Friday, 2 December 2011

My Bucket List

It's absolutely amazing how difficult this was for me to make. When I close my eyes and consider what I have and what I would like to have, I enter a calm, peaceful state of being with only one realization: I don't want anything. I don't need anything. 

When I close my eyes, the most honest image I can imagine is a beach at sunset, with me and my loved one walking hand in hand. That's it. That's all I need. I live in honest simplicity. My life is not invested in materialism and I'm happy with that. To me, life and health are the most important of all gifts. 

What would I like to do whole-heartedly in my last days? I find myself satisfied. I have lived and I have loved. I have realized my dreams. 

I don't have a desire to achieve anything else, but a list is what I need, so a list is what I give:
  1. Resign. Obviously I won't have time to work and do the list. 
  2. Visit a few places in SA I've always wanted to go to but never had the opportunity. I'm not BIG on this, so I'd like to get it over and done with! I don't want to do road trips, so I'd like to fly to the places furthest away and hopefully drive short distances and make a lot of pit stops. I don't want to rush everywhere. I want to take my time. 
  3. Stand on a mountain and scream as loud as I possibly can, probably the Drakensberg. It's one of the places I want to visit (See # 2). Of course, I can't scream. My voice disappears on me. So, I'm going to do this to the best of my ability when I'm high (literally high), on top of the world, i.e. my top, not the top of any given mountain. 
  4. Meet Johnny Depp. Well, I assume this is expected of me to meet someone 'famous'. Then it'll have to be Johnny Depp. Why? Alice in Wonderland, of course. I just loved that story, the nonsense and his movie, and Depp as the Mad Hatter! I just want to hear what his life philosophy is. 
  5. Have lunch or dinner with Nigella. Of course, she’s making the food. Yes! I just want to taste if her food is really worth the finger-licking and “ooh-aah” business, or for that matter, worth the effort of stealing down to the fridge in the middle of the night for a midnight snack. We can do this with Johnny Depp. Get it over and done with in one appointment. 
  6. Learn to play the piano. I REALLY WANT TO PLAY THE PIANO. 
  7. Buy a 6 and 12 stringed guitar and teach my son to play, just because he loves music so much. 
  8. Go on a luxury Mediterranean cruise (western and eastern). 
  9. Return to Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, Paddonhurst … and cry for my loss, for my dad and for Jennifer. 
  10. Move to the coast. I love the sea. I wouldn't mind watching it every day. It not only inspires me, it also makes me humble. 
  11. Write a few more books. The sea will be my inspiration. 
  12. Paint again. Just one or two beautiful oil paint canvasses. 
  13. Drive a powerful car on a highway as fast as I have the nerve to go. If I survive, I'll do #14. If I don't, my daughter will do #14 for me. 
  14. Close my Facebook account and get rid of all other evidence of me on the internet. Well, obviously when I'm gone, I'm gone. 
That’s it! That’s the bucket list. I can't think of anything else. I imagine many things can be added to it, but I'm certain that at this age, the less I do, the better it is for me.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The road is long ...

There's no such thing as a road to nowhere. Every road leads somewhere and the experiences along the way are enriching. It should never be about the destination. It should be about the journey ...

It reminds me of the song "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads. The lyrics in part are:

We're on a road to nowhere
come on inside.
Takin' that ride to nowhere
we'll take that ride.
I'm feelin' okay this mornin'
and you know.
We're on the road to paradise
here we go
here we go.

People don't have the patience anymore to enjoy travelling. It's all about the destination. Their impatience in itself translates their lack of desire to move in-between. Leaving is effort and arrival is anticipation, but the in-between ... well, that's futile. We would want some kind of quantum teleportation in our homes, "Beam me there." Enter the destination and "POOF", we experience instantaneous departure and arrival.

In effect, the road is important. It's spiritual. It tests us at times when we are most vulnerable. Whether confined in an aeroplane, bus, train or car, we have limited choices of what to do. So, our patience is tested. We learn to wait. Our courage is tested. We learn to face everything we encounter.

Figuratively, we aren't on a road to nowhere. We're heading forward into the unknown. We don't know what obstacles lay ahead, but we push forward because we must. Faith inspires us to focus on the here and now and just believe the future will come.

