Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflections, 2016-2018: Another African Adventure draws to a close

A few days ago, one of my wonderful and brilliant friends (Jenna) put up a post on Facebook, that read, as follows:
"What did you do, create, or make last year that you're proud of? I want to hear some of your reflections from 2018! Perfect time to review before moving forward in the new year."

I thought about it for a minute, and started to write a quick response. Before I knew it, I had a whole list of things that I had certainly thought about seriously before, but hadn't ever really put together into a comprehensive list of just how much my life has changed, and how much *I* have changed, in the past 2-and-a-bit years.

I say two years, and not one, because, in truth, the foundations of much of what I achieved this year were laid in the previous year-and-a-bit. Moving back home to South Africa 27 months ago has been FUNDAMENTAL to my personal growth.

I never really knew why I was moving back. I didn't really have a plan (surprise, surprise. This IS me, after all. Ha!). I only knew that my time in Taiwan had reached a point where I was beginning to stagnate. The lessons that I had needed to learn, the experiences that I had needed to have, the people that I had needed to encounter... I felt like I had achieved all of the goals that were required of me in that phase of my life. And so it was time to move on.
But where to from there?

Instead of opting to head to a new and exciting location, instead of pursuing a job in an international school in an exotic location which I had not lived in before, I chose to go home. ("Home". Sigh. Where is "Home", anyway? I've always found that to be a terribly difficult question to answer, having been born in one place, then growing up in another, born to parents who were from two entirely different places to either of the ones I'd lived in, but whose identities were closely tied to their own countries of origin... What a mish-mash of identities to traverse... )

I chose to go to a place that I knew, a place that I was familiar with. So I returned to my African roots, to fulfil the next chapter that I was being drawn towards.
In retrospect, I now understand why I did it.
In a message recently, I wrote:
"I've really grown and learned SO MUCH in these last two years. I feel like THAT'S why I was driven to come home for a while: to focus on ME.
If I'd gone to a new country, I'd be expending all of my energy on getting to know how things work, making new friends, learning the language... all outer things.
But being home, I already knew all of that, and had all my networks and routines set, so I could turn my energy inwards, and actually start to learn about ME.
It hasn't always been good - in fact it was fucking awful for quite a while in the beginning! - but now that I'm on the other side of it all, WOW."

In the time since I moved back to South Africa, I've found ME again.
I say "again", but even that's not entirely accurate.
I discovered myself in ways that I was not aware of before. I didn't really KNOW the inner me. I'd spent my whole life perfecting the persona - as we all do. I'd worked so hard on the image of ME that I wanted to present to the world, that I dismissed the parts of me that didn't fit in neatly with the persona. The soft parts, the sad parts, the tender parts. The parts we bury deep down inside. The parts we wish weren't there.
But they ARE there. And the pressure to keep them buried is what creates so much turmoil and conflict within us... until we learn to forgive ourselves. Until we learn to embrace it ALL, to revel in the lessons that our soul has sought out, and to trust the path that we're on as being exactly the right path.

In answer to my friend's post, about the achievements of 2018, I wrote the following:
*I attended - and completed a diploma in - a year-long set of workshops on how to teach using the Reggio Emilio approach, which is INCREDIBLE. ❤
*I continued working on myself and healing myself with the help of a phenomenal therapist, and feel like a completely different person now - whole and calm and centred and truly at peace.
*I started immersing myself in the world of plant medicine, attended several retreats, went to an incredible series of chakra workshops, and am discovering my own spirituality and connecting with my soul in ways that I never even imagined I could do before.
 *I'm in a healthy, positive, beautiful relationship, completely devoid of angst.
*I learnt how to be brave enough to let go of toxic people and relationships, which created a space for many new and beautiful and wholesome ones instead.
*I got to reconnect with my brother and build a friendship with him in a way that we never had before.
*I taught a class of beautiful children, and loved them, and sent them off into their educational futures with strength, knowledge, confidence, and a sense of awe and magic about the world around them.
*I learnt that what other people think of me is none of my business... it's THEIR stuff, THEIR ugliness, THEIR damage, theirs to heal - both in a professional and a social environment. As long as I live my life and conduct myself with kindness, honesty, and integrity - I'm on the right path. ❤"

As I prepare to say goodbye to South Africa exactly 9 days from now, and embark upon yet another adventure, I am filled with gratitude as I reflect on this most recent chapter of my life. It hasn't always been easy - in fact it was downright crushing at times! - but I am SO incredibly grateful for where I find myself today.
Again, the future is a great big mystery. (Isn't it ALWAYS, though?!) But I've been learning to live in the moment. To quiet the noise. To trust in the journey.
My soul's got this.
I am at peace. ❤

Wishing you all a big, beautiful, enriching and joyous 2019.

Monday, October 1, 2018

To love/ In Love/ On Love ❤

I didn't know it at the time, but exactly one year ago today, I did something that would change my life immeasurably:
I went out for sushi on a sunny Sunday in S.A...


I'd known Shaun for about 8 years, in passing.  
In my extended circle of party friends, he had always just been "Dean's hot younger brother", whom we'd bump into sometimes when we were out. Whenever I'd come home over the years, for a visit from Asia, I'd come across him out on the town. And he WAS hot, and charming, and INCREDIBLY sexy!
But he was also 10 years younger than me. 
Which - while he was in his twenties and I was in my thirties - was a veritable lifetime of experiences and understandings apart. 
So we'd say "Hi", smile, flirt-with-our-eyes, and then go our separate ways.

Then two years ago, I moved back home to Africa, and realized that a lot of my friends had settled down, and slowed down, and yet, here I was: still wanting to go out dancing. I missed the joy and exuberance that only dancing can bring... the freedom and wild abandon to an internal calling of the soul...
I needed a Party Buddy!

