Thank you for Leaving…

You always hear or read about people thanking those who have stood by them in life, who have stayed when they were repeatedly pushed away or had their back at every turn… but what about the people who willingly up and go? Who pack their bags and go without bothering to fight for us or the friendship? 

You know the ones I’m referring to… The ones you feel you can’t live without until, well, you just do. The ones who promise time and time again to never leave your side but somehow disappear without a backward glance. The people who profess and promise with such false sincerity to always love you and be there for you… until, whoops, they aren’t.

We always expect to find a gaping hole in our hearts when someone we care deeply for becomes nothing more than a distant memory. When age and circumstance mean they cannot really matter to us as they once did. When we wake up one day and realise that, “Actually, you aren’t the best friend to me any more after all.”

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But sometimes, more often than not, you look around you and it dawns on you that you haven’t actually had the urge to message them in over a month. You haven’t missed the daily chats or the scattered occasions they would carefully set aside to see you, like you were a scheduled event rather than a living, breathing person.

You realise that, above anything else, you want someone who can see you at your best and your worst and accept you just the same, each and every day. No matter how moody, irritable or sad you weakly allow yourself to be.

Someone who won’t tell you you made a mistake or that you should do anything other than listen to your heart… even when you and they both know it might be wrong.

You begin to understand that some people might not be perfect for you, they might screw up and break your heart on an almost daily basis but through it all, when you expose the rawest, darkest parts of your soul to them, they will still be there at the end of a day. Not because you haven’t given them a million reasons to leave but because to them, there is always one all-defining, unchangeable reason to remain.

You learn that just because someone is your best friend, does not mean they will be there the most for you. They will be fine with leaving you for months on end because email, Whatsapp or even written correspondence is just too tedious and they haven’t been in the “mood for anyone lately, sorry”… and yet still, years later, they will have the arrogance to berate you for loving someone who, for all their faults, has been there for you since the very first day you met.

You will begin to see that you shouldn’t have to beg people to see you or spend time with you because one day someone will tell you straight up that they “don’t spend time with you because you ask me to or you need me… I just do it because I enjoy being around you. Because I want to.”

You will discover that months will pass, relationships will end but not all bonds will break… and you will see that the people who truly want to stay in your life, simply do.

You don’t need to hear from them every day. You don’t need to see them for years. You don’t even have to miss them consciously but even still, no matter how much time passes or what changes in your individual lives, they will always be there. Purely because they always want to be.

After You by Jojo Moyes

So to all the people who have left our lives, who have abandoned us or choosen to disappear without a trace, thank you for leaving. Thank you for showing us that new and better people will gladly step up and fill the voids you so briefly left in your wake.

Thank you for showing us that we didn’t need you after all and that we can cherish the memories and hold you in our best wishes – but we do not have to have you in our lives if you decide to let us go.

We’re still breathing. We’re still happy. We’re, quite simply put, doing just fine without you… and sadly, your absence is far more reliable than your presence in our lives has been in recent months.

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The dance of Life I learned by heart

“I don’t know how to dance… well, I mean obviously I can dance to the radio but not properly dance.” 

The amused smirk I received in response said it all: there was so much for me still to learn but you learn how to dance together and somehow, I did too. 

At first, when I tried to dance, my limbs were clumsy and my mind forgetful. I’d remember the small things, the way it felt to be close to your partner but never the steps it required to stay on track with them and keep moving through life. 


But experience and a hard-learned lesson, which involved some stumbling and falling out of graceful step in life, taught me how to dance a new dance.

Then, the pupil became the teacher and I learned that it was the small things that added up to the careful movements and unhurried steps.

“Are you sure?” I asked because this wasn’t an easy dance to learn and it’s not one you can ever unlearn. 

Yet, on it went, so I felt the heart tremors, and used my whispers of guidance and gentle teachings, timing them with the movements of my now-sure limbs, but even so, I never understood that this was the dance of life – and for a few giddying moments, it was mine to enjoy. 

It wasn’t all teaching though, for I gave myself to learning too and I’ll admit, I’m now pretty good at both. I began to recognise the movements that followed one after another and the patterns of breathless beauty that they proceeded to create.

“This feels amazing… this is so amazing.” I said once or twice when it overcame me and I realised just how wonderfully blessed I was to know how to dance this dance. 


I giggled unrestrainedly a few times, as I slowly learnt a new dance, one which moved to a different beat, and wonderingly said out loud, “You’re smiling…you can’t see it but you’re really smiling.”

I felt the move of the earth beneath me, whilst held gently in place, holding on for dear life almost for, in those moments, this was all that mattered, it’s still all that ever could. 

I grew accustomed to the vulnerability that came with letting go, of allowing yourself to get lost in the dance – but I never ever wanted it to stop. 

It was like breathing at a point, only perhaps more effortless, for my awkward steps and repetitions soon became those of a knowing expert and it turned into a dance of human perfection. 

Yet, it was a dance I never expected to be granted the opportunity to enjoy (not even once), though it became the dance of my heart, body and soul; one that I relished and looked forward to every single time I walked out on to that floor and extended my hand in invitation to join. 

Still, when you lose yourself so completely, to something so beautiful and natural, it’s hard to remember life before it, or to watch the magic slipping through your fingers in the moments that follow… 

It was gentle and easy at times, or fast and heated and compelling at others. It was a dance of skill, of untamed splendour, but one learned without very much need for practice when, with you, the other is equally skilled and certain. 

It became the dance of my brightest waking hours and the dance of my midnight dreams. 