What is our motivation? Fides, Spes et Caritas (Faith, Hope and Charity). Without these three things, we may feel as if the road is going nowhere.

Life is not just about the literal journey. If our spiritual road is well-maintained, with all the necessary signs of protection and guidance in place, we will travel all literal roads with confidence and patience. Whether or not the road is long, we will enjoy the journey (the in-between).

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Teachers should strive to do their best

It is so important that teachers strive to be their best in the classroom because the classroom is a place where children develop certain beliefs and are motivated by these beliefs. 

The classroom is a place where children form opinions, make judgments and determine values. Children use their beliefs to assign meaning to the learning situation, to form an opinion of working efficiently and effectively, and to evaluate a teacher and the teaching methods that are used. 

Children have certain expectations. The results that they get for their work, form their beliefs about success or failure. Because the work that is done in the different classrooms varies, children can easily lose interest. This happens mostly when the work is too difficult for them to understand or so boring that they aren't stimulated by it. A teacher can determine whether work is difficult or boring. In determining this, teachers should do everything in their power to help the children to achieve good outcomes.

A child's motivational beliefs are developed through direct learning experiences, observations, verbal statements, and social comparisons. These beliefs guide a child's thoughts, feelings and actions. From one subject to the next, a child will never think, feel or act the same. Whether positive or negative, his beliefs are very resistant to change. A good example to use is mathematics. When a child doesn't make progress in mathematics and his teacher has no patience with him, he will learn to dislike mathematics. He will like it even less if his friends tease him about his results. This negative belief that he has formed about mathematics will not be changed easily.

Teachers spend a lot of time with the same children during a year. It's important that teachers learn to understand their students. A good teacher will know more or less what each student's motivational belief is regarding her subject. This belief (positive or negative) may have been formed in a previous grade. Students usually hide their thoughts and feelings, and so the teacher needs to have more insight into their beliefs. A student's level of participation in a subject, his commitment to classwork, homework and assignments, as well as the results he gets determine his beliefs.

Teachers can help their students by looking at the following basic ideas:
  1. The classroom: Make the classroom beautiful and interesting. Learners must be keen to enter the room. They spend a lot of time in the classroom and need to feel comfortable there. The classroom also affects the teacher who spends a lot of time in it. The environment should motivate both the teacher and child, and make them feel happy.
  2. Attitude: When children come into a classroom, they need to know that the teacher likes them. They need to feel loved. A warm, kind and considerate teacher will always win hearts. 
  3. Discipline: It is good to remember that discipline is just as important as empathy. A firm hand is necessary. A chaotic environment cannot motivate or bring any good. When learners behave in an inappropriate way, it will help to discuss the situation with them. Treating children with the needed respect can help them to change their ways. Of course, some children are very difficult. Taking them to the principal or calling their parents will not necessarily solve the problem. In most cases, however, a good lesson with interesting work will help with the discipline. A well-prepared teacher will always have more discipline in her class than an unprepared teacher.  
  4. The work: Try to make tasks and activities meaningful and never give more work than that which is necessary. Giving too much work is ineffective. Teachers shouldn't give work to keep children busy.  When we want a child to practice something, the purpose is not to punish him in the process. If a child says, "It's too much. I'll never finish in time!" it doesn't necessarily mean that he is lazy. Try and find out why he thinks that it is too much. Help him to see that he can cope by adapting the exercises according to his capacity.
There are many other ideas that can help teachers to motivate children. These are basic ideas to work with. The key to success of course is that a motivated teacher will always have a better effect on her students. Teachers, therefore, need to be motivated and enthusiastic about what they're doing in their classrooms.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

How to control ourselves

We experience so many different situations every day and, without having to think about each situation, we adjust quite naturally to what we see, hear and feel. The minute we find ourselves in a situation that clashes with our desires, we battle to adjust.

A good example to use is sound. If we don’t like noise, our desire is to have peace and quiet. We want sounds around us that we can actually tolerate. The minute our peace and quiet are disturbed, and any given sound starts to irritate us or make us feel anxious, we are no longer able to adjust to the sound naturally. We become more and more aware of the sound, and it affects our emotional equilibrium.

