bit but then it got damaged
• Some parts are not growing well, but I don’t know why
• I was going to sort out this bit but something else cropped up
• These parts are growing fast and will offer much food

As I continue to reflect on my life and this past year, I am reminded of the poem “Life is but a weaving” (also known as The Tapestry poem) by Corrie Ten Boom which goes like this . . .

Life is But a Weaving
Corrie Ten Boom (The Tapestry Poem)

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
(Corrie Ten Boom often used this poem as she described a Tapestry that hangs currently at the museum. I challenge you to read, “The Hiding Place).

In Pursuit of my African Dream – There was a man, a lonely man . . .

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” – Mother Teresa
A song sung many years ago by Engelbert Humperdinck and others contained the words

“ . . . lonely is a man without love . . . “

Lyrics: Solitaire – Sung by Neil Sedaka (and others)
There was a man, a lonely man
Who lost his love, thru his indifference
A heart that cared that went unshared
Until it died within his silence
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
I’m asking the question – is there a connection between Narcissism, abusive (controlling and manipulative) behaviour and depression? Why would someone with all the control in one family end up with virtually no control in a new family causing him/her to live like a homeless person i.e not taking care with personal appearance and personal hygiene? Possibly in a state of deep depression?
One view is that “there could well be such a relationship in a given individual who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (diagnosed by a Psychiatrist). Where their perceptions of their skills and attributes are not shared by others, coupled with their extreme sensitivity to criticism or defeat this can lead to social withdrawal and depression.”
In an effort to understand the person described above in my “questions”, I found a paper written by Lynne Namka, Ed. D © 2005 which says the following . . .
“People with Narcissistic thinking and behaviour often place unrealistic demands on others to make them feel better. They often cannot tolerate negative emotional distress and turn it on others and blame them instead of looking within to see their own part of the problem. This is the defense of projection – what the person does not like in him/herself, they get angry at others who may have the same trait. Projecting one’s anger onto others instead of using it to learn and grow is always limiting. Self- image is distorted with the narcissistic point of view and the person believes that he/she is superior to others. An inflated self-esteem is a defense to cover up their sense of shame deep within. Grandiosity is an dangerous error in thinking that prevents them from blaming themselves and becoming depressed or disintegrated. Narcissistic people need to feel good at all costs – they usually insist on having things their own way at the expense of others. When they don’t get their own way, they feel devalued and because they cannot tolerate the feelings of fear, hurt, anxiety, helplessness and despair, they defend against them. They deny and rationalize their own contribution to the problems to preserve their own internal fantasy of being all good and right. Narcissistic people have errors in thinking which prevents them from seeing how things are from both sides of the picture. Not wanting to feel bad inside, they build defenses such as denial, repression and a strong need to be right. Some even get a sense of feeling superior when they get their way or make others feel bad. This is the dynamic underlying bullying. People who abuse and bully others end up being lonely because others do not want to be around them.

The two greatest fears we humans have in relationships are fears of engulfment (smothering, being controlled by someone else) and fears of rejection and abandonment. Our greatest longings are the needs for connection and the opposite need for space and individuality. People with Narcissistic tendencies yearn for closeness and fears closeness at the same time. When they grow up they harbour the irrational belief that the person they choose for a partner will give them perfect love and make up for all the hurts and slights of their life – they long for an ideal love to soothe their fragile sense of self. They seek refuge in being seen as the good guy and try to gain approval and recognition. When this does not happen readily, they feel wounded, hurt and attacked. Family members learn to back off from confronting them about their behaviour and not “hurt their feelings”. Constantly seeking attention and approval puts them in the precarious position of always needing something from somebody else as they believe that they are right and others are wrong, they rarely admit to faults in themselves. They can verbally abuse and punish their spouses and children without seeing the pain that they cause as they believe that the person deserves the abuse they dish out. They may try to enlist a child to side with them and turn against the other parent.

People with narcissistic behaviour have a sense of entitlement that allows them to break the rules of society. They believe that the laws do not apply to them and they do not feel remorse when they get caught. However, they are upset over any inconveniences they suffer as a result of being busted. They believe they have the right to do whatever it takes to get short term gratification without suffering any consequences. Lying and distortions of reality are considered fair game to shut the other person down. They feel free to cheat on their income tax, take what is not theirs or cheat on their partners. Criticism of their behaviour or trying to get them to see what they are doing only causes them to entrench further into defensiveness. When found out in doing wrong, they get evasive, lie or get angry. They have little or no remorse for the pain they caused the other person, only anger that they did not get away with their behaviour.

Narcissists have a lack of insight about understanding and processing of feelings. Instead, they deny their uncomfortable feelings and run from them with the exception of anger. The huge core of shame inside must be protected by avoiding the vulnerable feelings. They avoid taking risks to love and never learn to develop true intimacy. They would rather threaten their relationship than face humiliation, embarrassment or injury to their self-esteem. They are slow to learn the all important skills of commitment such as sympathy, understanding the intentions and motives of their partner, compassion and empathy. They may even choose someone to love who is even more narcissistic and selfish than they are thereby mirroring their own problems. True intimacy and a lasting partnership require the skills of dealing with conflict. Narcissistic people often discount the issues in the relationship and pull away from their partner. The narcissistic defenses of becoming angry, shutting down, minimizing and distancing keep them feeling safe in the moment. Intimacy is always affected. When problems are never resolved, the partner becomes highly threatened and angry themselves thereby weakening the relationship. Typically partners and children who suffer verbal, physical or sexual abuse become so overwhelmed and threatened that they do not want to continue the relationship.

People with severe narcissistic traits do not change because they do not believe that they have a problem and what they are doing works for them. The narcissistic defense occurs to keep them from feeling bad so they can’t know their own defects. They are UNABLE to see the depth of their pathology as to know their shortcomings would send them down into great shame which would trigger depression. What they do not realize is that when there has been great pain and threat, basic trust has been broken in the relationship and it is unlikely that it can be regained.”
This all makes a lot of sense to me and confirms my analysis of the person concerned. I cannot believe how accurate I was in my analysis and can fully understand how this person could end up in a state of deep depression.

The person concerned was literally “caught with his hand in the cookie jar” which has left him feeling wounded, hurt and attacked. He is no longer the “good guy”, has lost all his friends and the closeness he had with his family (brothers and sisters) and has lost all contact with his first wife and children (does not know he has grandchildren – maybe he has guessed he has, by now?).

The second wife he married to spite the first wife does not care/no longer cares about him leaving him to wander around aimlessly not caring about himself, personal hygiene etc. It is assumed that he eats and sleeps at home (his new home) but wanders around aimlessly during the day (he has retired from work). The first wife and children have a restraining order against him so there is no way he can even attempt to get back to that family.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the need for love, acceptance and belonging (emotional relationships) is what drives human behavior (3rd need on Maslow’s hierarchy). Some of the things that satisfy this need include: friendships, romantic attachments, family, social groups, community groups and churches and religious organizations. In order to avoid problems such as loneliness, depression and anxiety, it is important for people to feel loved and accepted by other people. Personal relationships with friends, family and lovers play an important role, and also involvement in other groups which may include religious groups, sports teams, book clubs and other group activities.

. . . lonely is a man without love . . .