Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Happiness is a consequence

Happiness is not something we should search for. It isn’t something we should desire and never have. Happiness is a consequence.

Every day we make a multitude of choices: Should I get up now or stay in bed for a few more minutes? Should I brush my teeth first? Should I wear this … or that …? Should I eat cereal or fry an egg? Should I throw in petrol now or after work? The amount of choices every day is always on our mind; some we are aware of and others are hidden. We often fall into a pattern with our daily routine and make the same choices every day only to find that there is that one specific moment where we actually want to do something else. We yearn for something different.

Our daily choices have consequences and these consequences determine whether or not we are happy. Through our actions, happiness happens. It is then apt to see happiness as a by-product of what we choose to do or choose not to do. For example, Acts 20:35 says: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving”. When we do good things for others, we will feel good.

When we feel good about ourselves, we tend to make better choices. We develop a sense that we matter. When we do things wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, we tend to enjoy what we are doing. When we do things in faith rather than fear, we will always want to do more. In other words, where there is self-love, there is happiness; where there is commitment, there is happiness; where there is enthusiasm, there is happiness; and where there is faith, there is happiness.

Optimistic people will experience more happiness than pessimists. People who have good morals will experience more happiness than those who always seek to do wrong. Happiness also belongs to those who are satisfied, accepting, flexible, tolerant and easy to forgive. Gratitude leads to happiness.

Many believe that happiness is found in material things. Shopaholics will be quick to tell us where they “purchase” their happiness. Needless to say, material things do not necessarily bring us happiness. Happiness is not determined by money. Winning the lottery so that we can resign from that job we hate will not bring happiness. Being rich so that we can buy idleness, comfort and everything else that we desire will not bring happiness.

Happiness is not a wild goose chase. It comes incidentally. Happiness is made up of small fractions of seconds that happen now. We live now and should do good now to the people who are with us now. Living in the past or the future will not bring happiness. These acts are time wasted. Now is the time to enjoy what life has to offer. If there are no good opportunities, create good opportunities. Be kind to others. Smile more often. Focus on the positive things and change a negative attitude to a more optimistic one. It takes time and a lot of effort to change our perspective and behaviour, but, if we accept the challenge, we will grow and become a better person than we were yesterday. In the end, we will reap the rewards.

If we can live our life to the best of our ability and make the best of every bad situation, we can go forward feeling happy. If we can maintain and preserve our health, we are blessed and have no reason to be sad. 

Life goes on. We only need to go on with it, grateful that we can.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Gallstones

I’m not one to go to the doctor much because for the past ten years I have always been diagnosed with stress, depression, anxiety and, more recently, menopause and changes in hormone levels. 

I have been suffering for two years. In these two years I went to the doctor twice. On both occasions I was told that my hormone levels were changing. I had heartburn, hiccoughed after eating, and couldn’t eat a lot of food at a time. It always felt as if I had something hard in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t lose weight; instead, I gained a lot of weight. The worst part was that I wasn’t really eating because I wasn’t feeling well. 

At the end of November 2015, I decided to go to the doctor again. At last, for the first time in years, I was diagnosed with something new: gallstones. I needed to go for a sonar and make sure, though. I made an appointment that same day. I was feeling awful, but got in the car and drove the 54 km to the nearest radiologist. And it was confirmed. My gallbladder was full of gallstones. 

I wasn’t eager to have my gallbladder removed, so I decided to flush my gallbladder. I did this twice in a fortnight. After the second flush, I was so ill. 

Eventually, I went back to the  doctor. I was in pain and couldn’t eat. Surgery seemed the only solution. 

On the 11th of January, I was wheeled into theatre and had laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder. When I saw the gallstones, all 8 of them, and the size of them, I realised that no amount of flushing would ever get them out. Whether there were more, but smaller, I do not know. I never asked. At least, I am consoled into believing that I have done the right thing. 



Now I have to adapt to living without my gallbladder. It’s day 4 of recovery and I still have a lot of pain. I don’t feel well and all I really want is to have my health back. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

Change is inevitable

We tend to wait for the start of a new year to make new resolutions because it symbolizes new beginnings. None of us ever wake up on a Tuesday or Wednesday (or any other day) of the month with the same feeling for renewal. We feel about renewal on New Year's day exactly the same as we feel about ourselves on our birth date. Nothing compares to the feelings of anticipated excitement (or uncertainty) on the days prior to that specific date and the actual day of our birth. It’s magical. We feel empowered, special and just so very, very significant on that day.  

