So now what?

I love music. I have been a groupie, a fan, a fadget and possibly a stalker. I discovered at a young age, that I can jump inside the music and in between the notes and connect to whatever the musician connects to. ‘Live’ music does that even easier. When I was a twenty something, concerts fueled me, invigorated me, and made me feel alive.

I saw most of my favourite bands including David Bowie, in my ‘gap year’ but a couple remained elusive and one of them only formed years later.

I would boldly say, ‘there are only two bands left for me to see and I will do anything to see them’. This proved itself to be prophetic years later, with my zooming off to Dublin, last minute, to see Peter Gabriel for a crazy 3 day trip but it was worth every cent.

The last one remaining unseen was ‘Collective Soul’ – an American rock band.

Fast forward a couple of years and I see the magic words. They are coming to South Africa! I make sure that I will be in the country/city/universe and book tickets .

The day (or night) arrives and I am beyond excited. I feel like an electric cable- stripped and  left out in the rain. It takes a lot of self control to stay in my body all day and I want to go and camp out at the venue as soon as I wake up.

The grown up me is amused but the teenager doesn’t care. All I want is to feel the frenzy of the live music, the songs that have fueled me for the last twenty years.

I meet with my sister and friends rather reservedly and eat dinner, all the while I am restraining the ‘go, go, go’ in my body. I was concerned about the venue because I am an acoustic snob and this venue is not built for sound, but I know I will have to overlook this -for now.

A few short hours later, I am in front of the dudes who have sang, played and drummed   the soundtrack of my recent life. I keep blinking, trying not to sing over them so I can hear them properly and let it sink into my veins. I feel drugged yet surreal.  I don’t want them to stop. They have 20 years of tracks which adds to many hours of possible song play but can only give less than two.  The crowd is drunk wait- dronk- and everyone leaves too quickly. There is no encore. This can’t be it? Surely?

Ed takes his  guitar backstage while playing us Comrades runners’ theme tune ‘We’ve got a long way to run’. I can tell he doesn’t want this to end either.  But the crowd dissolves in search of their uber, or bar and my connection is rudely broken. My last band is done.

I listen to their CD in my car a day later and I feel tears well up. So many songs they didn’t play. It feels like I only read the menu but didn’t get to eat. My mind is searching for ways to fulfill this hunger. Maybe I could follow them to Cape Town, or America…. then Ed (with his dishy brother )would invite me into their basement and I could feed my body while they rehearse. I laugh at the teenage angst with the wisdom of an old person who knows the impossible.

I have to be content with their CD’s.

The electric cable is still flapping about a little, sadly the sparks are dimmer now.  But I do know that miracles can occur and I believe in the impossible. So maybe now, it is just a matter of making a new list….

“She said that time is unfair 
To a woman her age
Now that wisdom has come 
Everything else fades 
She said she realizes 
She’s seen her better days 
She said she can’t look back 
To her days of youth 
What she thought were lies 
She later found was truth….”

A run in the big kontrei

It is ‘running season’ which means many choices. Where to run, how far to go and what to do. South Africa has a unique running community that is growing larger by the Parkrun. In the bigger cities there is a race just about every weekend. These races are selling out in days. But, in the decade since I started running, my sister and I have adopted a philosophy of doing at least one new race a year. Preferably out of town, far from the chaos and madness. We have plenty to choose from.

Our exploring this past weekend, took us to a remote corner of a couple of provinces, to Volksrust. This dorp lies officially in Mpumalanga, but very close to Kwa Zulu Natal and also near Swaziland. Yet it feels like it is closer to heaven than any other town. Recent rains means the fields are green, mist lies low and the mielies are high. I forgot how calming road trips are. The early Cosmos flowers smiled cheerfully from the roadside and the hills began to welcome us to them. The clouds built up as we entered the town and the temperature dropped dramatically. I had packed in a hurry, and not thought that I could actually be cold in the Summer, but sister had a spare sweater and the b&b had an electric blanket (yes, I was that cold!)

 

The start of the race was a whole three minutes from where we stayed and we knew that it was a small field so we took our time in the morning although I was feeling slightly nervous at the thought of running so blerry far. Plus it had rained steadily since about 3am so everything was wet and cool. The start was politely delayed by ten minutes to give the latecomers a chance to register and we shuffled together on the school grandstand.

The gun went off and we sploshed our way across the field, trying not to focus on the fact that our feet were soaked after a short ten meters. The road beckoned and the hills ahead showed us how the front runners weaved the route into the mist. I ran with my sister for a while until she took off ahead. She was doing a shorter distance and I saw her orange top for most of the way until her turn around point. The field had thinned out at this point, but nothing prepared me for how quiet my extra ten km was going to be. I was still feeling good though, so after a quick ‘goodbye’ we both toddled off on our merry ways.

