Monday, October 31, 2011

Coz I may have changed my mind...

I have to apologise. For some reason, my previous post came off more maudlin that I had intended. See, I wasn't complaining about being single, I'm actually happier than I've ever been - being single! I was merely thinking aloud with that self-analysis-behaviour-modification thing I do. I ardently believe in Divine Will so I don't fret about anything I don't have - with the knowledge that things will come as they're meant to, at the right time.

And timing is everything.

It's a funny thing. Life. I can remember a time when (barely a year ago) my ovaries were pining ferociously for offspring. Six kids if anyone recalls. That was always the plan. But now? I'm not so sure.

I don't know exactly what changed my mind. All I know is that one minute I was helping my cousin move from Mayfair (central Johannesburg) to Florida Hills (west of Johannesburg) with her 18 month old toddler... and then the next minute, said ovaries were like "ok thanks, we've had enough".

What really drove the point home was spending the weekend at her new place (coz her hubby had to go to Manchester/UK on business). Now I'm no amateur. I always knew that having kids was not easy and I was really not naive or idealistic about this. And I've taken care of my fair share of babies from babysitting for a day to a couple of weeks! But nothing, NOTHING, could have prepared me for a weekend with a hyper-active, super-sensitive, intelligent and rebellious 18 month-old.

Firstly, this kid can talk... like entire sentences... at only 18 months. That's one year and 6 months for those who need to count. Yeah I know, I asked my cousin what she was feeding him too. The fact that he's so intelligent doesn't help. Intelligence + rebellious is NOT a good combination. See, with any other kid, you can just sprout any shit and they'll believe you. Not this kid. He puts on his "who-the-f@#$-do-you-think-you're-lying-to" face and does what he wants to anyway.

Sunday morning rolled around and he woke up next to me and his mother on the bed. He rolled over, smiled lazily and said "Hi Azra". Then he told his mother he needs to be changed - not in so many words - the kid may be intelligent but he isn't Jesus ok. It didn't take him long to get his bearings and head for destruction. The kitchen was first and when he was done unpacking every cupboard he could open, he headed for the lounge and the DVD stack.

The entire weekend was EXHAUSTING! And I wasn't even the one doing most of the yelling and reprimanding. At one point he fell asleep, woke up in my arms and proceeded to scream his head off for about an hour, crying because how dare I carry him while he's asleep and how dare his mother let anyone near him. He only stopped when she took out a belt and told him that if he didn't quit crying blue murder, she was going to give him something to cry about.

And I think that was it. I've never been the same since. It's not that I can't see the pay-off here. I can see and appreciate the bond they have... and I can see the joy he brings to her life. But I have three cousins with four babies between them and honestly, I feel more exhausted just thinking about them then they do about rearing their children. I think that I'm definitely not ready for one of those (never-mind six). Crazy kids = Best. Contraception. Ever!

I'm not saying that I don't ever want to have kids... who knows what the future holds ;)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coz it's what the doc ordered...

Remember when I said that I often find that I don't have anyone to talk to when I'm in a crisis? Well, it's like The Almighty heard me whining and sent me someone. It's more like this someone has taken it upon himself to be my counsellor and saviour and whatever else I need that I've been lacking at this juncture in my life.

I recently had dinner with my mom's (single) thirty-something year old doctor who is absolutely brilliant in his field (and breathtakingly beautiful) . I have met him a couple of times before, but Mother has been going to him for the better part of 10 years and they're quite friendly.

To make a long story short, Doc thinks we're fascinating (my sisters and I) and tres fun to be around and we think that he's fascinating and lovely blah blah blah...

So back to dinner... he tells me that he cannot believe that I'm still single. For some reason, he just can't understand why. So I told him that's what most of my students tell me too, and that I cannot believe that he's still single - especially because this is a guy with a couple hundred squajillion friends and everyone loves Doc. EVERYONE. His family, friends and a couple thousand of his patients too. Even the men. He's just that kind of guy.

