Is “unconditional love” an oxymoron?


The other night, my daughter asked me whether I still loved her father (from whom I am now divorced). It was tough to answer and it made me think.

The word “love” has numerous definitions including, but not limited to: If you love someone, you feel romantically or sexually attracted to them, and they are very important to you. OR: Love is a strong liking for something, or a belief that it is important. AND: Love is the feeling that a person’s happiness is very important to you, and the way you show this feeling in your behaviour towards them.

Collins describes the word “unconditional” as follows: If you describe something as unconditional, you mean that the person doing or giving it does not require anything to be done by other people in exchange.

As far as romantic love goes, the only type that doesn’t require anything in return is unrequited love, which we all know is no fun at all. Love, as we take it to mean, is always expected to be reciprocal in some way or another.

People are awfully quick to label their exes as narcissists and themselves as the poor victims. They are very quick to label others as “toxic” and “negative” and use it as an excuse to cut them off and walk away. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we don’t have to stand for any negativity and we don’t have to “settle” because we deserve better! This is another problem with modern society and it’s pop psychology wisdom. Although it might all be true, it is too often taken out of context!

Please note: I am not minimising very real psychological disorders. I am  definitely NOT advocating being someone else’s punch bag – physical or emotional!

Am I the only one who listens to a friend’s woeful tale of her (please interchange pronouns as suitable! This is just an example!) husband / boyfriend/ partner’s awful behaviour and wonders what she did to cause it? Is / was he really a narcissist, or did you just read something that makes you feel better about yourself and truly, he was just being a bit of an asshole? Or were you the one being a bit of an asshole and he simply reacted?

Listen, I am no angel. I am certainly not the most emotionally stable creature on the planet. There have been times (some of them rather recently) where my emotions ran sky-high and I lost my shit. LOST. MY. SHIT.  I am not proud of it and I work very, very hard to prevent getting into situations where I react that way. It’s not always possible. I am human. The people around me are human also. It doesn’t mean (contrary to what my ex-husband will have you believe) that I am a bad person. It doesn’t mean that “they” are bad people. We were all just having a bad day. Or a bad week, even.

I was told once that we do not “deserve” to be loved. We simply are loved. This would imply no conditions; that we are simply loved for who we are. Yet, when I look at people whose relationships have lasted, it has taken compromise, compassion and vast amounts of “settling”. That “settling” involves setting “terms & conditions”. These conditions can be violated leading to a breakdown in the relationship…not quite “unconditional”…

I don’t think it is possible to love someone unconditionally, or not without losing yourself . When a relationship ends, for whatever reason, you always have to take time to “find yourself” again. In fact, I don’t believe it’s possible to love without losing at least some of yourself. If you aren’t capable of giving of yourself, then surely you are incapable of love?

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How old do you have to be before you know what’s going on?

I am in a very good space right now. I would love to share this warm, fuzzy, happy feeling with the world. I am in love, things have settled into a new rhythm and it’s just generally “good”. Normally, I find it fairly easy to write about things going wrong. I can usually very accurately articulate sadness, anger, frustration and hurt. And yet, here I am, really struggling to find words better than “warm and fuzzy” to describe my current state of being…believe me, I have tried. I just end up sounding nauseatingly corny!

What is even more frightening is the fact that while I am so very happily in love right now, the fear and anxiety are gnawing away at me! This is a very fresh relationship. And for me at least, also a rather unorthodox way of going about things. It happened fast. We were talking on social media. Just talking, chatting. Sometimes. And then one day, things were just different. I can’t even say exactly when things went from merely friendly to being in love. The next thing I knew, the man had moved in! (Maybe I am an imperceptive idiot like that, because my marriage fucked out along the same lines…I didn’t even realise things were terrible until they were too far gone!)

Now, the first time round, as with most other things in my life, I did everything “correctly”. We met, dated the appropriate amount of time and really got to know each other (or so I thought, but believe you me, you never really know anyone until they are trying to divorce you!). Then we proceeded to get married, followed by children, the socially-prescribed amount of time later. And then, as my three regular readers will know, things stopped working. I never set out to be a divorced mother of two. I suppose no-one ever really does?

