my life as a swinging bob

Not *that* kind of swinger…

So, what is a pendulum anyway? (please please please click on that link just to laugh with me at the quirky graphics and the ‘bob’) (also, go to that link to find out who ‘bob’ is…)

A quick summary… something hanging from a fixed point which, when pulled back and released, is free to swing down by force of gravity, and then out and up because of inertia…

Bobs on pendulums swing. That’s just how it is. Scientifically. The bob can’t fight it. It just has to go with it. When you pull the bob as far as you can to one end, and then release, it will swing down(because of gravity) and across and out(because of inertia).

But whatever. They swing. And then eventually, they slow down, and stop swinging completely, IF AND WHEN THERE’S NO MORE EXTERNAL FORCE WORKING ON THEM. 

Such is life I find… something hits you, you swing, you finally feel like you’re settling, and something hits you again. Rinse and repeat. And then you die. And there’s no more external force working on you.

I’m a bob. Well, I’m a Jo, but also, most definitely a bob. And so are you. Life comes at us, with external pressures, and we’re forced to swing. It is what it is. If you try to fight it, you’ll crack and break. Pretty much.

It’s all crazy and manic initially, and the swinging is wild and high and extreme. But, as we settle in, we ease into the swinging, and even, perhaps, begin to enjoy the rythmic lull, until we come to a stop, and it all starts again….

The important things to remember are that the swinging will stop, and if we go with the flow, we’ll find our rythym…

Bob with me.

‘life only sucks if you do’. But really?

I read an article last year called ‘life only sucks if you do’. It was an interesting read. You can find it here if you’d like to have a sticky-beak. I read it because the title intrigued me, and admittedly, prickled me a little.

I’m not writing to give feedback of my thoughts on the article as a whole, but one of the paragraphs really stuck with me that day.

We have two choices: the pain of staying the same, or the pain of growth. If we stay the same, we will have subtle pain our whole lives until we die wondering “what if?” Or we can choose the pain of growth, which can be intense, but it is temporary. On the other side is the goal, result and life we desire.

And followed by this question:

“So, what empowering meaning can you give to the challenges of your life?”

I like this bit. I don’t think life sucks if you do. Because sometimes life sucks regardless of what you do. BUT, either way, we DO have those two choices, so as much as sometimes there’s a feeling of a lack of control over the happenings of our lives, there is full control over how we choose to respond, and move through the experiences we’re faced with.

We can choose to see each challenge with new empowering meaning.

Perspective changes everything.
Perspective is essential.

 

“be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.”

I found this little list the other day. HOW FRIGGIN GOOD IS THE INNERNET?!

The list was written by Regina Brett, when she was 90 years old, to celebrate growing older. She’s very cool. I particularly love numbers 22, 23, and 27.

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone. Continue reading

sometimes, i kick myself up the arse. (it’s a thing…)

Our sense of who we are as humans is very much determined by the place we are in and the people we are with.

When that changes – casually, gently, abruptly or violently – the ways we have of finding our worth and sensing our significance can shift, or completely vanish… who am I NOW?

It can be in anything from  starting a new job, school, uni, moving city, country… New customs, language, landscape, weather, people… It’s an experience of dislocation. Even if we purposed the change ourselves. And sometimes it’s violent or abrupt. A death, a health scare, a relationship break up… Somewhere we don’t want to be…

The exile MAY boast a higher standard of living, better weather, safer environment – but it’s not ‘home’ as we know it. And we often fight it. The very thing that can mould us and change us for the better.

Thing is: we most often learn that in the midst of pain and alienation, freedom can come.

In exile we say: “why me? it’s not fair”. (or at least, I do…) “I don’t understand the language, the weather is cold, the expectations are too high, I’m not recognised, the accent is weird, I got hurt, it’s not fair”, etc.  I can be very indulgent when I want to. Which unfortunately can be way too often for my liking. Especially if I’m tired, or just overwhelmed with life and all it’s nuances.

I’ve been feeling rather ‘exiled’ about a few things lately… So this blog post is essentially a rebuke and a reminder to myself.

