7 Lessons Being 40 Taught Me So Far

“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”

– Lucille Ball –

I never gave growing older a second thought, not until I turned 40. It’s been nearly 7 months since my 40th birthday and if there is one thing that holds true about reaching middle-age (a term I passionately resist), then it is this: Everything changes… even aspects of your life that you thought were a constant.

Apart from a momentary age-related anxiety attack and minor physical inconveniences — I passed my first kidney stones a few weeks ago (if there is a hell that must be it!), my right shoulder has a crick it didn’t have before and I now permanently wear glasses — so far my Naughty Forties have been a pleasantly revealing experience…

It’s like all the pieces of a delicate watch have been spread out on the floor for the best part of 30 years and now, by some greater mystical command, all those tiny nuts, bolt and wheels are slowly coming together. The process is not painless or without discomfort, but at least it feels like all those ‘character-forming experiences’ of the past 3 decades is beginning to pay off.

Don’t get me wrong, Life isn’t perfect all of a sudden. Far from it. However, embracing the fact that it never will be perfect makes it so much easier to accept all its glorious imperfections.

Here’s my observations of my journey into my 40s so far:

1. Being Miss Congeniality is simply too much effort:

During my 20s and most definitely in my 30s, I bonded ‘deeply’ with anyone who remotely had similar-looking tattoos and almost shared the same taste in music as me, and I went through great lengths to nurture these superficial relationships.

This dance for acceptance exhausted me and it led me… well, down roads less travelled of which some are best forgotten. (Like the time I got mixed up with a bunch of past-life regression junkies and ended up making offerings of chopped liver to a gypsy spirit, under a willow tree  — a story for another day.)

By the time I reached 39, I’ve tried and tested quite a lot of what Life has to offer: cigarettes, hot yoga, prescription sleep aids, recreational drugs, at-home hair colour, eyebrow threading, energy bars, acupuncture, sparkling water, tap water, Hair Metal, Celine Dion, cruise ship holidays, face masks, quinoa, hummus, chai tea, minimalism, beige, organic food, raw milk, Rodeo, body piercings, open relationships, monogamy, abstinence, bankruptcy, Christianity, Buddhism, anger management, grapefruit diets, fasting and Botox… to mention but a few.

So, it’s with relief that I now can comfortably say: “I know how I like my steak and how I drink my coffee.” 

In other words, I recognise when I am among my tribe.

We won’t be compatible with everyone we meet and we won’t always be ‘liked’ by everyone. It’s not worth the effort to try and fit in everywhere… and that’s okay.

2. Hitching a short ride:

That girl, the one who worked behind the bar of a restaurant and who ‘loved’ me ‘f-o-r-E-V-E-R’ because I promised to sell her my Vespa at a bargain price…

Well, she took the Vespa without paying for it, moved to Australia, got married, had a baby… and we’ll probably never speak to each other again.

And that’s fine.

She’s one of many who briefly came into my life and quickly left through the backdoor.

This and other similar experiences have taught me to recognise the people who are only hitching a short ride around the block and those who will stay by my side for the entire journey.

True friendships — the enduring ones — don’t cost much. They don’t come with a price tag, yardstick or a measuring jug…

3. Those sex rumours? They really are totally true…

My 20s and 30s was a cacophony of delicious experiences — apart from two very awkward years, which my friends promised to never speak about… Ever! (Think chopped liver, gypsy spirit, willow tree… another day, another time.)

Even though the first two decades of my adulthood were a lot of ‘fun’, once I turned 40 the way I express my sexuality has moved to a whole new level. The mechanics of sex (my body, mind and all the bits in between) finally clicked. I’m comfortable with the ‘messiness’ of sex. I trust my instincts more, I enjoy (and appreciate) my body for the first time and, best of all, I no longer feel the need to justify (or explain) my sexual proclivities.

My thinking is: Everybody has something that makes them a bit kinky — for some it’s a jug of whipped cream and a feather, for others it’s handcuffs and an eager audience.

If you can’t accept your desires by the time you’re 40, when will you ever?