The point of the digression is: If things didn’t work out when I did it right, how do I know they will work when everything started out all weird and wacky! I have been through a number of life-jolting changes over the past two and a half years. Then, just as I thought everything was settling down, along came this man (wonderful as he may be) and upset the balance all over. I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t been all moonshine and roses. In fact, there has been no roses and very little moonshine. There have been other things. I have been so used to just knuckling down and getting things done on my own. I couldn’t actually believe the stink it caused when I tried to mow the lawn by myself! I have someone who can carry heavy things and reach high places! There is someone who worries when I don’t come home straight after work. There is someone who gets upset when I leave the door unlocked. There are all these little things that you take for granted when you are in a long-term relationship and then don’t even realise you missed when you were on your own…little things that just shows you are cared for…

It has been fun. And it has been awful. Having someone in my space again. Having to get to know a whole new person and learning their likes and dislikes and at the same time having to deal with my own open wounds and traumas. Yes, things have sometimes been very tough, because let’s face it, by the time you reach middle age, none of us have been left unscarred and unscathed by life and it’s never-ending onslaught! We all have our baggage and our triggers and we are all more or less totally messed up. You couldn’t in all honesty, call yourself human otherwise. And that ‘s just it. This whole life-thing: you keep going up and down all the time and nothing ever stays the same for very long. How long can we ride the crest of this happy-wave before we are thrown off, swept under and washed out on the beach again, spluttering, wet and bedraggled?

I have a habit of taking myself and life slightly too seriously and this one, well, he makes me laugh. And then he makes me cry. But then he does something that makes me feel all warm inside. And then sometimes I want to slap him upside the head! And then he takes my face in his hands, he looks at me with love in his eyes, kisses me softly and I want to melt into his arms and know how to make this last forever


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Determination and perseverance are not the answers either

“You are such a determined little rider” I was told once. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the comment was a compliment or not. To be honest, I am still not entirely sure it was. Thinking back and taking the circumstances into consideration, I am more convinced than ever that it was a veiled attempt at saying: “Give it up already, you can’t do it.”

Perhaps I should have listened. Following on from my two previous blog posts I feel the need to get this off my chest. This blog post has been a long time in the making, and I think I am finally ready to write it. Since before I can really remember, the only thing I can recall is wanting a horse. I was single-mindedly obsessed with it. So much so, that a psychologist even suggested to my parents (when I was 7) that perhaps they should get me that horse. My mother wanted me to be a ballerina. The ballet teacher had to call her in and tell her to please remove me from the class, because I would come in and sit in the corner and cry. Exasperated, she asked: “But what do you want to do?” “I WANT TO RIDE!” I almost-screamed through the tears.

I was allowed to stop ballet and go for riding lessons. Once a week, on the designated day of my lesson, it would rain. The the lesson would be cancelled. I would cry. I didn’t give up. I kept hoping that the next week I would get my lesson. I did manage to get some riding done, but it never seemed to be enough. Eventually my parents relented. They proceeded to get me my very own horse. They sat around dusty arenas and they took me to hospital when I fell off.

I made horsey friends and had an idyllic childhood of riding and fun in the sun. Even in high school, boys and friends always took second place to horses. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. I spent more hours in the saddle than most of the kids that I was jealous of, who were getting to compete in the big shows. Soon enough, I even acquired a second horse.

I was getting better. I worked hard. I wasn’t like those other prissy riders. I got down and dirty. I took care of my horse myself. I groomed her, I tacked her up and we spent hours together. And things started going well. We were getting to go to the big shows too. We were really starting to suss each other out and become a real team. Then she died. Suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated. But I wouldn’t be kept down long. I simply started working harder with my other horse.

Then she got African Horse Sickness and because this disease affects their hearts, I couldn’t ride for six months. Secretly, I think my parents were somewhat relieved, because it meant I could focus on my final year of high school without distractions.

After high school I took a gap year where I went to work on a horse farm. There, I realised that what I had been doing all my life was complete mickey-mouse stuff and the horsey world was so much bigger. I returned, more determined than ever to make it work. Although I went to university (there was no point in letting my god-given brains rot, after all) I still managed to ride horses for other people. I made some good pocket money, and even got a bigger, better horse. For reasons I understand only with hindsight, we didn’t make it. I thought it was time to “grow up” and get real. I figured, if I couldn’t “make it” with the well-bred, fancy horse, I simply couldn’t make it. I sold her.

I moved town and started a new degree. But soon, the cravings were back. I bought another horse. This time around, things were different though. Although I used my bursary to buy said horse, I was managing to do “real life” at the same time. I really thought I had it made this time around! I had a steady boyfriend, who despite being utterly unhorsey, did his best to understand. He surprised me at the stables (because he missed me). He held horses at shows. He never complained about the many hours I spent away at the stables. He really got me, I thought. This man was a keeper!

