Friday, 10 August 2018

My last motivational speech for Grade 12, 2018

God has equipped you with everything that you need to fulfil your life purpose. Whatever you’re looking for out there is already what you have. It’s within you.

Your power is within you.

Your continuous search for whatever it is that you think you need is making you run.  If you continue to look out there for the things you already have within you, you will be running for the rest of your life. Running 24/7 is exhausting. One day, when you look back at everything you have worked so hard to accomplish, you will see that it was all so meaningless; you were chasing the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

So many times you’ve wanted freedom; you’ve wanted love; you’ve wanted happiness; you've wanted more time; and so you’ve been running.

Do you really want to be free? You can be free. All you have to do is control your life, which is not all that simple; but, if you commit to it and use the power within you, you can control your life. 

To be free, you need to build a wall around yourself and protect yourself from every influence that comes your way. To be free, you need to value your opinion only. To be free, you need to make yourself the highest authority in your life, where you are always right and everyone else is always wrong – this includes having authority above God. If you can do this, you will be free, but if you can’t … then you will spend the rest of your life serving. This isn’t such a bad thing. More blessings come from giving than from receiving (Acts 20:35).

Choose today what it is that you want. Do you want to be free or do you want to serve? If you choose to serve, you choose to do good; you choose to do good now; and you choose to do good to the people who are with you now. You give back to society. You give goodness to society. That is all.

You can’t find love out there. You are love. If you acknowledge love and learn to love who you are, you will radiate love from within. You can’t look for something out there if it’s within you. When you walk up to a mirror and look at yourself, accept yourself, and love who you are, you will be able to love the people around you. You can’t love another person if you don’t love yourself. Charity begins at home. 

There are two things that every person wants in life: happiness and time. These are two things that you can control. 

  • Happiness: Control starts in your heart, with your emotions. Your emotions create your thoughts. Since happiness is an emotion, you can control it. To do this, you need to live in a state of gratitude. You need to live in a state of not always wanting more because the more you have, the more you want. With excess there’s responsibility. With responsibility there’s fear. With fear, there’s always anxiety and stress. You will never have a minute of peace. Whatever God has given you is enough for you. You don’t need more and you certainly don’t need less. You can’t live your life looking at what others have. Look inside you and learn to make peace with what you have because IT IS ENOUGH. It is enough for you. Not everyone is meant to climb Mount Everest. Not everyone is meant to govern a country. Not everyone is meant to own a yacht. Imagine if everyone did … if we were all the same ...
  • Time: You hear people saying that they’re busy, but are they? You hear people saying that they don’t have enough time, but don’t they? Everyone has the same amount of time every day. There is no such thing as being “busy”. Most people use this word to avoid someone or something (like responsibility) and to procrastinate. You can't always control time, but that doesn't mean you're powerless. A person who learns to plan ahead is a person who knows how to control his time. Unless it’s an emergency, nothing should happen during your day other than what you have planned. Anything outside of your plans can be organised into another day’s schedule.

Stop living in expectancy. Stop waiting for people to contact you. Stop waiting for people to thank you. Stop waiting for people to respect you, love you, help you, praise you … serve you. Stop waiting for your “ship to come in”. Focus on the here and now: Do good. Do good now. Do good to the people who are with you now. Plan your time: there’s a time for everything, a time to work, and a time to rest. When it’s your time to work, work hard. Work well. Work with joy in your heart. If there’s no joy, you’re doing the wrong type of work. It should never be about the money, but about what you’re able to do; what you’re able to create; and what you’re able to put out there back into the world not only for yourself but also for others. It should be about the legacy you leave.

When things go wrong, make every challenge that causes you pain a learning experience. Life is what it is: an educational institution where you’re always learning, growing, and changing. Where there’s learning, growth, and change, there’s hope.

Walk in faith. The amount of energy that you put out into this world will eventually return to you, but don’t wait for it. You only have this one opportunity to live your life to the full. Make the most of it.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

It's my pity-party, so I'll cry if I want to

I'm not going to reflect on anything that I've said in the past. Whatever I've said, I said it because I experienced it. 

Today, I'm just going to say what's on my mind because it's what I'm experiencing NOW. Physical pain is a terrible thing. It's a terrible, terrible thing. When it nears 10 on the pain scale (the worst pain possible), the brain will refuse to cope with it; there are no words to describe it. No one can feel it for you. No one can imagine or understand what you're going through.