Because there’s a few things I’ve learnt over time. Sheer life experience, and observation brings a little insight:

  • Some people will nurture that self-pity within you in exile. Old mindsets will agree, and spend time complaining together “nobody should have to live like this, you shouldn’t have to be there at that time, you’re better than this”… and quite frankly, I just don’t ‘need’ the sympathy. It let’s me camp places I shouldn’t be camping…
  • The exile might actually be temporary. And as long as you think it’s not going to be forever, you won’t commit… there’s no point in developing a life of richness through faithful hard work if you won’t be here to enjoy the benefits is there? So rather be half-hearted, casual, a little irresponsible?

Why plant a garden? Backbreaking work and you’ll be gone before the harvest… Why learn the ways of the culture? You can get by with odd jobs and undemands… Why take on the disciplines of marriage and family? Why deal with your emotions on a particular subject/experience, when you can just push it aside and let it fester? Ouch. That’s me. Just make do with casual encounters until you ‘go home’, or things change, and THEN get serious….

But that doesn’t work. Because stuff does fester. And we’re not made to ‘just float’ through life.

I’m choosing to rather:

  • build my house and live in it. No camping! I’m making myself at home. Digging foundations, constructing and build something, developing the best environment for living that I can. If all I do is minimal, and sitting around until I move on, my present life is empty and wasted. And life is as valuable here(wherever I am, and whatever I’m dealing with at the moment) as anywhere. So I’m chosing to live it!
  • plant gardens and eat their produce. I want the productivity, and to be able to look after myself. Not expecting others to do it for me, but getting my hands into the soil, getting recipes(instructions) and making things…
  • take partners and have children. The people around me are my equals with whom I can engage in responsible relationships. I can’t be ME while remaining aloof and distant. Sooo, developing trust and conversation, love and understanding, and SHARING life…
  • take care of the city. In the welfare of this city is my welfare… so I’m throwing myself into it’s wellbeing…
And my mini-rebuke(feel free to insert your own name if you’re needing your own mini rebuke):
Dear Jo,
Quit sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.
The aim of life is not to be as comfortable as possible, but to live as deeply and thoroughly as possible. TRY IT. Make the best of it. Don’t drift along, waiting for better days… build, plant, work, play, believe, grow, do everything for the wholeness of this place.
The only place you have to be human is where you are right now. The only opportunity is in the circumstances you face today.
Make decisions to respond well.
There is much to risk, much to learn, much to endure, but that’s where the abundance of life is found… Kick ass. It’s what you’re born for. Get back to it babycakes.
Love, your wiser self.
xx

my gran died. so i coloured my hair.

I’m not even kidding.

I was woken in the VERY weeeee hours of this morning to the news that my gran had just died. She was 85 years old.

That’s my gran, with her two daughters, at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town.

Now, just so you know, we’ve been ‘waiting’ for this for the past three weeks, so it was something I was expecting.

But, as it turns out, news of the death of someone you love is always absolutely gutting, regardless of how prepared you think you may be.

So there I was, alone, in the dark, still half asleep but very much wide awake.

And my family on the other side of the world. Which very much sucketh delux. [understatement]

So I got up and coloured my hair. With tears streaming down my face. As you do.

I did it because I desperately needed something to do. It was instinctive. Not the hair colouring per se, but the actual need to DO SOMETHING…

If I was with my family, I’d have been making tea. Or hugging my mum. Or organising SOMETHING.

But I’m not there. And ‘there’ is where they all are.

Colouring my hair did nothing for me, but the act of doing something helped me for sure. I was feeling the tension building in my body as I lay in the dark, and once I got busy whacking those gloves on, I could feel it leave. The body is an incredible thing…

And then I went to work. Because I didn’t want to sit around and let the tension build again. And I worked with a six week old baby girl… very new, and very young, just starting out on her big journey of life.

It was very bittersweet. Very ‘circle of life’ for me. I loved it.

The comings and the goings…   LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL….

RIP Sheila Wilson Darlington xxx

like a vapour…

This girl used to be nine months old.

I know. I’m hitting you with the obvious. But often when I see her all grown up, especially in this recent photo, I spin out. Because I was with her when she was nine months old, and she nearly died. ON. MY. WATCH.