We are truly amazing! We've been created to be flexible and adaptable. From a very young age, we are able to adjust to the world’s demands. The problem then doesn't lie in the situations we experience. It lies within us. We have different desires (wants and needs). These desires affect how we respond in situations. To be able to cope successfully, we need to control our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Controlling ourselves is not easy. Life has positive and negative energy and we are strongly influenced by this energy in our daily situations. We've been created to recognize negative energy, and also to make alterations and override our responses. The secret lies in how we react when we realize we are no longer happy within a given situation. In order to maintain balance, we have to learn to constrain our desires and gain control of how we respond.

How can we learn to control ourselves? Here are four steps to consider:

  1. Adjusting to meet the standards in life:
    There are different standards in life. We have to humbly comply with the standards that are set, especially if they're standards in a situation that we have no power to change. These standards can be found at work, in our neighbourhood, in relationships, in services, and many other things. We may have higher or lower expectations. In the case of having higher standards than those we have to cope with within a given situation, we need to learn to be less critical, less demanding, less selfish, and certainly less affected by the things that are not as good as we want them to be. We need to learn to be patient. If we can't change and improve a standard, we need to learn to accept it. On the other hand, if the standards are higher than our own, we may feel inadequate. We may feel we have to remove ourselves from the situation, whether it is work-related or a relationship, in order to cope. We should never allow higher standards to make us think less of ourselves. We should rather strive to achieve more. We have the ability to adjust ourselves and improve in order to meet the standard.
  2. Understanding ourselves:
    It is important that we understand ourselves. We need to monitor our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. When we fall short of a standard and it makes us feel unhappy, we need to initiate some kind of action to change how we feel. We need to remember what our reaction was to a situation so that we don't repeat unnecessary mistakes. We learn to change the way we think and react by focussing on our emotions. For example, if a dog's constant barking next door irritates us and we find ourselves in a situation where we have to move to a new neighbourhood or town, not because of the dog, but for other reasons, we need to remember that barking dogs irritate us. So, we react to this knowledge by looking for a place to stay where there are no dogs. It's not always easy to find a solution to a problem. Sometimes we can't change the situation, so we change our attitude. Instead of hating the dog, show love. Throw biscuits (not poison) and see if there isn't some sort of initiative that can influence the situation for the better.
  3. Applying willpower:
    We need to focus on willpower. It's an inner strength that we can rely on. If we want to see any change in our lives, we need to be willing to make sacrifices. We need the willpower to change ourselves: the way we think, feel, or react. It's an extremely tiring thing, though. When we land in a situation where self-control is necessary, we drain ourselves of energy. Therefore, we need to make sure that we eat healthily and keep fit. A healthy mind and body can cope better with emotional strain. In order to remain strong, we need to be motivated.
  4. Applying inner motivation:
    Inner motivation uses all three steps above to achieve its goal. Let's look at the following example to explain this. We are drunk at a party. We do and say whatever we please. The minute our parents or boss walks into the room, we are highly motivated to be in control. We set the standard. We monitor our state of mind and make sure we are in control of our emotions. We focus on our inner strength and manage to speak carefully, even if it is very difficult. Of course, we know that our attempt will only work to a certain point, but we do everything in our power to adjust to the situation. Without motivation, we will not be able to do this.
Yes, we are truly amazing! We've been created to be flexible and adjustable. We can change our minds and our emotions, and effectively cope better with life. The difference lies in what we usually do and what we are capable of doing, what we want to do and the effort we're prepared to put into doing it.  

Monday, 3 October 2011

Well, of course I'm depressed today. Life sucks!

When we feel there's no purpose in life, we're going to feel demotivated. Why get up in the morning if we have no desire to do so?

The best is to stay at home, watch television and eat junk food all day. Occasionally, when there's really nothing to watch on all thousand five hundred and twenty channels (exaggerated number because when we're this down, everything is hyperbolic), we can always spend some time wallowing in self-pity and denial. Then we visit the bathroom, find something else to eat or drink and flop down in front of the telly again. By bedtime, if we're not dead, at least we'll be feeling grottier than ever before. Going to bed and sleeping off the ill health may help, but should we wake up the next day feeling depressed all over again we need not worry. After all, life sucks! So, there's absolutely nothing wrong with living like this. We don't need to feel motivated and even if we're totally out of control, we can always go onto Facebook or Twitter and tell the world how bad it really is.