Anyways, there was more of the back and forth admiration thing- "you're fantastic... no you're fantastic..." seriously though, you should see this guy. It's like the cover of GQ grew a pair of legs and came to sit at my table. If Mr. Perfect came in a bottle, you'd find Doc in aisle 7, between the air freshner and the 3 ply toilet paper. And honestly, if it wasn't for the HUGE cultural and religious barrier, I would have been ALL over him, like butter on toast.

But I know better than that. And he does too. So we've settled on trying to help each other see the bigger picture. He thinks I'm hung up on a guy I was talking to for a while (which, of course, I vehemently deny because I can not possibly be hung up on someone I've never met - can I?) and I think his ex-girlfriend slash ex-fiancée is a psychotic cow and that he's idealistic and slightly delusional.

He has managed to give me some perspective on a few things though.

He asked me what's my definition of the perfect guy. And I replied quite absent-mindedly, with a straight-face, "You!... well an Islama-fied version of you". He thought this was hilarious but I could see him blushing from the corner of my eye. We spoke about life in general, our expectations and preferences. I asked him all the stalker questions... y'know, what time he gets home, who cooks for him, where he lives, if he has a bath I could use (my place only has a stand-in shower), who does his laundry, who irons his clothes, what colour is his underwear... the usual. He indulged me and answered everything.

After a couple of hours of chatting non-stop, Doc suggested that we (my sisters and I) do a reality tv show and offered to speak to some of his pals in the industry if we were interested. I laughed for about an hour - really, no one would want to watch us in action. I get the feeling that most people would be highly offended by our uncouth non-traditional ways. 

We then said our goodbyes and I found myself wondering, why am I always attracted to the unavailable guys? They're always either physically, emotionally or spiritually unavailable. What kind of a masochist am I?! And it's not about the chase, it's more than that. Maybe my sub-conscious endorses a need to protect myself, so I choose men who theoretically can't hurt me? Whatever the case, it has to end.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coz deponent verbs are typically passive in form but active in meaning and their participles thus take the form but not the meaning of the perfect passive participle... WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?!?

So where was I? Oh yeah, about that job.

Well, remember that interview where I basically professed my love for the male form to my prospective employer? Well, I got the job. And they wanted me to start immediately.

So what exactly do I do? Well... don't laugh ok... I can hear some of my relatives sniggering in the background... how do I say this...

I'm a teacher!

Not just any teacher mind you, I'm an English teacher. Not just any English teacher mind you, I work at an institute and I teach English to foreigners; particularly Brazilians, Cubans, Argentinians, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Moroccans, Turkish and various French and Portuguese speaking people from most African countries. The demographics are dynamic. My "students" are mostly professionals i.e. Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Economists etc.

And what can I say... other than so far, so good. Many people already know that this is what I've wanted to do for a long time now, and so this opportunity came along at the right time.

It's very different from what I've been accustomed to and it's been very challenging especially since I've been literally thrown in the deep end. What this means is that even though one of my degrees is in English and it's my Mother-tongue, I often have to learn stuff before I teach it. Stuff like deponent verbs and reinforcing that the gerundive is sometimes considered the future passive participle, although it is more of the jussive mood than the future tense. Seriously, WTF?! Now there's a term I know very well.

Anyway, it's been a trying week and I've been swamped with work... having to give lengthy classes, catch up on the previous month's activities and examine the changing face of language education in the technological era blah blah blah... I've been emotionally, mentally and physically drained. And it seems my new employer has some high expectations from me, having literally pushed me into a research project she's working on and having me do a paper, A PAPER, on my findings! Bleh. If only I had so much faith in myself.

So for the past week I've been seriously winging it. Taking it all in my stride. Just going with the flow, swimming along. And I find that even though I'm exhausted and it's been a learning curve of note, the change itself has been an epiphany of sorts. I'm more at ease than I've ever been at work. EVER. It's like a breath of fresh air.

Now excuse me, I have to go and find out what the hell is a Gerund.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Coz this is no time to be a chicken-shit Frances...

Remember all that bitching and moaning I’d done about my work and my senile boss and how I had come to loathe the office setting, desk, chair, politics and just about everything else in the corporate world? Well, about four weeks ago as fate would have it, I left all my doubts and reservations behind and jumped into an abyss not expecting anything to come of it.

