Fight or Flight?

It is a hot day in Johannesburg. Just past midday, it feels like one has entered hell’s kitchen. It is ridiculously hot when one considers how nippy it’s been sometimes.

A refreshing stroll down Jorrissen in the hub of Braamfontein has done wonders for my current mental state. Relief is the word.

So, I get into a taxi and bargain with the driver to take me up Jan Smuts and he obliges. I thank him profusely, grateful that I can get back to the office on time.

Sitting on the passenger seat is a woman. I now realize she is his girlfriend. A moment ago, I was oblivious to the tension building up in the air- I had just entered a battleground.

A fervent exchange of words in Xitsonga takes place right before my eyes and at best I attempt to avoid the commotion. I’m bolstered back into reality by the driver slapping the woman with the back of his hand. “Oh no, oh NO!!” What is happening? What do I do?? I sit there. Shocked. I do nothing, say nothing. A short trip has turned into a long one.

On the 9th of March, the news of Nkululeko “Flabba” Habedi’s tragic death spread through our media pores like wildfire. In what is speculated to have been a lover’s argument, Flabba was fatally stabbed through the heart by his girlfriend.

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“A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa, a probable underestimate because no perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study […] co-authored by Professor Rachel Jewkes of the South African Medical Research Council” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/south-africa-violence-against-women_n_2837804.html

Whether this in response to already existing abuse or mishandling by their spouses, the numbers of women languishing in prison for serious crimes such as murder and attempted murder tells another story.

This is the harsh reality many live with on a daily basis. Some live with the scars while some never get to tell their story. What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of a violent altercation?

As incensed as I felt, I chose to not get involved. It was a selfish decision- I thought of my child and what would become of her in the event that I interfered in the affairs of total strangers- only to lose my life in the process.

I thought of my own upbringing and remembered the violence in it; and how damaged I am. I also thought how dangerous it is (can be) to get caught up in other people’s vicious cycle of upswings and turbulence.

My experience with physical violence has made me wary of anything that smacks of- or comes close to violence. It has completely dis-empowered and weakened me and I’m afraid I won’t be a martyr. I am a coward.

Some say we attract who we are. Therefore, how we feel- and what we believe about ourselves reflects in the world around us. We ultimately draw people who can sense our insecurities (and whom are insecure themselves) into our lives without even knowing it.

Sometimes we pay dearly for this…

…In my mother’s words: “Gaabo legatlapa ga go lliwe”.

 

 

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Mirror, Mirror

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Someone recently made an unexpected and rather awkward observation of yours truly. In fact this particular observation and subsequent comment got me confused as whether to gulp down the rest of the wine in my glass and ask for fifteen more rounds or to shrug off the comment.’ Maybe just fall off the damn chair once and for all?! Instead, I just sat there with what I reckon was a stupefied look on my face.

Perhaps someone else would be flattered at being told that child-birth certainly was beneficial in increasing, ehm (cough)…breast size. I wasn’t. I could hardly conceal my embarrassment as I presume that should be the last place anyone dares to direct their stares. My modesty notwithstanding, I immediately shrugged it off with, “nah, not really”. That, my friends, is the truth and nothing but the truth.

The truth is, this girl simply grew up and learnt to shop for a good, padded and flattering bra. Yep, no amount of suckling from SuperGirl could have even vaguely taken me to a decent size 34A. Oh well! :-/

The one thing that motherhood surprisingly gave me was renewed body image. Until that tipsy comment about my slight bosom, I had distanced myself from obsessing about its nonexistence. Same thing about those fantasies about lying on Dr. Rey’s operating table waiting for him to drill silicone into my body that I’d happily parade around in a scant bikini afterwards. Yet I relapsed, if only for a short time.

Don’t we all have a certain part of our body that we would rather trade-in for something better? Yes, I also know those of you who stuff their bras with tissue and those Viagra poppers when nobody’s watching only to dish up political correctness to the less enlightened. It’s okay. We understand. We know you are perfect the way you are, and you wouldn’t want to change a thing! Mhmm… of course you are, we all are!

Either way, it is true that if one’s esteem is linked to the external- that is, what people think of you- then trouble isn’t too far off. That’s why it’s important to build that self-esteem so it’s not blown over by idle winds.

I grew up with “boob issues” half of my life. I have vague memories of my childhood when once or twice during play a certain insect was said to be able to make breasts grow, provided you let it suckle on your nipples for a bit.

The impressionable me bought into this childish hogwash until it was forgotten, thereafter it was back to ogling my friends’ abundant bosoms. I mean, some of these girls had huge boobs even before leaving primary school and there was me with a flat chest! Then I could probably blame my grandmothers for not sweeping my chest with a broom just before puberty, as it is apparently supposed to be done.

During the moments that my ego took a hard knock, future plastic surgery seemed a possible option but good Lord I’d never ever, ever be able to face the embarrassment if I had to kick the bucket on the operating table while doing a boob job!!! Noooooo!

The observer was certainly right; motherhood was a blessing in disguise.

Instead of seeking affirmation from all the wrong places, I learnt that I’m the first place where my daughter needs to get affirmation from and this is the most important place she will get it from. It has taught me that no matter how she looks, hearing the words “You are beautiful” from me (and her dad) will be important blocks to building her character and esteem.