4. You’re not necessarily wrong, but I’m always right:

I used to allow people to tell me how I am ‘supposed’ to feel. And I often believed it when I was told that my emotional experiences were ‘wrong’.

Talk about verfremdungseffekt.

Disaster.

I now know that my feelings are real (I have every right to feel what I feel) and my instincts are there for a good reason (it is okay to trust my gut). I don’t have to be perfectly pleasing all the time (this took me a while to grasp). However, it’s also my responsibility to own how I react to people and situations… and better still, I can change the way I feel, especially when my emotions aren’t serving me well.

You (and only you) are the master of your emotions.

5. How do you write your story:

We all have a little voice in our heads that gives a constant running commentary on EVERYTHING. Pay careful attention to it and you’ll find that this narrative is cynical, negative, judgemental, self-defeating, inconsistent (untrustworthy) and pretty much downright nasty — certainly not a friend!

Once I began to monitor this narrative inside my head — the stuff I say about myself to myself — and replaced the negatives of that ‘inner’ conversation with supportive and realistic affirmations, my relationship with myself improved radically, which had a ripple effect to all my personal relationships.

For the sake of how we show ourselves to the world, it’s much healthier to tame the psychological warfare inside our heads. However, for the sake of living with integrity, it’s equally important to ‘fact-check’ the so-called ‘truths’ we hold onto.

There’s no greater fool than the one who pulls wool over his own eyes… and sometimes it is difficult to be honest with ourselves about the ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ we carry within ourselves.

6. Nobody wins. Nobody loses:

Shortly after I turned 40, I went a bit bonkers — like a frantic bees trying to escape through a closed window.

I was wrapped up in a debilitating fear of not having ‘enough time left’, that I’ve passed my sell-by date, wasted the best years of my life on useless people and achieved nothing. (See psychological warfare.)

This mild hysteria gave me night sweats, panic attacks and anxiety tremors (not a good look on an early-morning commuter train… or on a treadmill). Eventually, on the brink of a mental breakdown, I expressed my concerns in a conversation with my stepmom (a woman whose empathy skills are slightly underdeveloped, but her heart is in a good place). This is what she said:

“You cannot resist Time. You are getting older. That’s all there is to it. If you fight it, you WILL lose. Rather work with it and enjoy what lies ahead. It will be a lot easier and in the end, you’ll see it is not at all as bad as you thought.”

Coming from a 70-year-old woman who still travels across the globe every year and who doesn’t wear a single wrinkle on her face, I took her words to heart and decided to chill the hell out…

When panic strikes, taking deep breaths. Distressing as it first may seem, the only certainty we have is that our time here on earth eventually runs out. It’s part of the deal… and there is nothing we can do about it.

Ultimately, we have a choice: Be a spectator or be a participant.

Either way, in the end when the clock stops, nobody is a winner… And that’s okay.

7. Getting down with the gods and goddesses:

I don’t care what your religious convictions are (mine aren’t great and this is not about religion anyway). There’s no denying the fact that we all carry a Divine Spark within us — the part inside us that makes us awesome, unique and resilient. It’s the Light of our Souls that attracts and creates every experience and relationship (good and bad) that we need during our lives to help us grow and to make our time on earth a worthwhile journey.

Giving myself permission (on a daily basis) to embrace and nurture my inner Light (or superhero, genius, god, goddess, artist, healer, creator… whatever you want to call it), is the best thing I have done to keep my sanity and attract ‘the right people’.

We cannot forever deny or hide who we are… the good and the not so good… eventually, through all the cracks and beautiful imperfections, our Light will shine through… and a little tiny bit of it might even cast a shadow.

Like RuPaul always says to his drag queen prodigies: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

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Teach Them About Charlie Around Your Kitchen Table

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“I fear this is the beginning of something much bigger.”

— Eileen Horowitz Bastianelli, Paris resident at Charlie Hebdo Demonstration —

On Wednesday 7 January 2015, two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, stormed the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and gunned down 12 people. Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the attack, including the newspaper’s editor.

Charlie Hebdo — already under police protection after receiving death threats from Islamic extremists — is known for its provocative and controversial (often inflammatory) satirical social commentary and has been warned in the past by the French government to tone things down, especially when provoking the religions of the world.

