Good things come from unexpected places…

I work in an industrial area and drive through some pretty dodgy neighbourhoods on my way there and back. Today, I had had a particularly straining day at work. Leaving the office, looking at the side of the road, I noticed a little girl running next to the road . She was tiny and weighed down by a great big backpack and waving a juice bottle in her hand. When I saw what she was running towards it made me go “aaawww!”. She was running to meet a friend and they met in the kind of hug only two three-year-olds can achieve. So, imagine the sweet sight of two little girls in a friendly embrace next to the road. Not only did it make me smile, but when looking in my rear view mirror, the lady behind me was also smiling. The little gesture brought so much joy and the two little people responsible for it were blissfully unaware of the good feelings they were spreading.

This wasn’t the first time the generosity and love of little people has taken me by surprise. Back in December, when I lost my girl cat, I went out into the field with one of our inspectors. I was standing watching her work with a horse, lost in my own misery when I felt something at my leg. Being very wary of the environment I was in, I immediately grabbed for my phone, fearing that someone was attempting to relieve me of it. But as I looked down, there wasa tiny child with a dirty face and a snotty nose, hugging my leg. I have no idea what prompted her to come over and hug me, but I was so overcome that I had to excuse myself and go wait in the car. This tiny child, living in the most impoverished of circumstances, with nothing to offer (in our materialistic-minded society in any case) gave me the only thing she had to give – a hug for a strange, sad woman…

Of course I wouldn’t even have been in the field that day if it hadn’t been for my amazing work colleagues. My job has really been a sanctuary this past year. The workplace is really the last place where tantrums and tears have to be tolerated but my colleagues and my boss have been nothing but supportive. Without them I would not have been able to hold it together. OK, I didn’t always hold it together, but they allowed me to fall apart and put up with my moods and sulking.

Of course this general generosity of people is not limited to children and colleagues, but sometimes come from complete strangers. While I was having my well-deserved nervous breakdown recently, I spent some time “working” for a friend on a horse farm. I was more in the way, than of any use to anyone, but three other people working there (they were actually working!) just accepted my in my perpetual teary state and shared their lunches with me when I forgot to bring food, took me out for amazing horse rides in the hills and tried their best to cheer me up. The rest of the time they did all the work while I stood hugging horses, donkeys and mules! One day, after having been for a ride, I was unceremoniously sent off for a massage that had been booked and paid for by my friend. Another  friend put me up made sure I had a decent meal at night. (And added two more cats to my collection!)

And then there are the people who just quietly support us without making a fuss.The people who check in and check up, listen to us swear and scream and cry and even take abuse when they had nothing to do with us being in that state in the first place. I took a train trip with a friend recently. It was lovely. Really lovely. Just sitting in the train watching the stations go by. Minimal conversation and zero expectation. Just being. I hadn’t had a chance to just be in a really long time. Just being alone together in shared silence…It was really lovely…

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Crazy Cat Lady-in-training

I have always thought of myself as more of a dog-person. You know, I really love that body-wagging, slobbering, “oh-my-gawd-i-love-you-i-love-you-i-love-you” super-excited-just-just-to-be-near-you kind of affection one gets from dogs. I grew up with dogs. We never had cats so I never really got to know any of them up close and personal and they just seemed a bit aloof to me. But now I have cats…

I started working in animal welfare a little over a year ago. I work for a horse charity, but we are all ardent animal lovers and because we are situated right next door to a cat&dog animal welfare within an industrial area, we often have pets abandoned on our property. Especially cats. We have two resident office cats and every now and again another one will just show up.