On Tuesday, I woke up perfectly fine. Around nine the pain I usually have 24/7 started to intensify. I kept telling myself that it's okay; I can deal with it. I think I almost started crying on three different occasions during class, each time with another group of matriculants in front of me. With one group, I actually said it out loud, "I can't do this!" I immediately corrected the negativity, drank some water, and said, "No, I CAN do this." School closes at 13:30. I left at 13:00. Jana, my daughter, came to fetch me and I couldn't even get into the car. I didn't sleep much that night.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I went to the doctor. The previous day's strain of trying to teach and cope with intense pain left me with an upper back muscle spasm. The injection and pills have managed to leave me feeling more comfortable today. I have no muscle spasms, but the intense pain lingers.

The doctors I'm seeing here in town have no idea what's wrong with me. Stress seems to be the "go-to" word for most of them. One doctor wants me in hospital for tests. Uhm ... no! Been there! Done all that! Another doctor wants me to see a specialist! How many more should I see? It's been two long years. I went for many tests last year from CT scans to the worst imaginable, the colonoscopy. Even my gynecologist is satisfied with my health.  

Today, my husband convinced me to go and see another specialist. So, I'll see what I can do in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm trying to convince my brain to continue living with the pain for just a little while longer... even though it has intensified.

Because I'm a teacher, let me share some information with you. If you already know it, good for you. If you don't, well then, here's the opportunity to learn:

Psychogenic Pain: 
This is also called psychalgia or somatoform pain. It's physical pain that is caused, increased, or prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioural factors. Headache, back pain, or stomach pain are some of the most common types of psychogenic pain.

Phantom Pain:
This is also known as neuropathic pain. When a limb or organ has been lost, you will experience a sensation of pain from a limb or organ that has been lost. Amputees and quadriplegics experience phantom limb pain.

Acute Pain:
This type of pain comes on quickly and can be severe. It doesn't last very long. Acute pain serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body.

Chronic Pain
This type of pain demands attention. It persists for a long, long time, much longer than is normal after the temporal course of the natural healing process. When you suffer high-intensity chronic pain, it impairs your ability to focus and to perform attention-demanding tasks. With chronic pain, no one knows what you’re experiencing or how bad it really is. There are no tests that reveal how much you’re suffering. There are also no outward signs to show how much pain you have. 

I'm suffering from chronic pain. With this hindrance to living a quality life, I do what I have to do (and want to do) as a daughter, wife, mother, friend, colleague, and teacher every day, and I honestly try to live my life “normally”. Not many people know I suffer pain. Even though I've often admired my strength to endure and thought of myself as a role model for others who suffer pain, I know that it's wrong to live like this. Being stubborn to find help doesn't make me the perfect martyr of pain. While pain is still a basic part of my life, suffering remains the key; but, I don't have to live like this for the rest of my life. 

If perhaps you think that I express my pain issues a lot to seek attention, you’re quite right! Let me assure you that I am seeking attention. I'm also emptying my heart this way. I see absolutely nothing wrong with having a pity party and crying if I want to ... (winky face).

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Not knowing

My daughter became ill at the start of the year. She’s 25 (turning 26 on the 28th of May). Jana is one of the most radiant, positive people I know. She takes stress and anxiety in her stride.

In February, she had a heart rate around 140 beats per minute even when she was at rest. She also suffered from fatigue, headaches, dizzy spells, weak muscles, pinching pains in various places from her head down to her feet, diarrhea, high blood pressure, back ache, and I can’t remember what else. She’d wake up in the middle of the night with her pulse beating wildly. It was really a hectic time in our life.

We went to see the cardiologist and
Jana was hospitalized. She was diagnosed with tachycardia (a heart condition where the heart is more than 100 beats per minute when at rest). She was also anemic and her iron levels were low. The medication wasn’t really making her feel better.

Of course, for me, it wasn’t about the diagnosis. It was about finding out what was triggering the symptoms. We continued doing so many tests (mostly blood tests) to find out what was wrong with her. 

Nothing can be more stressful than not knowing. Today, four months later, we went to see a specialist and he decided to do a CT (CAT) scan. Of all the tests that have been done in the past three months, not one was done to test her kidneys. The results that came back today have found kidney stones in both kidneys. Of course, I don’t know if taking iron pills whilst having kidney stones is a good thing. We’ll have to find out.

Now, at least, we can make an appointment to see a urologist and hopefully get to the bottom of the problem. I can only hope that this is the reason for all her problems and that she’ll feel better really soon.

I’m not very clever when it comes to anatomy, but my mind runs in many directions and I can’t link kidney stones, heart palpitations, and iron deficiency anemia. So I’m hesitant but hopeful.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Pain is soul destroying

11 January 2016: My gallbladder was removed. I had eight gallstones, each the same size (the size of a dice).

September 2015: The pain started. I was a matric teacher and was marking trial papers. By November, my condition seemingly had worsened. I had applied earlier in the year to mark matric papers at the end of 2015, but because of the pain, I couldn’t go. I was diagnosed early in December with having gallbladder stones. December (the holiday month), I was crippled with pain. Doctors were on leave and the first date I could see a doctor was on 8 January 2016.

