How I beat the post festive season blues.

Eleven months to go till Christmas

After a 4 week break I attended my first 2020 Pilates class. Ben Marinozzi, the instructor, also my physio, had already started the class by the time I rushed through the door, at 8.34 am.

My mat and equipment beckoned my lagging spirit.

‘We’ve just started,’ he said, flashing a smile as he gripped both his feet and demonstrated the stretch that usually sends my pelvis into revolt.

‘Your 1st workout will be weak,’ I encouraged myself, ‘but your 100th will be strong.’

Focused on my body movements, sweat dripping and smoke oozing out of my pores, I continued to complete as many reps as I could.

‘$&@$,’ whispered the person next to me as Ben demonstrated the next exercise.

Stretched out on my back I attempted the leg raises. They seemed easy enough. Soon it felt as if the ceiling had lowered and in a swift move it crushed my thighs. What happened to my pelvic tilt? I’m sure that I’m thrusting.

In my 29 year old mind, I continued the reps but actually my age appropriate body had stopped the leg lifts after the first rep.

Why was I sweating and pushing myself? It’s just gone one month since Christmas and still eleven months to go till next Christmas. Plenty of time to increase my reps.

‘Bend your knees and try it from that position,’ Ben encouraged. He was clearly not giving up.

‘Sixty seconds to go,’ he shouted, ‘You are doing well.’

Just two more reps, I thought, and that’s it.

‘F&$@$,’ muttered the other person.

‘Now, take the hand weight and slouch back slightly,’ he demonstrated with such ease.

In that moment, I felt a rush of adrenaline to complete the reps. Gripping the weight, knees bent, I leaned back in readiness for the count.

I felt my pelvic floor touch the lowered ceiling hovering over my body. A surge of power cursed through my body to raise it back up to the rafters.

I can do this, I mentally pushed myself while Ben walked around checking our technique. Is he even counting?

‘You said thirty seconds ages ago,’ I groaned.

‘f$&@$,’ muttered the voice next to me.

‘And now, lets stretch your muscles,’ Ben finally said, clearly aware that I could no longer speak.

‘Eleven months,’ I thought. No need to push too hard.

At the end, hoping to get up off the floor in one swift move, I watched as Ben casually packed up the equipment. Eventually I was able to scrape together bits of my pelvic floor and move to a kneeling position before attempting to get up.

Now I’m setting my goal to increase my reps. It can and will be done.

My only regret is that I didn’t find this healer years ago

My only regret is that I didn’t find this healer years ago.

My life as an author is going ahead in leaps and bounds. I am experiencing that satisfying feeling when that perfect cake is rising in the oven or when the finishing line in a marathon is a mere crawl away. The word gratitude is now coming out of my mouth more often than it ever did.

My whole life has been about growing and achieving driven by a need to constantly discover new and innovative ways of doing things.

Today, in particular, many years ago, I became a mother for the first time. I, like many others, was torn between juggling a career and motherhood. As someone with a creative mind that races faster than a whirlwind at times, I struggled with keeping it from spinning out of control. Keeping my mind in check and in tune with the rest of me was hard to maintain. The challenge to keep my mind from spinning out of control with projects, travel, and personal development caused chaos in my personal life. This imbalance, more often led to repeating the same experiences.

Eventually all this took a toll on my nervous system. My anxiety and panic disorder went through the roof. I became depressed when I wasn’t everything.

I am semi-retired, whatever that means because I haven’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. A year ago, I started paying attention to my out of control emotions. I started feeling this deep searing pain and a rising discomfort with myself and started questioning who I am. I struggled to listen to those close to me who cared about my wellbeing. I thought they were being overly critical and that I could work it out.

It soon dawned on me that I couldn’t do it on my own. When that realisation took over, I came unstuck to the point where I could not leave our home. When I finally accepted that this is not normal and not something that I could work through on my own, I felt a complete failure. At that low point, I sought professional help.

I was fortunate to find a healer. His life changing work led to significant changes in my thought pattern. My brain remains super creative but the spinning, the critical over-thinking and the mental anguish has been replaced with an inner stillness and a deeper appreciation for who I am.

My new book, Behind my Smile: a True Story of an Author, a Broken Spirit and a Healer will detail the full story of my road to recovery. Prepare yourselves for a bumpy ride!