Fast-forward five years. Married to above-mentioned boyfriend and two children later, I lost my job. And then my horse. Things were tough. But I was determined. I wasn’t going to give up! I found ways and means. I still rode and I still dreamed. I tried various permutations of working-mother-rider. The man still tried, but he was less understanding. He helped with the cooking and bathing kids. He built jumps and saddle stands. He didn’t mind when I took the kids to see the horses.

Another five years down the line and everything just fell apart. I was put before an impossible choice: “It’s me or the horse.” I chose the horse. I was determined. I would persevere. If I tried hard enough, it had to work, right?

I forged ahead. I scraped together what little money I had. I bought the horse. I bought the saddle. I made the sacrifices. I cried many, many tears into the mane of that horse. In the end, it was all for nothing. The math simply wouldn’t work. I had to let the horse go. And in the months following, I sold my soul – brush by brush, blanket by blanket. Everything I had built up for nearly 30 years. Today, I sold the saddle.

Today, I am sad. I am angry. I am bitter. I was betrayed and let down by one person who swore everlasting love – through rich and poor, in sickness and in health – and all that.

I was passionate. I was determined. I persevered for longer than I should have. And I am left right back in the corner of that ballet class…


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Hard work is not the answer

After my last post, my number one fan made a comment that made me think about this matter even further. She noted that my father and his brother are two of the most hard-working men she knew, and this has not lead to any kind of financial stability in the years in which they are meant to slow down and reap the rewards of their many years of hard work.

It is true. My father did everything in life just “right”. He finished school, went on to study at university, worked the basic same job for a good few decades, in which time he married and had children. We never wanted for anything. I have never gone to bed hungry or cold. My father put his four children through school and all of us went on to get tertial educations. Although we managed to get bursaries for a lot of our post-graduate studies, none of us went into the job market with student loans to pay off. My father worked very hard so that we could have it “better” than they did. Somewhere, something went horribly wrong…

I have now been working for the best part of 15 years. In this time I have been retrenched once and for about 2.5 of those years I attempted to start my own business, following my “passion”. Granted, the divorce wasn’t part of the long-term plan, but I am forty years old, I have zero savings and when I retire with the pension I am currently accruing I could realistically survive for three months. (I am not even exaggerating here!) Every month, towards the end of the month, there are nights where I cannot sleep because I don’t know if I will have enough money for petrol to get to work and to buy food. I am forty years old, and some months I still need to ask my father, who has just retired, by the way, to help me with money for groceries…

It’s not as if I am a big spender. I don’t go out and I don’t smoke. I don’t enjoy shopping and I have no real need for fancy clothes as I wear jeans and a work-issued t-shirt during the week. I don’t really wear jewelry and my make-up is very basic. Yet, I have to say “no” to my children asking for things more than I care to think about. I have given up the one thing that has always kept me sane – my horse. There is no more fat to cut. I am not thriving in life. I am merely surviving from one day to the next. And I am quite frankly fed up with the whole business.

This is the reason it makes me seethe when I hear people say that someone from an impoverished background should just “work their way out”. Really? It is just not that simple! I personally know one or two people who have managed to work themselves up in life. But there was inordinate amounts of coincidences and plain old simple “luck” involved. For every person who does move “up” in the world, there are 90 who work as hard and harder and only manage to tread water, or get washed away by the tide completely.

Hard work is simply not appreciated. These same people who from their high horses proclaim that others should simply work hard and all will be well, strengthen the system that refuse to truly acknowledge hard work by encouraging a market that ensures people who work hard are in fact not paid their dues. They buy cheap, bad quality items that are mass produced. In doing so, they do two things: they fuck up the market for people who put time and effort into producing high quality products. But more than that, they ensure that those people who are mass-producing these terrible products under conditions suspiciously resembling modern-day slavery also get paid nothing, because they support this market!

No-one is willing to pay for the higher quality, because everything has become disposable. Very few people truly value the time and effort that goes into doing something properly. For decades I have watched my own mother produce works of art, from paintings, to glass work to exquisite wedding cakes, and make no money from it.

I watch my boyfriend work. I love watching him work. He puts so much love into the work he produces. He has genuine pride and shows me every finished piece like an excited, beaming child. Very few people however, truly appreciate that. They only see that they can get something rather similar, albeit of inferior quality and mass-produced, down the road at the Chinese store, at a quarter of the price.

Hard work is quite clearly not all that is required to make a “success” of life…so what is?