Sadly, none of our resolutions really last for more than a few days or weeks into the new year. Our resolutions are metamorphic; what we initially wanted to change and what eventually does change can be seen as a subtle process – we hardly ever notice the transition. If our resolutions dissolve within hours, days or weeks, we shouldn’t feel weak. It’s not a lack of willpower that prevents our resolutions from materialising. The actual problem is that we’re trying to bring about change incorrectly.

We can only initiate exterior change once we have made inner changes. We need to change our pattern of thinking first before we can change any habits or our lifestyle. If we want to change our mind, we need to get used to the new perspective and this takes time. We cannot decide on the 28th of December that we’re going to change from the first day of January.  

Changing our mind is very complicated because we are constantly bombarded with information and change, in our environment and the world. Very few of us really like change. We tend to become comfortable with what we know and just the thought of change brings a measure of anxiety and stress. Change requires ‘effort’ on our part to adapt. Because we are rigid in our thoughts, we first shun the idea of change before we accept it. With the start of a new year, we impulsively and excitedly think or say things without really understanding what these changes will entail.

Change is inevitable. Each day of our life we experience some form of change and, more often than not, we have absolutely no control over it. Any change that we experience creates emotional fluctuations. Our emotions can be likened to the desert landscape, which is prone to change when the winds shift the dunes and form new sand formations. Any changes we experience are emotionally challenging because all the fixed points that we know seem to disappear, leaving us disoriented and insecure. Disorientation and a lack of security bring fear. We become nostalgic about what we had, especially when the change we experienced was radical. For example, the loss of employment, divorce or death in the family can impact our lives dramatically. For many of us it becomes difficult to let go. And if we don’t let go, it becomes difficult to move forward.

In the midst of change, we have to find our own unique way towards a new ‘comfort zone’. Everyone experiences change differently, and, in our attempts to cope and move forward to betterment and safety, we find ourselves on a solo journey. The key to success on this journey is to make sure that we connect with someone we can trust. While we travel alone, experiencing life in our own unique way, we still need to share our experiences, and discuss our thoughts, emotions and self-revelations so that we don’t end up repressing them.

Life is unpredictable. We cannot understand, own or control it. The only thing we can do is strengthen our mind and our heart. We can gain knowledge of the world and everything in it. We can read about other people and their experiences. We are not the first people ever to experience change. Many people before us have suffered loss, pain and trauma, and many people after us will suffer the same. We can look at their stories and coping strategies, and through this become aware of what life can throw at us. We can imitate their attitudes or strategies, but in the end, we need to do what must be done to survive the onslaught of life happening to us and around us.

Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves constantly that nothing ever stays the same. We must anticipate change. We need to be aware of change so that every time something does change, we will focus on becoming more resilient.   

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The power lies within us

It’s almost time for the new school year to begin, and soon teachers and children will be returning to the classrooms. A greater percentage does not want to be there. Just the word ‘school’ connotes despondency. Many children want their freedom. They don’t want to be educated. For them, reading, writing, learning and doing anything academic serves as punishment. Many teachers don’t want to prepare, teach, assess, etc. This is obvious when we hear them complain about the declining standard of work, behaviour, professionalism, parental interest and the education system.

The purpose of sending children to school is to prepare them for society. Everyone who finishes school, college or university will eventually find a job and pay tax. By educating the nation, the country will obviously be successful. Revenues paid to the government will see to it that the country’s infrastructure is maintained and advanced (i.e. roads, bridges, railway lines, buildings, salaries for government employees, social benefits – including the welfare system – medical benefits, international commerce deals, etc.). Taxes are also used to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor (that is why those who are better qualified and remunerated pay more in taxes). It’s not just about paying tax. It’s also about service. People who are required to do a specific job will be able to do the job more effectively and efficiently if they are better educated. In South Africa, the pass rate is 30%, which is detrimental for the future of the country. Education determines the workforce of a country. Instead of bringing the pass rate down, we should be encouraging a better quality of teaching and learning. We should also encourage better qualifications (doctoral or master’s degree) and remuneration for teachers, who are responsible for educating the nation.  