I don’t normally run with my phone, but I had an idea that I would be taking lots of photos of the beautiful scenery and I am so glad that I was able to see this lovely part of the world- on foot. There was a time when the camera became my friend as the other runners were often nowhere to be seen so it helped distract me. At around 18km I lost a bit of my good mood when we were directed off the tar road -quite frankly the tar ended- and the dirt road was a sluggish, squeaky mud trail. I am not fond of trail running due to my past penchant for falling so this time, I had to tread very carefully and sadly spent most of the time looking at my feet and missed a lot of the views. My mood dropped even more when the wind picked up when I turned around to run back and I must confess to some major cursing. However, the mud road back seemed oddly shorter and I made it back to the tar breathing a sigh of relief.

The sun began to squeeze the mist away and the countryside now looked completely different to before. The cows still looked at me curiously and some goats had escaped their wire fence to feast on the longer grass. The wild grasses gleamed in the sun and the whole world felt like it was smiling at me. The one glitch in this beautiful day was the loud digital ticking of my watch. Okay, it was only heard in my head, but I realised I was getting slower and what was going to be a comfortable finish was now beginning to slip away from the 5 hour cut-off. As I began to see the town come into view, I tried to keep my momentum going without getting stressed and miss the lovely views. I worked out that by now I would have to speed up and I tried to keep up with two ladies who ran by me looking hasty and fresh, but I lagged behind. The water point people were now packing up, but whenever they spotted me, they would rush to give me ice cold water, rather flat coke, big smiles and awesome support. I even managed to sneak a piece of just-cooked boerewors which went down a treat.

The clock ticked by and I saw the school and knew that I was not going to make it. I was kind of sad, but  not, because on reflection, my head stayed clear, I didn’t hit a major wall (only some mud puddles), I didn’t get negative and I thoroughly enjoyed my run. My sister looked miffed that I missed the cut-off, but I got the biggest medal in the universe and I have a real warm glow in my heart.

That is what it is all about, after all. Running in the country, feeds my sole!

 

 

 

The excitement of downtown

I could start this post with ‘I can’t believe I didn’t write in December 2017’ but that would be so last year!

December came and went with its exciting fabulous flurry. The city emptied a little less than usual with more Joziburgers realising that this city is actually quite amazing when you take away the crazy traffic, rage, queues and intensity. I had more glimpses of the city and its history with a walk downtown to see arcades, the revamped Gandhi square and some fantastic revamped buildings.

I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about the 10 year revamp going on downtown. My days of getting the number 19 bus from Berea to visit my sister who worked in town are but distant memories. Yet, there they were stirred up and gloriously bringing tears to my eyes when the brilliant light of the summer sun shone

down on me on the old Vanderbijl Square. I was ready to embark on another adventure exploring my own back yard on foot. What a pleasant surprise and happy experience. We were treated to witnessing the unfolding of history.

 

 

 

I am no history buff and I really can’t remember detail but I will never forget walking down

the steps on the old United Building society to the unlit skeletons of days gone by. What a privilege to bear witness to almost unhandled relics of a century gone by.

 

We walked a short distance towards the tallest building in Africa, the Carlton Centre and all around me, I could feel energy, pulsing and happy. It may have been my own, or the expectancy of the holiday season approaching but I felt like a kid in a candy store. Clean, well managed buildings and streets with people greeting us happily as we walked on by without purchase.

 

 

The tour ended spectacularly 18 floors up above the city, with the unmatched view of life every direction I looked. Remnants of gold mines reminded me of why I was actually standing there, a century later and appreciating a view that none of the original miners would ever dream of being able to see. What a fabulous day!

What a glorious city. Heart Jozi!

My local touring continues

In recent years, I became adventurous. I think mostly due to the fact that I am less afraid. Is it age? Is it life experience? I’m not sure, but I do know that my younger years of traveling was kind of wasted on my youth. My TV outside broadcasting job took me over the length and breadth of South Africa but my chronic anxiety prevented me, unknowingly, to fully appreciate the opportunity.

The good news is, that is never too late. I breathe- therefore I am!

I was shown the exact mechanism to reignite my sense of adventure in the form of tourism in my city- the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. A brilliant start to develop my love affair with buildings.

Yesterday I explored the footsteps of Gandhi. Who knew? My history knowledge is abysmal but I am loving this awakening of discovering my heritage. Plus the added insight and delight of the architects creations in our very young city. 13 decades. Only 13 decades of construction and creation.