The result is that as of last week, my life has taken a dramatic turn into another direction. And of course I’m elated... and hopeful and optimistic and... terrified! And this is where Patty’s voice rings in my head “this is no time to be a chicken-shit Frances”. Thing is, this is exactly what I’ve wanted and while there are certain drawbacks that come with this opportunity, it is exactly what I need, to get to where I want to be... hence “this is no time to be a chicken-shit Frances!”.

I do not have the time nor the emotional capacity for fear. Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias! A life lived in fear is a life half lived! Suck it up. Be a woman. I have to claw every ounce of courage from this flesh and these bones, put on my brave face and jump in the deep end. And I can be brave. I know I can be brave to the point of fearlessness. And when I’m fearless, nothing and no one can stand in my way. Now, if only I could remember how... it’s not like they printed these instructions on my box of Kelloggs Cornflakes.

It’s times like these that I often find that I have no one to talk to. Sure, I can comfort and counsel all and sundry with their problems, but for some reason I just cannot seem to find that same kind of comfort and counsel with anyone – including those closest to me. It’s usually during these times, that I prefer to turn to a higher power for guidance and assurance and more often than not, I find that I usually end up counselling myself through Him.

As a practising Muslim, I am very Pro-God. Even if I wanted to, I could never NOT believe because I’ve witnessed too many sheer miracles in my lifetime that cannot be attributed to co-incidences or science or anything else that can be used as an excuse. I’ve seen too much... and I continue to see The Almighty’s hand at work in my life and in other lives too... but hey look, I’m not here to preach to the public ok... 

For the record, when it comes to different beliefs, I ardently believe that EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this earth has a life purpose. Every single person is EXACTLY where they’re meant to be. Every single person has their own road to walk, their own lessons to learn (like I’ve mentioned previously) and The Almighty God – whatever you call Him – has created everyone and therefore, He is for everyone. I don’t see myself as better than anyone else on this earth, whether they be Muslim or not. We’re just different and Islam commands that we respect the differences and that God is the Only and Ultimate Judge:

لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ
“To you be your Way, and to me mine” [”You will not believe in what I believe, I will not believe in what you believe, hence, your faith is with you and my faith is with me." Ergo, no force, no competition, no comparisons... you do what you think is good, I will do what I think is good. (Qur’an 109:1-6)]

As Muslims, we pray five times a day, to continually re-establish a connection with The Almighty. And every time we prostrate with our foreheads to the ground, we acknowledge a higher power who is the ultimate controller of destinies, lest we should be tempted to fear life.

There’s that ugly F word again...

Thing is, life is a struggle from beginning to end for everyone, and few things ever come easy. At the beginning of life we strain hard to stand upright without anybody holding onto us. At the end of life we’re back to the very same task. And in between, the struggles are laid end to end: raising kids, making a marriage work, finding our life’s work, taking care of those who need us, becoming faithful friends, finding the money to do what needs to be done... no matter who you are, we all have the same issues.

A lot of struggling is done right out there in plain view. But the real struggle is always inside us: the struggle with fear which is always there whispering in our ear, “Don’t get in too deep; you might lose or get hurt. Save your strength for later.”

The Almighty warns against doubt and fear and the evil that comes with our nafs and desires: “And if an evil whisper comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge with Allah” (Qur’an 7:200). Fear and doubt are Satan’s tools to misguide mankind.

At every fork in the road, fear tells us not to invest: in this moment, or in this person, or in whatever is at hand because there’s no guarantee we’ll win, no guarantee that our kids will be good, that our spouse will be faithful, or that our good work will bear fruit. “No guarantee,” whispers that evil little voice, “so stand back, sit on your hands. Better safe than sorry.”

Even in the Bible, God responds to that lying little voice with a warning: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

The Qur’an tells us, "Nothing shall ever happen except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Maula (Lord, Helper and Protector). And in Allah let the believers put their trust”(Qur’an 9:51).