I have had a rough year. As most of you have figured out, I have been going through a pretty acrimonious divorce. As if that in itself is not enough, my housing situation is causing a lot of stress in my life. A LOT! For reasons that I don’t care to get into right now, I have tried and failed to buy three properties already and my time is running out. At this rate, I will be homeless by the end of May. But I digress…

As I thought a cat might be slightly easier to keep than a dog (I have had that notion seriously revised over the last few weeks!) I thought perhaps, my next pet should be a cat. And true as shit, a cat showed up. We found a little girl cat under one of our containers at work and I offered to take her. She lived in the office (on my lap) for three weeks and I called her my little angel without wings. Through some of my toughest times she was there. Just there. She didn’t ask for anything, but just gave unconditional love. Sadly, as with so many cats picked up from the street, she tested positive for Feline Leukemia. She was PTS and it broke my heart. I had really grown to love that little creature in those few short weeks!

Then the Christmas holidays took over most of my energy and I didn’t think about it much further. Fast forward to 13 February. One of the members of our field staff come into the office announcing that she has picked up yet another stray cat and everyone looks at me… Remembering my last stint, I burst into tears and tell them to keep the damn cat away from me until it’s been tested for everything that could possibly be wrong and then I might consider taking him. They leave him in my office anyway and the little skin-and-bone boy cat soon gets under my skin; I take him for the tests myself. And he comes back clean! For diseases in any case; the poor little critter is covered in fleas and filthy! We decide he needs a bath…he is not impressed!

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I don’t think he likes baths…

Neither was the X-husband with whom I was still living at this stage! But the kids were soon enamored with the little yellow cat whom we name Valentino (Tino). For nearly two weeks he does nothing but sleep. He is so skinny that they won’t even vaccinate him right away and he has to gain some weight first. He travels back and forth with me and spends his day sleeping on my desk and nights snuggled up to me. He is quite the little gangster however and plays rather roughly – so much so that the kids are afraid of playing with him.

By the end of February, we, the cat and I, move into our own little place but our bliss is not to last. Mere days after moving in, I get the bad news that the house has been sold and I have to move again! Because of all the tension and stress that has built up over the last year, this is just too much for me to handle! I have the nervous breakdown which I haven’t allowed myself up to that point. The psychiatrist threatens to hospitalise me, but I suggest that maybe if I just went out of my circumstances and had a little rest I might be OK.

So, off I go (Tino tucked under my arm!) to stay with a friend for the week. A friend who also happens to work in animal welfare and has just come back from an outreach with a litter of 5 baby cats! Tino and I have to share a room with them and because my solution to every problem in life is to get more animals, I start thinking that perhaps I should get another cat…

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Can we keep them, mom?

Also, in the midst of moving out of our marital home, my daughter’s freaking hamster decided to die! As if there wasn’t enough trauma and drama in my life already! So I start thinking maybe I will get her a kitten. It dawns on me that I can’t get one child a kitten and not the other. I end up going home with three cats!

 

I must be honest, as an amateur cat owner, I am struggling. I am highly strung by nature and super stressed at the moment and no-one ever told me that baby cats are possibly naughtier than baby dogs! They climb on everything! They don’t use any of the very expensive scratching posts and things I’ve bought them. They use my wash basket and my bed instead. And, today I discovered claw marks all over my VERY EXPENSIVE dressage saddle! And because we are all clearly stressed out, they are shitting not only in their own beds, but peeing on mine and the children’s!

But at night, when they are tightly curled up next to me, they are still the most adorable little fur-kids ever!

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You won’t understand unless you’ve been there…

And even if you have been there, it’s not so say that you will have experienced the exact same thing in the exact same way, because we are human – each an individual.

My sister had a baby last week. The little guy was born at 28 weeks and 5 days. He weighs even less than my own little premie child weighed and although I know what she is going through, and as much as I want to help her through it, there is nothing I can do…just nothing…and there is nothing that makes you feel as worthless as when you cannot lighten another person’s load, or clear the thorns out their path, or at least do something, anything!

Not that I would have been able to offer anything at this point in time anyway. I am myself at the bottom of a very deep, dark hole with anxiety levels so high that I think I might just have used up my lifetime supply of adrenaline. And just as I claw my way out of the hole, there is Life,  waiting at the top, to kick my teeth in and jump on my clawing fingers until I let go and drop down to the bottom of the pit again. But I cannot rest either. I cannot just wait it out, because I am so anxious and worried and have so many things that are just not in place and just not working right now that I fear if I sit still for even a minute, everything will crumble and fall apart. (More than it already is!)