Keeping this in mind, we may as well ask: What exactly are we doing here on planet Earth? Why are we alive? What is there to live for? 

There’s really more to life than focusing on ourselves. We spend so much time being self-absorbed, we don’t realize that we're sucking the energy out of our own lives. There's the pun: life sucks. Metaphorically speaking, we're doing the sucking. Life in itself is okay. It's what it has always been. I don't think our forefather pioneers went around saying “Life sucks!” as they beat down bushes and fought wild animals to make a happy trail for their families to follow. Do you really think great-great-grandma, who stood up at two in the morning to build the fires for breakfast and bake bread and rusks, preserve jam and milk a cow before five gave a damn about herself? She did it for the family. She never had time to say “life sucks!” because she was too busy. She was focused. She had a purpose, a goal, and a job. She wasn't busy procrastinating or making excuses for her laziness. And there lies the answer.

We are so self-absorbed, pampering our own needs, feeling sorry for ourselves, and sucking the energy out of our own lackluster lives that we have become lazy and have no desire to do anything else. Yet, we have to because if we want to eat, we have to work. Life forces us to do these things. Even the Bible says if we don’t work, we can’t eat. 
So life punishes us to work and the minute we work, we don’t have enough time to be self-absorbed. It’s a vicious cycle.

We want people to feel sorry for us. We want people to drop everything and run to us and empathize. What a terrible life we're having. Never mind if others are having one too. We're too blind to see that!  After all, what does it matter? We're self-absorbed. We don't have to reach out and touch lives. We don't have to make a difference. It's not like we're being paid to do that, right? 

Well, if life really sucks because we suck, and we want things to change, maybe we should consider the following. Life is not just about ourselves. No man is an island.  We are not the only people that are suffering and feeling like this. There are so many people out there that are feeling depressed. If we can heal ourselves from self-absorption and self-pity, and stop looking for attention or approval, perhaps we can step outside and make a difference in another person's life. 

We really have to reach out and touch a life in order to feel alive. There are five relatively easy steps to making a difference:
  1. Listen. Learn to listen to other people. Here we need to know that when we listen, we're really listening because we're interested in what others are saying about themselves and their lives. We're not listening with the sole purpose of gaining from it. Drop the attitude: “He says ... so what can I say that will make him think I'm …” Remember, it's not always just about us. It's about them too. What are other people saying and how can we make a difference in their lives for them?
  2. Help. Offer to help wherever we can. In doing little things for others, we're focusing our energy on them. We're building relationships. We're learning to care about someone else and not just ourselves.
  3. React positively. We shouldn't wait for compliments or people to say thank you. We should compliment and say thank you. We should learn to praise. If we try to be humble and learn not to be jealous or competitive, we can achieve so much in a single day on a positive level.
  4. Be loyal. When we listen to others, we realize that they have terrible days and bad experiences too. They suffer too. No one has it easy. The purpose of listening, wanting to help, and reacting positively means that we have to remain as loyal as possible. We can't afford to listen to people and help them, only to judge, gossip, or complain about them at a later stage. Making a positive difference means we have to put effort into it. We can't reach out and touch a life and then later poison it.
  5. Involvement. Involve those people in our lives. Invite them to dinner or a sports match over the weekend. Be considerate before we involve them. We can't take a rehabilitated alcoholic to the pub now, can we? Show people that we genuinely care. It shouldn't just be lip service.
Life is what we make of it. It shouldn't make us sweat, but the effort we put into life to make a difference in that horrible job we're doing (just to earn a living) or the relationships we're having with other people, can also make a difference in the way we perceive ourselves and our purpose here on earth. Life is a gift. We should learn to appreciate every minute of it by being focused and being busy.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Using our time

Every day we are physically dying. It's the penalty for sin: death. As we age we move closer to our graves. Yet, old age alone isn't the only reason for death. We wake up every morning and follow our daily routine. We don't know what goes on inside our bodies. When we don't feel well, we react to it. We place our hope in medicine, doctors, rest or prayer. Illness, accident or crime … anything can take life from us.

Every day we are mentally dying. It's the penalty for sin: death. Our thoughts are murderers. We think so much of ourselves and our lives that we forget the people around us. We forget to reach out and touch the hearts of others because we are so concerned about our own needs and desires. We forget that it is in giving and not receiving that we find happiness.

