Are we still waiting for Normal, or is there a better way?

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A friend said to me recently, “It feels like there is nothing to look forward to”. He was referring to Lockdown and  the limitations that it imposes upon his normal life, the constraints on his ability to move around freely, where his options are being sorely compromised by the realities of dealing with this pandemic. No longer can he just go online, cherry pick from a wide selection of wonderful and exciting destinations, and then make his travel plans accordingly. My frequent-flying and adventure seeking friend is in the same boat as the rest of us: his plans are on hold while bigger things are busy running their course. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” I don’t know how he is doing right now, I have no idea how he has adapted to the situation that most of us find ourselves in- dealing with the shock of enforced change, rebuilding aspects of our lives where necessary, and just generally trying to rise to the challenges of navigating this strange and scary new space. Maybe he is waiting for things to ‘go back to normal’, where he can book his flight online and then hop on a plane to fly off somewhere different for a while. For now he will have to continue to wait. We ALL have to wait. But waiting can be painful, and frustrating, and even spirit- crushing. Waiting for change, for that desired outcome or result, is difficult. It can lead us to feel powerless and helpless and anxious. Thank goodness there is a choice. It’s called “Wanting what you already have.” Ok, so it doesn’t replace the satisfaction, the sense of achievement and the thrill of getting that thing that you’ve been coveting and working towards for so long, but never underestimate the power of the little things. The things that are already part of your life, the things that you may forget to notice, are sometimes easily overlooked and taken for granted because the big stuff, the stuff of dreams, just seems so much more exciting.

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As Wise as Water

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I enjoy collecting quotes: those handy and comforting adages that can offer cheer and relief when things don’t make sense, when the world doesn’t make sense- when you can’t help wondering, despite the wisdom of your years that has taught you that the world does Not have a personal vendetta against you or anyone else, why bad things happen to good people. Even today I received a Whatsapp message from a younger relative, and in my response to him I found myself typing ‘This too Shall Pass.’ Sometimes (usually in fact) there just are no perfect or fully satisfying answers in life, and we find ourselves with more questions than answers, and that kind of waiting period where we try to fix or at least to ‘adapt’ to a difficult situation, only to find ourselves dealing with the next crisis or a different challenge soon after! And we rise to the challenge once again, and sometimes life feels like just a series of events that asks (almost) more of us than we have to give.

Nevertheless, he seemed to appreciate my ‘This too shall pass’ comment, responding with a smiley face 🙂 and hearts ♥♥♥, so I’m glad I could help. Continue reading