However, freedom of expression and freedom of speech is a value (and a human right) the French hold very close to their hearts… One they will defend to the death — something that became a reality last week Wednesday as the terrorists shouted Allāhu Akbar (God is greatest) as they committed their cold-blooded tribal savagery. The massacre, they claim, was in retaliation of the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

The drama came to an end on Friday when raids were conducted almost simultaneously on a printing plant in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of Paris, where the Kouachi brothers were holed up, and a Paris Jewish supermarket where Amedy Coulibaly (the third terrorist, who had already shot dead a policewoman south of Paris) killed four hostages.

France, the rest of Europe and the World was left in shock and yesterday, Sunday 11 January 2015, 3.7 million people gathered across France in a moving tribute to the 17 people who were killed during these horrific three days of mayhem.

In Paris alone, 1.5 million tear-streaked faces slowly shuffled through the streets of the grieving City of Light — white, brown, black; left-wing and right-wing. United. There were old men in berets; Jewish people in yarmulkes; Muslims in headscarves. They marched for France… against hatred… against extremism… for history.

In the crowd there were cries of Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie), Je suis Ahmed (I am Ahmed — a reference to the Muslim police officer who lost his life in the attack), Je suis juif (I am a Jew — in memory of the Jewish supermarket victims).

The mood of the crowd was a mixture of sombre defiance, determination and even joy. One sign in the crowd read: “They wanted to bring France to its knees. Instead they brought Europe to its feet.”

Forty-four world leaders linked arms and led the masses down Boulevard Voltaire. Among them were Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Britain’s David Cameron, France’s François Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Speaking with passion, France’s President François Hollande said: “Today, Paris is the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up towards something better.” The people chanted, Liberté, egalité, fraternité (Freedom, equality, brotherhood).

Trafalgar SQ, London. Image by: Rob Stothard - Getty Images

Trafalgar SQ, London. Image by: Rob Stothard – Getty Images

And so we reflect.

We have to reflect. It’s our duty as citizens of the World — Muslims, Jews, Christians, Liberals, Free-thinkers, Conservatives and everybody in-between — to carefully digest this travesty. In order to make sense of the spider’s web of raw emotions and frustrations, complex opinions, and conflicting beliefs, values and ideologies that burst open like an infectious boil during the past week, we must think, we must make sense and we must make better. Collectively.

The picture of unity and togetherness we saw on Sunday, heart-warming and reconciliatory as it was, is not the initial reaction many of us showed in the wake of this tragedy. In fact, the tone of news reports and social commentary quickly turned into flagrantly offensive Islamophobia as it emerged that the terrorists committed these hideous acts in the name of Islam.

After all, in the West, aren’t we conditioned to see Islam and the Muslim Community as a threat to our Secular multicultural values? We are subtly fed a fear for this secretive culture with its veiled religion where women hide their faces, practicing medieval customs and where men dictate almost every aspect of life with a brutal and unforgiving force.

There is certainly enough proof to sustain our phobia. Terror in the name of Islam has now become endemic. There is no refuting the fact that it has reshaped the world over the last 20 years: The twin towers. The Tube bombings in London. A nightclub in Bali. A memorial in Ottawa. A café in Sydney. A magazine in Paris.

It’s a harsh reality.  It exists.

However, the mistake we make is that we believe Islam lies at the heart of this onslaught against our values.

However, on Friday night, sharia official Harith al Nadhari from the branch of al-Qaeda in Yemen, claimed the group directed the attack on the Charlie Hebdo Paris offices, saying: “The leadership of AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully… It is better for you to stop your aggression against the Muslims, so perhaps you will live safely.”

The truth is, al-Qaeda has very little to do with Islam… if anything at all. In fact, if Islam really is as radical as these bloodthirsty militants want us to believe, we certainly would’ve seen a civil war erupt between the French and Muslims, in the past few days. Muslims would’ve joined them in their droves to avenge their Prophet. But this didn’t happen, for the simple reason that these extremists are part of a minority death cult that uses Islam (and being Muslim) to achieve their goal: They want to cause division and they want to separate us.