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Tired of colouring in the lines

Aerosmith quoteI don’t think it’s necessarily our eyes that are faulty, but there is definitely something wrong with the world and with society in general.

We know something is not quite right, because if we didn’t there is no way the self-help “experts” and “spiritual gurus” would be able to make so much money off us poor suckers, striving to “live our best lives.”

The problem I have with everyone trying to sell you all this “happiness-in-a-bottle-bullshit”, is that it is simply not true. Not everyone can find a job that would make them both happy and rich. Sure, some people can, but not everyone.

This is not because some people work harder than others, because if we have to be truly honest with ourselves, there are people who work extremely hard, all of their lives and never become rich. Never. There is an inordinate amount of luck involved in anyone making more money than they actually need. One of my absolute pet-peeves is when I hear people saying that poor people should work themselves out of their circumstances. But this is fodder for another post altogether…back to my original gripe about people preying on unhappy people by selling them lies. I am tired of people taking advantage of other people’s misery; using the system to enrich themselves at the cost of others.

The reason I say that not everyone can live their dream, is because our society simply does not cater for that. Someone has to clean the public toilets and wash the floors in the mall. Someone has to peel potatoes and wash dishes in a restaurant. Someone has to drive around and be a delivery-guy. Someone still has to do the dirty work. And I’m willing to bet a substantial amount of money that no-one out there dreams of spending their lives sweeping streets or driving the rubbish truck!

So, here we all are on our little hamster wheels, running towards nothing. We tell ourselves that we are “building a better life” so our children can have what we never had. Or so that they can have every opportunity lying wide open before them. Or so that we can have more money and more stuff and finally be happy. We are killing ourselves to keep up with the Jones’ or the Kardashians or whoever. But the sad truth is, we will never be happy like this. We are simply stuck and most of us are not brave or innovative enough to get out of this terrible entanglement where we need money to be able to buy things (even simple things like food and water!) in order to ensure survival in modern society.

I don’t claim to have a way out of this. I don’t. But I am fed up with the constraints that are enforced on me by this life and the toll it is taking on my very soul. I am forty years old and if I had to die today, I don’t feel that people could say: “At least she lived a full life”. Most of the time, it feels like I am still waiting for “real life” to start! Despite the fact that I have a job, a family, friends and a life I really can’t complain about, I am worn out. I am tired. Not I-need-more-sleep-tired (although, that too sometimes!). My soul is tired. I seem to have lost all sense of purpose. I have lost faith in humanity as it currently exists and I don’t want to play by the rules of society anymore! I am tired of colouring in the lines….

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Yesterday was Women’s Day here in South Africa. It is a national holiday. The whole weekend, in fact the whole month, has been dedicated to women and their uniqueness as a gender. Throughout history, there have been times where women have been treated as inferior to men in certain ways, and modern women do all they can to correct this balance. I have it easier than previous generations. I take it for granted that I can vote and that I can drive. I do not deny that somewhere, someone had to fight very hard for me to do this and I salute those people.

BUT and herein lies the rub – I get the feeling sometimes that women simply EXPECT to be treated with respect because of the mere fact that they are women.

Yesterday, on Women’s Day, I had a massive fall-out fight with a friend. Someone who has called herself and has been my “best friend” for the past 14 years. Now, the thing which triggered this argument (which is a topic for a different post entirely) was messed up. I accept that. But I apologised and thought we could move on since we are “best friends”. Her reaction has left me reeling. Dazed. Confused. And somewhat perplexed.

Somewhere along the line she made really hurtful remarks about my boyfriend who is currently not gainfully employed. This very same friend had no qualms about not working and following her own passion, while expecting her husband to carry them financially. She also worked part-time because she wanted to spend more time with their child. This in and of itself is not an issue. Lots of women do it.

But why, when the roles are reversed, does it suddenly create a huge social judgement? I had a colleague many years ago who was the sole breadwinner in their household. She had no qualms talking about her house-husband, but even I, much younger than her, and brought up in modern times, felt myself uncomfortable with the idea. Its just not how it’s “supposed to be”?

Why in these modern times, when we claim to want equality, do we still expect to be treated differently just because we are women? You so often hear parents telling their boy-children: ” We don’t hit girls”. While I totally agree with this sentiment, I feel somewhat disturbed by it. Shouldn’t we be teaching them not to hit others full stop? Regardless of gender.

There are still women who expect doors to be opened and to be let into rooms first. Then there are also the extreme feminists who are violently opposed and offended by that sort of behaviour, which to me is equally harmful. While I get very angry when I get told that when men and women who occupy the same role get paid differently, I get equally incensed when women simply expect to be treated differently by basis of their gender.

