Life: It’s complicated

In my forty years on this earth, it seems I have only managed to learn one real lesson: as soon as you think you have a grip on things, they change. This constant change is fodder for a lot of social media motivation; don’t worry, good or bad, things will never stay the same for long. This is all good and well, but what most people seem to lose track of is the fact that any change, good or bad, can cause upset and trauma in life. This is why we would all stay in our unhealthy comfort zones much longer than necessary. And why change, any change, is hard.

I have spent the last two years training to be the strong, independent woman. I gathered my tribe of gal-pals and the occasional guy-pal and learnt to face life on my own. In fact, my collection of cats has already hit four and I felt I was well on my way to “crazy cat lady”…It has been exhausting! On more than one occasion I have expressed the wish to “just be taken care of”.

So, of course the universe complied and along came…A man! A wonderful, caring, kind man who has absolutely swept me off my feet. He has taken my life by storm it really took me by surprise. I did not think I was still able to fall in love and I certainly did not go out looking for it. It started as an outreach to an old acquaintance that just took on a life of it’s own. Without even knowing where exactly things “changed” between us, a simple friendly gesture had turned into love.

When you fall in love, you always lose yourself in that new feeling of joy and wonder. It is normal. But at some point you resurface from the haze and regain balance. We do this in small increments throughout life anyway – at some point you grow out of being a child and become somewhat responsible in adulthood. Within every relationship you become a partner and you adapt to the other partner in the relationship. You become a wife, perhaps a mother, an aunty eventually a grandmother. With each new role you grow and change a little bit and often you don’t even realise that you are effortlessly reinventing yourself.

Life is just a constant strife to find ourselves, only to lose ourselves again as soon as there is the slightest change in the status quo. So here I am once again, re-calibrating, readjusting and reinventing!

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Sending out positive vibes!

Recently, I got told twice in one day that I had to be more careful about my thoughts and my words. Because thoughts and words will manifest as energy and you will get back from the universe what you send out. All this, because I said that I was well for the moment, but who knew how long that would last, as life always finds a way to kick me in the teeth…

It has been hard for me to stay positive. Last year this time I was only just emerging from a deep black hole of despair. And then life did find a few interesting curve balls to throw at me. Read all about them here and here and here and here. So yes, it is rather hard for me to believe that the good fortune and happiness will last forever. But I guess that is the thing about life – nothing really stays the same for very long. (One sees all the nauseating inspirational messages on social media about that all the time!) But it’s still hard to trust in the good fortune, because one is so scared that if one throws caution to the wind and dives too deeply into all of the good times, the disappointment will hit you so much harder! SO, yes, I do feel a little bit like a dog that has been kicked in the face one too many times…

I don’t want to go getting all mushy, but I have had to do some deep soul searching and have experienced personal growth on a level that I am quite unaccustomed to over the past two and a bit years. I thought the drama and the pain would never end. But here I am, at the end of the tunnel, in the light (that turned out not to be an oncoming train!) still just about intact. I am really rather impressed with myself!

I don’t know where life will take me next, and I am not feeling too adventurous just yet, so I am not putting out any grande challenges to the universe, but maybe things will be OK…One day, one step, one breath at a time, we will get to where we are supposed to go I guess.

The little things along the way make up the expedition and we might as well enjoy the journey because the destination is a mystery!

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Is this what it’s like to be nearly-normal?

This post is dedicated to the two true fans of this blog – my godmother who is always encouraging my writing and my financial adviser, who has to keep reading these to see whether I will be withdrawing money from my ever-declining savings and blaming her for not being rich!

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The last couple of years have been a bit of a bumpy ride. Beginning 2017, I quit my job without notice. What started out as my dream job, turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. Anyway, so after a few weeks’ leave, I walked in and quit. I didn’t have any other options at the time, so it was a bit nerve wracking, but it needed to be done.