God has given every one of us some very clear life assignments. They’re spelled out in our gifts and in the circumstances of our lives. Will we accept God’s assignments and do the important work he’s given us? Will we succeed in building our piece in His kingdom? Only if we invest everything we’ve got fearlessly - for the long term. However, sometimes we are our own worst enemies innit... our fears are just too great.

Is there any one of us who can’t identify with the unpredictability of life...we know the experience too well: we think an issue through, we do our homework, we plan carefully and act decisively, and still… nothing. The business still languishes, the spouse is still angry, the child still fails, and we grow ever more weary.

Perhaps we’ve been so caught up with our own interests and perceptions of things - OUR OWN AGENDA- that we haven’t seen what’s right in front of us. Perhaps we need a new perspective. Perhaps we need to have more faith and trust in our Creator, for God sees to the heart of things.

Let The Almighty show you what He sees. It’s the ultimate in truth. Then relax in your trust in Him. Let Him guide your hand. He will speak to you in his own silent way. And you will hear Him, if you have learned how to listen.

This is my message to myself today. Yeah... suck it up, take a deep breath and just jump straight in the deep end. I suppose it's a good thing that I already know how to swim.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coz no man is an island...

So a couple of months ago, I moved house. Actually, I moved from my nice big spacious house in the suburbs to a flat / apartment much closer to the city. It was a huge adjustment for me at the time because I suddenly found that I had to get used to living in a confined space surrounded by people all over again.
For instance, there's a couple with a kid that lives above in flat 3C. And this kid loves his marbles. Y'know how I know? Because I hear him every single day with those freaking marbles... it sounds vaguely like there's a ghost playing in my kitchen.

Then there's the guy in 1D whose gargling at 5 in the morning is my personal alarm clock. Nothing like the sound of water and phlegm at the crack of dawn. No alarm clock on earth has the same effect.

The family in 1C have four kids all under the age of 6. Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings are fun times, especially because I'm almost positive that the people living 2 miles down the road can hear them. There's usually a ruckus of some kind and it almost always involves some sort of bicycle or three. The cacophony of screeching children and plastic wheels grating against the paving, on the one morning I get to sleep in, is like music to my ears...

Then there's the couple in 1A whose little tiffs rival World War 2. What is it with women and throwing a man's clothes outside. She only makes life harder for herself because when they make up, she's the one that has to wash, iron and pack those clothes away again.

The four guys living next door are the best. Initially, I had my reservations about them and briefly worried about living next to four strange men. But my fears were quickly laid to rest and thankfully, they're amongst the most respectful guys I've ever known. And for some reason, they love sending food over. And I'm not talking about little snacks or savouries. Once they sent over an entire roast chicken. And there were Turkish kebabs too. Then it was fruit salad and cream and last week it was a Pyrex dish filled to the brim with chicken Biryani. Any man who feeds me gets my nod of approval.

Now, 6 months later, I wonder if I could ever go back to living in silence. In the weirdest way, the noise has become somewhat less annoying and strangely comforting. It's good to know your neighbour's are alive and that life is going on around you. In any case, I figure that it's at least a hundred times better than the neighbours I had to put up with in London... remember that story... I reckon anything is better than this:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Coz I'm a chronic dreamer...

It's true. I spend way too much of my time and energy living suspended between the past, present and dream land. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why. I can't figure out why I can't stay focused ALL the time. Why is it such a constant struggle? It's not Rocket Science. Or Brain Surgery. Maybe my brain is constipated.

Oh boy what a week. What a week... let me give you all some advice. REAL advice ok! Everyone listening? Ok here goes:

Firstly, do not EVER, under any circumstances, go off on a tangent with a prospective employer, especially if you suspect that said employer enjoys your conversation.

Secondly, do NOT indulge said prospective employer in your whims and fancies.

And finally, when said prospective employer asks you what your hobbies and interests are, DO NOT EVER get caught in a dreamy reverie while you proceed to tell her that you love men with a dreamy sigh and an uninhibited determined glint in your eye, as she collapses in a fit of giggles which snaps you back to reality and you’re sure the only reason she likes you is because you’re a professional stalker. OK?!? Get it? Got it? Good!