The natural beauty is also intriguing. 3000 years of rock. This beautiful Witswatersrand ridge cuts through the otherwise flat landscape creating spectacular views and left behind a deep vein of gold. Crumbs from nature which resulted in this modern city. A vast canopy of trees blankets the wide horizon and standing on the ridge I realised that I wasn’t looking at the city in 360 degrees, I was opening my skull to future adventures.

Bring it on!

Jozi adventuring

All my young life, I was fascinated by Chinese people. I first saw them in our small town’s Catholic Church. Sitting quietly in mass, I remember wondering where did they live and why were they here. Being a curious immigrant myself, I was always fascinated by the tales of ‘how did we get here?’

I was painfully shy though and would never dare venture over and create a dialogue or possible friendship. This curiosity stayed quietly unexplained until recently. I had the chance to go exploring ‘Chinatown ‘ in Johannsburg with a guide and a local Chinese resident.

Our Chinatown isn’t like the classic town of other large cities with lots of bustle, restaurants and markets. It may have been like that in yesteryear. But today, it is a small area with one main towering, almost tatty, majestically Wilhelm Pabst-designed building. It is surrounded by empty parking lots, once sites of schools and houses but now only hold echoes of the community long gone.

Instead in my Chinatown, I encountered the gentlest elder, in Mr Walter Pon who graced us with stories about his family, his ancestors and his history. He gave me a glimpse of a life lived under restrictions and constraints yet he seemed to bear no malice towards anyone. I marvelled at his graciousness.

We ate a traditional meal served with gentle tea and then followed Uncle Walter as he showed us three buildings in an attempt to describe his almost 80 years on the planet. He spoke passionately about the club which held together the community and his passion for his culture yet talked with sadness of the brain drain, which includes his children and siblings yet he steadfastly remains a proud South African Chinese citizen.

I can’t possibly hope to fully understand a community based on a very short visit but I do know that Uncle Walter is an example of how to survive a life of immigration, hardship and exclusion with grace, dignity, pride and class that I can strive for. If I manage a tiny bit then I will have lived a life well lived.

Can’t wait for my next adventure!

Cycles

Humans tend to be cyclic in nature. From celebrating birthdays, harvests, New Years and anniversaries, we seem to take comfort in the completion of a cycle. Death anniversaries are much the same. When I experienced it for the first time,  the cycle habit became a form of sanity almost, and it provided a kind of comfort. One day, one week, one month… then there are the ‘firsts’ of life which become emotionally charged. The first birthday without my mum was more painful somehow than just an ordinary day without her.

From the body perspective though, finishing a cycle made me feel like I had done something useful, even though it has just been the passing of a chunk of time. Almost like a form of relief in that ‘Phew, I made it through…’

My gorgeous, funny, bossy, caring, loving, sassy sister passed away a decade ago. Ten years. The world seems duller without her unique kind of shine. She lived far from me, but somehow always felt close. We shared many experiences together in my youth and I always felt protected by having such a glam, cool sister on my side. She would call me up on things that only she could. My other sisters kind of say it, but Joanne had balls to call a spade a shovel. She accused me one year of being ‘boring’. It stung like hell, and I gasped when she said it, but she was right and I am thankful that she pointed out my dark path I was beginning to inhabit. She was disgusted my the state of my underwear, and ‘scabby’ was the word I think she used. I am still trying to improve that one though 😉 She would tell me to stand up straight when I was slouching and to stop trying to hide away. She tried to force gin and tonic onto me in the pubs, but that I managed to refuse. I miss her.

As a teacher, then wife then mum, she sort of mellowed, but she still had a sting when she needed it. I had never heard her ‘teacher voice’ before as I think she developed it in my absence, but when she roared, it was amusing -as long as it wasn’t towards me. I was fortunate to spend a long period of time with her when she was sick and feel honoured to have just sat in her silence and munched toast and tea.

Life is full of great people with happy times as well as the sad, but now the pain of her absence is less and the joy of having the luxury of being her sister is heartwarming. I am glad to have shared the planet with her and I realise my heart is big enough to hold all sorts of different love.

Rest in peace Joanne, we all miss you.

Neediness

I need people to need me. I have been aware of this trait for many years, probably all my life. Yet it is one trait that I couldn’t really do the logic trick on and twist it to my benefit. What do I mean by that? Well, I usually manage to work with negative things and turn them into positives. For example: one of my ‘negative’ traits was- that I over analyse everything. I used to feel embarrassed when people accused me of it, but I managed to turn that around and now I acknowledge its strength because I am good at analysing everything and it helps me in my therapy business.