I believe the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly were not really offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. They don’t care about satire. For all we know they may not even care about the Prophet Muhammad.

Instead, they merely pretend to be offended by the West’s freedom of speech and expression, as a pretext to commit murder in the name of Islam. Murder so horrifying, so unWestern, that non-Muslims – blinded by grief and rage – turn on innocent Muslims. Blame them. Persecute them. Burn the Quran, attack their Mosques, threaten them in the street and demand their expulsion from Western societies. Actions that, in turn, scare Western Muslims, isolate them, alienate them. And thus drive some of them to support — and even become — terrorists.

Result: terrorists swell their ranks for a civil war they long to provoke non-Muslims into starting.

Divide and conquer, right?

Besides, has religion not been used throughout history to wage many a war?

Like many others, I took their bait in a knee-jerk reaction. I spoke angrily and harshly. I felt unforgiving. Fortunately, it’s a relief to see that the message is beginning to sink in that the enemy is not Islam but a wicked group of people trying to stir hatred among people who can and have been living side-by-side in peace.

I hope, as a lesson, we will remind ourselves in the future (because these attacks are far from over) that these men of violence and hatred are not just a minority, but a fragment of a fragment.

We are stronger. Our common enemy is radical, extremist Islam – not normal Islam.

However, I also believe that both sides — the West and the Muslim Community — must take stock and own responsibility for a few things before we can move forward in our united war against extremism.

Paris, Charlie Hebdo Demonstration. Image by Stephane Mahe, REUTERS

Paris, Charlie Hebdo Demonstration. Image by Stephane Mahe, REUTERS

It’s evident that in a liberal and free society we value our freedom of expression and the right to free speech. This is why the attack on a newspaper, a symbol of these freedoms, wrenched our guts and why we cry out in defiance: We will not be silenced.

We are indeed prepared to die for this liberty. But with this freedom and fundamental value comes a great responsibility.

I don’t think (and many believe the same) that any religion is immune to being questioned and satirised. No one has the God-given right to be offended. If that was the case, then we all should be silent because one man’s silly cartoon is another man’s existential threat. However, our commentary, satire, and questioning of people’s religious beliefs should be measured and balanced. There are boundaries that must be respected. Certain things should be granted sanctity.

For a truly devout Muslim, the Quran demands that the image of the Prophet must not be recreated. According to their scriptures, the Prophet is an immaculate being of perfection, purity and beauty, and it is impossible and indeed blasphemous to even attempt to depict Him. Standing in their shoes (no matter how archaic it may seem for outsiders), Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons must’ve been shocking (if not nauseating) to see.

Even I think, as a non-religious person, they were a bit too much — too provocative — and designed to cause harm.

Is that what we want in a Secular society? All for the sake of pushing boundaries, under the guise of upholding our rights and freedoms? Are we not wise and cunning enough to still say what we want to say without being blatantly crude?

There is a great big difference between fear and ignorance. Censoring ourselves for the greater good cannot be seen as caving into the demands of a small militant group of terrorists.  In the words of Martin Luther King: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Out of respect for others, surely we can give deities, saints and Holy men amnesty from ridicule… even if we don’t believe in them ourselves.

Among the crowd, in Paris on Sunday, a man said: “I am Kabyle and I am Muslim. The killers were not true Muslims. I am here to say that I support the democratic values of France and I am also a devout Muslim.

That’s a beautiful statement. It demonstrates the willingness to integrate into a society with starkly different values from your own.

For all the hand-wringing about Western society’s decadence, it is still a society that retains core values of decency, compassion and tolerance. Muslims need to understand this and should be willing to integrate with our values and abide to the laws that uphold them when they choose to live among us and share in the freedoms we enjoy, in the same way that Westerners must abide to the laws and customs of the land in Muslim countries — there is nothing racist, phobic or discriminatory to the notions of ‘give and take’ and ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’.

It is all fine and well to walk with us in solidarity after a terrorist attack and to claim: These actions are not representative of our faith and religion… The Quran does not teach violence… etc… etc.