April 2016: I returned to the doctor. Something wasn’t right. I still had severe pain. A series of tests followed. The process involved a sonar and CT scan, a colonoscopy screening exam, and many blood tests. I even went to my gynecologist. 

2018: An initial diagnosis was made at the start of the year. Because the pain was everywhere, it was thought to be fibromyalgia. I kept saying: They simply don’t know, do they? They seem to be guessing.

To this day, I still have pain. The intensity can wax and wane throughout the day. Some days are so amazing that I hardly notice the pain. On other days, I can barely breathe. It’s not a quality life. I have always suffered illness at the hands of Stress, but I don’t think the problem I’m experiencing now is related to stress. I can say this because it’s not the first time that I’ve had to deal with physical pain. I have even suffered severe migraines in my life.

I've noticed that I can teach until approximately 11 o’clock in the morning. After that, the discomfort affects my concentration. I can’t sit. I can’t stand. I can only focus on breathing. What truly amazes me is that on any given day, whether the pain is intense or less noticeable, I can still climb the stairs, carrying a pile of paper or just my pencil bag, and still stand in front of a class motivated to teach. I spend many hours on my feet teaching passionately regardless of the circumstances. The most important instrument in any classroom is a motivated teacher. When I’m busy with what I enjoy doing, I can get through it. I think that deserves some kind of medal! 

Pain pills: I don’t go there. Most of them don't work anyway; they only dull the pain or knock me out (and what good am I when I'm unconscious?). The thing is, I want to monitor the pain. I feel that I need to be on top of this game. When I experience pain, I become aware of my strength and that's when I learn best how to carry the pain. Everyone can relate to the fact that pain insists upon attention. It is real. Being my reality, I need to know what is causing it. So, there’s really no point in trying to escape it. I can numb it, but that won’t cure it. Instead of running to pills, the best thing for me to do is to find a position in which I can comfortably lie down and try to sleep. Sleep never comes, but the pain eases enough for me to get up and carry on.

By now, my brain is aware that I have to live with this pain. Yesterday was bad. Today is worse. Why? I had to stay behind at school on Friday for detention duty. I only got home at five o’clock. As always, when I am suffering (in silence), the angels come and bless me. On Friday, I was blessed with a group of 40 beautifully well-behaved children and a loving, considerate friend and colleague, Joekie Lessing. What a breeze it was. Detention was nothing to fret about.

I can only hope that tomorrow will be a good day. The new week begins and I have to teach the extremely difficult poem: “To learn how to speak” by Jeremy Cronin.

I want to go and see a general internist as soon as I can. The search for the cause of all this pain must continue.

Few things a doctor does are more important than relieving pain… pain is soul-destroying. No patient should have to endure intense pain unnecessarily. The quality of mercy is essential to the practice of medicine; here, of all places, it should not be strained.” Marcia Angell

Monday, 9 April 2018

Fifty shades of me

Colour definitely influences people. I have an affinity for black. Yes, I’m not ashamed to say that I wear black a lot. I also like grey and brown… and navy. Wearing black has brought judgment, but in no way was I ever crippled by it.

I was 20 and a student teaching in Heidelberg. The teacher in the classroom where I was assigned to work was a new widow. At the end of the first week, she was up in arms. I was, apparently, too young to wear black and grey and brown and navy. Well, that was the content of my cupboard and my budget was non-existent. I had no other colours to wear and she had to deal with it for two weeks.

Teaching in black has educated me in many ways. Some of my colleagues, parents and learners played the roles of style coach and psychiatrist. What I learned from them back then was the following: I was too young to wear black; I was considered rebellious or evil; I was a member of the Goth subculture; and I was suffering from depression. I was even told to see a psychologist. While each encounter offered me the gift of greater self-awareness, I remained quite comfortable wearing black.

Just to be clear, at the age of 52, I seriously couldn’t care less what people think about the clothes I choose to wear. Actually, I’ve never worried about it. I hate shopping. I really do. I hate spending money just as much as I hate shopping. When I have to buy clothes, it’s a challenge that I do not like. Because I have a myriad of decisions to make on a daily basis, I see no point in deliberating over the colour of my clothes. I enter the shop, find whatever I can that’s black and comfortable, and I’m done. It’s probably ten minutes of my life that I’ll always regret wasting.

