Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Seeds of Worry - the desire for change

Between the two sayings, “Don’t worry, things will get better” and “Stupidity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results;” which one is actually true?
There is something about these statements, I find inherently frustrating.  Aside from the blatant contradictions they seem to imply, they somehow enable the person who utters them an air of condescending wisdom and intelligence and yet place the recipient in a position of passive acceptance and a state of an implied dullness of mind. 
They are not at all empowering.  And yet they sound believable, like they should at some level be true.  They simultaneously imply a pearl of wisdom that is present and yet evasive, leaving you with exactly nothing to go on.  Advice that simply cannot get better from the condescending throne of implied infinite knowledge and wisdom and yet cannot get worse given its chronic uselessness in reality and practical application.       
Could it be that “don’t worry, things will get better” is a statement that refers to the natural passing of time, which in turn, has the capacity to change things?  Or perhaps, its intent is to remind humanity that worry itself is neither conducive for change nor the happy passage of time.  And that in and of itself, worry is essentially an activity that is non-productive.

And yet on the other hand, the other statement suggests that a continuous course of same actions will yield the same result which would essentially undermine and suggests that the previous statement is perhaps a false one.

 A statement aimed at relieving the spokesperson from any responsibility in the circumstances.  Don’t worry things will get better,” usually combined with a pacifying pat on the back.  A statement of false information.  One intended to build false hope and false expectations.  One that exonerates them from taking a course of action that would directly involve them in the course of events causing the state of worry to start with?  One intended to pardon their lack of interest and involvement in something.  Whatever that something might be.      
An excuse.

A declaration of distance. 
A polite way of saying, ‘please just do not involve me in this thing’. 

Alternatively consider the validity of the statement that “stupidity is continuing to take the same course of action and expecting different results”; is that true?  It can be.  In mathematics it’s a true statement.  Often in relationships it is also very true.  But there are times when taking an umbrella to work may be useful one day and unnecessary the next.  Thus, the same course of action yields different results.  So perhaps this statement holds true in circumstances where the variables are held constant but not always in cases where we do not control all the variables.  And life, as a rule, tends to fall in the latter category. 
And thus the time factor becomes relevant yet again. 

Time seems to be one variable we cannot control. 
Thus could it be possible, that the issue here is actually neither and the questions we are asking: the wrong ones. 

And so perhaps the question needs to be; for how long?  For how long are we willing to tolerate the state of worry or for how long are we willing to take the same results again and again by following the same course of action?
Isn't worry itself a state of ‘wanting change’ and not having the courage or the course of action within reach to pursue it?     

Is stupidity than just a higher level of commitment to a repetitive course of action? 
And so the question we need to be asking is: for how long? 

How long before we change it? 


Monday, 27 January 2014

Due to a Donkey Shortage...God must be Bald

God must be bald. 

I know there are things that you just don't say, and that statement might be one of them.  But let's think about this for a moment. 

Have you ever considered how many times you get irritated in a day?  Then out of the irritations, calculate how many of them are actually caused by other people either in your life or through daily human encounters, at the shop, on the roads...

Factor into the equation, how many of those incidents are sparked by highly not so intelligent behaviour and or intellect...

And how many times do you really feel like pulling out your hair on a weekly basis? 


Multiply that by the population and factor in the number of incidents calculated from the beginning of time. 

See?  God must be bald

By now he has pulled out every hair He ever had and has gotten tired of speaking into the world every rotation for additional hair which probably by the time the earth is halfway back to Greenwich Meridian time, is long gone again

No seriously, consider all those very serious issues that ‘Christians are busy with’.  (I am picking on Christians assuming that those talk to God on a more consistent basis.)  I mean very serious things like whether it is okay to be associating people of other faiths, or being seen in a pub  or how much grass has been consumed for the pardon of sins (seriously there is a church that does that too).  

No wonder non-believers would prefer to keep their distance.  Raving bunch of lunatics we are, not to mention the stress of having to pick the right church because according to the ‘other churches,’ most members of those ‘other churches’ probably ‘ain’t gonna make it’ to heaven either...