I was baby sitting. Mum of the house(pretty much my ‘big sister’ Kim, I ADORE her…) had gone out for the day. No phone contact unless she called us. Dad of the house Claude had just ducked up the road for half an hour. Older brother Jean-Claude was probably five? Sister Chloe was nearly three, and Taylee was nine months old.

She’d just been put down for a nap, in her cot, and all was quiet from her room. As it should be when someone is napping right. I was playing hide-n-seek with Jeanie and Chlo, and it was REALLY quiet. Which made sense, right – in my rational mind – because the kids were HIDING. It’s supposed to be quiet. RIGHT?

Well, it was TOO quiet. Somewhere deep in my bones I knew something was very wrong.

I tried to rationalise it away. “You’re just being neurotic”. “You just don’t want to have to go find the other kids”. “You’re over-reacting”. “She’s been in her bed for at least half an hour, why are you only worried NOW”? But all the while, I was walking towards her room. I marched straight in and my heart was on fire before I even got to her cot.

She was BLUE.

LITERALLY.

And I was young. I had NO IDEA what to do. My heart froze. LITERALLY. And I went into auto pilot mode. I picked her up. She was cold, and limp, and BLUE. Her face was blue, her lips were an awful deep purple colour. She looked like a zombie ghost in a scary movie.

I tried to ‘wake’ her, although I knew that was futile because she wasn’t ‘sleeping’ per se. Meanwhile, I had two little people running around my legs, panicking about their baby sister, and vying for my attention and an ‘uppie'(as in, ‘pick me up please Jojo’, which of course I couldn’t…)

I ran to the phone with the limp baby in my arms. Called a friend of mine who was studying nursing(remember, I grew up in South Africa, I figured calling an ambulance was pretty useless). Liesel told me to try a few things, and in the meantime, she would jump in her car and come to me, and she’d call an ambulance on the way. RELIEF.

I thought Taylee was going to die. SERIOUSLY. I didn’t know how long she hadn’t been breathing for. And I didn’t know what to do. It felt like forever, but it was wasn’t long, and then I could hear ambulance sirens, and a buzz at the electric gate. YES.

But also instant PANIC. Both parents were out, in separate cars, and both had one of only two buzzers for the gate, which left me WITHOUT ONE. I couldn’t let the paramedics in. I ran outside with Taylee in my arms, and I had to HAND THE LIMP BLUE BABY OVER THE ELECTRIC GATES into the arms of a total stranger. I can’t begin to tell you what that did to me.

I was a mess. All the while with two short people still running around my feet, also distressed and upset. As you would be.

As the ambulance drove off, Claude pulled up, and I yelled out to him to follow the ambulance because Taylee was inside. That would stop your heart as a dad wouldn’t it? Well he followed, and they stopped just up the street and pulled him in, and then raced off again, siren blaring.

My friend pulled up at the same time, and came in to be with me. She made me cups of tea with lots of sugar, and even eventually gave me wine. I was shaking so violently my teeth were chattering and I could hardly breathe.

I went through the motions of calmly putting the kids in the bath, getting them into jammies, sorting out some dinner. Liesel was divine, and helped me.

It was HOURS before either parent called me. In the meantime, I’d already gone through every possible option. She’s dead, and they don’t know how to tell me. She’s dead and they don’t want to come home. She’s in a coma for life. I’m going to jail for killing a baby. Racing through what I could’ve done, should’ve done, wishing I’d never opened the door and rather could have just waited for Claude to come home and ‘find’ her himself… I knew I NEVER wanted to be responsible for anyone’s children EVER AGAIN(which was a bit of a problem, as I was studying education…)

They did come home. Eventually. Taylee stayed overnight. Turns out she’d had a ‘small fever’, and had overheated so much(babies struggle to self-regulate body temp) she’d had a convulsion, and stopped breathing. Doctors reckoned if I hadn’t walked in when I did, she could’ve died, and would’ve potentially been an unexplained ‘cot death’.  Hello SIDS….

The paramedics had managed to revive her by the time they reached the children’s hospital, and doctors had done a spinal tap and various other tests at the hospital. She came home about 24hrs later, and was completely FINE.

