Saturday, 10 December 2016

The lunch walkers

I went to work at the University of Limpopo for nine days. Now, you must know how extensive a university campus is. There are many paths that meander in numerous directions. Getting lost became part of our daily routine. I’m not one to stretch the parameters of my comfort zone easily, so getting lost is really quite undesirable. 

Imagine my despair when the group of ladies decided to walk to the lunch venue. Just the thought of it made me perspire mentally. I don’t walk much unless it is necessitated. For example, I will walk away from an offensive vile smell, a burning building or if I’m exposed to pending danger, like a lion that’s loose on the premises. Walking to a lunch venue at midday, in the insufferable Bushveld heat, is not my idea of an option when there are cars available to take us there. 

They mentioned that the venue was not very far, but you know how it is with people. One person’s definition of far is alarmingly different from that of another’s. Nevertheless, not wanting to be a killjoy, I joined the lunch walkers. 

Going to the venue, we walked quite briskly – not because of hunger, eager enthusiasm, or team spirit. Our pace was set because we were walking downhill most of the way and also because some of the walkers actually participate in regular physical exercise. 

Breathless, with a heart palpitating in my unfit chest, I reached the restaurant every single day and went up the steps with flaccid legs, relieved to be alive. I ate my lunch because I was there. My hunger had been curbed from the long walk. After lunch, we were faced with the exhausting journey uphill back to the lecture room. In a sense, it was very educational because I discovered that I have more muscles in my legs than I have ever been aware of. 

Will this experience inspire me to start exercising, walking, or running? Will I enroll in a boot camp? No, no! Let’s not be silly. Just enjoy the photos, will you? If you’ve read all of this, you might as well stay a little longer and look at all the photos. These photos were taken from the restaurant, Glenda's Take 5, en route to the lecture room.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Existing for a greater purpose

We have many problems. The world is filled with problems. Many people turn to God and pray that He will give them a positive outcome so that problems will end. God did not create these problems. Yet, people want Him to take responsibility to solve them.

Each one of us goes through life unable to come to terms with it. Life hits us with all kinds of experiences, good and bad, and we don’t know how to cope with any of them. Our decisions, our choices in life, determine our direction and problems in life. All our decisions impact our lives and we suffer. One decision leads to another and it is impossible for all the consequences to always be good. As imperfect people, we make mistakes. Even the people in our lives and our circumstances act as enablers or catalysts for our problems and we suffer.

Everyone has some specific burden to carry, whether it is cancer, a broken relationship, loss of a loved one, or financial worries. That’s why we turn to God and pray so that He will help us. We ask Him to end our problems or strengthen us to cope with our problems. What we desire, we expect Him to fulfill. That’s Grace, right? Wrong! Grace doesn’t mean that we can talk to God and ask Him to solve problems He didn’t create.

Our lack of knowing how to control our lives, our emotions, and our circumstances are the reason why we suffer. We need to learn to be responsible. We need to learn to think for ourselves. No one on earth can breathe, think or make responsible decisions for us. No one on earth can make us feel fulfilled. We need to find inner peace and accept our imperfections as well as the imperfections of others. Only then will we grasp the concept that we can never fully understand life and eventually accept it for what it is.

Imperfection is the heaviest of all burdens we carry. Therefore, we all carry suffering within us. Knowing that we carry this suffering within us should motivate us to focus more attention on ourselves than on others. We need to make time for quietness with ourselves so that we can attempt to understand ourselves. We can only be complete and whole when we realize that if we want something, we alone need to work hard to achieve it and not rely on empty prayers of desire, imperfect people, or worldly power and status to gain it. 

Nothing on earth will go the way we want it to go. Nothing on earth will bring us happiness. The laws of the universe are not governed by us. The sun doesn’t rise because we are alive. The ebb and flow of the tides are not set in motion because we exist. Instead of always expecting life to revolve around us and flow in the direction we desire, we need to pray for wisdom and courage to continue existing for a greater purpose: humanity!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Mind Storms

When I was a child, about eight years old, I used to have nightmares. I was in a maze of high hedges (all black and white – no colour), frantically looking for my mother. She would appear at the end of each passage calling my name: Karin, Karin, Karin! Loud at first and then softer and softer until I couldn’t hear her anymore. I would run and run and run, nauseated with a hypnotic spiral feeling in my mind. By the time I got to the end of the passage, she was gone. She would appear again at the end of the next passage.