The biggest problem with teachers and children (and many people in general) is that very few of them want to be effective. Very few of them want to ‘work’ for a living. Very few know what their passion is and very few do what they are passionate about. This leads to dissatisfaction and a legacy of negativity.

When we have power we are able to work towards doing what we are passionate about. In order to have power, we need knowledge and perception. Knowledge brings awareness and gives us power. The more we know, the more we can do. That is why learning is so important. All of life is a learning experience. Learning is not only done at school. It is done at home, in church, in a shopping centre … it is done everywhere. Perception also brings awareness. It is the key to finding solutions to our problems. Once we understand a problem, it will dissolve. When we have knowledge and perception, we have awareness.

Awareness gives us a choice. We can either control people/situations or allow the people/situations to control us. Without knowledge and perception, we have no control. We will not be able to understand how things work and we will not know what is happening in life. We will not be able to make effective and conscious choices. Being aware leads us towards making changes. We will understand what needs to be changed and what the reasons are for making these changes.

Very few people have power. They have the opposite, which is fear. Power comes from within us. Inner power is what we believe. Because people influence our beliefs, parents and teachers have a great responsibility to help children to believe in themselves. Fear comes from outside of us. Different factors, people and circumstances feed our fears. If we believe we have no power over something, like a subject, e.g. Mathematics, we will become afraid of it. We will start doubting in our abilities and the outcome can only be failure. Our belief is based on awareness or ignorance. We either know or we don’t know. The problem is we are quick to give up because we aren’t willing to improve. We aren’t willing to put in the effort to grow or develop. We believe we are stupid and will never be able to do what we fear, and then failure becomes a habit. The truth is that IQ can improve with hard work.   

Too many people (including teachers, parents and children) prefer ignorance. They avoid self-improvement and self-empowerment? Many teachers, for example, study to become educators between the ages of 19 and 22. They then teach with that qualification for the rest of their lives. They do not study further at any other time in their career and eventually end up in a rut and cannot teach effectively.

Parents are just as guilty. Many believe that the school and church are responsible for educating their children. Many parents, especially those who lack good educational qualifications, do not inspire their children to learn. They have absolutely no involvement in their children’s school career. These are the parents who are quick to criticize the teachers and education system.

Learning starts in the womb. It is a life experience. We never stop learning. If ever we want our children to be successful, we need to encourage hard work and learning. We also need to focus on value-based education so that children, teachers and parents will stop focusing on academic results and look at the child as a person who is being prepared for society. We need so much more to survive in the real world than an average of 90% grades on our school report, and so, we need to focus on preparing children to meet the challenges that they may face in life and in their academic career. By doing this, we will be developing adults with healthy relationships, positive social behaviours, social and emotional development, resilience, the ability to adapt and the ability to allow change.

We tend to dislike personal discomfort and personal suffering, and we also dislike seeing so much suffering in the world. We want to make a difference, but often feel that we have no power to do so. Yet, even the smallest contribution can make a difference if we are willing to try. We are responsible for our lives, our education and our future. If we start by looking at the world and ourselves in a different light (a positive light, a powerful light), we will grow in our belief that we have the power to change for the better and make a difference. Then, with that power, we can help and empower others to change for the better. The power lies within us!




Engulfed by sadness

Sometimes, suddenly, without reason, we find ourselves engulfed by sadness. 

We continue with our daily tasks, pretending to be okay, but the intensity of our feelings remain with us throughout the day. They are fragments of unfinished experiences. They return to remind us that we have suffered and that we have difficulty in letting go. Many will say, "Let go and there will be healing!" Yet, we hold on! We hold on because they are our experiences. We are even more possessive over those specific experiences that have caused us so much pain. 

Who can understand what we have been through? God knows!

Does this mean that we have no faith because we are sad? No. It only means that we are human.

While we hide our hurt and choke in secrecy on all the pain, we are indeed moving forward. (Where else can we go other than forward?) But we don't move forward in isolation. There are a myriad of angels and people who continually do things, often small and seemingly insignificant things, that carry us through the darker days. And so, there is always hope. There is always light. There is always some form of motivation to carry on ...

Remember: A wave of sadness is not the same as being depressed.