Eish.  High Stress.  Total Confusion.
And how about wearing hats in church...  There, now that is serious.  There are some churches who do not allow women in church without a hat.  God created male and female naked in the garden in the Garden of Eden, and now, hats are seriously high on His to do list in the midst of starving children, wars and diseases. 
No, I understand, there is a verse in the bible and maybe you’re right that scripture has nothing to do with modestly and character and everything to do with the hat.  I personally, seriously ‘doubt it.’  But hey; ...maybe!
Sorry, what was that you were saying?
Yes, I know, I will not be getting into heaven through the front door. Thanks for that.    
And how about... dare I say it... women in church office.  Now there’s a very serious issue.  Churches have even split over this issue.  I kid you not.  Sadly.  Women should not be allowed to lead in church.  I mean God is seriously worried about this issue.  I mean it’s right on the dividing line between heaven and hell and so we simply cannot afford to get this wrong.
So let’s consider the following:  God used a donkey to warn Balaam not to go up and curse the Israelites.  The donkey saw an angel in the path and actually spoke (Numbers 22).
So if need be: God is willing to use a donkey. 
And the bible also says that if the disciples did not praise him ‘the stones will cry out’.  (Luke 19:40)
And so, well God’s calling of the following women prophets and leaders; Huldah (2Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), Deborah (Judges 4), Queen Esther (Esther)... etc. to mention a few known examples, could only have meant, that there was a serious shortage of donkeys in the land.    

So multiple all that intelligence by the world’s population and there you have it. 


Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Power of Voice

It used to be that you went to the salon / saloon when things got tough.  It sort of depended on which was more socially acceptable at the time.  The chat and support was free (over a beer or under your curlers) and so you would emerge a few hours’ later feeling better (in theory, on a good day anyways).  A casual 'go over' of trauma with the intention of moving on. 
And because we developed or regressed (depending on who you ask) as a society and no longer had a collection of friends to talk to when things got bad, we created an industry and called it therapy.  A Rent a Friend for an hour and a fee.  Also known as ‘Psychologists’.  We even trained them in the art of friend like activities; active listening, issued them with a code of confidentiality and forbid them to take advantage of anyone during that state of mind and sometimes, just sometimes, we were offered ‘professional’ advice.Professional advice’ based on the reading of a textbook of cases most likely never experienced first hand.  A now formalised rehash of trauma in the effort to move on. 

That being subject of course (the moving on) to just how much the same psychologist wanted to keep you coming back, for ‘your own well-being’ of course.

It used to be somewhat ‘okay’ to be in therapy.  A little more accepted where I came from than it is here.  You know a pat on the back and a ‘muttered under the breath out of intended hearing;’ “thank God, it’s about time that crazy chic went to therapy”.  You know, generally supportive.  Well, in public anyways. 
Here, they simply tell you, you have issues and that the issues themselves do not set you apart from anyone else; and so just what makes you think you’re so damn special.  A whole country with trauma (not the only one mind you, but that is whole other blog).  And so therapy would only suggest that you have economic means to elevate yourself as part of a more privileged class than the average person on the street.     

And thus I do believe, we have evolved one step further, and are now in the era of an editor.  First of all it sounds a little more ‘classy’.
 No, I won’t make it.  I’m off to see my editor.  Busy with the final rewrite.” 

I figure, if one needs to go through the whole process of giving the pain you experienced a voice, you might as well go for the full Monty, do commercial and write a book.   
It is a written rework of trauma and trust me, by the time the process is finished the experience will have been felt, re-felt, cried over, rehashed, revisited, gone over, examined, analysed, rewritten, evaluated, scrutinized, etc.  You’ll be so tired of the whole thing, you’ll simply move on.        

But despite that, there is one thing life has definitely taught me; pain is one thing that does not bottle well. It has a way of coming out and if you won’t give it a voice, it lays claim to the well-being of the other areas of your life; your health, your relationships, your finances, etc.    
And so, I recommend giving yourself a voice because if anyone is going to reap the silver lining from the ups and downs of life’s journey, it might as well be you. 

That voice may not be in the form of a book, but allowing your pain to speak will at least free you to live a life having grown and moved on from your hurts.     


Monday, 20 January 2014

The Need for Sheep

Have you ever noticed that some people suffer from a need for sheep. 
Personally, I felt the need for sheep coming back from my holiday, but that was simply because the grass had not been tended to for weeks and was ridiculously long.

But that is not the sort of sheep I am actually discussing here. 
Some people seem to measure their value based upon the number of people following them.  But the problem with needing human sheep is that in order to keep them you need to be gifted at manipulation or bullying. 

South Africa has an accepted ‘culture’ that tells.  Expectations are such that if you tell somebody something they simply will abide.  It’s a culture that is inculcated in schools through an education system that does not encourage dialogue and debate but one that favours memorization, regurgitation and conformity.  Sadly, I have no intention of raising a daughter that simply does what she is told.  In a strongly patriarchal society, I think it is dangerous.
That being said, it is not to say, that there are not days where I reconsider the wisdom of that philosophy.  

Days like this one, where she has simply told me that she will not attend an event that her school indicates is compulsory on a Saturday.  I just wonder how long it’s going to take them to figure out that in their school of conformist sheep, there is a ‘little black goat’ (her words not mine). 
I suppose this is when you wonder, as the mother ‘goat,’ if your teaching has been a little too effective?