When I was older, very much awake, I would have the same occurrence, the nauseated feeling, and the hypnotic spiral twisting in my mind. I know why I had those nightmares back then. My father had wanted to put my sister and me in a boarding school. I didn’t want to go and was scared of losing my mother. Even at an older age, whenever I felt that my mother and I would be separated, I would have the recurring feeling – wide awake, though. I never dreamed of a maze again, but I remain fascinated to this day with labyrinths. Guess who loves Alice in Wonderland and The Maze Runner?

Many years later, as an adult, I had different nightmares. Whenever my mind was troubled, I would dream of dark water masses. Again, I know why I dreamed of water. When I was 18, going on 19, I nearly drowned at Umdloti beach in KwaZulu-Natal. On the north side of Umdloti, there is a large natural rock formation that creates a tidal pool. It would seem the perfect swimming area, providing shelter from onshore currents. In effect, it’s a very dangerous place. My friend and I went for a swim one morning. We didn’t know about the rip current, which had no mercy for us and pulled us deeper into the sea. It was so strong! Within seconds, we were trapped in troughs behind walls of waves that kept breaking towards the beach. This experience not only initiated my fear for masses of water but also my fear of heights and claustrophobia. My friend, Charon, convinced me to try and swim against the tide. It was a useless enterprise.

Charon kept telling me to kick like crazy whilst swimming. I was so tired at one point that I stopped swimming. She came back for me and motivated me to carry on. We swam again for a while, but I was done! Charon then linked arms. She told me that we needed to swim through the wave. Instead of going up with the wave to the crest and being pushed back into a new trough when it plunged towards the beach, we would go halfway up and then swim through it. She counted to three and we went through the wave. We tumbled out of the sea, head over heels, onto the beach. My wise friend, Charon, then decided that we needed therapy. I was reluctant, at first, but followed her on jelly legs to the pool and we stayed in the water until ‘we’ felt better. Her therapy apparently worked for her – I spoke to her more recently and she couldn’t remember the incident. As for me, I still fear water masses at night. I also dream of dark water when I have a troubled mind. This happens very seldom, but the fact that it does honestly tells me that the pool therapy didn’t work for me.

Dreams don’t occur much in my life, nightmares more seldom. Perhaps my brain is too tired to dream. Perhaps it’s too academically wired because I work all the time. I cannot imagine that this is good for me, but it’s what I do. I work, work, work. I suppose I'm too tired to dream about unprocessed information. Then again, what do I know? I’m not a neuroscientist.

More recently, I dreamed that I was on my way to … well, somewhere. As I came out of a double-story apartment, one I cannot remember ever seeing in my life, I looked up and saw three tornadoes behind the mountain. I ran to my car thinking that I needed to find my children. As I ran around the building, I saw another three tornadoes on the other side of the building behind another mountain. Potgietersrus is settled between two mountain ranges. So, the mountains make sense. As I looked back in horror at the first three tornadoes and again at the three in front of me, the tornado in the middle lifted into the air and made three prong-like fingers (like a fork) before sinking down again behind the mountain. My greatest concern was for the safety of my children.

I woke up and remembered the dream quite vividly.

Not long thereafter, I dreamed of three tornadoes again. This time, I was at school on the sports field. I saw the three tornadoes in the exact position as the previous nightmare, behind the mountain. I started running towards the school. I ran towards a huge tree, like a strong Oaktree. As I passed it, I saw another three tornadoes behind another mountain. It was exactly the same as my first dream. The only difference was that in my first dream there was no wind. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. In my second dream, I was running against a strong wind towards my car. The sky was filled with sinister-looking clouds. While I was running, my son came running from out of nowhere and we ran together. I shouted above the sound of the wind that we needed to find my daughter.