Make-up, perfume, fashionable outfits, shoes and handbags to match the dress, and jewellery have never impressed me at all. I don’t even have a handbag with all the goodies that most women carry around with them. I just up and go! It’s quite easy for me to be able to move around without the baggage. It’s liberating. Now, before you start psycho-analyzing me about that let me tell you about my hair. That’s the whole purpose of this blog entry.

For the past three or four months, I’ve been attempting to grow out the grey. It just felt like the natural thing to do. I was tired of dyeing away the grey. Now, as I’ve mentioned, colour definitely influences people. The criticism I got for wearing black isn’t anything near to the maddening criticism I’ve been getting for walking around semi-grey. Suddenly, I’m too young to be grey. I’m supposed to be colourful so that the learners will enjoy my lessons more. I’m ‘letting myself go’ (… to which I must add, when have I ever not let myself go? … because isn’t it me who spends so much time making other people happy that I’ve become invisible to myself – to such an extent that the very people who judge me are now telling me to stop helping others and start focusing on self-care and self-love and self-enrichment?).

I think the fuss is really all about how I’m doing it. You see, I didn’t go to a hairdresser to have my hair coloured grey – the fashion trend of late. I chose to do it naturally. I honestly think that dyeing my hair doesn’t define me. People fear aging. I don’t. I’m happy to be 52. I’m happy to be grey. So, excuse me if I say, it’s my hair, my choice, and my life. If I want to walk around with grey hair, let it be. No one in Africa has died because of it.

When it comes to criticism, being as sensitive as I am, I’ve learned to be resilient. I know that another person’s perspective is his/her idea of reality, and reality is merely a persistent illusion. Imperfect perspectives about my hair’s colour don’t have to affect me at all. Why? Well, as humans, we are conditioned to start dyeing our hair in our thirties to disguise the natural process of aging. From this disguise, we shape our identity. Subconsciously, we live and express this identity and form our own perceptions of what reality should be; hence, we feel younger. If other people deem it necessary to feel younger, so be it. That’s not my reality.

I can live with fifty shades of black (clothes) and grey (hair). I’m okay! This simply means it’s not me who needs psychotherapy, is it? Well, not about black and grey… yet!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Pressing toward the goal

Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.
Louis L’Amour

You will make sense of your life when you start living each day in the present. Many people regret the present moment and yearn for the past or future. They either live in the past, wishing they could turn back the hands of time, or they spend their time wishing for a better life in the future.

Paulo Coelho describes the problem beautifully: “We have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we're always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn't act as we should have. Or else, we think about the future, about what we're going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don't want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”

Are you living in the past or are you waiting in great anticipation for your future? What about now? Isn’t the present moment important, too? According to Mahatma Gandhi, “The future depends on what you do today.” Yes! Every thought, decision, and action today impact your present and your future. Are you focused on the here and now?

You alone have the power to make good or bad decisions.

Your decisions in life are influenced by the present moment and the people who are with you at the time. You have to decide who or what it is that is guiding you to make your decisions because the decisions that you make affect your plans and your mood. They determine whether you will be happy or disappointed. If you make bad decisions, you will experience negative outcomes, but good decisions will lead to a successful future. 

How do you make decisions? Do you make decisions independently or do you allow others to help you? Do you make decisions that are best for you or do you make decisions that are best for others? Do you fear that every decision you make may be a wrong decision? Do you prefer not to make decisions at all and allow them to be made for you?

Every moment of your life defines you.

You are who you are in each moment. The decisions that you make may stretch across many moments, but the minute you make the decision you create a new direction. Even when the decision turns out to have been a mistake, and the outcome is negative, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You may have taken a wrong direction, but it’s a learning process. You can turn it around.

At some point in the future, you may discover that a choice you had made in the past is not what you planned or wanted. You needn’t regret it, though. Don’t focus on the choice as a mistake and don’t dwell on the time that’s been lost. Focus on the process of learning that came from the experience. You have grown because of it. If you never make mistakes, how will you ever learn or change?

Choices always lead to new opportunities.

Your decisions can be average and ordinary or they can be life-changing. Joel Osteen said, “If you think you’re average, then you’ll be average. If you think you’re ordinary, then you’ll live ordinary. The truth is there is nothing ordinary about you. You have something to offer that nobody else can offer.” Do you think that you’re just an average person? Genesis 1:26 (ESV) reads: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. Yes! You have been made according to God’s likeness. Do you still think you’re average?

The way you think defines you. You can’t have a successful future if you think you’re average. You can’t have a successful future if you don’t know why you’re here. You can’t have a successful future if you don’t plan ahead. If you want to have freedom and money one day, so that you can lead a successful life, you’ll also need to know what success means.

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...