After a few months of playing house-wife and stay-at-home mom, I started a new job, bought a horse and then my life unraveled completely within a few months! I was told by my husband, who had always been supportive of my riding habit (or so I thought), that if I didn’t sell the horse, we had nothing more to talk about. There was of course, a lot more to that ultimatum, but even though we both agreed that we were doing nothing but making each other miserable, what followed was months of soul-destroying, gut-wrenching, nasty, acrimonious divorce which only ended many months later and destroyed lives.

During that time, I felt like a wild animal trapped in a cage. There was nowhere to go. There was no safe space, even within my own house. I sat outside in the car for hours and when I did go inside, I hid in my bedroom.

After the actual divorce, is when things got really bad! Just trying to find a place to stay turned into a major nightmare, which is described in detail in another post. One would think that after such a tumultuous search for a place to stay, life would give one a little bit of a break. But alas, no. It was as if every time I lifted my head above the waves, life kicked me in the teeth and pushed my head right back under the water, making sure there was blood to attract some sharks, just for good measure!

While I was staying in my temporary, rented home, I was burgled. Not much got taken that wasn’t replaceable, but it’s a rather unpleasant experience all the same. Then, soon after I moved into my new home, my brother-in-law passed away. Not long after that, my phone got stolen inside the shop where I do my weekly grocery shopping! This lead to a whole palawa of it’s own.

By the end of the year, I really thought that Murphy had had his fun with me. But still, no. The year ended with a bit of a light show, so to speak…

The new year, I thought, would HAVE to get better. Again, no. Uncle Murphy and his merry band of men were not yet finished with me. I had a blow-out on the highway, followed by a rather impressive melt-down. I was quite impressed by the damage one exploding tyre could cause; less so by the lack of service from my insurance company. That whole saga can be read here.

Then, my one cat got hit by a car right in front of my house. (He is still very sore, but at least did not need surgery and will be OK.) My car was also still testing my sense of humour by overheating and trying to die at the most inconvenient of times. The final insult to all the injury, was that I did end up having to sell the horse. I am not ready to talk about that yet…

Any of these little series of “interesting times” would have been enough to drive me over the edge all by themselves, so I am really quite impressed that I am still here to tell the story! But I didn’t do it on my own. I have discovered the bestest best friends. Some of them have been in my life for a long time, and others met me at my worst and have miraculously stuck by me! If nothing else, the past two years have taught me the value of having people in your life. No matter how hard I tried, I could not have done it without my tribe! Thank you one and all!

I turned 40 a little over two weeks ago. My entire family from up-country (bar my baby brother who was sorely missed) descended upon me to celebrate and on very short notice a party was arranged. People came from far away and made me feel incredibly special and lucky to be alive. It was the best party I have been to in a long time, if I have to say so myself!

My colleagues have put up with meltdowns, both mini and major ones. My friends have listened to me whine non-stop for hours, cry, shout, swear and they have watched me fall apart and lose the plot (that is assuming I ever had it) more than once. There have been days when I couldn’t and wouldn’t get out of bed. There have been days when I thought I just could not carry on. There have been days where I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, only to realise it was an oncoming train.

But here I am. I made it! Not only did I survive, but I am happy to be here! (Dear Universe, this is not a challenge!)

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Inside the mind of a chronic depressive

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I have had a rough two years, I won’t lie to you. If it wasn’t for a select few friends, I probably wouldn’t be here today. You guys know who you are. ~Thank you~

Can you imagine waking up every day and the only thought that goes through your mind is: “Fuck. Another goddamn day! Why couldn’t I just wake up dead?” You are not actually suicidal, because you don’t want to DIE, you just can’t see any point in living either.