When I woke up, I remembered the dream vividly. I remembered the first dream, too. I even compared the dreams. 

A few nights later, I had another dream about a tornado. It was night time and there were people outside in the garden, socializing. I walked out of my house and saw a huge purple and pink hourglass spinning in the air. It wasn’t big. It hovered above the trees, slowly spinning in the air. My mother came outside, was horrified when she saw it, and said it was a tornado. She ran inside the house and I was left standing, confused, on the patio. It didn’t look like a tornado at all and the people, somewhere in the dark garden, didn’t seem to be aware of it. They were talking and laughing as if nothing was wrong.

At the end of August, a few days after my first nightmare, Bennette Riekert died in a road accident. The truck he was travelling in had veered off the road and rolled. When I heard about his death, I remembered the tornadoes in my dream. I couldn’t stop thinking about the tornadoes, which obviously led to the second nightmare of tornadoes. A month after Bennette’s death, Louis Ruytenberg died in a road accident. His vehicle rolled just outside of town and he was thrown from the vehicle. Again, when I heard about the accident, I thought about the tornadoes.

Both Bennette and Louis attended the school where I teach. They were in my English classes from 2012 to 2015. They were in the same class as my son and sat alphabetically from 2013 onwards: Riekert, Ruytenberg, and Steyn. I feel compelled to say that I don’t believe in analyzing dreams, accidents happen, but this was a strange experience. I dreamed of the tornadoes long before each accident occurred. 

Now, all I can do is think about the tornadoes. All three dreams are very lucid in my mind and for the next few weeks, or months, until I’ve ‘reprogrammed’ my brain, this will be my small obsession!

I wrote a poem about my sea experience back in 1984 (my way of working through the trauma, I guess):

where were the sharks

let us swim she said
and i was keen
as the waves
on the beach
we raced each other
through the water
both laughing
the sunny
and stopped from tiredness
and turned to see
our bright towels
the sandy                             
where we had left them
i was shocked to
see them gone
i scanned the
till I found them far              
from where we had             
begun to                               
in dancing                            
high on the crest we                       
bobbed up and down         
treading dark                        
thick water
salt concentration                           
treading dark dark               
and thick thick                     
water in                                 
for we were warned of
the warm currents
the same day
swam from the
we were caught in a
trough with the walls
of the red
on either
looming like a force
of doom and then
she said to
just kick like
and i did as we
swam along the
trough against
much greater than my
will and tired
jelly legs
i stopped and
it useless to try
and swim against
the strength of
sea current
she came back and said
hold on to my
ankles and
the best you
and i did but with
no strength left to
carry on
she knew me
enough to know that
she was fighting
more than just
sea current
she linked our arms and
smiled at me and                 
me courage                          
to just give in but
to give it one            
more chance and    
waited for                              
to tell me how to                  
tread the dark and               
thick thick salt                      
in which we                         
she waited for the
wave to build and
take us to
crest again
intervened with the
force saying that
we swim through
through the red
wall towards the beach
two arms linked tight
side by side
started to
three two one i heard
and went head first
through the wall
from her by
powerful force while
tumbling tumbling
head over heels
heels over head
be spat out on the
sea sand sea strand
spat out like
man jona
the enormous mouth of
the sea to lie
there alive
the sandy
two friends side by side
no strength had i
but up she
and took me
a swimming pool with
water feather
light and said
us swim a
it is therapy
and it would take
away the       
for the sea                            
the deep dark salty
death-spent minutes
we both had             
been to been           
i listened to her                    
wisdom and thought                      
about the                  
and wondered                                 
my wisdom was as 
i was stunned to
silence all
time she was
saving my life and
hers but my life
came first and
never thought
showing gratitude
as i was stunned
to silence all
night and for
rest of my life and
now as twenty
five years have
i still dream
treading the dark and                     
thick salt water
and wake and
where were the
where were the sharks

Sunday, 17 April 2016

It takes courage to act!