It is the dance I remember when I daydream now or lie down to sleep, which plays before my eyes 24/7 on repeat, coming as clear as day whenever I let it… and I let it return often enough, I can tell you that. 

It’s the dance I think of when I see a sunset behind my mountain and watch my city fade to grey, as I dance here on my own to the sound of silence. 


It’s a dance of the morning, of a pre-dawn world in which all is still, when there’s hope and magic in the air again. And when I arise, I smilingly reflect on my precious few dance routines and allow myself to return to them once more.
It’s the dance I see when I close my eyes in quiet moments on the train, as music fills my head and I relive those tentative steps that made me laugh out loud again. 

It’s the dance I think of when I’m alone, with nothing but memories for my own.

It’s the dance I remember even as I type out these words and that I know, no matter how much time passes, it is one I will always be able to recall. 

It’s the dance of existence, in the moments when I half-wish I didn’t any more, and the dance of life… that assures me, once again, that everything will be all right, in spite of my growing fear. 

Because you see, I learned that dance – the dance of Life, as I now call it – off by heart… and it’s the one I am unlikely to ever  forget, even when the music stops and the magic brought with it is well and truly gone.

Before I Met You

Before I met you, I didn’t know what it was to spend hours waiting for a text message reply.

Before I met you, I didn’t truly know what it was to cry.

Before I met you, I never understood what it meant to fall… Or to just keep falling, not knowing how to stop.

Before I met you, I wasn’t ever so sure about anyone… nor about how much I wanted them for my own.

Before I met you, I never used to glance away when other men would look my way.

Before I met you, I never used to spend all day thinking about anyone… (and if I’m entirely honest, maybe the whole night too).

Before I met you, I’d never known a loving touch or look that ever made my heart so swell.

Before I met you, I never feared to tell anyone I loved them so much it made me want to cry.

Before I met you, I never understood the finality that exists in saying good-bye.

Before I met you, I had never really missed anyone so much it felt like a physical pain that wouldn’t go away.

Before I met you, I had never been fully acquainted with my own unrestrained smile.

Before I met you, I’d never felt so at home around another human soul.

Before I met you, no one else’s arms had ever really felt like home.

Before I met you, I don’t think I had ever quite laughed so much, nor made such witty jokes.

Before I met you, I had never looked into another’s eyes and found myself unable to look away, as I happily drowned in their endless depths.

Before I met you, I had never been so afraid of ending up as second best.

Before I met you, I was able to contemplate liking other men.

Before I met you, I never understood the truest meaning of heart-clenching, unrelenting, all-powerful love.

Before I met you, I hadn’t quite ever lived and I certainly hadn’t really even met myself…

Before I met you, sometimes I think that, back then, I didn’t fully exist…  

 

Things For Which I Find No Words

In life, no matter how eloquent a wordsmith you are, there will always be moments and things you cannot fully describe.

Like how you freeze up in the fumbling darkness and in the flash of a minute, propel yourself towards a lifelong regret as you realise in the bloody aftermath that you had a chance to prevent it – but just didn’t know how to take it then.

It’s in the way you wish you could turn back time, not to apologise or to set things right but because you’d like to add that you actually meant what you said there – and probably always will.

Or how you wait for a moment, wait with all your might, for something you have spent countless hours dreaming about but never imagined was still possible – only to discover it’s here to take you gently by the hand and shield you even from your own mistakes.

These are the things in our lives for which we have no words. Elation, heartache, self-loathing, unspeakable joy and worst of all, numb acceptance… these are all things that cannot be put into or conveyed through words.

You can’t contain the happiest day of your life in even the most well-thought out description.

You cannot shape into words the deepest betrayal a woman (or man) may ever know – dealt to them by those once considered to be good friends.

And you certainly cannot express the highest possible feeling of wholeness, of breathtaking human perfection, that any of us can share.

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There are so many things that cannot be strung together by words and as a passionate writer, it always surprises me to reach this revelation but never more than it has of late.

It’s in the way I cannot, even if I tried, describe to you the most gloriest experience I’ve ever known, any more than I can express the hollowness left behind in the bones of former friend’s wake.

Perhaps though, the most surprising thing of all is learning that sometimes, no words are needed at all.

Sometimes, you take the words that are hurled at you in fury and you let them find their marks because the strongest proof that you are better than your would-be verbal attacker lies in choosing not to reply and thus refusing to rise to their most pitiful challenge.

Sometimes choosing to say “Thank you for everything, the good and the bad alike,” or “I forgive you but good-bye” are the most powerful ways you can allow another’s guilt to sink in.

And above all, sometimes in the most beautiful moments of your life, when there are no words to describe what or how you feel, when you are so overcome by emotion that it renders you speechless and leaves you breathless… you realise that, even as a writer, words are not always needed – for it is actions – and not words – that will always speak loudest of all.

The Worst Part For Me: Being Set Free

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You could ask me what the worst part of it was and I could give you a million answers to just that single question alone.

I could say it was coming alive under another’s touch or finding out that home was not a place but rather the refuge I found in their arms.

I could say it was unrequited emotion and falsely uttered things, which I was foolish enough to believe. Once again.

I could tell you it was seeing their individual beauty in the dark and claiming every inch of it as my own and mine alone. Marking my territory as if it was my God-given right.

I could admit it was being wrong when I was so convinced that this time I was right, or professing to the shock I felt as it all came crashing down, for I never saw it coming. No, not this time…

Yet none of those things are half so bad (not by far) as realising that as it ends before it ever really began, my greatest sin in their eyes was that I came along too soon and caught them completely off-guard.