Every day we are spiritually dying. It’s the penalty for sin: death. We are so preoccupied with the world and everything in it that we fail to look out for the spiritual things. We make it a question of choice when and why to attend church services, read the Bible or pray.

Every day we are emotionally dying. It's the penalty for sin: death. We live in unhealthy environments and relationships. We are so obsessed with our own emotions. We don't love other people. We lie to or about them. We criticise or judge them. We gossip about them. We swear at them, and we belittle or hate them. We complain.

We are drained of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional power because we choose to focus on the negative things in life. Living life is a journey of courage. Courage is not about coping with the troubles and the suffering that we experience every day. Courage is about standing up in the face of all the troubles and suffering, putting a smile on our faces and trying to make a positive difference in the world.

Oh, woe to the world. What a place in which to live! Perhaps it isn't the world. Perhaps we should look at all the people.

Oh, woe to the people. What a burden with which to live. Perhaps the people aren't to blame. We should look at ourselves. We should do some introspection.

Life is so short. We really need to live our lives in such a way that when it comes to an end we will not have wasted any time.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Learning to deal with pain

A few years ago, I fell. I didn't go to the doctor even though I knew the fall was bad. I injured a shoulder muscle and tendon. Over time, it developed into what doctors call calcific tendonitis. There are calcium deposits in the deltoid muscle overlying the rotator cuff. A tendon was also damaged and complex calcification developed. 

Calcific tendonitis is actually something that doctors consider predictable. It has been proven that it almost always resolves (eventually) without surgery. There are three phases of calcific tendonitis. The first phase is called the pre-calcification stage. During this phase, calcium deposits develop. There are no symptoms at this point. The second phase is called the calcific phase. Calcium deposits become significant and look chalky - they are not solid. In the second phase, when calcification is formed, a resting period begins that is not painful. It lasts a varied length of time. Once the resting period is over, the resorptive period starts. This is the most painful phase of calcific tendonitis. The calcium deposits then look like toothpaste. The third phase is the post-calcific stage when the calcium deposits disappear and are replaced by a more normal appearing rotator cuff tendon. 

Calcific tendonitis can be treated. In my case, suffering is prolonged. I've been to the doctor so many times and the medication doesn't help at all. I usually go for treatment when the pain has radiated to my elbow and wrist. It is unbearable and I am left with a frozen shoulder. The treatment is always the same. It starts with anti-inflammatory injections, which are not pain-relieving in any way. In fact, they induce more pain. After three or four days, the pain subsides and I go for physiotherapy. Acupuncture,  exercises, and heat help a lot.

The doctor has considered surgery because there are degenerative changes in my shoulder and the longer I wait, the greater the chances are for a shoulder transplant. Before it's too late, they can do arthroscopic surgery and just remove the calcium deposits and calcified tendon. 

I am certain that I don't need surgery simply because the results from the ultra-sound scan show that the rotator cuff in my shoulder is not torn. This gives me hope.


I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe I am in control of my body and, as far as possible, I will fight against surgery. At my age, I believe I am allowed to make these choices.

Pain is a symptom. My brain can handle it, as long as it isn't acute. Depending on my moods, attitude, and beliefs I have been able to cope with migraines effectively, without taking medication on a regular basis or sleeping it off. The more I worry about the shoulder, the worse the pain becomes.

Being negative all the time has a devastating spiral effect on my health. Therefore, I choose to be positive. When I'm positive, I can conquer the world. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

There's purpose in your smile

People spend too much time trying to find their purpose in life. Many feel that their life is worthless because they haven't found a purpose. The truth is that there is no perfect well-defined purpose. Life changes and so does your purpose.

No one can say they don't have a purpose on earth. By just being here is purposeful. Purpose can be seen in the ability to reach out to others, to help them, and to try and make a positive difference in their lives.

Your feelings and desires drive you. If you take action on what you feel or desire, without analyzing or criticizing it to death, you can easily identify your purpose. When your feelings and desires are negative, it is important to avoid reacting to them. A negative attitude and negative thoughts attract negative things. The same can be said about optimism. Therefore, we need to focus on positive things.