Yes people, cognitively I know this won’t help. I know that worrying doesn’t make things better and I might as well “let go” and not worry. I know this. If I could stop, I would! I can’t stop…because I am in survival mode. So instead, I am like a hamster on a wheel, running and running and running and not going anywhere.

Right now, my life contains more drama than an Indian soap opera! I am so, so tired. All I want to do is curl up and cry and cry and cry, but I don’t have the energy to even do that! I wake up in the morning and the first thought that flashes into my head is: I am sad. I am so very sad that it hurts to breathe…because breathing means I have to go on. When will these onslaughts end?

I have reached a point where I don’t want to take the next step, because I don’t even know which way is forward anymore…I don’t know what to hang on to and what to let go…

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Life is mostly dull, you might as well learn to enjoy it

If you live in, or have ever traveled in Africa, you will have heard of something called “Africa-time”. Africans, especially those in any kind of official position, do not like to be hurried. This includes anyone from border officials, municipality employees, traffic department employees and most of all, Department of Home Affairs employees.

I was reminded of this fact today when I spent four and a half hours in three different queues at the Department of Home Affairs to have my passport renewed. And this is after I thought I had done the clever thing and did my “application” as well as payment for it, online. Turns out it would have made zero difference if I had just gone to Home Affairs and done it there.

The last time I had my passport renewed, I was freshly married and seeing as I was also changing my name, had my new ID document done at the same time. I stood in the queue with my brand new husband and stars in my eyes and everything was so exciting! This time it was a little different…

They were all there; the nauseatingly happy in-love couple, the girl who was getting her passport ready for her honeymoon in Mauritius, the guy who travels for work all the time and fills up his passport pages quicker than the ten years it takes to expire, the family who will be going on an overseas trip together. Then there was also the mothers with young babies, and the kid, fresh out of school who needed an ID to start his first job. They were all there. All walks of our society forced together into the same circumstances – the only ones who were ushered to the front of the line were disabled people, but even the pensioners who could stand, were told to stand –  it was rather a humbling experience.

I was not amused, and given the previous circumstances of standing in this queue, not in a good space. But I had good company. The guy directly behind me, who flies courier planes for DHL all across Africa was super positive right from the get go and reminded us that in the rest of Africa, things are even slower (I’m not convinced he held that opinion by the end of our day together, but he tried). The ladies two ahead of us were the pensioners who tried their luck and came back to their place in the queue in good grace after they were told they could stand, laughing that at least they tried. The ladies behind us were entertaining although by the three hour mark they were also suffering from a serious sense of humor failure. (A few jokes were thrown around about who would be eaten first if we were stuck on a boat or desert island.) The family directly in front of me, whose daughter will be going over to Austria in October as an exchange student met up with someone behind us who can help said daughter with her application to university.

By the end of the day, once we had all our photos and fingerprints taken, we knew each other a whole lot better than strangers and I felt like I wanted to go round and give them all a hug goodbye. (I didn’t, because I think that would be weird, but I wanted to!) It was a long an weary day, but made bearable by complete strangers who were willing to stay positive and see the fun side of being stuck in a queue in the sun for half a day!

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Marriage doesn’t last, but divorce is forever…

I turned 39 years old today. I feel old. Not the OMG-I’m-nearly-forty kind of old. Just really, really old. And tired. I really need life to just stop kicking me in the teeth now. For the past year, all I have done was drag myself out of a hole, only to be pushed back down again. Seriously, Whatever-doesn’t-kill-me-only-makes-me-stronger, I am strong enough thanks, you can go away now!

I look back at my life and the only thought that comes to mind is how the hell did I get here? I’m seriously confused about it. I don’t know how I ended up here. Nearly 40 and divorced with two kids, three cats and a horse. OK, I’m not confused about the kids, the cats and the horse, I am pretty sure how I ended up with those, but the divorced part still trips me up from time to time.