It is accepting and understanding that, although I could always only see so much potential in even the harshest pieces of another’s soul, it was simply never enough.

It was not about my total acceptance for them but rather my lack of disregard. Perhaps that was my fault all along, I guess I’ll never really know.

Maybe it was caring too fully and never thinking twice about it because that is just the way I am.

It is my inability to regret even a single thing and yet simultaneously, wishing I had not a moment left with them now to recall.

It is knowing that if I could banish every trace, memory and ounce of emotion from my mind, body and life, I would do so without even pausing to think.

It is cringingly admitting to myself, as tears cascade down my ice cold face, that I would forgive in the flicker of a heartbeat, for mine has always been so steady and sure… but theirs was irregular and restless and it beats to an entirely different course.

It is knowing that I will love with just as much freedom the next time this emotion comes knocking at my door – but that it will never again be reserved just for them.

It is the sigh of acceptance as the truth finally sinks in and I concede I was mistaken all along, that I might have seen too much potential for them to bear. In us, in them… In everything.

No one believed they were good enough for me, except for me… It turns out everyone else was right but do you know something? I’ll always deny it at all costs.

But none of these are the worst yet to come, no, not by far… the worst is knowing that everywhere I turn, I am haunted by the memory of their face, which I have come to know better than I know my own.

It is remembering the way their hand fits against my own or the way we danced in a darkened room, so hidden from view.

It is finally walking away because there is nothing more left for me to say or do. There is nothing left to find that will not bring me here again to this most desolate confine.

But that is not the worst… not yet, not by far. For, you see, the worst part of all is that… I gave them all I had – and yet still, all they could do was set me free.

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My love affair with trains pre-Metrorail

I’ve  always  thought  there’s  something  oddly  soothing  and  romantic  about  trains.  You  see  train  rides documented  in  movies  and  they  always  seem  like  such  ‘fun’.  (With  the  possible  exception  of  Harry Potter’s journey  to  Hogwarts in  films  number  3-7) 

It’s that slow, carefree  journey  to  a  new  destination  or a  riveting  ride,  which  ends  unexpectedly  (think:  The  Chronicles  of  Narnia)  but  more  often  than  not,  it’s a  clean,  elegant  and  pleasant  trip  through  picturesque  countryside  or  taking  perfectly  spaced underground  rides,  which  never  show  how  we  commuters  squash  up  against  each  other  or  jostle  for  a free spot  to stand,  never  mind sit.

My first  train  experience  came  after  years  of  yearning  when  I  finally  boarded  a  train  to  head  to  the  FIFA 2010  World  Cup  from  Century  City  to  the  Cape  Town  Station.  It  wasn’t  crammed  and  despite  the unpleasant,  wet  weather,  we  all  had  a  seat  and  there  was  plenty  of  cheer  and  colourfulness  to  go  around, what  with all  the football  fans and  their  paraphernalia.  We  were excited  and  at  ease.  There was  a sense of  celebration,  as  much as  a  sense of  occasion.

Coming  back  from  Cape  Town  station,  our  return  journey  was  less…  enjoyable.  I  remember  being pressed  up  against  a  young  guy  who  kept  us  all  quietly  amused  with  his  dark  jokes  (which  generally involved  his  commentary  on  the  delightful  carriage  conditions  and  the  crowdedness)  and  although  the journey  was  a  relatively  short  one,  there  was  yet  again  a  prevailing  sense  of  safety  and  calm.  I  didn’t think  to  clutch  more  tightly  at  my  bag  than  I  usually  do  or  worry  about  who  would  be  boarding  at  our next  stop.

Since  then,  I’ve  had  a  few  more  train  journeys  on  South  Africa’s  very  own  Metrorail…  I’ve  heard people  call  it  ‘Metrofail’  with  no  small  amount  of  frustration  and  barely  concealed  disgust  and sometimes,  this  is  indeed  (sadly)  the  case  –  but  I’m  not  going  to  focus  on  all  of  the  negatives.

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Because  the  truth  is,  even  though  every  single  time  I  board the  train  (which is  at  least  twice  daily  now, morning  and  evening  when  it  is  dark  out),  I  worry  about  my  personal  safety,  I  have  already  had  a  few good experiences  and have  met  some  kind, polite and generally  good people.  

In  fact,  I’d  go  so  far  as  to  say  those  people,  people  like  you  and  I  who  hope  we’re  decent  and  respectable citizens,  make  up  the  majority  and  not  the  minority. 

They’re  people  travelling  to  work,  uni  or  school, people  heading  home  at  the  end  of  a  long  day  or  else, travelling  somewhere  for  the  new  day  but  whatever the case may  be and wherever  they  may  be heading, they’re not  so different  from  you or  me…

It’s  something  I’ve  tried  to  remember  when  I  have  ended  up  on  a  train  so  full  that  people  are  hanging out  the  doors  and  we’re  squashed  like  sardines  (or  something  more  sinister,  perhaps)  and  sure,  I’ve joked  and  said  I  think  I  need  an  anti-lice  dip  afterwards  but  honestly,  I  have  begun  to  understand  that the  person  crammed  up  against  me  doesn’t  like  it  any  more  than  I  do. 

They  don’t  want  to  board  an overcrowded  train  but  when  trains  get  delayed  or  cancelled  and  they  need to  get  home  before nightfall or  make it  to work  on time,  then  sure, they’ll  squish  and squash to  fit  onto  that  damn train.  