I had the arduous task of looking after some children one day and at some point I had to reprimand one of the girls for slapping a boy. I took her to one side and told her that if she started slapping people, she really shouldn’t be surprised to get a slap back, because it just didn’t sit well with me.

Brings me back to said friend. On account of being “best” friends and all, I spent a fair amount of time around her and her husband. At any given time when I got to their house, he would be busy cleaning the house. She would be arguing with him non-stop about everything he hadn’t done, tell him to hang out the washing, shout at him for doing the ironing wrong and then still tell him to make us drinks. Then turn around and tell me how useless he was…(My ex-husband always used to say that if I ever treated him like that he would walk out. He walked out anyway, hahaha, but that was on account of something entirely different). Her husband sticks around, but in the way an abused woman stays with a wife-beater…which brings me back to the point of equality.

We (I use the term “we” loosely to describe women) want equality, but it’s a bit like comparing apples and fridge magnets. Women and men are simply not the same and what we should be preaching is not equality, but respect. Respect for everyone. Equally. 

Women and men are different. We will never be the same and we shouldn’t ever try to be. There are those who would claim we are from entirely different planets. We should celebrate those differences, but if we want to be treated as “special”, we need to act it too by showing respect to earn more respect. You cannot simply expect to be treated special because you are a woman. That is almost like admitting we are the so-called “weaker” sex…


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Crazy Cat Lady Proper

I think that I have now completed my training as Crazy Cat Lady. The current count stands at four. Five if you count the little black one I have on my desk at work…(Yes, I am lucky enough to work in an environment where we have not one, but three office cats!)

I never was much of a cat person. “They” (although I still struggle to figure out who “they” might be) say that  “cat people” are people who are more independent while people who are more needy have a higher tendency to be “dog people”. Perhaps this means that I have grown and evolved? I still love dogs too…and horses, of course, but as of late, I am really enjoying my cats. Especially the latest addition to my little collection – the little black-and-white monster.

I really thought that I had enough cats. Then, one day earlier this year, I walked to the dog-and-cat animal shelter next door to where I work. I was in desperate need of some milk for my coffee from the little shop, but when I got there, the shop was closed. Instead, I encountered a man sitting underneath the tree with a cardboard box in front of him. I thought while we were both waiting, I would be polite and chat to him about whatever it was he had in the box. I took a peek inside and was greeted by the cutest furry little black and white face!

How could anyone resist that little face?

I don’t always presume that people of lesser financial means than myself can’t take care of their animals. Many times, they will give up a lot more than I am willing to (proportionately so) to keep their beloved pets happy. I had a little chat with the man and as it turns out, he had only just acquired the kitty and said he would find someone to look after it. So, I offered to take it from him. I took the little cat for checkups and as he was cleared of all dread diseases, he was named “Domino” and welcomed into our family.

I am not afraid of any of you, this is MY bed now!

Well, I say “welcomed”, but none of us really had a choice. This little bugger has one of the biggest personalities I have ever come across for such a little animal! He arrived home, puffed up his little tail and humped his back, chased the “big boys” around the house and thoroughly put their noses out of joint! On day one, he bullied the “Little lion” off the bed and staked out his claim to me by insisting on sleeping on my head. He also had no qualms about picking fights with my big yellow gangster or bopping his grey brother in the head and running away!




As any animal lover will tell you, animals have their own personalities. Each of my cats is special in his own right, but this little one, is something really special. I might have left him in that box if I knew exactly what I was getting into! He digs in the garden like a puppy. He chews, like a puppy. And the worst thing is, it is impossible to keep him off things! He loves “running” upside down under the couches, by clawing his way underneath them, or along the side of any flat surface. He spends evenings chasing his bigger brothers up, over and under any furniture that may be in their way.

I digs

I chews

Cats, are just too entertaining! You can watch them wash their little faces, sleeping, or amusing themselves with something they found lying around. They are ferocious little predators that can melt your heart in an instant. Everybody knows the “puppy-eye-look”, but I do believe that cats are more masterful at manipulating their human “handlers”, even if they have fewer facial expressions – which is also incidentally why people tend to think cats are more aloof than dogs.

There is nothing more comforting than a cat purring on your chest or more “awwww-inspiring” than watching them lick their little toe-beans. I think I can now truly call myself a cat-lover.

To be “chosen” by a cat is something incredibly special and satisfying…

The gangsta

All the boys

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