We were married for nearly ten years. Well, technically were were married for ten years before the judge officially decreed us married-no-more, but I suppose it all fell apart long before that. The problem is that I can’t figure out exactly when and where that happened. It wasn’t like something suddenly happened to change things. It all happened so gradually that we didn’t realise we were in trouble before it was too late. At least that is what I have concluded.

I love my ex-husband as much today as I did the day we got married…I just hate him a little more. No, sorry, who am I kidding? I hate him a lot more. It’s one thing to decide you don’t want to be with someone anymore. It is rather another to try and destroy them in the process to make yourself feel better. To have the person who knows you best, whom you trusted with your deepest, darkest self to turn around and use that to hurt you and to get their own way, man, let me tell you, that fucking hurts!

But I am not innocent. It takes two to fuck up a marriage. Maybe he is right, perhaps I just never loved him enough? Or never loved him in the way he needed to be loved? When you love someone and you realise you can’t make them happy, or even worse, you are making them miserable, it must be the right decision to let them go? There are too many questions that must remain unanswered, but the scars of this failure will run deep and last forever…

However, as the cliche goes: it is in the darkest tunnel that you bump into your truest friends. Or something to that effect! My last year has been dark. My last few weeks have been so dark that I didn’t think I could go on. But the flickering light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be friends with candles, or lanterns, or flashlights or some sort of light-giving device that pushes out the darkness…

Once again, life has managed to surprise me – there were some old friends, some new friends and some people whom I didn’t even recognise as friends, who all gathered together and lifted me up when I had nothing to offer them in return. I don’t know what I did to deserve such wonderful people in my life, but I am grateful. So, very grateful and I hope that one day, if I can’t be that person in your lives, that at least I will be that unexpected friend in someone’s life and be able to pay it forward…

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Bad times

There are a lot of cutesy quotes about people. Why we meet them, why to let them go, how to let them treat us and how not. There is the one about the different reasons we meet people; like some teach us, uplift us…whatever…

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I have some experience in this area; when you go through a life-changing trauma, the people who scrape you off the pavement and keep you together when all you want to do is fall apart, are never the ones you expect it to be.

Someone who can be there for you, not moving to fix you, not trying to force you to cheer up, those are the true gems in life. These are usually the people that have been through a similar trauma (although not always, because sometimes, even though you might expect people who have had similar experiences to support you, it more often than not just reminds them of their own sadness, which to be fair they fought very hard to overcome and they really don’t want to be dragged back there).

It’s not your friends’ faults though that they are not there for you. People, even your dearest friends in the good times, simply cannot deal with you fall apart and stand by, helplessly watching. People are not built that way. It’s the same reason we can’t look beggars on the side of the road in the eye…we don’t really want to have empathy for them, because it means that we would have to feel that pain with them, and let’s face it, it hurts!

So if someone is truly there for you, feeling your pain with you and suffering by your side even though they didn’t need to, those are the people that you need to treasure!

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Riding out the “wait” and bad medical advice

If there is one thing human beings are not very good at, it is not-doing, just being. Especially in our modern, crazy rat-race, dog-eat-dog kind of world; we are simply not that good at waiting things out and seeing what will happen. Combine that with our craving for instant gratification, and it’s not hard to see why we find it nearly impossible to sit in quietness and wait.

That is hard enough to do for 30 minutes or so, quieting the mind and trying to meditate on life’s problems, but if you have to continually do it for weeks and months on end, not knowing what is going to happen, it is a recipe for torture to any modern human being. We are simply not wired that way! We like to feel that we are doing something, making a change, or creating our own destiny or whatever, as long as we are doing something.

Now, I have never been divorced before, so I am not sure what the rules are (I didn’t think that pretty cool statement up myself, but I am sure the friend I stole it from will see the flattery in my piracy!) but I do know that just like everyone else in this crazy world I am not very good at doing nothing. So while we wait for things to be sorted out, I am going mad trying to find things to do; preparing somehow for that which we can never be prepared for.

