2/52 Down in the DM

I’m very private about current events, which makes this one of the most intimate posts I’ve written. But if anyone deserves an exception to my personal privacy settings, it’s you Mzezman.

 7th November 2015. The day I had finally had enough.

I was going through some of the biggest heartbreak of my adult life and was still trying to find my centre. Everything I thought I knew about adult relationships had been tested and found wanting. Left with nothing but time and my thoughts, I went back to my vision board and took a critical look at what I was searching for in a partner. On that board, I had listed them: God fearing, family oriented, humble, generous. When I looked at that list with my eyes glazed over from the hurt in my heart, I immediately recognised that I had veered from what truly mattered and was inadvertently inviting heartache into my life. Somewhere along the line, I had started subscribing to other people’s notion of partnership. I had started relating to people in a way that was not authentic, which did not honour who I was and what I needed in my life. I had drifted away from what really mattered, and put more emphasis in the fleeting and fickle. So, when I sat there looking at this list I knew that the only way this man would manifest would be by first surrendering what I thought I knew by putting ALL my faith in God. And getting some standards.

I started blogging as a means of voicing some of my frustrations because in my mind, the walk by faith was going to be long and likely yield some really interesting experiences. Little did I know that it would be the path that lead me to you.

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Faith is an odd thing. When you stop psyching yourself out, making a plan for every possibility and just allow God to handle business, He does so in a braggadocious way. Our story was scripted so perfectly from how we ‘met’ on Twitter and took it to the DM, surprise wine shipments and care packages of Battlestar Galactica. I first fell in love with your spirit and how your soul speaks to mine. One of the things that I love most about you is your big heart. Your generosity and selflessness are breathtaking. Being with you makes me want to be a better person, want to be more selfless so that you don’t have to be. I am so excited to grow together with you, one mud monster at a time.

This is one part of a 52-week post a week challenge on gratitude. You might also enjoy reading other parts of this series. Click here to see more.

1/52 Searching for Silver Linings

Has the world gone mad? There is so much anger and hate in the world right now, it’s completely bonkers! I’m crying for my country, black lives, our economy, our children. It makes it hard to watch the news or spend time on social media. My heart has been so heavy with all the killings, oppression,  hate and anger. In typical fashion, I’ve done an ostrich with regards to the whole thing and stopped watching the news and reading things on social media. I’m not live streaming anything for the next little while because Lord knows what I might watch. I just can’t anymore with all the negativity.

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I’m in a serious funk, and all the closet hate that’s spewing out for the world to see has me furiously searching for silver linings everywhere. I have an overwhelming need to be proactive, to do something to bring about change, even if it’s just in my own life. So it’s probably the right time to embark on a 52-week challenge with a central theme of gratitude. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and engage with me through this blog and hopefully, we will heal our world one positive thought and action at a time.

52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge 

  1. Why start this challengeSearching for silver linings
  2. Spouse / significant otherDown in the DM
  3. FamilyKnights of the vale
  4. A family memberOMG! I’m becoming my mom
  5. Something someone gave youThe Gift
  6. The city you live in – Getting into Formation
  7. A friend 1You are the weakest link, goodbye!
  8. Express gratitude to 3 people
  9. How did you do & feel?
  10. List 5 things you like about you
  11. Someone who inspires you
  12. Your favourite personality trait
  13. A challenge you’ve overcome
  14. A talent you have
  15. Things you like about spring
  16. Simple things in life
  17. Something you take for granted
  18. The weather
  19. Health
  20. A friend 2
  21. Things you like about the summer
  22. Something you use everyday
  23. Favourite physical trait
  24. A book you learned from
  25. Education
  26. Someone you got to meet
  27. Favourite spot in your city
  28. Your past
  29. Your favourite memory
  30. Your current age
  31. Core value
  32. A city you’ve visited
  33. Something you look forward to
  34. Things you like about fall
  35. Your neighbourhood
  36. Your home
  37. Something you created
  38. Music you love
  39. Your heritage
  40. Greatest accomplishment
  41. Hobbies
  42. Your favourite possession
  43. A mentor / teacher
  44. Your favourite holiday
  45. What you do for fun
  46. Technology
  47. Opportunities you’ve been given
  48. Your job
  49. Things you like about winter
  50. Lessons learned this year
  51. 100 things to be thankful for
  52. Did this challenge change you?