We know with absolute certainty what it is that we DON'T want. The problem we have is that we don't really know what it is that we want in life.

Before we can analyze what we want in life, there are three things we need to do first:

  1. We need to be grateful. 
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. If we do not accept and show gratitude for who we are and what we have, we will never be satisfied with anything else.

  1. "Know thyself" (Socrates).
When we are so busy working or enjoying life, serving and pleasing people, we will never have time to get to know ourselves. We will be blinded to who and what we are. We need to make time for ourselves and just be ourselves every day.

  1. "To find yourself, think for yourself" (Socrates).
When we spend a lot of time with other people, we allow their perspectives, opinions, and attitudes to rub off on us. We become them. Alternatively, we become very argumentative. Spending time on our own is good. It gives us time to reflect. 

If we want a better life, we have to act on what we want. We need to take full responsibility for our life. That's how life works!

The following video is very motivational. It's powerful!

You can't connect the dots looking forward.
You can only connect them looking backward.

So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something:
Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever …
Because believing that the dots will connect down the road
It will give you the confidence to follow your heart,
Even when it leads you off the well-worn path –
And that will make all the difference.

Your time is limited,
So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma,
Which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
You’ve got to find what you love
And that is as true for work as it is for your lovers.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life
And the only way to be truly satisfied
Is to do what you believe is great work;
And the only way to do great work
Is to love what you do!
If you haven’t found it yet,
Keep looking and don’t settle.
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know
What you truly want to become. ~ Steve Jobs.

But you’re going to have some ups and you’re going to have some downs.

Most people gave up on themselves easily!
You know the human spirit is powerful.
There is nothing as powerful – it’s hard to kill the human spirit!

Anybody can feel good when they have their health, their bills are paid, they have happy relationships.
Anybody can be positive then.
Anybody can have a larger vision then.
Anybody can have a lot of faith under those kinds of circumstances.

The real challenge of growth, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,
Comes when you get knocked down.
It takes courage to act!
Part of being hungry when you’ve been defeated.
It takes courage …
To start over again.

Fear kills dreams.
Fear kills hope.
Fear … puts people in the hospital.
Fear can age you.
Can hold you back from doing something that you know within yourself that you are capable of doing,
But it will paralyze you.

At the end of your feelings is nothing,
But at the end of every principle is a promise.
Behind your little feelings, it might not be absolutely nothing at the end of your little feelings,
But behind every principle is a promise.
And some of you in your life,
The reason why you are not at your goal right now, because you're just all about your feelings,
All on your feelings, you don’t feel like waking up, so who does?
Every day you say ‘no’ to your dreams,
You might be pushing your dreams back a whole six months, a whole year!
That one single day, that one day you didn’t get up could have pushed your stuff back I don’t know how long.

Don’t allow your emotions to control you!
We are emotional, but we want to begin to discipline our emotions.
If you don’t discipline and contain your emotion, they will use you.

You want it and you’re going to go all out to have it!
It’s not going to be easy when you want to change,
It’s not easy. If it were in fact easy, everybody would do it;
But if you’re serious, you’ll go all out!

I’m in control here!
I’m not going to let this get me down! I’m not going to let this destroy me!
I’m coming back!
And I’ll be stronger and better because of it!
You have got to make a declaration
That this is what you stand for:
You’re standing up for your dream;
You’re standing up for peace of mind;
You’re standing up for health!
Take full responsibility for your life!

Accept where you are and the responsibility that you’re going to take yourself where you want to go.

You can decide that I am going to live each day as if it were my last!
Live your life with passion …
With some drive!

Decide that you are going to push yourself!
The last chapter of your life has not been written yet,
And it doesn’t matter about what happened yesterday;

It doesn’t matter about what happened to you!
What matters is: What are you going to do about it?

This year I will make this goal become a reality
I won’t talk about it anymore!
I Can.
I Can!

To persevere I think it’s important for everybody:
Don’t give up! Don’t give in!
There’s always an answer to everything.

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...