However, the fact remains, these extremists hide in the dark corners of the Muslim Community and they are damaging the image of the peaceful majority of the global Muslim community. It is therefore the responsibility of Muslim leaders and the community they lead to show us what Islam really stands for. Set the example. Teach us. Educate us. Move into the mainstream. Not to convert or dominate us but to help us understand the essence of your beliefs and customs.

There are times when silence equals consent. The time to be silent has long passed. Action is now required. Stand up against extremists and weed them out in your communities. Speak out against your hate preachers. Tell them they are not welcome. Expel them. Expose the darkness. Teach Muslim parents how to protect their children from being radicalized and spread your message of peace, love and unity. Do it consistently… not just when tragedy strikes.

Knowledge is power. For all of us. We have a lot to learn from each other.

Now that the banners are down, the flag-waving politics are over, the chants are silent and the streets are empty again, we must cherish this truth: It is within the walls of our homes, around our kitchen tables, in our schools, Churches, Synagogues and Mosques that we plant the seeds of unity, peace, love and tolerance no matter what our religious convictions are… but these places can also be where we breed fear and hatred.

The choice is ours. Everyday.

Charlie Hebdo Vigil. Image: Reuters

Charlie Hebdo Vigil. Image: Reuters


Credits.
Images: Open Source see credits
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes

A Year of Less… And A Year Of More

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“ ‘Ask and you shall receive’ is the rule, but you must learn how to ask and how to receive.”

― Gary Zukav ―

It’s taken me a while to eventually sit down and write this post, because it’s taken me quite some time to gather my thoughts as I (still) reflect on 2014 and to formulate my expectations for 2015.

In many ways, for me, the New Year of 2014 only began on Monday 3 March 2014.

I had been feeling lethargic, severely fatigued, unfocused and depressed since the end of November 2013. Thinking that it was simply a relentless bout of the winter flu, I eventually took 2 days off work to rest and recover. Starting the Wednesday evening, I slept straight through until the Sunday (2 March 2014).

On Sunday, I was a bit more energised and decided to meet a friend to catch a film. However, I soon felt worse for wear and thinking that a migraine attack was looming, I went home immediately after the film ended. By the time I got home I had lost all movement on the left side of my face. I couldn’t speak, had no sense of touch, smell or taste, and couldn’t hear or see anything on the left side of my face. I was rushed to the hospital as the paramedics were convinced I had a stroke.

After 19 dreadful hours in hospital the doctors finally confirmed that I had Ramsay Hunt Syndrome — a viral infection in the facial nerve (not Bell’s Palsy!). However, the loss of my sight, hearing, smell and taste led them to believe that the virus had spread to my brain and infected the Parietal lobe — the part of the brain that controls the five senses.

The doctors predicted a 6-18 month recovery period but had little hope for me to fully regain facial function. I was sent home with no action-or treatment plan other than a potent dosage of steroids and antiviral drugs.

I always joke and say: Vanity is my favourite sin.

This is true. What is also true, is the fact that vanity often cloaks deep-rooted self-loathing.

When I returned home that Monday evening (3 March 2014) and I saw myself in the mirror — facing the reality of possibly having to live without the use of one eye and not being able to speak, hear or smell properly — I wept.

I wept, not because I felt sorry for myself, but because what I saw in the mirror, for me, was a manifestation of  years of self-abuse. All the nasty things I said to myself on a daily basis, echoed in my head: I am unattractive, fat, have too thin lips and a slightly long neck. I am not muscular enough, have a door-knob nose and receding hairline… And I went deeper than: I’m a failure. I’m unlovable. I have no talent. I’m not good enough and have nothing to offer. I am stupid… blah, blah, blah. Day-in and day-out.

Once I stopped crying, I said to myself: I’m sorry. I REALLY am sorry for treating you like this and for not loving you and for not giving you what you deserve — the Grace to be human. That will never happen again. Never. And now I will fix this.