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What’s my age again?

I’m turning 32 next week. What a time to be alive! An orange man thinks he has a real shot at president and emoji’s are an actual language! I still remember tap dialling on a landline, the revolution that was the disk man, MS-DOS and floppy disks. What a time indeed…

 

I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time reflecting on the last 31 years and what I’ve learnt. Here’s 32 things that I know for sure:

  1. VH1 is what MTV used to be – good music 24/7
  2. Age is a state of mind
  3. Bodies get soft, and that’s ok
  4. Take care of your bones. They are irreplaceable
  5. An appropriate bedtime is 9.30pm. In fact, anything after 10pm is considered a turn upMjAxMy0yMDVlZWFjYTkyZGQ1OTc1_5127a2068be3c
  6. Getting drunk is a two-day experience because hangovers last all through the next day
  7. You’ve got to sustain some form of fitness. It’s not that easy to get back into shape after slacking off during winter (note to self)
  8. Pilates (or yoga) is essential. At the very least, it will save your back
  9. You are a source of inspiration to someone
  10. Be kind to yourself
  11. Forgive yourself for the mistakes of your youth
  12. Protect your credit score
  13. Live in the moment – chose joy, sing along on top of your voice, dance. But do so whilst wearing sunscreen
  14. Get a retirement annuity, you’re halfway there
  15. It’s ok to turn into your mum. She raised a wonderful daughter so she can’t be all that bad
  16. Family is not just blood, but authentic connections and real relationships
  17. Never give up. It’s always darkest before the dawn
  18. Do not settle for mediocrity
  19. Be unapologetic about your truth and brave enough to give voice to your feelings. You don’t have to agree with everything they say
  20. Life is too short to watch shit movies 3fd87c4f223e199b2f44e10d7ec9d43f
  21. Wear your battle scars with pride
  22. Fill your mind with useful things, and read fulfilling books (i.e. no more mills and boon)
  23. Don’t live in fear of the unknown
  24. Put down the technology and connect in person
  25. Privacy matters. Save something for yourself – not everything needs to be on social media
  26. Drama is not excitement. Stability is
  27. Travel – even if it’s just 30 minutes away
  28. Work to live – don’t take work on holiday with you
  29. 80% of the battle can be won with good eating habits
  30. Douche bags / fuck boys do not deserve a place in your life or in your head
  31. Be honest about your age (was 21 really that fabulous?). Also, it’s ok to use urban dictionary
  32. You matter the most. Love yourself enoughb84045ea194eef8e53a5af52b8b80aa8.jpg

You, Jesus and me make three

Originally posted on adventuresfrom.com:

Sexuality is an odd thing. A group of us could be sitting around a table talking about orgasms; each of us using the exact same vocabulary but our experiences will most likely be vastly different. Since there is no real test of objectivity to gauge that we are talking about the same experience, we can only assume that we are on the same boat.

I distinctly remember when I first heard that women could climax. I was 16 and standing in the second floor foyer in girl’s hostel. When Crystal said it, I looked at Baki, shook my head and immediately dismissed it as lies. I mean, how could that possibly work? What did that even look like? Was it a river-like flow, or a squirt? Where did it come from? Folklore, I declared it! The works of the devil meant to entice me into becoming one of ‘those’ girls. I was the epitome of good – I was raised Christian and was a boarder at a Christian school. In hostel certain events that were mandatory. Weekdays, it was 10 minutes quiet time every morning and devotions every evening. Weekends we had church on Sunday morning and Chapel in the evening.