When an Ageing Pet Goes

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My Jasper turned nineteen earlier this month. For today I have moved my laptop upstairs to the dining room, where I can sit down to write, and now and then look over to where he is asleep in his basket. How do I write an elegy for a cat who has been a part of my life since he was a kitten just a few weeks old, found at the harbour of the Cape Town Foreshore, a kink already formed in his tail from some injury that had befallen him in those early weeks? I remember his first ever visit to my local vet shortly after I bought him home. She offered to straighten the tail, having assured me that it was not impacting on his health or mobility in any way, and it would be mainly for aesthetic reasons. I kept the kink; he had no doubt been through enough trauma to last him a while; and he still has it to this day. He was my companion in the small cottage where we lived in Bergvliet for a year, just the two of us, before piling onto a plane to Johannesburg along with all of my belongings to continue our lives there. (He went by plane to be exact: myself and my belongings took the scenic route by train from Cape Town to Joburg.) He continued to thrive and strive towards living all his nine lives as fully as possible, through a number of changes of address here in Joburg and including three ‘sisters’: a second cat and a little dog, both of whom he outlived, and then a hen who arrived unexpectedly to take up home in our garden before we found a more suitable home for her, and surviving a number of self-imposed adventures and minor accidents involving periods of absence- sometimes for several days and nights on the trot. Being a parent to cats, especially very adventurous and spirited ones as he was in his youth, has its challenges. His final home, where he has been for the past few years, has been with me and my husband and our beautiful garden that has offered him (and us) plenty of room to move and play and explore, and learn about creatures not commonly found in ‘normal’ gardens, such as scorpions, black widow spiders, small snakes, bats, garden birds flying into our house on occasion, an owl that flies in to visit from time to time, and a buzzard that we sometimes see circling the area before it comes in to settle in one of our trees for hours at a time. Even as recently as March 2020, just as we were settling down to heavy Lockdown restrictions, we underestimated the prowess of the then eighteen year old Jasper. At that stage he was already weakened by more than a touch of Dementia, losing his bearings very easily and becoming disorientated even within his familiar space. Unexpectedly, he wandered out of the property at around 6 o’clock one morning, and despite all our efforts throughout the rest of the day, was nowhere to be found. So when we went off to bed that night, still Jasper-less, it was with very heavy hearts. But he made it safely back! Despite the limitations of his old age, he was able to get back on to the property somewhere around midnight that same day, and I was awakened by the sound of him calling outside the bedroom window, asking to be let in. I suspect he was as happy and relieved as we were at his successful return. But today is different. Over the past two or three days he has weakened dramatically, and has stopped eating and taken barely any water. He walks slowly and with some difficulty over short distances in the house, mainly from his basket to some sunny spot on the porch, and to his water bowl, where he seems to have ‘forgotten’ how to drink and sometimes dips his paw in the water and then licks it. I am trying to help him by feeding him drops from a syringe which I dip into his bowl when I see him struggling. And I made The Big Call earlier today: I have phoned our vet and we have an appointment this afternoon to have him euthanised. There is just never the perfect time for these things, and yet a time has to be made, a decision has to be made. He has been a huge part of my life for nineteen years, and no other being (other than my parents and siblings while I was growing up) has been in my life for that long. This post is not meant to cover all the things I have learnt from him and describe just how precious he has been. Anybody who lives with a beloved pet knows already that we learn from them and that they are precious. This post is really just a short record of my life with him, and of his with me, and a way for me to thank him for bringing so much love and companionship to my life over all the years that we spent together. I love him and will miss him dearly, and I have no way of knowing how life is going to feel without him in my world. Thank you Jasper, for sharing this life with me. You are one of a kind ♥xxxx♥

 

 

Stepping into 2021: baby steps or jump straight in?

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It’s the first day of the first full week of 2021 and I’m not sure whether to step lightly into this new year, or whether to just jump in feet first. Yesterday I wrote up my list of goals and aspirations for the year, but I’m aware that it’s the thinking, the mindset that accompanies one’s actions, that can work for you or against you as you step out towards meeting your goals and wishes. So, as well as the goals and objectives themselves, I have added to my list a general note: “Don’t overthink it, just do it.” And another one: “It might fail, but that’s the worst that can happen.” And then there’s “Best foot forward” as my father would say. As I write, I realise that I am feeling a little rusty, probably because it has been almost seven weeks since my last blog, and in fact it feels even longer. It was way back in November 2020, after all! Way back to that strange year that for most was a bewildering and scary time, one where we had to dig deep, and be brave and patient and compassionate individuals, and hope sincerely that that would be all the pandemic would ask of us. Many people had it far worse than those of us who are still in a position to sit here, (hopefully) in good health and write our posts and catch up with what our blogging friends have been up to over the past few weeks. At a time like this, you just never know what will be asked of you, or what might be taken from you. So to all my readers here, and to my friend Kate in the UK, who reminded me that the three go together: I sincerely wish you a Happy and Hopeful and Healthy 2021. Difficult days, but here we still all are! Here’s wishing you ALL the best of what the year has to offer, and remember that we are all works in progress, so let’s just all keep on creating♥

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How to eat noxious weeds and worms, and why you would want to.

bright caterpillar eating plant with flower buds in garden
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It’s possible that you are inadvertently downing more critters than you realise, especially if you buy organic leafy greens or grow your own at home and pick these to eat at your table. Insects have a way of attaching to organically grown produce, and I recently found a tiny, bright green mite, still alive and attached to a curled leaf of a head of lettuce after several days in the fridge. I returned it to a sheltered spot in my garden and wished it a happy life. Even after rinsing- that’s all you need to prepare organically grown greens- I’m aware that I may miss a few, and they may be going down the hatch- MY hatch!- along with a mouthful of salad. This is not much of a concern for me. There are worse things in life! It seems that currently there is a high level of interest in the viability of insect protein as we try and explore more creative ways of feeding the millions who occupy the planet. There is plenty on the web about the nutritious properties of insects and grubs, including other pertinent food awareness issues, such as why we all need to get over ‘ugly food’ and learn to eat weeds and certain foods that we, especially Westerners, typically consider unthinkable.