The need to be needed is different, but today I came up with a solution to the ‘why?’ Note: I didn’t say the solution.

Being born late into a large family, I think I grappled for my purpose. I know many people ponder their ‘purpose’ but as an extremely sensitive child, I think it was a deep pursuit and I recall feeling the nightly torture of an imaginative 6 year old.

But back to the aha moment…

The holes that I scoured out by feeling not quite ‘enough'(… see previous post about should’ve been a boy) needed to be filled. In my young mind, I thought that filling the pain would only come from the ‘outside’ so I looked at parents, siblings, friends, jobs and lovers to fill it. Yet it was like putting polyfilla on a place where a brick is needed. However the brick comes from the inside.

Moi. It is in my capacity to fill it.

How? Well, the awareness is the first (and often the most difficult) step. No matter how many crises I fix, tend to, help with, my internal crisis can only be fixed by acknowledging, understanding then loving. How do I love brokeness? How do I love me? That seems to be frightening for most people, yet I have already started it. By repeating again and again…

I am enough.

I need me. Even if I have an unconscious mantra going ‘but they don’t need’ you, the faint echo is now heard and I let it speak then take a breath and silently hear ‘ I am enough’. And you know what? So are you!

In visible

The dichotomy of being invisible – yet- aching to be seen”

For most of my life, I have felt like a contradiction. In many ways I have felt torn. Torn between countries and roots, girls and boys, good and naughty. It was/is hard being a people pleaser and a sensitive one at that.

I am unearthing a whole lot of things that have kept this contradiction in place and today I came across a very old (or is that young?) vow. I need to be invisible.

I was born into a big family and many had hoped that I was a boy so in a way my birth was met with a disappointment, much like many a baby girl’s birth worldwide sadly. I took this seriously. Yet I was a few seconds old, so how can I know this? Because as early as I can recall, I felt fundamentally flawed. Somehow being a girl wasn’t good enough, so I tried to be the best tomboy I could be, and when that didn’t work, I made myself invisible.

At primary school I did my very best to be a model child, obedient, bright and eager- yet somehow I never felt seen. I was one of those teacher’s pets, and took great pride in being complimented on being a good girl, yet I was never rewarded for it. High school came and the rebel kicked in, but still a ‘good’ rebel. I found a confidence that I projected onto the world and I did some crazy things, but I still never really felt seen.

Fast forward many years and I find myself being complimented for being ‘low maintenance and easy’ yet it no longer feels like a compliment. My invisibility has made for me not speaking up when I should, not saying no, and not charging what I am worth. I made myself small and not needing much yet there is a part of me that feels like Katy Perry and wants to’roar’. It sometimes spills out when defending the weaker or bullied people, yet I cannot blow my own trumpet. Who am I to make a noise? I dodge rude people thrusting their weight about on pavements or shopping aisles, I apologise if they bump into me, and I am often caught holding the door open for too many people (although that is usually in Glasgow). People talk over me, or interrupt my conversation and I passively melt back in to the shadow.

Yet I love giving public talks and revel in the joy of an audience. I  blab constantly on Facebook and at the same time, find my writing voice. I give presentations and workshops and relish the feeling of helping people. I love the idea of being on radio, and when feeling very very brave, will admit – TV. Oprah is a role model, yet I could never push myself  that much.

Instead, I hide. I keep quiet (mostly) and mind my tongue. I be a ‘good girl’. I stay modest, build others up, work hard and don’t expect too much. Yet that is only a part of who I am. The full version of me is unfolding and I am realising the power of this young girl’s vow to stay invisible. Now I have the tools and power and desire to change it.

Still a work in progress!

 

Flew

For the past few weeks I have been ill, really awfully sick. Not life threatening though, but still ghastly sick. Now I know there are sadly, plenty people in a worse-off situation that I found myself in for a temporary basis but for a good chunk of that period, it felt terminal to me (maybe it was manflu – haha!)

Now why write about something that happens to (mostly) everyone on the planet? Because the whole month of August just seems so strange and I have to write the strangeness out of me. It helps with my perspective.

This flu slapped me suddenly and violently and it knocked me completely off my feet. There was no flu-ish build up, and no warning signs to give an indication that a loony eclipse was going to darken my planet. I woke up on a Tuesday morning and there it was. In my joints, lungs, head, everywhere.

This is often the initial period of achy flu, so I managed to get through the day very sluggishly although I was coughing like a very seasoned sailor. On day 3 of the achiness I realised that my lungs may be infected so needed to bring in the big guns. Okay, it was a doctor and he had a stethoscope and it was around this time that I realised I had no jokes in my head. Not even one. I think this is what was the most alarming thing of all on reflection because I realised that I had lost my sense of humour, my appetite, my good health and the saddest of all- my inner jukebox.

Of course, being a tapping therapist, I eventually stopped chastising myself for getting into this situation and realised that my body obviously needed to sleep. It also needed to get irritated, frustrated, short tempered and not give a damn about anyone/thing else. This feeling stayed with me as I struggled to hold my head up for any length of time without a cushion and eventually the novelty of lying on the bed wore off. I had many guests in August too, but they had to just work around me.

The weeks ticked by and the shell of me remained. My one dear friend suggested that perhaps my soul needed a rest, and after much thought on that, I agreed. I was like a shell of me and had no joy, nor positivity and somewhere deep down, I hoped that this would not be a permanent state of being.

For a strange reason, I said to myself ‘Friday is the day’ so on Thursday I was floating about thinking that that goal is futile and was getting worried that this may well be me-forever. Ironically the nominated Friday was also 1 September, Spring day in the southern bit, yey! I didn’t know that initially as I think I got stuck somewhere mid July… possibly on a plane… over Ethiopia.. or in the Dubai desert.

Anyway, Friday comes, and I gingerly get out of bed and stop. I listen, I feel, I move. Gone…. the dizziness, floaty feeling is gone. PLUS- the music was back as I started humming tunes (getting ready for the shower- may have been a different kind of hum!)

The ‘good me’ is still here, and I am ready… to rock. Okay, maybe not rock, but I am ready!

Bring it!

 

 

Young dreams

I blame my brother.

He had dominion over the record player and at the tender age of seven, I was subjected to David Bowie, Yes, Deep Purple and the likes. When we got the first stereo hifi he also bought headphones, which we had to fight over who got to use them. In a crowded home of nine people, music became a beautiful escape from the noise. As I entered my teens, I still used music as an escape. Like every teenager in the Eighties, I sat glued to my radio for the weekly Top 20 and I imagined myself with the idyllic job as a Disc Jockey (DJ). Neil Johnson created a show called ‘homebru’ where he showcased local bands and I was in heaven. Around the same time, I decided I wanted to be a nurse, you know, to help people. My quiet, unproclaimed dream of being a DJ remained silent. I mean, seriously, who do I think I am wanting to do that job? To be surrounded by music all day and not help people? Plus, saying something like that came across as boastful and egotistical and I could never be that! So I let the dream lie there, deep within.

I did become a nurse, and was a damn good one, except that I failed my anatomy exams. My life plan instantly shattered, I immediately thought of new goals, new dreams because I couldn’t wait the three months for a rewrite. I now know that I was too emotionally involved in my patient care and cared too much in a way, well at least, I cared too much for a 17 year old Fadget.

Fadget? What on earth….?

My nursing year also saw me fall in love with a local band, eVoid, which had a regular gig at the Chelsea Hotel in Hillbrow. Every spare cent went towards my entrance to the dodgy club where I was surrounded by ‘live’ music which seemed to fill my soul. I watched the roadies and sound engineer do their thing and quietly thought to myself ‘I would love that..’

Roll on 24 hour nursing notice and I was suddenly free. Free to do what? I felt extremely relieved to be away from the responsibility of nursing and I was so swept up with confidence that I called the local broadcaster, the SABC (Mnet didn’t yet exist) from a pay phone (tiekie box) in a neighbouring block of flats. I was given a job interview and I sailed my way through the process, with the only real obstacle being, to prove that I could ‘praat die taal’. This was 1985 and the soutie girl applying for a fantasy job seemed a little out there. But, I got the job that I didn’t know had an actual name… a sound technician/operator. I threw myself into the work and I even had a fantastic Scots boss which eased my way into the very male dominated world at the time.

This century sees me on a completely different plane but I am still enjoying the journey. I had forgotten about my ‘secret’ dream of being a DJ until recently. I was asked to do a radio interview for an ‘older’ station with a friend and I jumped at the chance. I have been on radio a few times as well as on TV but somehow this time made me think… ‘what if?’

I don’t know what lies ahead, nor the what if’s, but I do know that by letting my old ‘young’ dreams wash over me, made me feel that ‘anything is possible’. I spent a long time in my head thinking ‘I can’t’, maybe it’s time to explore those dreams with a feeling of ‘I can’.

In the meantime? I’m pretending…. be right back after this break!