Anyways, I’m glad to say that the exercise drought is over. Instead of starting on Monday like I always do, I decided to start on Sunday. And boy it wasn’t easy, getting back into a routine is never easy. Then there was a minor setback on Tuesday – I couldn’t get to it because I had other things to attend to – but then got right back on that bandwagon again on Wednesday night. The trick here is consistency, regardless of what happens.

And like I predicted, the first few days were torture and I died a few times. Now my body aches like I’d been run over with a truck for a few days. But so far so good. There are only 3 things really grating my cheese at the moment:

Firstly, speaking of cheese... training regularly means that I’m hungry ALL.THE.FREAKING.TIME! But there’s no point in exercising religiously if I’m going to stuff my face every 2 minutes innit. I need my newly acquired Kardashian bum (aptly named Kimmy) to eff off and never come back again.

Secondly, for some reason I seem to be suffering from fatigue that I just can’t get rid of. I’m so tired that most days it feels like I haven’t slept the night before. And when I’m tired, I say stupid things to prospective employers. Now while I’m not bound to my bed I do get some shut eye at a reasonable hour – 11pm – and I’m up just before 5am. Six hours of sleep has been enough for me before. But these past few days, it's like I'm sleep walking - day dreaming my life away. I’m obviously lacking some essential vitamins here. Maybe I need to find another nurse to illegally administer another vial of Vitamin B12.

And thirdly: The Chocolate. Oh the freaking chocolate. Seriously, it’s like crack. I can’t seem to get rid of the habit. And every day it’s the same story: hmm... what shall I have today... Aero? Nope too many holes, not enough chocolate. Flake? Nah, it's like eating chocolate flavoured air... too many folds, not enough chocolate. Tex? More holes hidden in between layers of wafer biscuit. Seriously Nestlé, what is up with all the holes?!? 

Ferrero? Had a whole box last week. Lindor? The buttery filling makes me nauseous. Côte d'Or? Nah. Hershey’s? Way overpriced. How I wish they sold Godiva here... or Butlers... or Galler. I miss Galler and the dreamy praline wonderment that came with it.

How about I just brush my teeth and go to bed... yeah good idea. G'night.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coz we need to respect that everyone's path is different...

We all judge. Every single one of us. It doesn't matter who you are, at some point in time you've judged someone else, unless you're a Prophet of God or a bonafide saint or Jibra'eel (Archangel Gabriel). Judging others is somewhat natural because as people, we're constantly boxing and labelling other people in order to validate our own existences and to establish our own places in the world and in our respective societies. It takes trying to fit in to a whole new dimension.

It doesn't make it right though.

So maybe at some point we think that someone is a terrible mother, or that some guy is a complete asshole, or that someone else is irresponsible and has their priorities all mixed up etc. And most of the time, we may even be right... but does that qualify us to make such assumptions and deductions about said person? I don't think so.

Look, it's always going to be easier to denounce someone as the degenerate that you want them to be... it may even be gratifying to an extent... but there is something grossly fallible about judging someone.

The way I see it, from all the hundreds and thousands of people I’ve ever met or encountered throughout my life, I’ve never ever met anyone who comes from a different species. I don’t even know anyone who may have encountered someone who’s from a different species. For instance, I’ve never ever met anyone with blue blood... or someone who doesn’t bleed. I’ve never met anyone whose heart is where their liver should be or whose kidneys function as lungs. And even though most women are inclined to believe that some men have their brains located in their genitals, this isn’t true.

So, if we’re all exactly the same... all built the same way... with the same organs and needs, it’s safe to say that we all come from the same Creator or Source. It doesn’t matter what you call Him, or whether you believe in Him or not, or whether you worship Him or not, or whether you adhere to His rules or not...

But more importantly we all have the exact same spectrum of human emotion. We all experience joy, sadness, depression, loneliness, anger etc. etc. at varying degrees at various times, depending on our life circumstances.

So to judge someone in their circumstances is in a way denying your part in that spectrum of human emotion. When you judge someone, what you're really saying is that you're exempt from those emotions that would govern your decisions - which in all likelihood is a lie given that you're hardly ever in the same boat as the person you're judging.