My healing journey allowed me for the first time in a long time to feel at peace, and to settle the mental anguish about my future. My future definitely looks very bright.

 

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Enlightenment and my spirit

Sunday morning ramblings. 8.12.2019

A few weeks ago I worked through some difficult processes with my healer. Our work focused on enlightenment. This process involved stripping down and uncrumbling that facade of pretence, the layers of untruth that had embedded itself in my psyche. I discovered that exposing and removing everything I imagined and believed to be true is challenging. In recent times, driven by that urge constantly nagging at me that I am out of tune with the world around me, getting help was vital.

As someone with anxiety and panic disorder as well as perfectionist tendencies, the act of admitting to this facade of pretence was confronting. Yes, for too long I believed that this made me the real deal. This was further impacted by a notion that my success depended on being bigger and better in all aspects of my life and that it was my purpose to strive for that. This I falsely believed would prove that I am an equal and good enough compared to those around me.

But then as things became clearer my mind started questioning. Good enough for who or for what? Whose benchmark am I using? You see, I am a product of a system that messed with my mind. That system was called apartheid or oppression whichever is the worse word for it. The work required to find closure about this is not the easiest path, especially for a chronic over-thinker. Letting go of these damaging thoughts have been a slow process. My spirit was in despair. While I’m chipping away at searching for the essence of my spirit, held in captivity for so long, a renewed being is clawing it’s way out. There is no stopping now. No going back.

But allow me to share. You know what I detest the most in letting go? Not the hard work I must put in to gain closure from this crap that shaped my early life but the audacity of those who say, with such ease: ‘you must move on.’ You must let go to survive. Hello … moving on is a process. We cannot only survive. We must thrive, our spirits must see the beauty to revel in life around us.

Like a motorised engine, as in life, sometimes it stops and starts, splutters and chokes. But after each service and oil change it purrs beautifully. If you have suffered systemic abuse in any form, then the very mechanisms needed to keep going have either rusted or have been eroded. Further shame and ridicule erode healing. Unity and encouragement are wonderful affirmations for those struggling through trauma. As they say in South Africa – Ubuntu – the spirit of humanity towards others.

And I want to ask those who kept/keep these systems flourishing for some tips in moving on, in how to turn a blind eye. If you are up to it, give me your top ten tips in any order. I ask this because of the silence. It makes me wonder if you have the answers.

Outside the birds are chirping. Another day is starting. I choose to make it a good one.

Sometimes when I talk to God, to Spirit, to the universe then they laugh at my plans. Those ones where my creativity knows no bounds. When I complain that I don’t understand my role, that my trauma filled life is overwhelming, you know mos how we complain. That’s when meditation, enjoying nature, showing gratitude, connecting with Spirit become the tools to get through my day.

Namaste. Blessed Sunday to you all. 🧡

Lest we forget

Sunday morning ramblings. True story.

It’s quiet at 5.30 am. I’m up reading through a recent draft of Tales of the Illawarra Line. I’ve been working on this manuscript for about 3 years. A collection of vignettes gathered on my daily commute to work over a 28 year period.

What I really want to ramble on about is an unexpected trigger I experienced. Recently three year old grandson, Alexander, was admitted to hospital for an overnight stay. Michelin accompanied him and stayed the night.

‘Just one more’, Michelin said as we entered the room.

Chubbs, as Michelin affectionately calls him, because off his chubby cheeks, inhaled the puffs through the mask. After a recent haircut, his mass of curls reminded me of Michelin at that age. Same position, same condition at the exact age. Only back then we were in segregated living arrangements in South Africa. Yes, hospital wards were segregated for those old enough to remember.

Now, Alexander, when he saw us, forgot to inhale and jumped into Chris’s arms. The toys were scattered all over the bed. I noticed the crumpled bedsheets.

Relevant to the story, back when Michelin was his age, our oppressors complicated things. We could be treated by white specialists, there were few ‘non-white’ specialists, for obvious reasons, but we had our own wing in hospitals. It was a mammoth challenge for ‘non-whites’ to reach that status of specialist. Anyway, I digress again. But that’s how our memories work. There are many twists and turns, frustration, anger and plain old who the $&@$ do they think they are. Yes present tense.