Being an adult has taught me that I don’t need to over-compensate for anything that is lacking. Boob issues? So frivolous! J

 

 

When change comes knocking

I got the most eerie and unusual feeling sometime this week. I walked over to the job applications box in our department like I usually do when I try my luck at finding a job here. I walked over to the security area eyeing the register, bemoaning the fact that it had been moved from its usual place. I should know because I ‘work’ here, right? I’ve been around this place and I should know because I’m used to this place.

Now what was it about that feeling? Oh yes…well, it didn’t actually start on the day I dropped my applications off but rather on the Sunday before when I saw my department’s internship programme ad in the paper. As unsettling as this was, I reckon I sort of forgot about it as the week progressed. It was when one guy enquired with the security folks where the internship applications could be dropped off that it hit me…again: Our replacement is imminent. It’s the same feeling one gets when you just know deep down that your lover has given his affections to someone else. It’s that unfettered voice in your head that keeps saying, “Change is coming”. It’s daunting and utterly devastating.

It’s often hard to imagine that people may want the same things you want, isn’t it? I realized this week that I have grown fairly comfortable where I’ve been for the past six months. I’ve shared, amongst others, frustrations and laughter with my colleagues but also built profound relationships with the people I encounter outside the office; those women in the taxi, and the drivers themselves whose faces beam with smiles in my direction every passing day.

This may expose me as someone with a huge attachment complex, perhaps even one who is emotional but I believe it may also show that I have genuine interest in people who have an impact on my life, whether direct or not. So when some say that the work environment is no place to form (genuine) relationships, I understand because it would be naive to presume that everyone has your best interests at heart. But this happens everywhere! I also wonder if it is at all possible to remain completely guarded and-worse- disconnected from the people that one encounters on a daily basis; to be nonchalant. I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that this place has become like second home to me. I have had the opportunity to learn, to grow both mentally and emotionally. I don’t like the thought of being replaced-on any level- but if I have to be realistic, this just means that someone else will be able to have the opportunity I was given to grow in similar, if not more ways. This also means that I have transcended this phase and that I can continue growing in other areas of life. In order to understand the nature of life, one also needs to acknowledge and accept that seasons come and go and that there is a place and time for everything under the sun.

There are many teachings and quotes on change, even people who have solid careers as  Change Managers; life coaches, mentors and motivational speakers- all available to the discerning individual because let’s face it, change is not easy. Though it is a bit of cold comfort as I contemplate the future (rather prematurely) and where I’m heading, what resonates with me the most is that change is inevitable. The beauty of it is that it happens to everyone and all that’s necessary is to embrace it.  That means appreciating my own experiences and graciously clearing my desk six months from now to allow someone else to get the experience they need. It’s that simple

Kickin’ It…

You’ve been there before: At the height of emotional suffocation; feeling physically and mentally trapped in a dizzy abyss. You’ve felt yourself spiral out of control, yet you also felt yourself try to hang on for dear life at whatever cost.

Whether it was through smoking, alcohol, sex, food or that boy/girlfriend yow were addicted to- a habit is a habit is a habit. A bad habit is even worse and albeit, harder to kick. So you sit yourself in a corner. You call it introspection; you speak to yourself in different tones. One minute you think you are the most disgusting, sorry sod with no discipline and the next you try to rationalize your habit, making it seem acceptable. So the cycle goes.

According to William Ekpa, “The nature of habit”*, habit is “at once humanity’s heaviest liability and greatest asset; it can be used to obtain whatever one dreams of, just as it can be used for self-destruction”. A lot of the time bad habits morph into the most dangerous, unhealthy and costly addictions.

I have struggled with a few bad habits myself, and while some simply fell by the way side like that disgusting and smelly, not to mention unhealthy smoking habit I picked up in my late teens. Funny how it never seems ‘disgusting’ when one is completely immersed in bad habits. Perhaps stating that some of my bad habits ‘simply fell by the…’is a bit of an overstatement really. The truth is that it took me an awful lot of time to kick this habit.

There were constant moments of battling relapse only to go out clubbing on a weekend and find myself in the same spot. Then there were weird moments of trying to conceal the habit from those who would otherwise say, “But that’s so not… you!” But I sure kicked the habit, and then some. That’s the thing with habits, isn’t it… easy to start but painstakingly difficult to abandon? Maybe not?

As someone who lives with impulsive compulsion (and this is a self-diagnosis by the way, thank you very much!)I have battled with a lot of bad habits and I’m certain that those who’ve been in the same boat will attest that any excuse is good enough to rationalise bad habits. Boredom, loneliness, stress, curiosity and even silence are just some of the scapegoats.

Unfortunately one of my bad habits involves food. I realise that food is my ultimate weakness, only because of my love for it. Much the same as when people are pressed to leave a relationship but choose to stay in a rut because they just “love him/her so much”, my love of food is epic. What truly makes food my enemy is that I’m a connoisseur who truly revels in every detail of its preparation through to completion. Indulging is but a small part of it.

It has cost me my figure for far too many times than I care to remember and for the fact that I have always found myself fight the urge, I have decided to tell myself the truth (once more). Number one: I am not a skinny person by birth-or otherwise. Secondly, too much of something is never good. Thirdly, moderation is ALWAYS key but most importantly IT IS ALL IN THE MIND.

So, in line with all the spring cleaning going on, I have decided to clean out my thoughts and to start that challenging road to better eating habits and towards a more healthy lifestyle.