Your purpose is connected to your faith. People who think they have no purpose in life have no faith. Many people are inclined to believe that materialism is a purpose in life. Your life should be based on spirituality. If you can believe in things you cannot see, you have faith, and faith can move mountains.   

So how can you lead a purposeful life based on faith?

  • Realize your value. You are precious and there's no one like you on this planet. You can make a difference in another person's life. 
  • Connect with yourself. Know who you are and what you want in life. Accept who you are and don't try to be someone else. Listen to your heart. Your feelings are real. They make you who you are. Don't ever be embarrassed about how you feel.
  • Believe in yourself, your present, and your future. Strive to be better, but don't aim for perfection. We are all imperfect and we live in an imperfect world. While there's always room for improvement, don't break yourself down when things aren't perfect. Do everything to the best of your ability so that there will be no regrets.
  • Be positive, no matter what, and when life knocks you down, learn to bounce back quickly. 
  • Value meaningful relationships with other people; connect with them on a deeper level. 
  • Be in control of your life: your time, work, projects, goals, etc. 
  • Live life to the fullest; don't make excuses when opportunities present themselves.

Life is a journey. It's not about where you start or your destination. Life is about the distance between birth and death. Are you enjoying the scenery or complaining about the road? Your life is all about the way you choose to travel this distance. Only you can make the choice: to make the experience worth your while or to wish life away.

There's no point in life if you're wishing your life away. There's no time like the present. Make the most of every minute and be grateful for the gift of life. See where and how you can make a difference. It may seem small and insignificant, but anything you do from the heart is worth doing. Live your life and let others live theirs.  Focus on what's good and worthwhile, and smile, smile, smile.

Friday, 15 July 2011

We are defined by the commitments we make!

A school is a place where a child is given the opportunity to develop in different ways, whether it is on a cultural, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level. Not all learners are able to perform to their ultimate potential.

Some work hard to achieve good grades and some don't bother at all. Great attention is given to those who achieve good grades. They are treated well! They are regarded as the "cream of the crop". The thing to keep in mind is that our grades do not define us. 
Eveline Girls' High, Bulawayo, March 1980
When I think back to my high school years, I distinctly remember the trauma. It was caused by change. I started my high school education in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back then) in 1978. I was 12 years old (turning 13 in October) and happy because my life was normal and everything was going according to plan. I attended high school and completed Form 1 and Form 2 (Grades 8 and 9) at Eveline Girls’ High, Bulawayo. In March 1980, my father made the great announcement. We were leaving the country and moving to South Africa. 

1980! What a year that was! When we left the country on the 21st of March, I had just finished the first term of the year at Eveline in Form 3 (Grade 10). My father stayed behind in Zimbabwe, so we had to stay with my grandparents for three months. The second term of 1980 was spent at Witbank High School. I was 14 years old in Std 8 (Grade 10). I had to choose new subjects and cope with Afrikaans as a second language (Higher Grade). 

My father came to South Africa in July and we moved to Springs. I spent my third term at Springs Girls’ High. I had to change subjects again. I remember the principal, Miss Richardson, telling my father that I would not make the year. My age and results from Witbank High motivated her to decide this. I wasn't emotionally mature enough for Grade 10 (or South Africa) either. Of course, my father insisted I would cope. The other teens in my grade were a year older than me and the work was very difficult. I was scared because I had to live up to my father’s expectations. In my matric year, I was 16 years old ( I only turned 17 in October 1982). My marks were low, but, as always, I had managed to pass all my subjects. 

Did my marks have an effect on my future? No! I worked in Johannesburg for a year, studying at Lyceum College, part-time: The Art of Writing. At the end of that year, I decided to study on a permanent basis. I enrolled at an Afrikaans education college and mastered both a language and a diploma in education. I chose to make a success of myself. 

My marks on my matric certificate do not define me in any way.

NWU, Potchefstroom, November 1987

We are given so many opportunities in life. There are so many choices to make. Sometimes we make choices that we later regret. It's a life of trial and error. Many of the choices we make are irreversible. Once made, we have to live with the outcomes. That's what education is. The truth of the matter is that learning doesn't stop at the end of a school career. We never stop learning.