The bible also talks about sheep and a Shepherd.  But what we often forget as Christians is that sheep follow a shepherd because of the relationship they have, not because they are simply told what to do.  Anyone who’s ever chased sheep before knows that they will not easily do as wanted no matter how many sticks you hold.
And so effective leadership will always come back to the value of the relationship you have with people and not the size of the stick you hold. 

It is simply unfortunate that history seems to have to reteach this lesson on a regular basis. 
And I will get back to you on the matter of goats...  The jury is still out...       


Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Novelty of Newness

New things can be exciting and stressful, but one thing for sure, newness does not last and novelty disappears soon after it's started. Take this blog for example, I was going to be ambitious and committed and write in advance.  It’s now the night before publishing time.  Late. And here I am Racking my brain for something to say.  Now it also doesn’t seem to help that I am talking into random cyberspace, but that is another blog all together.   

This is a new year, but already the novelty has worn away and we are getting about our daily business and trying to desperately remember to write 2014 instead of 2013, which in our repeated attempts to adapt, is already getting old.     
And so 2014 is starting with quite a few ‘new’s’ for us; a new office environment, a new school for my daughter, and so new people and new goals... new expectations and new decisions that need to be made, new schedules... etc.      

And while it can be exciting, there is a desire for a little more of the mundane as we scramble to adapt.  And by mundane I simply mean things in life that are expected.  All cannot be new forever.  Thankfully.  
Constant newness would be exhausting. 

As with most things even a new car loses its lustre.  Slowly the ‘new’ experience of driving it, after a few months, becomes standard.  And a new baby loses his or her novelty even faster.  Two nights of no sleep and a few poopy diapers will do it. 
And so he or she remains novel to those who have not yet met or seldom care for him / her.  Trust me, there is nothing like losing your status in your mother’s eyes than by giving birth to a grandchild.  “Ohhh, look at her.  She is soooo cute.  Come to Oma”.  “It’s nice to see you too Mom, I’m well, thanks for asking”.  You call at her retreating back after she’s taken her grandchild out of your arms.  Its a serious change (downgrade) in status.  From 'daughter' to 'mother of my grandchild.'  A serious indication that your novelty has worn off.

I am by no means measuring their value against one another.  If the new car smelt bad after a few hours and kept you from much needed sleep, it would lose its novelty much quicker too.
I suppose the joy of newness is that it serves as a reminder that you are still alive and growing; still on the path to somewhere, even if the somewhere itself is somewhat obscure. 

I am grateful for the ‘new’s’ thus far.  Thankful that anything ‘new’ keeps me away from the ‘same old’, ‘same old.’ 
Too much ‘same old,’ ‘same old’, cannot be healthy either.  

So hopefully the ‘newnesses’ still awaiting us in 2014 will indeed be those of blessing and serve as a reminder that life is a journey, not a destination.   
And I suppose that that is really what is meant by 'Happy New Year.'  

And so Happy New Year to you all.   


Monday, 13 January 2014

Country Bumpkin?

Hey look, there's a tractor, my friend indicated pointing.  'That's not a tractor, its a swather,' I answer taken aback at her ignorance.  That was quite some time ago in those good old high school days.   

Now I understand that knowledge to a large extent is a reflection of exposure and having grown up on a farm there were things that I simply knew.

Milk came from cows (not the grocery store in a carton).  Vegetables grew in the ground.  The difference between hay and straw.  Ham comes from a pig's hindquarters and basic farm machinery such as a plow, cultivator, etc. were things a part of every day language.  Organic eggs meant that the chickens scratched around in their own excrement in a larger combined pen, as opposed to a cage, and the eggs were often seasoned with a little bit of roaster 'seed'.  'Organically grown' meant that natural fertilisers were used and it came out of the back end of some living creature. 

We had a word too for that at our house, and it wasn't 'organic fertilizer.'   

"Good clean shit," my father would call it.   

Bless those who are involved in the marketing process: 'organic fertilizer' eh?     

And growing up in the country made us the bumpkins (dull-witted / not so bright)I think not. 

Currently living in a city, there are days when I get reminders that, yes indeed, sadly, I am raising a city slicker for a child.   

'Those mice are so cute,' my daughter tries to tell me a statement to which my mind simply refuses to accept.  'Mice are not cute,' I retort, trying to teach her the basic fundamentals. 

Damn rodents.  Don't these kids learn anything these days? 

Funny thing is that when I grew up, we took a lot of flack for coming from a farm, going to school in the city.  And there was a time that a part of me thought that maybe I was missing out not having grown up in town. 