The next day, I started a regime of facial exercises for 15 minutes in the morning and evening, a diet of brain food (containing particular high quantities of fresh and organic beetroot, salmon, carrots, broccoli and quail eggs), supplementing with digestive enzymes and super dosages of iron and vitamin C, acupuncture, meditation, relaxation and journaling. It took a lot of patience, humility, persistence and love but 6 weeks later, I had regained the full function of my face: I could smile again without looking like Beetlejuice. My left eye closed on its own, without involuntarily popping open seconds later — enter The Bride Chucky. I tasted my food again and was able to chew without shredding the inside of my left cheek — very important for someone who loves his food. Spring was in the air and I was absolutely elated to be able smell Mother Nature everywhere as she turned her colours out.

Of course, it doesn’t take a mere 6 weeks to undo the damage of a lifetime of self-harm. But in those 6 weeks a foundation was laid. One that I still frequently use to assess and improve the relationship I have with myself and my body, as well as my relationship with others and my environment.

During the rest of 2014, I continued cleaning up my act, all in preparation for my 40th birthday. I let go of negative, draining, one-sided and destructive relationships as well as dubious business partnerships that didn’t respect or value my skills, experience and creativity.

I also successfully quit smoking (the easiest ‘difficult thing’ I have ever done) and stayed on track (with a newfound fondness) with my diet, fitness and meditation regime. In part, I believe the positive steps I took contributed to other amazing blessings manifesting in more areas of my life — flourishing creativity, unexpected gifts and financial reward, traveling to some of my bucket-list destinations, old friends reconnecting with me and receiving undeserved loyalty, encouragement and support.

My mantra for 2014 became this: When I turn 40, I am going to pass through a threshold. What stays on the other side, behind me, will be done with. The door will be closed and I will begin afresh.

That was my focus, my preparation and my mission. By all intents and purposes, I was going up the proverbial hill at a steady and strong pace. I was motivated, positive and most of all, ready to embrace the future.

Two days before my 40th birthday one of my best friends of 17 years, committed suicide. When I heard the news, it felt like someone had hit me with full force in the face with the flat-side of a shovel. I have never felt such an instant, terrifying amount of pain ripping through my entire being. My body went into lockdown. It was physical. It was emotional. It was spiritual.

My stomach still turns when I think about my friend. My heart still breaks. Sometimes it terrifies me, because I know that there once was a time when my own thoughts easily could’ve driven me to the same fate. It saddens me deeply that my friend lost the struggle against himself. I wish on nobody to ever stand alone in such a despairing place.

In his book, Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav says that sometimes it takes an intervention — a massive trauma or deeply moving experience — to reconnect a person with his or her core. 2014 has left me in awe — humbled and inspired. I consider it one of the most profound physical and spiritual interventions of my life. I’ve learned a lot and would like to share some of my lessons with you:

1. We do not attract what we want. We attract who we are.

2. It’s okay to put yourself first. There is a difference between being selfish (acting with self-love) and being self-centred (acting with little or no regard for the feelings and well-being of others).

3. The human body is a powerful and magnificent instrument. It can teach you a lot about yourself. Respect it. Learn to listen it.

4. Your thoughts (and inner dialogue) can be your greatest asset as much as it can be your worst enemy. Everything begins with YOU.

5. Do business with people who either match your skills, experience and expertise or those who compliment what you bring to the table. Don’t lower yourself.

6. True friends don’t tease with empty promises of “doing lunch sometime” and they don’t need cheap flattery to win your favour. Instead, their actions (more than their words) almost always confirms their love, loyalty and support. There is a big difference between people who only know you when they need or want something from you, and those who want to know and be with you simply because you are you.

7. Life is not fair. Life is not always kind. However, Life is always what you make of it.

8. Love. But love the things that nourish you and the people who love you back. You are worth it.

9. Find some silence for a few minutes every day, in a place where you can hear only your thoughts.

10. Once you have found your silence, pray. What else is prayer but a conversation with yourself that connects you with the part of you that yearns, and hopes, and delights, and hungers? When you pray, talk about what you have done and what you have failed to do; who you are and who you aspire to be. Talk about the people you love and the ones you dislike. Talk about the things that matter to you… Who knows, if you are lucky, God might listen… and who knows, perhaps He (or She) will lend you a hand.

However, even if you don’t believe that anyone is listening when you pray, at least you are listening. Everything begins with YOU. Pray.