I always look for one thing to learn each day. I don't have to remember it. It's treasured in my subconscious. Just knowing that I'm learning something, anything, makes me grow. It brings more than knowledge. It brings wisdom. The new knowledge can make a difference in my life. If it can, I try to utilize it. If it can't, I forget about it. 

What we don't realize is that we're discovering so many things every day. Our brain absorbs so much information. Because we don't concentrate on everything, especially the finer details in each minute, hour, or day, we don't notice it. Being busy doesn't mean our eyes don't detect things.

We are truly blessed. Even if our marks are low at school or our job after school is not what we really dreamed of doing, it doesn't mean we are a failure in society. It just means we have to work for better things in the future when circumstances change. Sometimes we have to make a choice and make the circumstances change. Nothing in life is useless. We have to open our eyes and minds and identify opportunities. We have to try and find a sense of vision in everything that happens in and around our living space. Instead of watching the same television programmes, we should look for something different. Instead of sleeping during the off hours of our busy schedule, we can try doing something creative, fill in a crossword puzzle or start exercising. Enriching ourselves will never harm us. 

The key to making things different requires some perspiration (literally or figuratively). One word sums it all up: effort. The tragedy in life is that very few people put any effort into their daily lives. The majority wake up and after another seemingly senseless day go to sleep again.

Life is all about commitment. The quality of our lives improves by the amount of commitment we are prepared to make.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Life is what we make of it.

Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." 

The greatest problem we face is the fact that we're never satisfied with what we get and we're not really willing to give.

Life is not a board game.

It's the real thing and reality is hard. We are given so many opportunities every day and we have the freedom to choose. We can choose what to follow or leave. The only problem is, in making these choices we end up feeling either grateful or disappointed. Continuance is the key to survival. Carry on. Just carry on.

People who are unhappy or dissatisfied with their lives are blinded to their good fortune. They don't realize their feelings are the root of a creative process. It's when people are really down and out that they're at their creative best. Nevertheless, instead of giving back to society, through realizing and cultivating their capacities and talents, they sit back and complain. What a shame.

The world is truly our oyster.
If we can learn to look at the bigger picture instead of just focusing on ourselves and the little role we play in the Play of Life, we will be able to strive for greater things.

True success and happiness can be found in opportunities to improve the lives of other people. It's an ongoing journey where we have to set goals and find ways to accomplish them.

We need to set the bar higher every time we achieve something. We should never stop to rest. We have enough hours in every given day to sleep. That is when we rest.

During our waking hours, we need to discover who we are and what we want in life. We need to take control of our lives. We need to learn to turn our complaints into opportunities. We need to have dreams. We need to go beyond our dreams and make some of them a reality. We need to learn to find a way to give back to society and be the change we want to see in our community. We need to strive to be more.

In so doing, we'll be giving back to ourselves. We'll discover the feeling of inner pride, a good sense of pride, when we can say to ourselves, "I did that!" or "I made that happen! Wow!"

Life is rich. Life is what we make of it. Without goals, we're on a senseless journey to the grave. So, let's make life worthwhile because "time and tide wait for no man" and before we know it, our good years will have passed.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Painfully true!

About two and a half years ago, I fell. I was trying to potty train my miniature dachshund after he had piddled in the house again. I've been potty training my dogs for years. I catch them red-handed, rub their nose in the spot where they urinated, and say “NO!” in a firm and decisive way. It's a technique I've used for many years and it has always worked for me. I have the authoritative attitude and voice to make it work, so I can honestly boast of having obedient dogs over the years.

But, I digress …

Tripping and falling were not part of the training session. (Yes! I scared the pup and he never piddled in the house again, but I won't recommend it to pet-lovers house-training their animals.)

My shoulder suffered a terrible blow that day. I should have gone to a doctor at the time, but I collapsed on my bed with self-pity for my injury instead. As time passed, the shoulder became a constant problem. I forgot about the fall. At some point, I started thinking it was arthritis. I eventually went to a doctor and he sent me to see a specialist (X-rays only show that much and as far as the shoulder is concerned CT or MRI scans prove to be a better choice to check for damage). The ultimate diagnosis would be arthroscopic surgery.

My reaction was to see a second doctor for a second opinion. Fortunately, during the check-up, I remembered the fall. Twelve injections later with anti-inflammatory medication, a lot of subjected pain and rest, and rehabilitation therapy, my shoulder was as good as new. Then, six months later, I managed to injure the shoulder again. (I have to learn not to carry heavy things around or pull and push heavy objects.)