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I was in the system for 6 years, and somehow unintentionally immersed myself in the religious kool aid because my sexual awakening only came when I got to tertiary. It was like I was in stasis then all of a sudden a light bulb went on. Boom, and I had hormones! But when that happened, noticed that I had some real problems with intimacy even though I never signed one of the many purity pledges that were circulated at Chapel. I had felt that it was too much pressure, and I was not sure I could make such a commitment. No pre-marital sex? Who knew when I would get married! I wasn’t sure I could keep such an open-ended promise so I gave the pledges a miss. I know there was that whole “I’ve sinned and want to be a virgin again therefore Father forgive me” thing that people did from time to time, but I hate my business being on the street. So my logic was if I didn’t promise anything then no need to seek forgiveness…

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Except, when I did get around to being intimate it was difficult to leave the cool aid behind. I would literally see Jesus sitting at the foot of the bed watching in judgment. Sex was an activity, which in truth I did not get much pleasure from. I didn’t get what all the fuss was about but I still carried on hoping to find some joy and somehow understand what the big deal was. This brings me back to that thing I said about same vocab, different experiences. I thought I was doing ok and could engage in animated conversation with my lady friends on the mechanics of sex. That was until one ambitious sod spoke about having orgasms. Multiples. It was then at age 26 that I realised that I was paying lip service to both the conversations and sex, and just like Jon Snow I knew nothing.

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And so when I finally had some time and the inclination to do something about it, I put it on the live life list. The circumstances of finally finding my orgasm and having unwed sex without feeling like a sinner were interesting. I was halfway around the world with zero fucks to give when I found my free. When I got to check that item off the live life list, first thing that happened was the penny dropped. I finally got what all the fuss was about. Then I got mad that I had wasted so much time walking other people’s journey with God and vilifying myself for being a sexual being. There was the realization that my sexuality is just that: mine, as was my relationship with God. That allowed me to fully embrace my experiences. If I’m not getting the most out of my experiences, then it’s on me. Phrases like “make me come” have me rolling my eyes because I make myself come. You just happen to be lucky enough to be around to experience my pleasure. Also, if I’m going to go through the effort of taking off my clothes, it had better be worth my while. Seriously. Bad sex has no place in my life.

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Coupled with the religious kool aid, I made a couple of classic rookie mistakes along the way. I read too much nonsense. Cosmo is bullshit (who writes that shit anyway?). I spent countless hours of my youth immersed in written content that made me hella gullible and left my mind in la-la land. “12 types of sex EVERY woman has in their 20’s”? Really? Every woman? Because we are all the same? I’ll admit to occasionally reading Mills and Boon for vocabulary. How many ways can you describe a hard dick, eh? Engorged cock, throbbing member, turgid manhood, pulsing shaft…

…I digress

Coming to terms with being sexual and a Christian was mammoth task. I guess you never really know where in the kool aid immersion spectrum you are until you’ve been intimate. No early warning system there. I suppose each person needs to come to their own understanding of immorality and act in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Now that I’m over my intimacy issues, I will declare that sex is a beautiful thing. God created it, as well as our bodies. Sinner’s guilt is no longer my portion because I’ve found a way to walk with God, and have an intimate relationship with my partner. The two must coexist because in the bedroom, you, Jesus and me make three.

 

A reflection of my happy heART

I am happy. It is different from my previous sunny side up disposition. I am well and truly giddy with joy twenty four-seven. I have a skip in my step and I am bubbling over with bliss. I am in love, you see. And I am loved with equal abandon.

I have been on an unintentional writing hiatus. With this new state of bliss I am completely immersed in the moment. I can no longer relate to the content I had queued up. It was grounded in the past. I have been thinking about it and agonising at the blank space on my blog. Wanting to post something, anything really. I could not.

I would start writing and the words would dry up. I would revisit my notes. I was hoping to find something that I would reflect my current state of mind. I could not find a thing.

