3/52 Knights of the Vale

There is a certain innocence of youth that I see with Bunny. It’s the type that one has when they trust something to just be. Sort of like how you don’t think that the sun may not rise tomorrow, because you have no reason think that. The sun has risen every day of your life, and so it’s not something you consciously think about. Same goes for me and my family. Thinking back on it, family was one of those things that always just was. I was born privileged to have both parents around, and to have siblings. We were a tight-knit unit who migrated from country to country, only really splitting up when we the kids went off to university. I’m probably one of many who took my family dynamic for granted. Or at least I did until as an adult, I not only needed them but understood that having people show up for me is a blessing. One that should not be taken for granted. There are some moments that really stand out for me, where just like Jon Snow and the knights of the Vale in the GoT episode Battle of the Bastards, people I had not known needed showed up for me. Like, really showed up. I’ll share 3 of those white horse moments with you …

  

That time I got married…

We were young and had other priorities for our money which meant that a wedding was going to take place, but with a lot of DYI. True to my nature, I took on all of it and furiously made checklists upon checklists to make sure not a beat was missed. In spite of all of my lists, I still ran out of time because in there I forgot to add “be a bride”. I am so thankful for my aunts and cousins for taking over the prep work and running the day, my uncles for making sure we were restocked with alcohol when we ran out, friends for hosting showers and sisters for keeping me sane and showing up ready to do the thriller like they said they would. I was a bride in every sense of the word on that day because of the common sense and overwhelming love of the people around me.That time I had an emergency C-section…

After a textbook perfect pregnancy, I had it in my mind that I would have an 8 am -4 pm labour. I had not opted for drugs and had saved up a JR Ward book to start reading at the beginning of my labour, just to keep my mind off things. But what actually happened is that I went into labour on a Friday, but very slow labour. So slow that I was in no pain and had only dilated 1 cm further all weekend. As scheduled, I went in for the gynea check-up on Monday 9am. I had the good sense to have a full breakfast (rice and a quarter leg of chicken) before I drove off with my maternity bag in the boot. I guess I just knew. Once we had confirmed how far dilated I was and had come up with a plan of action to ensure delivery before 4 pm, I was sent to the maternity ward. There, I was strapped to the usual machines for heartbeat etc. when all hell broke loose. An hour later, I was lying in the theatre getting a spinal tap done for an emergency C-section. I was all alone. Then just as the gynea was about to get started I saw a familiar bag on the floor in the corner next to the door, and my aunt come up to me. Turns out she had heard I was in labour and had come to the ward to see me only to be redirected to the theatre. I was a teary mess. I had thought I would have to go through all that by myself, but it turns out I didn’t have to be an island. My people pulled through.

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That time I pulled a Dear John stunt…

Once again, I was surprised by the people who rallied around me when I walked away from my abusive marriage. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do for myself, but the support I had was humbling. I remember breaking the news to friends over breakfast the day before I left. We were sitting at Tashas in Athol having an incident free breakfast when I said: “I’m leaving him”. This was the first time I had spoken about any of this, and the responding love and support were so unexpected. I was offered help packing, empty boxes, storage space, a place to sleep, and lawyers details. And it did not stop there. In the 3 years it took to finalise the divorce, I had people I could talk to and bounce ideas off. People who rendered legal advice and got me in touch with lawyers. I had people help me pay the crippling legal fees despite having their own households to run on a limited income, and others cheering me on from the side-lines, encouraging me to live a full life in spite of the harrowing experience I was going through. When I made the decision to walk away from my marriage, I had braced myself for the barrage of criticism and an onslaught of doubt mongers. Instead, I had champions around me fighting with me for my life.

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I look at Bunny and I remember my youthful ignorance. I remember not having to think twice about my actions or having to actively build relationships within my own family because in my world family was always just there. Now, not for a moment do I take for granted the help that I have with school runs, babysitting, advice in general or school fees. My family is not picture perfect but rather a mishmash of colourful characters drawn together by our love for each other. Whilst some are through blood and others through conscious association, what remains constant is that they always go to bat for me. I am theirs just like they are mine, and I love each one of them dearly for the colour they add to the tapestry that is my life.

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.

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.

you are the love that came without warning


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.

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.

The misadventures of a yummy mummy

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Start with the why. Simon Sinek was on to something really profound there. It’s also a really good Ted talk, if you’re interested. This is my first in a series of blog posts in which I will be chronicling journey towards an even more awesome version of myself. Why? Well, something idillionaire said recently really resonated with me, and made me think about my journey so far; “I don’t have it all together but I’m working on me. I want to remain in a constant state of improvement. That’s my idea of the perfect journey”

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Also, this decision to blog is one of those things that ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’, triggered by the observation by a friend that my hair makes me look like a writer. Compliment? I don’t know. But it made a light bulb, albeit a dim one, go off. Now normally, these off the cuff decisions tend to be failures of epic proportions, but if I think back on it, most of the best things in my life have come about as a result of decisions made because of whimsy. Prime example: deciding to do my masters. Whilst the rest of my class mates had some really awesome career path that would be enhanced by a masters, I kinda just felt like it one day and registered. Cue awesome career things!

Also, getting married. Yes, yes, that should be a MAJOR decision based on love, mutual respect and blah blah fish paste (that was mostly there at the time), but in truth getting married seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, having been through the longest divorce process known to mankind, I’m of the somewhat humbling view that it was one of the best things that happened to me …>pauses for the shock and horror gasps and “how dare she… [Insert judgement here]”<. But it was. I’ll tell you why

  • I have the most awesome strong-willed and also cantankerous daughter, who right now is 5 going on 60
  • I’ve never been happier because all that f***ed up introspection that comes along with being an introvert going through a divorce (whilst also balancing a Masters degree, a management consulting job and mothering a toddler) has resulted in me knowing who I am, what I like and deciding to live a more authentic life
  • I’m can do whatever I like (barring the periods when I have to work, and be a mom). No more, ‘husband, can I? Yay for a permission free life!
  • I’ve shed a hellava lot of baggage with the divorce, so I’m (for the most part) a happy lady, whose chi is aligned. I’ve also managed to do great things with my career since, discover a love for travelling and become a fitness freak
  • I’ve embraced my so-called shortcomings, and now, I DON’T CURRRR. Take me as I am, or f**k off

I’ve lived and have the scars to show. Some of my war stories are funny as hell, others are downright heart-breaking. But this isn’t one of those deep and meaningful blogs, in fact, it might likely read like the poor second cousin of Bridget Jones online diary. I don’t have it all together all the time, neither do I have all the answers. This is a chronicle of my adventures and misadventures as I navigate through the life of a 30-something femme who is also a yummy mummy and a career consultant.