For a year I managed to cope with the pain. The inflammation and the prolonged and persistent pain eventually affected my blood pressure, so I returned to the doctor. After the fifth injection, I started contemplating the possibility of arthroscopic surgery.

In all that time, I had learned to deal with pain, day and night - especially night. Now, I have always believed in the power of the mind. I know exactly what the power of positive thinking can do for me. I know my limits regarding my personal pain threshold and I know that more often than necessary my anxiety levels are higher than they should be. Nevertheless, what really impressed me more than anything else in that whole feat was what I had assessed pain to be. 

A lot of people believe pain is a symptom. Others think it's all in the head. In my case, I treated the pain as if it were all in the head. Whenever I was busy at work, positive and focused, the pain didn't matter. Anger and disappointment as well as anxiety and bouts of depression fed my pain. I never took pain medication much, only when it really got to me. Most of the time, I processed the pain and managed to get over it, but it was a persistent, nagging pain, which only got worse when I used my arm in specific ways. Needless to say, I stopped using my arm to avoid the acute pain and dealt with the rest the best I could.

Unfortunately, after a long period of constant pain, my mind reached a point where it just wouldn't take the pain anymore. That's when I'd visit the doctor. It was my way of breaking the stress-anxiety-pain cycle. Yes, the injections hurt. For four days after the injections, I was numbed with pain. I found myself clenching my teeth and had to force myself to relax. Taking pain medication three times a day helped for the first two hours of the pain-filled eight. The rest of the time, I had to grit my teeth and bear it.

All in all, I've learned that modifying my thoughts and learning to relax really works. When I'm calm, I seem to function better. I'm able to cope with the pain and control it. My perception of pain has helped me a lot. Pain is subjective, and I've learned to respond to it well. I am grateful for the fact that I haven't become dependent on painkillers.

I've been successful through the power of positive thinking, which has made me marvel at how amazing the brain really is. It can do so much more than we realize.  

Monday, 30 May 2011

It's time to take control

Everyone has the same amount of time each day. How you manage your time is very different from how others manage theirs. If you feel that you're spending most of your time doing crisis management instead of time management, it's probably because you don't plan ahead. The secret lies in planning, prioritizing, and the ability to say "No!". How can you go about doing this? Well, here are a few steps to consider:
  1. Purchase a diary and plan your actions for each day. Write down everything that needs to be done. Focus on everything that is a priority for that specific day. Everything else can be put on a scheduled plan for the next day or later in the week.
  2. When you wake up, follow the plan. Do what is written down. Unless it's an emergency, don't add anything to the daily plan. Rather say "No!" and add whatever is new to the schedule for another day.
  3. A lot of people procrastinate. Make it a habit to start early and on time, and end everything on time.
  4. Multi-tasking is a mistake. If you give something your undivided attention and do it to the best of your ability, you will be saving more time than trying to kill two birds with one stone. The proverb has potential, but in many circumstances, it is not effective. When you spend time doing something, do it properly the first time.
  5. If you don't say "No!" and you add unnecessary tasks to your daily plan, you will be changing time management back into crisis management.
  6. It's important to realize that time management not only affects you but other people too. So, learn to respect other people's time. You have your opinion of what is important and they have their opinion of what is a priority. Communicate and make effective arrangements so that things get done.
Time management is possible. Plan, prioritize and learn to say "No!". When this doesn't seem to work in your life, you need to ask yourself a very important question: Who is in control of your life? 

You have to be in control of your life. If your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, parents, children, friends, pets, boss, job, or other people or "stuff" control your life, you are a slave of the system in which you live. You will always be out of control, negative and unhappy. Making sacrifices continually for other people and compromising your time every day robs you of your inner peace.

Take control of your life. After all, it's your life. Spend your time wisely. If you're not happy, you need to find out what it is that's causing you to feel unhappy. Communicate, negotiate, suggest, and always show respect, but find a way to make things better.

Life is hard and it doesn't get easier with age. To lead a quality life, you have to make responsible choices. Make the right choices to make a positive difference, not only in your life but in the life of those around you.

When I look at myself ...

  The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that yo...