Me, it took a while… I had nightmares. All of the possible endings to that story freaked me out. I have a rather analytical mind, and I overworked it BIG TIME on this event. I didn’t want to baby-sit, least of all for these guys, but Kim was AMAZING, and actually made me look after the kids about a week later. Once I did, I was fine again.

Clearly. Because I’ve worked with kids on and off since then.

But the lessons are glaringly obvious. Still.

Life is precious hey. Snuffed out quick as a vapour.

It only takes a ‘small fever’ to change things completely. And a ‘small fever’ looks like different things to different people.

Depression… Losing a job… A marriage break up… Financial troubles… A sick child…

And it takes all our ‘on-guard’-ness to be aware of our surroundings.

STOP.

When it feels like something is wrong, LISTEN.

Is it too quiet? Don’t talk yourself out of checking on someone. Don’t rationalise things away….

You never know – you may just end up saving someone…

me and Taylee at the beach a few years later

with Jeanie, Chlo and Taylee just before I moved to Aus… xx

Jean-Claude, Taylia, Chloe. all grown up and very much alive and well xxx

SING! (but maybe not a song of sixpence…)

I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about music, and singing, lately.

That’s not soooo unusual for me, although before I continue, I should inform you that my ‘default’ song(you know the song you just launch into unawares when you haven’t been listening to enough ‘current’ radio…) is actually “O Holy Night”.

I know.
It’s alarming, seeing as Christmas comes but once a year(see what I did there?) but it’s true. In February, June, August AND December, you’ll catch me singing “O Holy Night”.
I. DON’T. KNOW. WHY.
It just is what it is…

I’ve been thinking about singing so much that I even recently made Wednesdays ‘sing-all-your-words” day(and then promptly forgot to enforce my own rule and nobody sang anything today but hey…it’s the thought that counts right?)

Music evokes emotion, and memories, much like smells do…

I can hear The Carpenter’s “On the Top of the World” and I’m immediately transported to my childhood, forcing my younger brother to perform dance routines with me in the lounge room, and forcing my parents to watch and celebrate our amazing gifts of song and dance…

I can hear *insert name of band here* and I’m shaken up again, as a young high schooler, when my best friend’s older brother gassed himself in the family car listening to *said* band on repeat….

Kylie Minogue’s “Locomotion” gets me every time, and I’m fourteen, and SCREAMING with laughter as my friends and I dance around our holiday house in Cape Town….

Song-writers AMAZE me. They have an incredible ability to bring expression to things we often just have no idea how to verbalise at all… And strung along to a killer hook, we’re roped in for life. Literally.

Singing is FUN. Singing is GOOD FOR YOU.
TRULY. It awakens you. It makes you happy. Especially if you’re singing at the top of your lungs in the car as you hoon(at a responsible 100kms an hour) down the highway – preferably on a road trip to the beach with some of your best mates on the planet…

But don’t take MY word for it:
Suzanne Hanser is the chair(as an aside, I do feel for anyone who is a ‘chair’) of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music. She says “Because singing is visceral, relating to, or affecting, our bodies, it can’t help but effect change”.

Studies have also linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and reduced stress, according to Patricia Preston-Roberts, a music therapist in New York. She uses song to help patients who suffer from a variety of psychological and physiological conditions. “Some people who have been traumatized often want to leave the physical

body, and using the voice helps ground them to their bodies. Singing also seems to block a lot of the neural pathways that pain travels through.”

Hmmm. Suddenly, mucking around with a song and a dance again sounds good to me!

One study conducted at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, found that people who sing(and not just professional singers) had higher levels of immunoglobulin A and cortisol – markers of enhanced immunity – after they sang than before. Just listening to music did not have the same effect as BEING ENGAGED IN the singing of the song…

Sounds to me much like life really.
BE ENGAGED.
LIVE.
Don’t just ‘listen’ to the music and let life pass you by…

SING!

Loud and proud. Off key or on. Whatever. However. Whenever. Just do it.

‘Open your mouth, and sing out your song. Life is short as the day is long.
Can’t leave you my body, but I’ll leave you a tune. This is my legacy. Cheers to you.’
Brooke Fraser.