I’ve  learnt  that  myself  this  week  as  a  result  of  the  tragic  and  senseless  shooting  of  a  Metrorail  driver (Seriously,  what  the  hell  does  someone  get  out  of  shooting  a  train  driver?  There’s  nothing  even  to steal…  I  just  don’t  understand)  and the subsequent  delays  and  cancellations  since  which  have  seen  me forced to board trains  choc-a-bloc with people because  it  means I’ll  get  home before 18:30  p.m.  –  even if  it’s only  by  a few minutes  at  that.

I’ve  also  learned  that  the  Metrorail  trains  might  be  painted  with  graffiti  and  signed  by  rival  gangs  inside and  out  and  the  seats  might  be  dirty  or  spewing  cushioning  but  someone  sweeps  the  floors  (I  saw  that today  first-hand  and  he  did  a  good  job)  –  but  they’re  not  quite  as  bad  as  I  had  envisioned  from  all  the dread  reports.

Sometimes, when I’m  sitting  in one now, I  realise  that  even as I  anxiously  take note of  who boards  my train  or  carefully  watch  out  the  window  as  we  jerk  to  a  stop  at  each  new  station,  that  I’m  beginning  to understand  more  about  Cape  Town  and  the  beauty  and  diversity  of  this  city  than  I  would  ever  have hoped  to find  in such a, well,  an  infamous thing  and  that  is:  train  travel,  which is indeed  the  lowest  tier of  public transport  in South  Africa.

There  are things I  can tell  you about  my  city  that  I  didn’t  know  little over  a week  ago. For example,  by now  I  can judge the suburbs  depending  on the scenery  and landmarks outside  my  grimy  window.  I  see the  brewery  and  know  we’re  at  Newlands  station  or  I  look  for  the  buildings  and  homes,  which  just  have that  ‘Obs’  feel  to  them  or  spy  out  the  Mill  outbuildings  to  which,  I  assume,  Woodstock’s  popular  Old Biscuit  Mill  owes  its name.

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I  know  that  you  can  slip  underground  through  the  subway  at  Claremont  and  head  from  one  side  to  the other  in  the  space  of  two  minutes,  saving  yourself  from  crossing  a  lot  of  busy  intersections  –  though, conveniently,  usually  the  subway  floods  with  water  when  you  most  need  it  to  be  open  (the  cold  front last  week  was  one  such  time).  

I  know,  too,  some  of  the  faces  of  people  who  board  the  train  at  the  same  time  as  me  and  they  feel  like ‘friends’  now  because  they  were  kind  enough  to  guide  me  in  my  first  few,  somewhat  overwhelmingly train  trips  last  week. 

I’ve  listened  to  some  of  the  most  intriguing  conversations,  music  and  gospel singing  (though  not  necessarily  by  choice  but  there  you  go)  and  shared  a  quiet  word  or  small  smile  with a fellow  passenger  from  time-to-time.  

I’ve  watched  the  sun  rise  and  set  in  my  city,  as  these  weary  old  trains  rumble  over  well-worn  tracks  and I’ve  stared  with  mixed  wonder  and  calm  at  the  forested  slopes  of  Table  Mountain  from  new  perspective of  the  Southern  Suburbs  before  slowly,  finally  or  sometimes  (if  we’re  lucky)  even  quickly,  my  part  of the  city,  the  place  I  now  greet  with  a  sense  of  familiarity  and  belonging,  judders  into  view  and  I  am reminded  again  of  how  beautiful  and  unique  my  city  and  its  habitants  truly  are.  Even  at  the  worst  of times.

I  thought  that  Metrorail  would be the  end of  my  love affair  with trains  and  in  so many  ways, perhaps  it has  taken away  some of  the  magic of  train  rides  but  well,  it’s  teaching  me new  things too about  human nature  and  decentness  and  how  to  suss  out  the  dodgier  folk  from  the  decent…  it’s  teaching  me  how  to be a  responsible adult  when  all  my life  is changing  and sometimes, these  train trips  are the times  when I  am  best  able  to  reflect,  process  and  disengage. 

Perhaps because of  this  reason  alone,  I  can  occasionally  find  a  whole lot  of  good  even  in  the  midst  of  the  bad  –  and  more  often  than  not  these  days,  it’s  oddly enough because  of  my  Metrorail journeys.

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Exercises in Vanity… or Whispers of Loneliness?

Lately,  the  rise  of  uploading  and  posting  blatant  selfies  has  become  a  seemingly  big  trend  on  Instragram, which,  by  my  own  estimation,  is  the  most  visual  of  all  the  social  networks  to  date.  Among  girls  and young  women especially, this  ‘selfish  selfie’  trend  is painfully  apparent.

Selfies  no  longer  serve  (if  ever  they  truly  did)  to  aid  us in  capturing  special  moments  or  setting  a  new profile  picture  on  Whatsapp  or  Facebook  and  as  such,  they  have  been labelled  by  many  as  rather  extreme and  frivolous  ‘exercises  in  vanity’…  and  for  many,  perhaps  they  are  precisely  that. 

However,  I personally  don’t  feel  that  selfies  are  simply  the  by-product  of  lonely,  single  girls  desperate  for  a  little appreciation  or  guys with low  self-esteem  (or  alternatively, bubble-bursting  egos).  

Instead,  more  than ever  now,  the  opposite feels  true.  Those  filling  their  Instagram  feeds  with selfies  of themselves  (and  yes,  only  themselves  –  with  perhaps  the  occasional  pet  or  friend  thrown  in.  Just  to,  you know,  soften  the  edges…)  are,  more  often  than  not,  people  with  no  small  measure  of  confidence  and self-assurance. Of  their  beauty, talents and  lifestyles.