But watching my daughter's childhood and all the adventures that she is missing out on like the canal swimming, forts in the haymow, watching the growth of baby animals, playing in the hayfield, tag in the corn field..., etc.  I am truly sorry that she is growing up in the middle of the city.   

So with the luxury of hindsight, I would like to say to all you city slickers, Country Bumpkin?  Seriously...? 

I am inclined now to conclude that all that flak was simply a cover... 

City Simpletons.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Obtuse Patron Postulation Disorder (OPPD)

We are creating a new culture.  I refer to it as Obtuse Patron Postulation Disorder.    
What on earth is that?  You’re wondering.  Let me use some illustrations to describe it.    
I took my car in a few months back, and the light for the airbag indicates that there is a fault as the fault light switches on and off depending on what is shoved under the seat.  Clearly the wire is loose.  According to the car service centre however, I need a whole ‘new passenger seat.’  Yes, I kid you not.  I was quoted for the whole seat; ‘9000 Rands’.  What the seat and the wiring have to do with each other, the jury is still out on that one on my side too.  Let me know if any of you can come up with the explanation other than the car dealership thinks; ‘I’m an idiot.’
I went to the bank to open another account recently and needed to bring my divorce certificate to verify my name change, as my country issued identity documents were not ‘legal enough’.  Yes, the exact phrase was ‘legal enough’.  If the country official documentation is not legal enough, I’m lost, what is more legal than that? 
And finally, my personal favourite: We went through the passport control at the Johannesburg airport and the woman at the counter thought it appropriate to share with all who would listen (talking to the woman across the aisle): Ngifuna ukuchama”.  Yep.  Thanks for sharing.  We had to pretend that we could not understand a thing.  What else could we do: “Tell her to go ahead and pee, we can wait?”    
‘Welcome to South Africa’.  I want to go and pee.  Seriously?       
I am sure that I can come up with many more examples, as can you.  There seems to be a lot of that going around.  I call it Obtuse Patron Postulation Disorder (OPPD – I enjoy my thesaurus); alternatively known as the idiot client assumption syndrome.
It directly impacts human being’s ability to relate and interact due to perceived and delusional superior intelligence factors that human beings wrongly assume they are in possession of and seems highly prevalent in customer service environments.   
It’s a disease that infects the minds of people.  It’s contagious and its frequency appears to be on the rise.   
But it seems somewhat short-sighted to me. 
If you regularly ‘screw over’ your clients, people do know that eventually you will not have any left... right?   Shouldn’t this be common sense?   
But instead of applying rational thinking, it would seem that the country has become one big laboratory whereby we are out to prove that money can be made, by regularly screwing over our clients.
And short-term it does sometimes work.  Long-term, it is usually paid for by the company (and country) itself.    

Monday, 6 January 2014

Resolve Not...

It has been five days since the beginning of the New Year and by now the challenge of keeping those New Year’s resolutions have become an all consuming mind mission.  I will exercise...  I won’t eat that brownie...  I will not call him...  I will not get older this year... I won’t...  I must...  I should... I will... I can’t... 

 These are the mental mind games that I am simply giving myself a break from this year. 

Those all encompassing goals and ambitions and measurements of success that have become the yardstick by which we measure ourselves and each other, I am giving myself  permission to pass. 

And so every year it would seem that we start the year focusing intensely on what we just do not like about ourselves.  Things we would like a magic wand for which would just make it all disappear and thus in the process we have inadvertently turned these things into the measure of our value. 

I have decided to let this go. 

Number one: Simply because I will probably never quite get organized without some serious psychological treatments probably long since outlawed. (It has been an ongoing resolution with a high level of predictability of outcome). 

And two:  I will probably never learn to spell either and eventually there was such a thing as spell check.   

 I have learned that there are things that perhaps I am just not intended to master.  Things that will only be accomplished in partnership with someone else.  Things that force humanity to connect with each other. 

That and because I have realised that writing the resolve as an 'I will not' has already resulted in my failure.  Lasted two days. 

Thus this year’s list of resolutions reads a little bit different after a deliberate redraft: 

And so in 2014, I hope to:     
·         To make more life decisions based on where I am going and not on how the road looks.
·         Concern myself less with the destination and enjoy the journey along the way. 
·         Collect alliances and friends.
·         Give my enemies less of my time and energy. 
·         Be deliberate about breaking down goals into actionable steps.
·         Respond rather than react to the curve balls that life throws.
·         Be quicker to forgive and let go. 
·         To fight fear and not allow it to control where, who and what can be done. 
·         To get the most out of each day and live with less worry and more joy.

And hopefully all that will enable me to change a little bit more of me...