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Is inner peace possible, when you’re surrounded by disarray?

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 I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’, (which isn’t about birds!) It’s quite hilarious at times and rich in warmth and down-to-earth wisdom. At one point there is an account of her visit to a priest because she is feeling chaotic and vulnerable in her writing. She talks about the unpredictable nature of being a writer, of working  in a space where you can go from success to failure in the blink of an eye, or the turn of a page. She feels thrown by the fickle way the world responds, by never knowing how a piece will be received, wanting the positive response (of course) but not knowing what she will get, from one book or essay to the next. The priest agrees that she is in need of some peace and quiet and reflects on her search for serenity amidst all the chaos that she feels. Abbreviated, he responds as follows: “The world can’t give you that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts … But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.” Continue reading

Is there something wrong with this picture?

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In the early years of microwave ovens, when I still lived at home with my parents, there was the adage of ‘don’t cover your food with cling film in the microwave, it will give you cancer.’ Whether the whole truth or not, a lot of people remain instinctively mistrustful of single use plastics, whether out of concern for personal individual health or environmental health. I for one choose not to use cling film. I have not used it for many years and never have it in the house. I prefer to find other ways of wrapping and storing my food. There is enough evidence to conclude that single use plastics ultimately do our health no favours, and it cannot be argued that it is wreaking havoc upon our natural environment as we speak. They remain however, a cheap and convenient kitchen and pantry aid. It is this convenience that attracts us, and keeps us coming back for more. October is breast cancer awareness month in South Africa. And while thankfully it has not affected me personally, I know plenty of women (it can affect men too), including a sibling, who are breast cancer survivors. Continue reading

How to be “Normal”, and what does that really mean?

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I think back to myself growing up sometimes: to the achiever wanting to do her best, wanting to please her parents and to be acceptable and likeable in the eyes of other kids, and with any luck to be invited to their birthday parties. I certainly would have been horrified, devastated even, at being considered not normal. Who would want that? In many ways it was easier to be average rather than the achiever at school. Average was synonymous with normal, and this is what made you acceptable in the eyes of the other kids. Yes, accolades can be nice, although not necessarily if you are painfully shy, as I was. Being singled out in the school hall or the classroom always gave me the shakes and sweaty palms and a furious blush for all to see. And of course being too much of an achiever can be alienating—you can end up being regarded as different by the other kids, when all you want is just to be part of things– regular, ordinary even. More than anything I just wanted to be normal, acceptable, one of the group; not to be told by the boys, as I recall as a Tween ballet dancer: “Your legs are so thin they are just not normal.”

Normal is a big word: it talks to us of where and how we ‘should be’, it lets us know how the ball park has been set out, where the safe area is, where we need to be to at least be known to be functional and ‘healthy’. Normal is also a very small, mean word; one used freely by those who judge us to be not really accepted or acceptable in their small, mean opinion Continue reading

A touch of Insomnia: how to tread the lonely path in the wee small hours

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Sunday night was one of those nights. You wake up in the early hours to make a quick trip down the hall and then that’s it. Sleep is well and truly interrupted. The rhythm is gone, never to be seen again– for tonight, anyway. After twenty minutes or so, despite tissue salts (#6 Kali Phos may help), conscious slow breathing and counting backwards from 100, I’m still there, firmly in the grip of something that is bigger than my toolkit and all my best intentions. Sometimes I even forget about the toolkit—I forget to check on myself and what is happening with my thoughts, and how these may be affecting my breath and heart rate. A sudden recollection of a disagreement at work or at home may lead to an unexpected welling up of outrage, resentment, or whatever, and before you know it you are confronting that person in your head, you are feeling the steaminess of anger and righteous indignation, your heart rate goes up as your blood starts to boil, and in no time you are wide awake, living those unpleasant memories, and any hope of sleep has left the building!

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