So on this Sunday morning, in a hospital ward in the northern suburbs of Sydney, the movie tape rewound to 34 years ago. Only then, Michelin couldn’t be treated in the ward where the specialist tried to examine him. We were sent packing to the ‘non-white’ side. They did not want his little body to touch the sheets.

Now my brain kicked into action. I had to tidy Chubbs’ bed and the whole room.

l‘Mum, what are you doing?, asked Michelin as I pulled him up from his bed.

‘I must tidy the beds’.

‘You really don’t have to’.

But you see, at that moment I had to. The staff, all white, relevant to the story, were in and out of the room checking on Chubbs. So I had to ensure that they did not see us as people who would mess up their bedsheets.

‘There are 30-something other rooms on this floor that you can clean’, Michelin laughed as he wrapped himself in the bed sheets, tired eyes closed.

He didn’t care about the crumpled sheets.

For a fleeting moment, I saw him as a three year old, rejected by nursing staff because he was not good enough to touch their sheets.

So I felt compelled to clean and sanitise the room.

Healing the wounds

In this blog post I’m subjecting myself to a possible barrage of attack. But hey,  I have the wisdom of healed wounds spurring me on.

When I ponder on how we can get closure about our oppressive the past, the reality hits that the closure we are seeking is the curse that shaped the life we were born into.

What I’d really like to see, in my life time, is for the privileged who constructed their white identities during apartheid, the white Australia policy and other monstrous regimes, that have become so deeply embedded into their psyches, to stop defending this privilege.

Born into oppression, and having this privilege shoved in my face by white identities created many wounds that need healing.

So when I speak to you about your privilege and the damage done to my people, there is no need, on your part, to become so defensive. That will only blind you to the wrongdoing. With the result you will only see the injury to yourself in this process. I am calling out the injustice served by your privilege and not an individual attack on you.

It will serve a greater purpose if you admit to the injustice even if you, the current privilege, are not responsible as many claim. Admitting that you are living under the legacy of the identity created for you by your ancestors is a vital step towards healing our wounds. Don’t be selective about what you gained from it. For one, change the language you are using and acknowledge what you’ve gained and how good it was while it lasted. Articulate your regrets about relinquishing the power, or if you hated the process you were ‘forced’ to live under. Explain your abhorrence to a legacy that you benefitted from. Help me out here to understand and trust your sincerity.

Fighting for a better world includes honesty and compassion.  You can’t have one without the other. Don’t go running around protesting about climate change while you are oblivious to the wounded walking right next to you.. Be concerned with your fellow human-beings who are still suffering the trauma of your privilege.

Let’s heal our wounds. Our scars can become the wisdom that’ll lead future generations into a life of true equality. You owe it to yourselves and to us to make retribution.

Kindness and actions

It’s not enough to have kind thoughts only. Thoughts must be followed up with actions. Because I published A Darker Shade of Pale, people ask me about racism. One of the most effective cures for racism is showing kindness through action. I grew up in a time when our oppressors were kind in a condescending way. They smiled, many acted politely and really seemed genuine. But what happened to that kindness when they went to the voting booth? That moment when the kindness had to turn into action, it became an unkind political action against the majority of people. It increased trauma, hardship, insecurity, fear, deprivation and isolation.

So being kind to people without the right action is USELESS. Get it? Unless you can back it up with kind actions don’t waste your energy. Either learn how to go beyond smiling and being really sweet to just owning up publicly that you are a racist.

We need everyone or the majority of those who are in positions of privilege to remember that kindness is the catalyst to building a better world. We can start in our own homes, our street, neighbourhood and suburb.

When next we go to the voting booth, let’s think if our kindness will lead to less trauma and hardship for everyone. We must remain vigilant to eradicate injustice and continue to oppose laws and attitudes that impact on the weak in our society. Mental health, people living with disabilities, domestic violence, and our environment; deserve our kind actions. Let’s be compassionate but let’s be fierce and steadfast in our commitment to leave this world in good shape.

People who have been exposed to social injustice and who carry that pain, find it hard to recover through regular trauma therapy. Personally, I want those issues that caused my trauma to never be repeated. For many it is hard to recover from the trauma of social injustice.

So I am looking for real kindness from those who carry the other side of injustice. I want that. I deserve it. I hope to recover from my trauma and to continue to spread kind actions.