I never really thought about the emotional space that I was writing from. I was happy enough reflecting on my experiences of self-discovery. I had more ‘blank’ space in my mind. I had more anxiety. I had more questions and doubts. I now have acceptance. I am at peace.

I am now giddy with joy. I am determined to write beautiful pieces from a happy place. Angst isn’t art. I will still write from my heart.

I am happy now. I am excited at the new direction of my art. I am in love, you see. Let me show you my happy heART.

Things to leave in 2015: half-assed parenting

I don’t believe in making new years resolutions because they tend to slip on the priority list by the time Valentines Day comes around. I usually make decisions about what to start, stop and continue long before the midnight hour. Topping the ‘start’ list for 2016 is being a more conscious parent. It’s one of those ‘continuous improvement’ things that always gets me thinking. Recently, I’ve really started worrying that I’m going to screw up my kid. A painting that Bunny did depicting her family triggered this particular round of this specific insecurity. The painting had mum, maternal grandparents, the nanny and the cat… but no dad.

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This really got me thinking about co-parenting and the relationship that Bunny and I individually have with her dad. Our agreement is crystal clear on access and the corresponding responsibilities so technically he should be in the picture she painted. Alas, humans get the feels, which complicate what should be a straightforward legal arrangement. This makes drama free interactions with the ex a proverbial unicorn. But I still think about it, and wonder if there is something that I should be doing differently so that Bunny is as well adjusted as possible.

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It’s tough having to change the way you relate to a co-parent once they become an ex, usually because the relationship is now so different from what it used to be. I’ve been told that my exes have it hard… I’m a cancerian with pretty low EQ. It manifests such that I really care until I don’t. When I care, I do so very deeply. My love is a real and tangible thing that will overwhelm you with its beauty. On the other hand, when I don’t care, it’s Siberia in January. You’re out in the freezing cold with your nose against the windowpane trying to get close to the fire. In short, I compartmentalise very well. In my opinion it’s a strength, but I can appreciate the difficulty someone would have adjusting to life on the outside. What I am struggling with is why this should matter. Is being friends with the ex a prerequisite for effective co-parenting? Should the feelings of estranged adults towards each other determine how well they co-parent?

 

I suppose part of the reason one would co-parent is because the relationship deteriorated, quite likely as a result of not seeing eye to eye. With that kind of background it’s probable that people would have difficulty reaching consensus on a vision about raising children. So no, we do not have to be friends. We just have to be effective co-parents. Effective, not good. Good is a subjective standard and yet another proverbial unicorn. Effective (in my mind) means that you are both considerate of your child’s needs and fulfilling your individual roles in making sure those are met.

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Look, I get it. Co-parenting with an ex is not easy. We’re human and likely to stuff things up every so often. Sure, there are prototypes that have managed to crack the code, but there are also a lot of others who haven’t gotten it right. Ultimately though, co-parenting is about making a conscious decision to come together in peace and partnership to raise children. Failure to partner leads to so many unintended consequences for children because things slip through the cracks as one parent tries to cover the distance of two. This is where we fail our children. This is where I’m failing Bunny, and I’m worried about it. I worry that by having to play such contrasting roles I’m screwing up my child. I am both nurturer and disciplinarian, I am bacon provider and fryer. I worry that the dichotomy of roles is schizophrenic and she won’t be able to reconcile them. I am  ‘sole person manning ship’, but I am also human. I get tired and I have needs. I have to take time to care for myself so I can be a present mother. I worry that I’m being selfish.

Effective co-parenting is as important to me as it is to Bunny.

When one whittles it down to what really matters, effective co-parenting does not require friendship or mutual like and admiration for one another. All that is required is a level of maturity that enables people to set aside their personal differences for the sake of the child. It’s not about you, or me. It’s about what’s best of that child and what is reasonable and practical. Does your ex need or want to know about your business or your struggles? You tell your friends what’s happening in your life, and they’ll tell theirs. All that’s required of you is to show up for your kid when you’re supposed to and pay what you’re supposed to so that your kid gets what they need. It sounds cold, but that’s the bare minimum of what you should be doing for your offspring.