In my attempt to take some semblance of control, I have decided to take care of me. Mentally, physically and so forth..but some of that entails seeing doctors. I don’t like people in the medical profession. I have had inordinate amounts of bad luck with them. The crazy in me seems to draw out the crazy in them!

I promise you. I am the only person I know that has had to fire my psychiatrist because she went nuts! I couldn’t believe it either! I rang her up, asking if she could write my script out the week before I came to see her for our 6-monthly checkup as my medication wasn’t going to last. She lost the plot! She shouted down the phone at me for nearly 20 minutes at how it wasn’t her responsibility to check whether my scripts would last until our next seeing each other and how she was going to make me pay for having to write it out and she didn’t think that was unfair because I would pay a GP if I had to go and ask them for a script. I stayed remarkably calm – for once in my life (pat self on the back!) – and told her that if she felt that all I needed as a pill-pusher, I would be more than happy to pay my GP less than half of what she would be charging, so she could go ahead and cancel my appointment for the next week. I was planning on taking it to the medical board, but then received a pathetic text message from her saying how very sorry she was that she had let me down and I couldn’t get the treatment I needed from her. It was sort of comforting to know that doctors get crazy too…It did leave me with a problem of needing a script…but my GP obliged and phoned up the crazy lady and got the details to get me my medication.

Fast-forward six months later…. Like I have mentioned  – I am skittish of doctors at the best of times and it is very hard for me to find one that I trust enough to see more than once! But hey, with having small children, I have managed to get to know the three ladies at the local GP quite well and they have served me and my kids well over the years. So I ring up for an appointment and as it is nothing serious, I say any one of the three would do.

I walk in however, and I don’t know this one. My shackles are up. (I don’t know when this particular woman doctor started working there, but as I rarely go to the doctor, it would have been very easy for them to replace someone in the last year without me noticing.) She looks like she is about to fall over. I suspect she is on cancer treatment as I can see the port or cannula or whatever sticking out from her shirt, so I am still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. We get onto talking about my medication and she seems OK. I decide that while I am there, and seeing as how I detest doctors and might not see another one for another year or two, perhaps I should be proactive about one of the things that at this stage in my life is about the only thing I can take control of. Birth control.

“So why weren’t you sterilised after your last child?” she asks me. My mouth drops open. But no words come out. I rock back on my chair and wonder if I heard her correctly. I am 38 years old…it has never been mentioned to me as an option…she is really pushing the issue and when I finally say that I am not really at a place in my life right now where I am able to make such weighty decisions, she says: “OK, well then just get the injection.” I am hesitant, because during my last pregnancy I developed severe pre-eclampsia with some pretty special complications the universe cooked up just for me. So I am not sure the hormones are really the place I want to go. I try and explain all this to her and then she proceeds to tell me that pre-eclampsia comes from the man and even if I decide to have another baby, as long as it is with another man, I don’t have any greater risk of developing it again. Now my head is spinning. I am an anxiety-sufferer lady, I read up about things and I swear I have never, ever come across that fact before! I manage to get it out and her retort, while sagely putting her hands together and looking me straight in the eye across the table is: “Well, not many people know that because they are not doctors.”

I am ready to run out of the door. Then the final blow: ” I still think the injection is your best option. The only negative effect it has is that it might make your depression worse.” My mouth opens and closes like a goldfish that has jumped out of its bowl and is now living just long enough to regret every last life decision.  My  head is spinning and I wonder into which portal of universal madness I have been swept. Did I not come in here to get medication for being depressed? I was sure I had, but at the same time the immensity of this women’s utterly preposterous statements are making me doubt even my own craziness!

So that’s it. No more pro-activity from me! I have learnt my lesson, Universe…I will sit quietly and ride out the wait. I will just be here, in this moment before the next inhale, and wait quietly to see what you send me.

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