I'll never forget the one conversation that changed the course of my perception on the subject forever. I was chatting to an acquaintance and it wasn't long before she went off on a tirade about one of her relatives (a mutual friend) for leaving her (abusive) husband to move in with her friend. And during all the time she was yacking off about it, I couldn't help recall the times we heard about the abuse and wondered why she didn't leave. And then I wondered what on earth would I do if I was in that position... and eventually came to the conclusion that I wouldn't have reacted any different. I would have definitely left too!

And then it occurred to me that most of the time, given the same situation coupled with our spectrum of human emotions, most of us would react the exact same way - because the majority of us are the rule, not the exception. So it's kinda preposterous to ridicule someone else for making the same decision you would have made given the same circumstance.

At the moment I’m counselling a friend, Kelly, who is having trouble with a man she is currently seeing, Max (because I voluntarily counsel people in my spare time as a service to humanity). Well, she doesn't actually have any real problems... apart from being idealistic, slightly delusional and self-sabotaging... (which she knows).

See before she met Max, Kelly was quite content in her misery, moving along in her dysfunctional emotionally abusive relationship with Nick. She said she was perfectly fine before meeting Nick, but that something had gone awry and the result is that now that she’s in a perfectly normal, healthy relationship with Max (who wants to marry her), she keeps on finding excuses to self-sabotage and jeopardise the relationship. She wanted to know what's wrong with her.

To me the answers are simple: Kelly is so used to being treated badly and trying to please the wrong men, that when a decent one comes along she finds it difficult to accept his attention and unconditional love. She’s so used to the drama that comes with having a dysfunctional relationship that she can’t function in the calm and peace of this one. So, she looks for excuses.

Yesterday’s excuse was that he’s too clingy- but she forgot that right at the beginning of their friendship when he was the detached, cool, calm and collected bloke- she thought he didn’t like her and was even upset because of it! Now he’s decided that she’s worth investing some emotion in and has dived right in... but she’s too scared, afraid that she’s not good enough for this kind of attention, afraid that if she lets him in he’ll eventually walk out and abandon or reject her the way every other man in her life rejected and abandoned her.

I pointed out to her that in this scenario, the problem is not him or her ex, the problem lies with her. Her discontentment lies in the fact that she feels that she has this great guy who is everything that she’s ever wanted in a man, yet her own issues prevent her from being happy.

Now sadly, this is a common problem among quite a lot of women. We are all Kelly at some point in time. Some of my advice to her was that she should tell herself every morning and evening that she’s worthy of her intended’s love and attention, that God Almighty Himself has deemed her worthy of it and that’s why He sent this guy to her... and that she should make a conscious effort to start believing it too.

But it's all just words to Kelly. At the moment she hears me and she understands everything I'm saying... she knows that Nick is no good for her. She knows that Nick is not interested in her as a person. She knows that Max accepts and loves her just as she is. She knows she has major issues with her insecurities and her self-worth stemming from her childhood relationship with her Mother... she knows it all. But she just cannot internalise it yet. She just cannot make that connection.

If there's one thing I've learned in my time on earth, it's that every single one of us has our own lessons to learn and our own paths to walk. I could stand there and preach the Gospel to Kelly, but it would mean absolutely nothing to her until it's time for her to get it... until her experiences come together like a puzzle in her head to help her see the bigger picture and make that connection.

As her counselor, an independent and unbiased ear, I don't rush her. She needs to realise all this on her own. As a person, I try to see and understand where the next person is coming from, even if I don't agree with their choices. But I admit, sometimes it's very difficult, especially when you encounter a real asshole :)

So we all have our own roads and life paths to walk. Some of us get there sooner because our paths are shorter, or because we sprinted the entire way. Other people's paths are like long winding roads. It doesn't mean they won't get there, they will but everything in it's time. And until then, we just need to accept and respect the fact that we're no better than the next person. The only thing that makes us different are our circumstances... and circumstances and situations have a way of changing in an instant. Everyone has their own life lessons to learn and their own roads to walk, in their own time.

Kelly's story used with permission.