 

Speaking of bare minimums, I’m going to Segway into rights & responsibilities here. These are two sides of the same coin. One counterbalances the other. Honouring or not honouring responsibilities is what separates fathers from sperm donors, and mothers from incubators. I’ll just leave that there to marinate…

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With my not so unique co-parenting arrangement and Bunny’s family portrait, it has occurred to me that we need to do better. Having a part time parent does more of a disservice to a kid than a completely absent one would. It’s a controversial opinion, but honestly, nothing hurts more than watching your offspring monitor the window all day waiting for dear mum/dad, who has had something come up and is no longer coming. Then to top that off, one has to field the “mummy/daddy doesn’t like me because she/he doesn’t visit me” statements. I have peers who have vivid memories of this. No one wants that for their offspring.

 

Here’s my proposal to derelict dads and mum’s alike: either show up consistently or don’t do so at all. If you don’t, we’ll even be gracious enough to preserve your memory by ‘killing’ you in some heroic way. Maybe you died fighting for human rights, or drowned while saving kids from a flood? Your choice, but know that it’s a tad difficult to bury you when you randomly pop up a handful of times a year… However, should you decide to show up, then do so in every way, shape and form. Be a super co-parent! If you do so, maybe the next time your offspring paints a family portrait you’ll be in the tree next to Lola the cat.

Think about it…

What I Wish You Knew About… Being In An Abusive Relationship

I was an ambitious little girl. Growing up, I wanted to be married to Michael Jackson in addition to being an actress or a lawyer. I’m now considered a grown-up, who unfortunately did not get to marry Michael. I do well in my career, I have a home and some pretty awesome trappings. I am also an abuse statistic.

I never thought it would be me. For the most part, finding myself a part of that kind of screwed up statistic was devastating. The ‘sisters with blisters’ club is not one you voluntarily sign up for. And yet there I was, an adult who for the most part adults quite well. A self-sufficient lady who was highly regarded by some and could hold her own out in the world. Looking at me, no one knew the weight of the shame I carried on my shoulders and the sadness I hid behind my bright smile. Did I deserve it? Did I have it coming? After all, I am a rational adult who should’ve known better than to have stayed. I signed up for this and gave up the right to be called a victim when I stayed after the first time. Right?

Here’s what you ought to know…

Leaving is not as simple as standing up and walking out of the door. If it was, no one would stay past the first time. The psychology of abuse is not black and white. The cycle is not that simple. From the outside looking in, I can see why you would think that. I used to as well, though I never imagined it would be me living through the experience. Abuse is for others, I used to think. Until it was for me. 4 years into a loving relationship, he hit me. By that time, I was already invested. Our lives were intertwined. Whilst we did not have any shared furniture, we had memories. Great ones. And we had plans.

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Even if your abuse isn’t served daily, it’s difficult to reconcile the beau you fell in love with, to his version of Mr Hyde – the one whose presence you dread. Maybe your beau is physically abusive, maybe emotionally, maybe verbally. I hit the tri-factor. I soon learnt that the saying about sticks and stones is absolute crap. No type of abuse is better. Fists, backhands and cables hurt. The wounds from those heal, sometimes leaving scars on your skin. Words hurt like a thousand paper cuts. Those wounds bleed eternally as your subconscious mind spits them out at random, a constant reminder that you are a failure.

Half the time, it’s almost as though you dreamt it. It happens fast, the apology is sincere, and you carry on. Wash, rinse and repeat. And whilst you aren’t looking, your self-esteem becomes eroded. And then the strangest thing happens. You start to feel shame. Shame that you, a grown person, who is rational and capable is in this terrible situation. Shame becomes your companion, an ever constant presence. Where shame resides, nothing rational grows. Hiding your shameful secret is the shackle that keeps you there, because once you leave the cats’ out of the bag. The questions come, hitting you like hailstones on a tin roof. “Why did you stay?”, “didn’t you know he was like this?”, “why did you marry him?”, “wasn’t there a sign?” Thank you for your morbid curiosity, but your questions are of no help. And so you stay because you have no rational answers to irrelevant questions and no strength to deal with the curious onlookers. You stay to put off facing the critics and the bystanders with their looks of pity.