The  rest  of  us  look  on  in  mild  disgust  or  envy,  wishing  our  lives  were  as  effortlessly  simple  or  our  faces and  hair  as  perfectly  manicured,  that  we,  too,  could  enjoy  such  idyllic  lives  as  these  selfie  supremoes.

Yet  the  simple  fact  of  the  matter  is  that  the  girl  whose  Instagram  you  secretly  and  shamefully  enviously stalk  had  to  take  about  fifty  photos  before  she,  in  her  own  opinion,  ended  up  with  a  half-decent  photo of  herself,  easily  cuddling  up to a  pet  or  beau  or  showing  off  her  newest  beauty  routine.  

She  doesn’t  set  out  to  make  you  jealous  and  yes,  to  all  intents  and  purposes  her  life  seems  perfect  when you  look  at  it,  what  with  that  perfect  job  or  course  she  loves,  the  ideal  balance  of  leisure activities,  her seemingly  easy-come, easy-go riches  and  the  steady  boyfriend  who  makes  cameo  appearances,  dutifully allowing  her  to  kiss  his  cheek  or  boast  about  her  #handsomeman.  

The  truth,  however,  is  stranger  than  it  seems.  She  may  indeed  love  her  job  and  her  boyfriend  but  they are  far  from  perfect  and  if  money  isn’t  a problem  for  her,  then you can be sure other  things are.  Things that  you got  right  or  are fortunate  enough to  enjoy.  

In fact, she would probably  look  at  photos of  you  online  or  on Instagram  and think,  “This person  looks amazing…  why  can’t  I  look  more  like  them?”

Just  as  the  guy  who  poses  shirtless  –  muscles  flexed  to the  max  –  has  more  insecurities  than  you  and  your  circle  of  friends  combined  but  still,  he’s  out  there posing  and posting, generating  60-100 likes  within  a  handful  of  hours.

The  hardest  truth  we  will  ever  have  to  face  (excuse  the  pun)  when  it  comes  to  selfies  is  that  they  are indeed  about  finding  validation  –  though  not  from  others  necessarily  but  rather,  from  ourselves. 

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Photo credit: Facebook

It  is about  taking  an  everyday  moment  (you  eating  your  favourite  snack  or  lying  down  to  watch  a  popular show  in your  pjs  just  like the next  person out  there)  and  making  it  something  ‘shiny’…  something  that
other  people  will  look  at  and  think,  “Ah,  man,  I  wish  I  had  that,”  or  “Why  can’t  I  do  things  like  that guy/girl?”

It  is  about  reminding  yourself  that,  with  the  right  lighting,  beauty  app  and  filters,  you  actually  look good. 

Well,  here’s  the  thing…  you  look  as  good  as  ever  without  the  smouldering  eyeliner  +  mascara combo.  that,  when  you  take  it  off,  makes  you  look  like  some  kind  of  naked,  squinty  mole.  You  think that,  without  the  perfectly  shaped  eyebrows  and  neatly  lined  lips,  there  goes  your  so-called  ‘hotness’… there goes  your  something.

Or  does  it?  Does  our  natural  beauty  diminish  or  increase  by  adding  make-up  or  snazzy  filters  to  it  –  or do  we  simply  trick  our  minds  into  thinking,  “Well,  okay,  I  actually  am  not  so  ugly  after  all.  I  mean,  hell, 50 likes  and  three  comments saying,  ‘Wow,  lookin’  good!’  can’t  be wrong, can  they?”  

No,  perhaps  not – but  the  way  you  see  yourself  when  you  are  dolled  up  or  looking  toned,  your  physique and  muscle  density  ‘on  point’,  when  you  feel  amazing  and  believe,  however  fleetingly,  that  you  look fine, that  is how  so many  people  see you the  rest  of  the  time  when you feel  ordinary  or  plain.

That  girl  you  ‘Insta-stalk’?  She  is  pretty  average  looking  in  real  life  when  you  take  away  the  expert  makeup  job  and the  elaborate  hairstyles  she  pulls  off  so  regally…  and  by  average,  I  mean  she  is  no  more  or less beautiful  than you  are. When her  hair  is messy  and her  make-up is smudged from  sleep  (or  worse, crying),  she  looks  just  as  fragile,  ‘basic’  and  helpless  as the  next  chick  out  there.

As  for  that  guy  with  the  classy  suits  and  tie  or  the  body  to  die  for,  he  doesn’t  ever  truly  see  what  you see.  Instead,  he  sees  the  overworked  professional  or  harassed  celebrity  figure  behind  all  that  allure,  he sees  the  guy  who  wants  to  look  like  Captain  America  on  steroids  but  instead,  has  the  slim,  yet  fit  looking body  of  your  average twenty-year-old professional  athlete  –  and not  an ounce  of  muscle more.

So before  you imagine that  those  endless  selfies,  filled  by  flawless  hair  and makeup,  perfect,  full  pouts or  clothes  pulled  tight  in  all  the  right  places  are  our  clichéd  modern-day  take  on  exercises  in  vanity (though,  admittedly,  there  are  always  some  that  are  posted  simply  because  the  user  ‘can’),  you  might try  to  remember  the  fact  that,  more  often  than  not,  they  are  whispers  of  loneliness,  evidences  of  flagging self-esteem  or  the  need  to  receive validation,  from  oneself  as  much, if  not  more, than from  others.  

This,  for  me,  is  the  saddest  reality  when  I  scroll  through  Instagram  feeds  and  all  I  see  are  thing  worth having,  being  or  showing  off…  yet,  there  you  sit,  wishing  you  could  be  more  like  someone  else  (or maybe  just  even  a  better  version  of  yourself),  as  I,  and  so  many  others  besides,  look  at  your  photos  and think: “Well, don’t some people just have all the luck?” 

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Photo credit: Pinterest

The Hands That Shaped Me

I  glanced  down  at  my  hands  in  my  lap  and  tentatively  raised  them  into  the  air  a  few  inches,  hoping against  hope  that  they’d  show  a  little  more  courage  than  I  myself  was  feeling  –  but  sure  enough,  they quivered  vigorously,  as  time  seemed  to  beat  and  throb  cruelly  inside  my  brain.  “Traitors,”  I  wanted  to mutter.

I  wanted  someone  to swoop in,  and  hold  and still  them,  to reassure  me and tell  me that  everything  –  no matter  what  happened  in  this  one  moment  that  would  inevitably  feed  into  the  next  –  would  be  okay,  but even as  this  thought  rose up  in  me, I  realised  that  sometimes, there  can’t  be  someone  there  to  take  your hand and drive away  all  your  fears.

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Sometimes,  you  can’t  hide  away  in  a  room  and  ignore  the  world  outside  you  because  there’s  an  errand, a  project  or  a  meeting  to  attend  to.  It’s  waiting  for  you.  You  could  leave  it,  you  could  cancel  if  you really  wanted  to,  sure  –  but  the  hardest  part  about  life  sometimes  is  knowing  that  you  cannot  escape these  things  for  very  long.

Tomorrow,  or  in  a  week  or  even  a  year’s  time,  these  same  kind  of  demands will  be  there, beckoning  to  you. Awaiting  your  arrival.  It’s easy  to  ignore  them  and  lock  yourself  away where  it  feels  ‘safe’,  hiding  there  under  a  false  sense  of  security  and  a  tauntingly  thin  safety  net  when real  life is  out  there, just  waiting,  biding  its  time  –  and  that  is  something  that  none  of  us  can  escape  for very  long.

I’ve  learnt  this  past  while  that  mistakes,  even  the  ones  that  seem  the  worst,  can  exist  in  your  memory without  regret.  You  realise,  as  you  begin  to  take  responsibility  for  your  thoughts,  ways  and  actions  that very  often,  something  that  seems  like  a  mistake  at  one  point  in  your  life,  might  be  the  very  thing  that defines,  shapes  and  empowers  you.  

It  might  be  the  answer  to  the  prayer  you  never  heard  yourself  utter  because  it  was  a  subconscious longing  more  than  a  heartfelt  desire,  it  might  be  the  call  you  never  expected  to  receive  or  the  opportunity you  never  anticipated  having.

Whatever  it  is and  no  matter  its  form,  there  are  some  things  that  you cannot  take  back  –  not  because  time  waits  for  no  man  or  because  our  deeds  are  done  and  dusted,  but because,  even  if  you  could,  even  if  you  were  given  the  easiest,  most  effortless  chance  to  hit  ‘Rewind’ and  erase  that  so-called  ‘mistake’,  you  wouldn’t  because  some  mistakes  are  too    good  and  meaningful to ever  regret. Some mistakes  are memories  you  hope  to  never  forget.

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I’ve  accepted,  too,  that  there  are  times  when  things  can  be  overwhelming  and  terrifying,  but  in  which you learn a  few important  facts  about  life  and they  are  that:  the people who  truly  love you, will  always come  through  for  you  in  these  moments,  no  matter  what  sacrifices  or  personal  costs  may  be  incurred  by them  in the process. You  learn  that  you can cope even  when you feel  you can’t.

Above  all  though,  you  discover  in  time,  usually  when  push  comes  to  shove,  that  there  is  nothing  more resilient  and  powerful  than  the  human  spirit,  than  our  subtle,  yet  unmistakable  will  to  survive  and  our quiet,  ingrained  faith  that  somehow,  no  matter  what  may  come  to  pass,  things  will  turn  out  all  right.

You  remember  how  to  breathe  again  in  the  moments  when  your  breath  is  taken  from  you,  whether  by fear  or  by  amazement  and  you  learn  to  keep  on  keeping  on  because  the  alternative  is  simply  not  an option  available  to us.  

I’ve  grown  to  understand  that  some  decisions  are  entirely  our  own  to  make  and  no  matter  how  much advice  those  around  us  may  provide,  in  the  end,  there  are  some  choices  that  we  can  only  make  for ourselves. 

Telling  someone  something  is  wrong,  careless  or  hopeless  is  not  going  to  make  them  believe it  if  they  don’t  immediately  feel  that  to  be  true  –  and  even  when  we  do,  even  when  we  know  all  too  well the  risks  we  face, the chances  to  be  hurt,  disappointed or  abandoned  all  over  again,  sometimes  we  still need  to  take  that  chance  and  see  for  ourselves  just  what  the  outcome  will  be  because,  whilst  hindsight is  a  wonderful  gift  and  a  cruel  tormentor,  it  is  not  remotely  as  vital  to  us  as  our  gut  feeling  and  our natural  instinct, our  personal  intuitiveness.

I’ve learnt, too, that  we must  accept, adapt  and  live by  the consequences of  our  decisions but  that  even when  they  are  at  their  most  frightening  or  things  look  as  murky  and  uncertain  as  morning  fog,  there  is still  a  sliver  of  hope  to  be  found  if  we  search  hard  enough  for  it  and  there  is  always  something  to  be done.  