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I started to notice that Shaun was out often, at music festivals, on a dancefloor somewhere - always smiling in the sunshine, always looking like he was having the greatest time - THAT'S the kind of energy I wanted to be around!

We made plans to meet up at the Earthdance Festival, but I got sick that weekend and had to bow out. A week later he messaged me about a drum-'n-bass party in town, but I woke up from a delicious afternoon nap at around 7 p.m that Saturday night to a gorgeous thunderstorm raging outside, and decided that I'd much rather stay in bed and watch it exploding outside my bedroom window - beautiful and wild and dramatic and powerful...

To make up for cancelling twice, though, I suggested we go out for lunch instead. Shaun said he'd probably be ravenous after dancing all night long, so we made loose plans to meet up the following day. 

In truth, I was fully prepared to not hear from him at all on Sunday. I knew that he'd been out on the town for a final Johannesburg hurrah with one of his best mates who was moving overseas. I knew that he was an irrepressible hooligan, I knew he'd have had a raucously good time at the party, and I was half-ready for him to cancel on ME this time, and for us to simply keep trying and meet up again sometime in the indefinite future, on a dancefloor somewhere. No stress, no pressure, no obligation. Casual.

Instead, I found myself driving to a quaint little spot not far from my place to meet someone for lunch whom I'd known for years, but barely really knew AT ALL. I distinctly remember driving there and thinking "What on EARTH are we going to talk about?! I barely know this person! It's one thing to meet up on a loud and chaotic dancefloor and share some laughs and good times, but to actually sit through a whole meal and make conversation?! With a veritable stranger?! Uggggghhhhhh, what was I thinking?!"

(It is relevant to note here that I was COMPLETELY disinterested in the whole world of dating at this stage. Relationships were not even a blimp on my future horizon, superfluous to the happiness of My Future Self. After a series of heartbreaks over the past 20 years - each one more dramatic and devastating and destructive than the one before  - I finally got myself the help that I needed. I began to see the patterns... to recognize my mistakes... to understand the choices that I'd been making, and the reasons for why I'd been making them, and how to stop making them... and began to work on fixing the "hole in my soul", as my therapist called it.
So by the time I went out for that lunch, I was feeling WHOLE, and happy, and centred. For several months now, I'd been celebrating the power of Me. I was excited about my OWN future, about the path that lay before ME, about all of the adventures that I was going to take MYSELF on.)

But my concerns were quickly allayed. Lunch was easy. We chatted, we laughed. We enjoyed each other's company, and conversation flowed effortlessly. Before we knew it, almost 4 hours had passed, and the restaurant was closing for Sunday evening. Shaun walked me to my car, and in true swoon-worthy fashion, gave me a kiss that I could not stop thinking about all the way home! Yum!!!

And it all started from there, really...

For the next few months, we began to date "casually". We'd see each other once a week, laugh and enjoy each other's company, and then go back to our regular lives. 
Early on, I gave him the "I'm not interested in any kind of relationship" speech, and he expressed relief, because neither was he. We both had plans for ourselves for the year ahead, we both had things we wanted to do, and we both did not want the pressure of any kind of commitment to cloud the horizon.

But life's funny like that. 

Before we knew it, our weekly meet-ups became the highlight of the whole week. Seeing each other was the best part of any week, and the time we spent together became more and more magical and sparkly and beautiful! We recognized what was happening, spoke about it openly, and just agreed to let things unfold as they will. No stress, no pressure, whatever happens, happens. Easy-breezy.

It's been a year now. I can't remember ever being happier than I am in this very moment. 
Don't get me wrong: outside of me, it's all still completely topsy-turvy. My life is wildly uncertain, I've no idea what I'll even be doing next year, or where I'll be living, but none of that scares me anymore. I have no control over anything. And I'm okay with that.  

What I DO have is an incredible amount of joy in my life, and a magical human being who reciprocates and mirrors and returns that joy tenfold.
I find myself in a relationship unlike any other that I've ever been in before. There is no stress, no anxiety, no doubt, or confusion, or feelings of insecurity or unease. We talk honestly about whatever comes up. We recognize our own mistakes, and apologize for them. We work on being better people, better lovers, better friends - constantly. We laugh A LOT. We appreciate each other.
We have never had a fight. We don't raise our voices. We don't need to. 

This is all still very new for BOTH of us. We are remarkably similar in many ways - not least of which, in how we love. This new absence of volatility in a relationship, this lack of emotional turmoil - it's still something which we're both quite stunned by. 
We are kind to each other. We respect and value and esteem each other.
He really is my best friend. I know I'm his. I've never had that in a relationship before. I never even knew it could be like this.

So here's to this past year! 
Here's to all of the love and joy and goodness that came at me from out of  NOWHERE!
Here's to love!
To MY love:
Happy Anniversary, FavouritePersonEver!!! 
 Oct 2017: It all started one Sunday... Our very first date. :)

 Jan 2018: New Year's Day at the Revolution Music Festival

 Jan 2018: Sunset Sessions @ Movida

 Feb 2018: Sunday lunch with friends

 March 2018: Dinner at Shaun's brother and sister-in-law's

 Apr 2018: 6-month Anniversary at the same place (and same table!) where we'd had our 1st date

 Apr 2018: Passover at my brother and sister-in-law's

 May 2018: Mother's Day at Shaun's parents' farm

 June 2018: A quiet Saturday night in

 July 2018: My birthday weekend away, in the Magaliesberg

 Aug 2018: Flying down to Durban for the weekend

Sept 2018: Charles and Kym's wedding