As for 2015, I can’t express my wishes any better than what my sister has already done in an email that she sent on New Year’s Eve:

“Dearest family & friends,

As the year draws to a close I started to think about all the things I didn’t do this year, and immediately started to make resolutions for the New Year in an attempt to make amends for the unresolved issues of 2014.

But then I had a new thought, a thought that started with my message to our family on Christmas Day. It is based on an old Jewish proverb that says we will have to give account on Judgement Day of every good thing that we refused to enjoy when we might have done so. What an interesting and sobering thought… and I will probably have to give account for quite a few of those in 2014.

Therefore my thinking is this: God created each of us in a unique way with a unique purpose and I firmly believe He wants us to enjoy ourselves, our families and our journey through life not in a mediocre way; but to live life to the full with true joy in his creation & blessings!

When I then think about the things I haven’t done, I am inclined to be less critical of myself & others and to celebrate the past year; thankful for all the blessings we’ve received, all the wonderful moments of laughter with my kids and husband and the amazing grace I have experienced in 2014.

Therefore, I want to embrace 2015 with both arms and the only resolutions I have is to make the most of every opportunity given to me, to enjoy this great life I have with the people I love and to help bring joy to those around me.

For all you wonderful people, I pray that 2015 will be a year filled with true joy, love that is unconditional, grace for yourself & others and lots of laughter!

May you all be blessed with good health & success in whatever it is you decide to take on this year!

Here is to 2015 & a joyful new chapter!”

Happy New Year.


Credits.
Images: FR Lubbe For Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Letter: Carolien Andrews


A Letter To A Friend Who Committed Suicide

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“We will see where all of this will end…”

~ Jaco Marais ~

I’m  looking at the full moon gleaming in the sky and I see the Guy Fawkes fireworks exploding outside my window and there’s absolutely no reason to celebrate anything.

Instead, I want the whole world to come to a standstill in the same way that my little universe came to a screeching halt today. I want someone to sit with me in this pain because I do not know what to do with it on my own.

I am not angry with you – how can I be, you were my best friend – but what the fuck dude?

Somehow I sense you all around me… like you’ve not left this earth yet. So I’m writing this letter to you because I need to get some stuff off my chest. (Note: I might swear a lot, because my emotions are rather primal at this stage of my grieving.)

The past few weeks I’ve had an absolute blast preparing for my 40th birthday… You know this, because we talk about everything and I’ve kept you posted on ALL the details. As always, you have been my second opinion and my voice of reason. It’s how we’ve been operating for the best part of the past 18 years: We kept each other in the loop. I trusted you with everything and you trusted me back, right?

On Monday I told you that I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Paris this coming weekend. I told you about the apartment I rented and the lunch on Saturday that will be prepared by a Chef who knows everything about food intolerences. We laughed because lately we both bloat like blowfish at the mere thought of eating cake… “Forty is a fucker” you said. I told you I’m planning to change all that… Then I said that I’ll go to Shakespeare and Company, Jeanette Winterson’s favourite bookshop in Paris, especially for you because you couldn’t make the celebrations this year… You love Jeanette Winterson.

I also told you that I’ll send you a photo of me standing at the exact spot (Jim Morrison’s grave) in Pere La Chaise cemetery, which is where I want you to scatter my ashes if I end up dying before you… because we made a promise that we’ll be there for each other right ‘till the end, remember?

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you think if ever there was a cue for you to open your mouth and spit it out, that was it… Jeanette Winterson. Death. Ashes. Cemetery.

No?

Instead, you kept quiet…

On Monday, you told me that you wanted something ‘new’ to happen in your life. Here I was, thinking maybe you’ll dye your beard black, or you’ll move to another city… get a tattoo of Angelina Jolie on your hairy bum… explore taxidermy or some kind of other hobby equally macabre and fabulous.

Little did I know you had suicide in mind.

You have always been such a Drama Queen!

How can I not take that personal? What you did cannot be undone. It leaves me powerless and rendered me catatonic. Not a good look.

You used to say “sometimes I think it will be better to end it all.” I sometimes agreed with you. But the deal was that we were in this mess together and we were making the most of it!