One  decision  is  not  going  to  irreparably change,  define  or  cripple  your  entire  life…  that  is  why  redemption  and  new beginnings  are  possible  and  open  to  people  from  all  walks  of  life,  no  matter  how  dark  and  sinister  or fraught  with  sorrow,  despair  and  difficulty  their  pasts  have  been.  We  are  all  capable  of  changing  and finding  new paths  in life to  take, of  turning  over  a new leaf  and  starting  afresh.  

I  didn’t  think  all  these  things  as  I  watched  my  hands  tremble  of  their  own  accord  but  I  did  know  that  no matter  what  would  happen  going  forwards  and,  despite  the fear  and  helplessness  I  felt  in that  moment, somehow, things would work  themselves  out, much as  they  had so  often  in  the past.

I  realised  in  that  moment  that,  as  much  as  my  hands  were  the  greatest  evidence  of  my  fear  and  disquiet, they  were  also, the  very  things  shaping  me  because  safety  and  security  cannot  help  us  to  grow  when  it really  boils  down to  it.  

So,  I  clenched  my  fists  to  still  their  unseemly  movement  –  this  raw  evidence  of  weakness  –  and  decided I  would press  on  no matter  what  because often that’s  what  it  means to  live  life  to  the best  of  your  ability… it means you  keep  on trying, you  push through your  doubts and  fears, and still  somehow find  it  in you to look  forward  to  the  future  with  as  much  determination,  hope  and  fearlessness  as  possible,  no  matter  the odds.

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When Goodness Comes Begging

I  often  look  out  my  three-storey  window  at  the  city  life  below  at  the  various  people  passing  by:  the gaggle  of  school  girls  chattering  on  their  way  home  from  school  and  the  dejected-looking  university students  tramping  to  the  local  grocery  store  to  stock  up  on  some  food  supplies  or  the  busy  workaholics, eternally  pressed  for  time in  a city  that  really  never  sleeps.

I  do  this  early  in  the  morning,  as  I  walk  about  my  room,  deciding  what  I’ll  need  for  the  day  and  pulling clothes  out  of  my  cupboard  or  otherwise,  sometimes  late  in  the  afternoon  or  early  evening,  when  it’s time  for  most  people  to  head  home  and  I  like  to  admire  the  sun  set  from  my  ‘room  with  a  view’,  and  I can  tell  you,  it’s  not  too  often  that  I  see  things  that  make  me  smile  or  feel  better  about  the  world  but lately, that’s been changing.

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It  started  a  few  weeks  ago  with  the  young,  stocky  father  who  playfully  walks  to  the  shop  with  his  tiny daughter  on  a  regular  basis  now  and  makes  me  grin  at  his  unexpected  tenderness  and  open  affection  for his child  –  but  last  week, well,  I  saw something  that,  at  first,  quietly  annoyed me.

You  see, in  my  city  –  and  many  other  places  besides  –  people  seem  to think  that  it’s  okay  to  leave  their rubbish  lying  around  because  you have garbage removal  services or  street-sweepers,  so if  they  toss  the odd,  empty  chip  packet  down  several  steps  away  from  the  nearest  green  rubbish  bin  (or  the  ‘Zappit  in the Zippy’  bin, if  you’re South African…), what  does it  really  matter?

Or,  if  a  beggar  comes  along  to  rummage  through  said  bins  (which  they  often  do  and  sometimes,  through a  recycling  process,  it’s  the  only  means  of  income  open  to  them),  strewing  the  week’s  trash  across  the pavement  or  down  into  the  gutters,  is  it  really  the  end of  the  world? (Well,  no,  not  quite  but  keep  it  up and let’s see  how  much longer  we have a  hospitable and beautiful  planet  to  enjoy… Just  saying.)

Okay,  so  I  better  fess  up and  tell  you  that  I’m  the  kind of  person  who  has,  in  the  past, lunged  across  to a  driver’s  seat  to  retrieve,  wait  for  it,  wait  for  it,  a  wooden  ice-cream  stick  from  someone  who  was  about to  subtly  chuck  it  out  an  open  car  window,  as  I  fiercely  exclaimed  with  no  small  amount  of  feeling, “No!  Give  me  that,  you  can’t  litter!”,  so  I  am,  admittedly,  a  little  hyper-sensitive  when  it  comes  to overtly  discarded  rubbish  and/or  any  kind of  littering.

It’s the  most  serious  L-word I  know, if  I’m  completely  honest,  and  if  you try  it  around me, I  will  either reward  you  with  a  potent  death  stare  or  force  you  to  pick  whatever  it  is  you  dropped  back  up  and  find  a rubbish bin  if  you know  what’s good for  you  –  or  occasionally,  if  all  else fails, I’ll  do it  myself.

So  I  can’t  quite  fathom  how  someone  –  and  a  ‘respectable-looking’  someone  at  that  –  can  be  out  on  their morning  run  and  literally  five  metres  past  a    rubbish  bin,  they  can  actually  have  the  nerve  to  throw  a crumpled  energy  drink  can  down  into  the  gutter.  All  I  do  know  is  that  this  particular  fellow  was  mighty lucky  he  was  running  away  from  my  window  and  not  towards  it…  because  I  have  a  pretty  good  aim and enough missiles  to  propel  out  my  window  if  need  be. (Again,  just  saying.)

Things  like  that  boggle  my  mind  and  make  me  feel  temporarily  annoyed.  I  mean,  seriously,  it’s  not  like it  would  have  killed  him  to  jog  on  with  that  can  and  throw  it  into  the  next  rubbish  bin  immediately available  to  him  (and  in  Cape  Town,  I  can  attest  to  their  being  placed  quite  plentifully  throughout  the city  and  its many  side streets)  –  but  I  digress.