I have been struggling with this, what has now become a full-blown midlife crisis, for a few years now. It started when my horse died in 2014. I cannot picture myself without a horse. I don’t know who I am if I’m not a horse-owner or rider. Since I can remember, all I have ever wanted to do, was ride horses, be around horses and talk about horses. I don’t think that there is anyone on the planet who has met me and does not know this. Yet, when it comes to horses, as in many other things in life, I seem to have an inordinate amount of shitty luck. Every time I think, I am where I need to be to start moving forward, to go where I want to be, something happens; my horse dies, (that happened twice) or I get divorced and can no longer afford to keep the one horse I thought was going to be the horse. The biggest slap int he face was probably the fact that the man who had promised to love me until one of us died, after ten years and two children, told me that if I didn’t sell the horse, we had nothing to talk about. It wasn’t like he didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t as if this was a new whim or hobby I had recently picked up. This is who I AM!

So it brings me to the next point. I have given up a lot to own a horse over the past few decades. I have asked others to give up quite a bit, but I managed to make time to raise my babies because I thought that would make the man happy. Clearly it wasn’t enough. But why am I not where I thought I would be? Why do I keep getting “stuck”? Why can other people give up careers and start riding full-time and make it work and I can’t? Why didn’t I study Equine Science? Why didn’t I want to be a stable manager, a jockey (I am small enough) a riding instructor? Why could I not even make the whole Equine Assisted Psychotherapy-thing work for me? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not give up enough? Did I just have rotten luck? I don’t know…I don’t usually like to dwell in the past and ponder about decisions I made because it doesn’t really help matters. We normally make the best decision we can with what we have at that time.

But this time, things are a little different. I am in a bit of a panic. I am getting desperate and I don’t like making decisions from a point of desperation. They are not clear and there are just no good outcomes.

Last week, for instance, I brought a dog home. I have been feeling lonely and miserable and have been saying for a long time that the right dog will still find me. Then one of our cart horse drivers showed up with a little bedraggled, flea-ridden, tick-eaten mangy little dog. I took it to our neighbouring  NGO who works with cats and dogs seeing as we really only deal with horses, but when they asked me to sign over the pup, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I told myself, maybe this was the dog that had found me? It seemed like a good idea for all of twenty minutes and by the end of the day I was already feeling the twinges of “buyers remorse”. The problem was, I had the kids that weekend. They were so excited about the prospect of a puppy and even slept with it on the floor. Saturday a dear friend came to visit and in her honest straight-forward way, told me that this was not a good plan. She was right, of course. But the kids were hysterical. I was still dithering…we had already bought it a tag, given it a name, “Buddy” and even though it was still very sickly, the kids had just started coaxing the little guy to play a little bit.

The next day, we had to go to the shops and leave the pup home alone. It just did not work, and right at that point I realised that I either needed to commit to two dogs, or try and find this one a home. I put it on social media and within a few hours found it a home. They came and took him away. The kids cried and cried and cried. I’m not entirely sure all their tears were about the dog, but either way, the guilt that I had done this to them was enough to push me into a deep dark hole. They cried for the whole week. It was excruciating! But that is my point about decisions made in desperation. I had to find the dog a home – quickly – before they got even more attached to him. I didn’t vet the new owners properly. I didn’t do a home check before I let him go. This could all have been negated if I never took the dog in the first place, but that just wasn’t the right thing either!

The point of that whole long diversion is just that I do not like making decisions out of desperation. And I am at that point again with regards to me horse, but it’s more than that. Where will I go when I need solace and sanity? How will I stop myself from self-destructing? Who will I be? But I am running out of options. Fast.

People ask me what I’m passionate about. Horses. What do I like to do? Ride. What makes me happy? Horses. It’s always been: Horses.

And now, we have reached a point where horses don’t even make me happy anymore. I have to force myself to even go and see my horse. I jst get sad when I spend time with her, because I wonder what the point is. I can’t remember the last time I actually sat on her back. And I know, that I should be spending as much time with her as I can, while I still have her, but I can’t bring myself to do that. There is just no more joy in my life, nothing to look forward to.

And I know how it sounds to other people. They see you as a bad mother, because “you have your kids to live for?”. You are ungrateful, because you have it so much better than so many other people out there. I know all this. Cognitively. I KNOW. Reminding me of it really only serves to make me feel even more guilty for not being happy with what I do have. It does nothing to actually make me feel better.

This is a long post. I have a lot to say here. I hope you haven’t stopped reading, because this is the important part. These days, with social media, people are very quick to judge. In fact, I have a massive gripe with things we read (mostly posted by women, but men are guilty too) about cutting people off and making diagnoses that really ought to be left to the professionals. How many women do you read about who are being “abused” and ill-treated and have their exes branded as narcissists and abusers when really, we are only hearing the one side of the story. In fact, I got unnecessarily upset with a friend when she wanted to get mad at someone I was talking about because she was trying to be an understanding friend when I wanted an objective opinion (but it was unfair to expect it because she was only hearing my side of the situation!)

These days, everyone is telling everyone else that you “don’t need that kind of negativity in your life”. You should cut off the toxic people and you will be happier. While this is true, and people who truly do get abused should be encouraged to speak out, I refuse to believe that because some guy didn’t agree with you he is now a narcissist. Perhaps you are the narcissist and he was just reacting to you? Anyway. I am off topic again. It just irks me that everyone is a psychologist these days!

The point is, if we were to look at me objectively at this time, I would be the toxic person. And I don’t want to be cut off. I want to be helped! I want to learn to find the joy again. If my friend didn’t take me out on Friday night and listen to me rant, if my other friend didn’t come and just be with me on Saturday when my car fucked out and I was absolutely shit company, if yet another friend didn’t talk to me for an hour listening to me whine about how shit my life was, and if my friends didn’t come to spend Sunday afternoon with me, and if my friend didn’t encourage me to go to the beach after work when all I wanted to do was crawl up into a little ball and feel sorry for myself, then I wouldn’t be here to write this post tonight.

There are people with real psychological issues who are truly dangerous to be around. If you think you are involved with such a person, find professional help.

But if your friend is having a shit year or two, don’t give up on him or her. Feed her wine and tell her to lie on the lawn. Make her come to the beach and drag her running into the icy sea. Listen to her for hours on end even if there is nothing you can do for her and it makes you feel utterly helpless. Let her break a whiskey bottle against a wall to help her get rid of some frustration.

Do not give up on your friends. These little glimpses of joy are all that keep them going…

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Every Time You Go Away….

You take a piece of me with you.

I am hurt. I am angry. But mostly,

I am sorry.

I am so sorry that I can’t be your friend. You were there when I needed a friend. When my life was falling apart around me, you were truly there for me. You checked up on me every day. You listened to me rant and scream and swear. You let me cry. You stayed calm and not only held me together when I was crumbling, but you scraped me up when I melted into a puddle on the ground. You were a good friend and I will always love you for it.

Someone said to me that I should never try yo make more of a friendship such as ours and that I would regret it. Those words will forever haunt me now.

You cannot force feelings that aren’t in your heart. At the same time, I cannot extinguish the ones that are in mine.

I wanted to be your friend. But I also wanted more. I’ve always wanted more. From the day we were not supposed to meet, at that party I was never supposed to be at, we’ve been perpetually saying goodbye. I had hoped we could change that this time round.

Instead, once again I am left broken-hearted. You have infiltrated every aspect of my life. My coffee cup at work is the one you bought me. The stupid stuffed baboon you bought me guards my bed at night. The radio doesn’t co-operate either, with it playing that song…that one you used to play on the piano. Even my last piece of solace has been shattered as the little aeroplanes take off and land from the field next to my horse’s paddock. All I can think of is how much you loved flying once upon a time. How you called me and promised that you would take me flying into the sunset…

I am sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me then. I’m sorry I didn’t stop to listen. I am sorry that then and now, I am not strong enough to not let my feelings get in the way of what you need. I’m sorry that I’ve been a bitch.

I hope you find yourself again. I hope that one day you will realise that love is not deserved – that love is simply given and it’s up to you to take it. I hope you will know that who you are is enough.

I also hope that you will understand that I cannot let anymore pieces of myself go with you, or else we will both be lost…

But don’t forget to let me know when we get to “another time and another place”, because you promised!

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Fire, friends and fuck-ups as we take leave of 2018

In 2007 I had the second-most depressing Christmas of my life – so far. It was the year I got married. We got married on 22 December and decided that it would be romantic to spend our first Christmas as a couple, by ourselves. Afterwards, we agreed that it was a stupid plan. Christmas is not a time to be romantic. Christmas is a time to spend with family. If you are used to having a big family feast, with a lot of decorations and a whole lot of food and laughter, just the two of you quietly exchanging presents in a half-empty restaurant, where all the staff are praying that you would hurry and go home so that they can spend it with their families, just doesn’t feel festive at all.

The most depressing Christmas of my life (so far) was the year my daughter was born. She was still in hospital on Christmas. I was bone-tired and spent every free moment in the hospital with her. That was also the year both my husband and I forgot our anniversary. Our priorities were elsewhere. And I believe we never straightened them after that. Things just unraveled really slowly and now we are where we are.

2018 has not been kind to me. Two days ago, I should have been married 11 years. The date is now engraved in my mind forever as a sign of failure. This year’s Christmas may well move into first place as the most depressing Christmas of my life – so far.

It is “fire season” here in the Western Cape of South Africa. The grass is dead. Everything is dry and most days it is windy. A little spark can spell absolute disaster. On Friday I had a very happy evening with friends, laughing, joking and generally having a lot of fun. The whole day however had been a little tense as we were on high alert, watching a fire on the other side of the mountain. It never came to a crisis and I left feeling light-hearted and in high spirits. It was not to last.

I had barely got on the road when I received a phone call from someone in the yard where my horse is kept, telling me that our farm was now on fire and we had to go and evacuate horses. I got to the stables first and managed to get headcollars on the horses nearest the fire. Three fire engines were already working hard and a fourth soon arrived. The fire was very close, but the wind was blowing away from us, so there was no immediate danger. I called Mrs W-M, who had called me to try and tell her that everything was under control. I don’t think she got that message.

Other people started arriving, but not Mrs W-M. I finally saw her storming towards the stables and trying to tell her that it was OK, we were just waiting and seeing, got told that she had crashed her car on the way there. In her hurry to get to the stables, she had abandoned her crashed car on the side of the road and managed to lose her phone as the car was flying through the air. Miraculously, she only had a bump or two on the head and a sore knee. One of our fellow livery owners was behind her and picked her up.

It turned out to be all for nothing as the fire swept past (albeit uncomfortably close to the stables) and we never even moved the horses out. After two hours of watching and waiting, the fire chief told us that it would OK and we could go home. And this is where the adventure really started.

We made our way back to the smashed-up car to find it abandoned, apart form one lone tow-truck driver waiting in the moonlight. He informed us that not only had the police been and gone, removed everything from inside the car, but also that they had sent someone to her house, where of course they found no-one as we were all busy watching a fire threaten the lives of our precious ponies.

It was past midnight by this time and the nearly-full moon was glowing brightly in the night sky. Although Mrs W-M’s husband (currently on the other side of the country) had managed to arrange a different tow-truck to come and remove the car, the one that was already there, insisted on keeping us company because we were on such a dangerous road. All roads in South Africa are damn dangerous after dark, but at this point we were feeling pretty invincible and this woman kept on confusing the poor guy by complaining about having lost a dead horse off the back of her bakkie. (She kept the skull of one of her horses that had died -she is pretty weird like that, but we still love her!)

The arranged tow-truck driver quickly arrived and it was decided that we would take the car back to the farm as it was the closest. He insisted on speaking in Afrikaans to this hysterical, slightly concussed woman that hails from the UK. It was quite funny to watch. For a bit she thought she had lost the entire English language…But we managed to get everything sorted out and with the car dropped off, off we tootled to the Police Station, because aside from the equine skull flung from the back of the car, all she was worried about, was her saddle, which was now in police custody!

Pulling into the police station a strange duvet-clad youth decided to try and get in the car, causing me to nearly run over  a policeman in the road as I tried to get him back out of my car. Turns out he was waiting for an Uber. (Don’t you know you should check the registration number of your Uber driver, dude? This is how people get killed – by just getting into any bloody car that pulls up! We may be two little blonde women, but we are pretty bat-shit-crazy!)

Upon entering said police station we were informed that we could only collect the things on Monday, as some form had to be filled in and could only be released by the Captain. We must have looked like damsels in distress because the warrant officer took pity on us and gave back everything right there – the Captain did give us some very stern looks. We were looking pretty scraggly by this time; covered in soot, mud, cuts and bruises. Apart from the actual car accident, the only other injuries were sustained by me tripping over a steel pipe in the dark, causing me to fall on my hands and knees in the dirt. So now I had skinned knees and palms, like a four-year-old, instead of the nearly forty-year-old that I am. There is just no way to look dignified with skinned knees, bloody hands and muddy flip-flop-clad feet!

Madame W-M refused to go see a medical professional and I took her home. It was half past two in the morning and we were both really tired. But as yet, this was not the end of our adventure!

I went back the next day to check that she was alive and we went out to get a bite to eat. In the restaurant, a bloody tree decided to attack us out of the blue! Ok, it was only a pot plant that blew over in the wind and it didn’t hurt, but we were still pretty wired from the night before, making it much funnier than the rest of the spectators thought.

I left and went home for a much-needed nap only to be woken up by Mrs W-M’s husband, saying that her phone was turned off and the tow-truck driver wanted to bring the car to the house. Could I please go over and see that she opens for them? I drove back, admittedly grumpy about the request and the infringement on my nap. Trying to move my car out of her drive-way, being halfway blocked by the tow truck, I managed to hit a tree. While looking at it in my rear-view mirror! It seems that no good deed goes unpunished after all!

The tow-truck driver piped up and asked if I needed a tow. I was not amused by his quick wit just at that moment. And I was tired of being attacked by trees!

So now I am sitting here at 10pm on Christmas Eve, all alone. I have opened the single present I received this year – from my x-mother-in-law no less – unless you count the four half-alive cockroaches my cats brought me last night…with the prospect of having to fix a car early in the new year. I would say that is pretty sad – in every conceivable way.

But, lest you think me ungrateful, let me just say: Mrs W-M is alive. Our horses are safe. And we have a great story to tell! I think I have had quite enough excitement for one year. I hope that 2019 is a quiet one….

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Real life vs Expectations

In just over three months, I will be forty years old. That’s just about halfway through the whole thing and more than halfway through my money-making, career-building, productive life-time. It’s probably about the appropriate time to have a little midlife crisis?

I didn’t expect to sit all alone on my stoep (veranda) sipping on a pink gin watching my three cats frolic on the lawn. (I never thought I have would have a single cat, never mind three!) I didn’t expect to have to phone my children to find out how their holiday is going because they are with their father – to whom I didn’t expect to not be married to anymore.

I didn’t expect to be rich, but I also didn’t expect to have to still ask my father to help me out financially at this age. Granted, it has been a rough year and I am sure to get back on my feet, but let’s face it, unless there is a billionaire out there waiting to marry me, the chances of my financial status improving drastically any time soon are just about ZERO.

I used to love this time of year. The cheesy songs playing in the shops, the bright tinsel and lights everywhere. I never thought that a mere week before Christmas, my only inclination of a Christmas feeling would be silver nail polish.

Frankly, I am a bit disappointed. I didn’t expect it to be like this. LIFE. I can’t tell you what it is I was expecting exactly, but it wasn’t this.

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