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Then you start to change in tangible ways. The chemical balance of your brain readjusts as you try to cope. Death or prison are everyday options, much like chicken or beef served on a flight. You know that the way things are deteriorating, one of you will end up dead and the other in prison. You’ve come to terms with that. I was in fight mode for 3 years. I did not realise that I had become a shell of a person during that time. There was no light in my eyes and I had stopped laughing and smiling. I only noticed that in retrospect whilst looking at old photos. My flight response was triggered by the birth of my daughter. Only when I was entrusted with the life of another, did I realise the value of mine. I rediscovered my inner core of steel. But I was still in resting state, not ready to make any moves. Watching and waiting in the hope that he really was sorry and that he really would stop. But he hadn’t finished fixing me. I still wasn’t better. And so I learnt, they never stop. You do.

Enough’ is not a uniform standard. I remember years ago I was watching the movie Enough (the one starring J-Lo). My father was reading his paper on the couch, and would occasionally glance up at the TV. Then at one point where she was all bruised up from a beating, he looks up and says “she hasn’t had enough”. That was sadly prophetic, because fast forward a few years and I’m in the same situation. I stayed because I hadn’t had enough. I often tell this to people who talk about how they wish someone they know would just leave. Each person’s ‘enough’ is different, and you cannot impose your standards on anyone else. For some, it’s the first threat of violence, it’s when he bloods you up, when you lose your hearing or sight, or when you’re six feet under. We all leave when we’ve had enough. 

I love you. You can’t leave me. If you do, I’ll kill her”

Let’s say you’ve finally decided that you’d had enough, and you’re ready to come out and face the critics and onlookers. You want to get a protection order because you are afraid for your safety. All you’d have to do was relive the horror of your abuse by documenting it word for word on an affidavit. But only if it’s physical abuse. The verbal and emotional stuff is a tad difficult to document. No visible scars, you see. After that, you have to tell a Magistrate what happened. He gets to be there to deny everything. If you’re meticulous about taking photos and recording conversations, you’ll get your protection order. If not, the magistrate may just look at you and say “oh, he only hit you three times. That’s not enough. You also have no proof of the threats to your child”. When that’s over, you get the additional pleasure of him telling you how much of a failure you are, and how vindicated he feels because you didn’t get a protection order. Just because a Magistrate didn’t think it was enough, doesn’t absolve him of the abuse he inflicted. Pity he doesn’t realize that.

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Until I was ready to leave, I said nothing. I once had a bloodshot eye from a backhand and someone jokingly asked if he had hit me. I turned around and said yes. This was a good friend, who shuffled around awkwardly and immediately pretended as though I had said nothing. I did not speak of it again. Some things are just too heavy for friends and family. When I was ready to leave, I sought the help of a professional. I left all the drama on her couch, and by the time I walked out of my home with my bags and baby I had no weight on my shoulders. I was not angry, I was not depressed. I was hopeful. I was able to process the divorce from a place of rationality because I had processed the pain and had come to terms with my role in the demise of the relationship. I had walked my journey therefore no amount of in-law intervention could convince me to go back. Our African cultures tend to fail us in that regard. There are just some things that can’t be fixed with sorry.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is real. I will never be the same. Ever. I have healed and moved on. But lurking in the background of my psyche are memories of that time. Memories and intense feelings of inadequacy that can be triggered by an insensitive comment and leave my mind in foetal position for days. You’ll never know because I’ve perfected the veneer of normal. Well, new normal, that is. New normal smiles and is happiness personified. New normal trusts people, has intimate relationships and loves without limit or restraint. New normal no longer suffers fools. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice there is no twice, you don’t get a second chance at me.