This  piece  is  not  about  the  kind  of  lazy  or  selfish  person  who  does  that  sort  of  thing,  even  when  they supposedly  should  ‘know  better’  or  who  has  the  pleasure  of  enjoying  all  of  life’s  comforts.  No,  it’s about  the beggar  who  came  along  on a chilly  morning  last  week  and started rifling  through a black  bin standing  on the street  directly  below  my  window.

I  saw  this  when  I  paused  in  front  of  the  window  to  drink  a glass  of  water  and  happened  to  momentarily glance  downwards  at  the  street,  attracted  by  the  sound  of  clanging  and  clattering  drifting  in  through  my open window.

I  stiffened  as  I  watched  this  faceless  figure  further  open  the  bin’s  lid  as  he  began  to  sift  through  its contents.  As  it  was,  the  bin  was  overfull  and  half  its  contents  were  already  lying  in  an  embarrassed  heap at  its,  uh,  wheels,  waiting  to  be  put  right  by  the  waste  removal  truck,  which  was  due  to  come  along  any minute,  as  it  was  the weekly  ‘rubbish collection  day’,  so to  speak.

I  started  to  feel  indignant  and  I  must  confess  my  sin:  I  considered  tipping  the  remainder  of  my  water out  the  window,  if  only  to  shock  the  person  and  cause  them  to  think  twice  about  doing  this.

Now,  please try  not  to  misunderstand  because  I  am  sympathetic  towards  the  city’s  vagrants  and  I,  more  than  most others,  have  seen  the  heart-wrenching  lengths  they  must  go  to  find  bits  of  rubbish  to  use  as  additions  to their  makeshift  shelters  or  even  searching  for  someone  else’s  half-eaten  meal  to  subsist  on.  I  also  know that  if  they  go  about  it  right,  they  can  recycle  the  rubbish  and  receive  small  payment  in  return  for  this unpleasant  but  vital  job, as  I  mentioned  above.

So don’t  think  I  was  out  to  be  a  cold-hearted  cow  or  spitefully  ruin  some  poor  unfortunate human’s  ‘treasure  hunt’  (this  gives  a  whole  new  meaning  to  the  ‘one  man’s  rubbish  is  another  man’s treasure’  expression)  but  I  also  didn’t  want  to  see  the  city  streets  choking  underneath  any  more  rubbish either.

The  beer  bottles  and  bottle  caps,  the  chip  packets  and  shopping  bags  and  all  things  besides…  after  a while,  I  get  tired  of  all  the  mess  and  feel  sad  because  of  the  irreparable  damage  that  is  being  done  to  a world, which  is  already  clogged up with  rubbish  and waste.

Still,  I  don’t  suppose  I  would  have  had  the  heart  to  have  actually  thrown  water  near  that  poor  soul (though  if  Mr  Jogger  Dude  ever  comes  back  again,  well,  he’ll  get,  at  the  bare  minimum,  an  unexpected shower  from  above…),  who  was  carefully  selecting  certain items  from  the  bin  and  placing  them  into a packet,  so  instead,  I  shook  my  head,  sighed  slightly  and  moved  away  from  the  window,  as  I  tried  to block  out  the  sounds  of  him  tipping  the  rubbish  bin  over  and  spilling  all  its  contents  out  onto  the  street.

Here  we  go  again…  the  same  old,  same  old  scenario.  ‘Refuse  raiders’  often  do  this  so it’s  a  sight  I  am now  sadly  well-acquainted  with and one  I  don’t  often  expect  to  end  any  differently.

That  said,  the  world  is  full  of  all  kinds  of  good  people  and  that  innate  goodness  is  not  limited  to  any  one race,  religion,  culture,  gender  or  sexual  orientation,  despite  what  the  infamous  and  mysterious  ‘they’ would have you believe. (So maybe  I  should have been less quick  to expect  the worst.)

That  proved  to  be  the  case  on  this  particular  morning  when,  some  ten  minutes  later,  I  braced  myself  and went  back  to the  window  to  peer  out  at  the sight  I  expected to  see:  discarded  rubbish  and  a  street  gone to  pot  –  but  what  I  saw  instead  literally  and unexpectedly  moved  me  to  tears  and made  me  feel  like the most  horrid  person  imaginable  for  the  thoughts  I  had  been  harbouring  about  this  man  who  came  to  raid that  bin.

For  you  see,  he  hadn’t  only  righted  the  bin  again  and  packed  away  all  the  rubbish  that  he  had  emptied out  onto  the  granite  road  but  he’d  cleaned  all  the  other  pieces  up  too,  and  had  oh-so-neatly  arranged them  inside  the  bin  and  carefully  secured  the  lid  over  all  before  he  must  have  headed  on  his  way  to wherever  it  was that  he  was  going  to  with, what  most  people see  as  a  bagful  of  rubbish , but  to  him,  it  is his  bagful  of  hope.

It  made  me  feel  ashamed  to  think  that  I  had  thought  badly  of  an  unknown  and  openly  destitute  man who,  despite  having  nothing  more  in  the  world  left  to  lose  and  truthfully,  nothing  to  gain  by  doing  right either,  did  something  greater  than maybe half  the city  combined on that  particular  May  morning.

It  was  a  thankless  task  and  he’ll  never  know  that  there was  anyone  there  to  see  it…  but  I’m  grateful  to him  for  that  great,  big  act  of  goodness  and  for  the  simple  reminder  of  humanity’s  potential  in  spite  of all  the  odds.  For once, goodness  came begging  –  and left  the greatest  possible gift  behind  in  its wake.

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Image Credit: Facebook