Don’t fight for a better world without retribution for the past. They go hand in hand. Together we are stronger.

My mother tongue – the language of my heart.

‘Hayr Mer, vor hergines yes’, … recited Joshua Benjamin Segers, my eight year old grandson, during a blessing of our meal. With pride he delivered The Lord’s Prayer fluently in Armenian; his maternal grandmother’s mother tongue. His ability and confidence filled me with pride but also a deep sadness for my mother tongue. What is my heritage? What is my language? Why have I not passed on my mother tongue?

Growing up under apartheid left my siblings and I confused about our mother tongue. Our home language, a constant battle between my parents, left us confused and switching between Afrikaans and English.

My Dad, born on the island of St Helena off the west coast of Africa, spoke only English.

‘I only speak the queen’s English’, my Dad regularly announced. ‘I will never utter a word of his oppressive government’s language.’

And he never did.

My mother, born in a country town, spoke Afrikaans as her first language. My maternal grandfather, born in Lisbon, spoke only Portuguese. My maternal grandmother, raised on a farm where her parents, my great-grandparents, worked as slaves, spoke only Afrikaans.

My maternal grandparents, despite their limited ability to communicate with each other, had 16 children. A definite communication in the language of love!

Researchers say that we hear our first language while in the womb and that language is responsible for the development of a child’s personality. A child’s perception of existence starts with the language that is first taught to them. My mother spoke Afrikaans so that makes it my mother tongue.

Afrikaans was my only language during school hours. As soon as we stepped inside the house, Dad, who was the main carer while my Mum worked, addressed us in English. As siblings, we switched between English and Afrikaans depending on who we were with, or talking to. It was common for us to switch from one language to another mid sentence. The majority of children in our neighbourhood spoke Afrikaans.

I often wonder how I completed my schooling in Afrikaans while reading only English books borrowed from the library. I have no recollection of reading Afrikaans books during high school. I remember every English ‘setwork’ book.

My writing, during childhood, turned into hand made books, told stories of great adventure; in the English language.

Here in Australia, every language spoken, and there are many, represents a rich culture, a connection with ethnicity, and is a special treasure. Many immigrants, see it as a duty and responsibility to preserve their language and to pass it on from generation to generation.

For us it is different. Our mother tongue, the language of our oppressors, left many vehemently opposed to speaking Afrikaans. It was one of the forms of rebellion against those who ruled us.

On the Cape Flats, where I grew up, a unique dialect of Afrikaans was the spoken language.  This dialect has colour , humour and warmth. A language developed by the people, deeply connecting us beyond mere words. An identity, a cradling of our spirit. Only those who walked the streets of the Cape Flats, felt that pull in their psyche towards the expressions.  It brought a smile to many a face when hawkers sang their tunes to sell their wares and women gossiped over the backyard fences or front gates in this familiar dialect. The expressions embodied a deep warmth that reverberated when a friend called from the street for us to come out and play. A familiarity that only a language can imbue.

Now, there are days when I long to hear my mother tongue, to laugh at the expressions and to be carried back in time. I long for a language that ravaged my childhood and tarnished my memories. Something embedded so deeply in my heritage that it left tracks that cannot be filled.

My father, put the fear of God in us if we as much as uttered a word in his presence. Because of oppression, detesting the language so intensely, he addressed our oppressors in English even if he knew that they could not respond other than in Afrikaans.

‘If you speak their language that is when they control you’, Dad often said. ‘Speak to them only in English so that you can maintain control of something.’

And that is what we did.  It was some kind of vengenance in Dad’s psyche that he passed on to us. As siblings we continued this trait, taking pleasure in speaking to our oppressors in English only to watch them struggle in reply. Dad turned Afrikaans into their language; not ours.

I felt no pride, no special skills in having the ability to speak another language. It became a burden, a socio-economic indicator that we wanted to distance ourselves from. And we did so fiercely.

Since our move to Australia, our fourth generation now speak other languages as part of their vast lineage.  This great asset offers a new window to the world, a deeper respect for other cultures, their lifestyles and beliefs.

I am left to ponder my mother tongue. It is, afterall, a language that one part of my lineage proudly spoke. Through their enslavement, Afrikaans developed into their mother tongue. This was passed on to my mother and through her to us.