We understood that, for some of us, we need to earn our belonging, we need to claim our celebration and make our own noise. At least that’s what you made me believe… You know, you could’ve told me anything. I was your ’let’s bury a body under a tree and never speak of it ever again’ kinda friend. I would’ve listened to you because I know how you can get – you go all dark, depressed and moody. You get prickly and become like barbedwire. You sometimes feel uncomfortable in your own skin and that makes you think that nobody loves you. I am the same way. It’s what made us click. But then we talk about that shit and we put the world right… and we laugh and joke about being so bitter and twisted… just like we did on Monday.

But by Monday you had long made up your mind, didn’t you? And that’s why you didn’t bother telling me.

You should’ve trusted me enough to know that I would not have tried to change your mind. You should have known that I don’t beg people to stay… If you want to leave, then leave… but don’t leave a mess behind like you did!

I know your suicide was not an act of hostility towards me. I know I was someone you loved dearly and I know I loved you back blindly and unconditionally – in equal measure. But it wasn’t enough anymore… nothing I would’ve said or done would’ve changed your mind: You wanted your life to end. That’s brutal.

So you’ll understand that I keep waiting for a WhatsApp message from you to explain yourself… say you are sorry and then end the conversation the way you always do: “I’m off my gay. I have minds to change and a life to live. Love you…”

But I won’t get that message because all I have is those awkward last words you sent me on Monday just before I went to bed: “Sometimes in life I am slightly amused.”

And with those words you have gone and left a big fat gaping hole – bigger than the unsightly split between Madonna’s front teeth – in our lives… and it cannot be fixed.

I plan to live at least another 40 years. Tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that one… every day from now on will not have you in it. Do you know how fucking bad that is for me and every other person who loved you and who drew inspiration from your life?

Yes, your life and who you were inspired others.

Fool.

You kept me afloat. You encouraged me to be better, to try again whenever I believed I failed. You put up with all the bad choices I made. You told me sooooo many times to get over myself and to stand tall, slap on a brave face and take responsibility for my actions. You never judged me and always gave me the benefit of the doubt.

If only you were a friend to yourself like you have been a friend to me.

Fuck you!

So, here’s the deal: You will not haunt or pester me with feelings of doom and gloom. When I cry about you, you will remind me of all the good times we had and the dreams we dreamed together.  You will be a voice in my head warning me every time an outfit does not blend together (except for when I wear pink and red together because we’ve agreed to disagree on that many years ago). You will be my guardian angel and when they find an elixir that stops gay men from bolding, you WILL poltergeist the shit out of the people who made it and you will get it for me…

And finally, since you’ve broken your part of our promise you will help me find another gay friend who will hold my hand when I am old… one who is far more reliable than you, because you were the only one who understood the value of wearing a fabulous hat to a funeral… but now you have gone and broken my heart into a million tiny little pieces and I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for that.

I love you.

Rest in peace.

P.S. I thought that writing this letter will make me feel better and stop the tears and this aching devostating hurt. But this pain will take a long time to lose its edge, won’t it?

I wish you were here, because you were the only person I could talk to during times like this.

Just the two of us

Just the two of us

Madiba

2

“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

– Nelson Mandela –
(18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

People are dancing in the streets with tears and smiles as they embrace and meet — like we did in Pretoria, in ’94. ‘He was profoundly good’ I hear them say, now that you’ve passed away.

No words or self-important accolade can commemorate a life like yours — a man who never bent or compromised in bringing justice, giving freedom and for showing me, us and all of them, who we can truly be.

There’s a story in each of us of how you touched our lives. True heroes never die. But when all is said and done, there’s nothing left for us but to dance and weep and sing and witness your great spirit passing through.

Now that you’ve finally found your peace, perhaps you’ll return to where your soul belongs and bathe to your heart’s content in the waters of Umbashe River — like you did in ’35. And maybe you’ll spare a thought for us and think: ‘This is what freedom really means.

Nkosi sikelel i afrika!

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela vigil Parliament Square, London
(18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)


Credits.
Images: Madiba – Graphic Art by FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes