Sustainable Friendship

17 January 2020

Out for an extended coffee at Sorcery Roastery in Queenswood, Pretoria.

I’m sure you’ve guessed from our content thus far this year, we are on a far more sustainable journey. This got me thinking about how far one can take this type of lifestyle. How far can it extend? Matilda lives a far more edited life than me. She has been scaling down for years now. This is her story to tell, so I won’t elaborate, but mine has only more recently begun. Matilda is responsible for a large part of that. It wasn’t anything she said. It’s just the simplicity with which she lives her life that has attracted me more and more to simplifying my own.

This has lead me to explore sustainability in many areas and got me thinking about the area of friendship. So before I can explain why this topic appealed to me, I need to share what I discovered about the word, “sustainable.” It means durable, something that is able to last, something that is feasible and continual. It refers to something that is supportable, unending and lastly, worthwhile!

Well now… These are all the attributes I think friendship should be. I realise that just as I have been on an editing process with my home, my possessions, my closet, the same has spilled over into other areas of my life. Over the past ten years or so, my friendship circle has become a fraction of what it was.

My 45th birthday. Although I still have contact with about five of these ladies, there’s only one woman in this picture, who is part of my close circle today.

Although I still value many of these women, it’s impossible to sustain a close friendship with each of them. What do I mean? To sustain means unending, continuous and unceasing. How do we do this with more than just a few people in our lives, especially when we have families, a husband and our own interests that take up our time and attention. It’s not that these women are unimportant to me, but our interests have changed, we are living in different locations. This makes it difficult for these friendships to all be feasible. There just isn’t enough time in the day. We see each other when we can and we build each other up with our thoughts, but time spent with them, is limited or in some instances, non-existent.

This used to bother me so much, but the older I get, the more I value time. And in order for friendships to be sustainable, we need to spend time on them. And this is where my beautiful, sustainable cluster comes in.

These three women support me and I them. We ‘see’ each other and it’s easy for me to make time for them because of shared interests and mutual love and respect.

This edited handful of friends get me. And I think I ‘get’ them too. But these few women are worth me taking time out my day. I have known all of these women for more than eleven years. In fact, Matilda is the newest, of these friends. I have known Delene about twenty years and Susan, about fifteen. There is a continuity in our friendships that has not been forced. Each of these relationships has supported me. They have each, in their own way made it possible to have a feasible relationship because they have given as much as I have. Two of them don’t live in the same city yet we manage to visit one another regularly and it’s not always just me that travels the distance. Although these women might not have the same level of friendship with each other because I am the common denominator, they allow space for each other in my life.

I feel so grateful to be at this point in my life and of course there are other women I value and admire that I do make time for. But my point is sustainability, and for that to be possible, each person need to give. At times, I have given more to one or more of these friendships. At other times, I have received more. That’s the nature of friendship. It’s this balance of give and take that can withstand distance, silence, frustration, sorrow, grief, longing and anger even. We can have our own opinions without fear of losing someone over it. We can live our sometimes controversial lives, without fear of judgment. We can disagree without fear of falling out. Now if that’s not sustainable, then I don’t know what is! For every argument we have resolved, for every shared joyous experience we could partake in, for every broken heart we’ve been able to hold space for, for every momentous event we could celebrate… For each of these and many, many more experiences, I am deeply beholden to each of you. I love you!

Belinda xo

It was the day before Christmas

by Matilda


 

It’s the day before Christmas day and I am feeling reflective. I want privacy, solitude and quietness. Too much to hope for during this time of year? I certainly thought so, but the universe conspired to give me just what I needed.

Still in my pj’s, writing this post and my faithful shadow, Mickey.

We don’t really celebrate Christmas. We have a tree, a few decorations and presents for the children. Usually we are either at my parents or at the in-laws. This year Christmas lunch would have been at my parents house, but now it isn’t. My daughter cannot be with us for Christmas this year as she is with her boyfriend and his family. So, we had an early Christmas lunch with my parents while she was with us. Parents’ lunch – done.

For the first time in many years we will, surprisingly, be at home for Christmas. It is just me and the boys. We don’t have and agenda, we don’t have activities, we didn’t even plan the meals. We will play it be ear. As I sit here, typing, I realise that this is what I require – peace and quiet.

I will be spending today and tomorrow, focusing my energy on my core family. Not with exuberance, but by being thoughtful and present. I miss my daughter dearly, but I know she is in the right place at this time.

Winston Churchill said: “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but of reflection.” Merry Christmas!

Matilda xo

Festive Expectations vs. Reality

Woman Taking Photo Of Christmas Tree

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram, or found yourself on some inspirational Pinterest pinner’s site, only to come away feeling like a failure? You are not alone. The reality of Christmas this year for me, versus what I see pinned so eloquently to different social media pages, is vastly different. Last night, I invited my children to come around for dinner so we could finally put up the Christmas decorations. My granddaughter lives with us with her single mother, my daughter. I desperately wanted the home to look and feel Christmassy before she leaves today (Friday the 6th), to go visit her other Granny for a week.

I always put the decorations up around my home, myself, on the 1st of December each year. This year, I’ve been holed up in my bedroom upstairs, following an almost complete, foot reconstruction, and have been unable to navigate the stairs alone. Even if I could get down the stairs on my bottom, there would be no way I could hold my crutches, keep my balance and decorate. It was just not going to happen this year! I had to call in the help of the troops. Hence asking the other children, who no longer live at home, but are in town, to come and help.

Four Brown Gift Boxes Near a Glass Paneled Door With Wreath

This year, I was going to make my own wreath! My goodness, so many expectations crushed due to my circumstances. But I think the one who is most disappointed about it all, is me. The family were helpful in their own way. They jokingly commented that I would probably rehang all the tree decorations before they came back to visit, or at least those I could reach from my chair next to the tree. I laughed with them, saying that I was just so happy they agreed to help, that no matter what it looked like, I was just happy it was all up and festive-looking.

The words were barely out my mouth and I could see there was more than one decoration on a single twig of each of the branches of the tree. My OCD kicked in, and I hailed the only girlfriend, to assist in removing any decorations that were doubles on any twig, and asked her to step back and take it all in and see if there were any gaps. She surprised me by moving a whole lot of the tree ornaments around. Oh dear! I really am a bit OTT at this time of year.

I will possibly decorate downstairs when I’m able, but I have to admit, I loved having everyone over last night. All the laughter, the conversations and the easiness of it all. You see, we are a blended family with his and her children, and the greatest joy if I’m being completely honest, is that we get to share this season with all our children who live near enough to spend it with us. They come and go as most of them have significant others to also spend time with. But there’s joy in our home. I don’t think my OCD is going anywhere, but all these beautiful people in my life, know how I am and accept me as I am! They may tease me, but it’s all in good spirits.

Wishing you and yours much love in this season ahead. Do remember that being together and loving one another, trumps any beautiful setting, any day!

Belinda xo

It’s the season…

It’s the season to be… haggard and stressed. I am not feeling jolly – at all.

Christmas and the end of 2019, is rushing toward me at a disconcerting speed. December has caught me off guard and now anxiety has a grip on me. I struggle to switch off at night. I forget to make lunch. I catch myself staring vacantly into nothing – my son standing next to me, wondering if he should phone his dad. But mostly, I hold my breath.

I don’t consciously choose to do intermittent breathing and obviously this doesn’t help me function better. A lack of oxygen to my brain may be the very reason for all the vacant staring and forgetfulness.

Why, I ask myself, why do I feel so stressed? We don’t even really celebrate Christmas. We have lunch with my parents or in-laws and exchange small gifts. There is no full on Christmas mode. We do not decorate or have any special traditions.

In South Africa, where I live, it is now summer and the summer holidays. The schools are closed for the holidays and most people are looking forward to spending time with family. I did say most people, but not all people. I do not look forward to spending time with my extended family on a hot, sweaty day in Africa. I will be doing intermittent breathing all day.

I actually do know why my oxygen count falls this time of the year. Maybe if the decorations and traditions were my triggers, I could plan and do something about it. People aren’t so easily managed. My mind runs all the possible scenarios of what could happen on Christmas day and then I try to plan contingencies to get the best possible outcome.

My deepest wish for my family is to love one another unconditionally and authentically. That will probably not happen. The next best thing is to not have an “incident” when we choose to be in the same space. I’ve always felt responsible to keep everyone happy, to lighten the mood, to diffuse the tension. Well, I’m done.

I will focus on my children, especially my nine year old. The other two and my husband can fend for themselves. I will not be the jam that keeps this sandwich together. And I will remember to breathe.

Matilda xo

Almost fifty

by Matilda


I intend to stay alive until I am at least a hundred and sixteen years old. This statement may seem silly to you, but to me it means that I will be halfway through my life at fifty eight. In ten years time I will still have fifty eight years to live, really live.

Most of my life I have just done what everybody else was doing. I seldom had an original idea, and if I did, I quickly pushed it way down into the quietness of my subconscious. I was like the peasant at the king’s table. I didn’t know which cutlery to use, so I just copied the person next to me. That way nobody would find out that I am an intruder, that I did not belong. The saddest part was that I believed the lie too.

But the subconscious has a way of bringing up the hard topics. Every situation or person that triggered a great negative emotion in me, was an opportunity to learn the truth about the peasant. I did not want to face the real me. Secretly I was convinced that I would not like this person.

We all come from somewhere. A family, a place we called home. Most of the time the people in that place were just doing the best they could and sometimes they were so broken that they sucked at being a family. Parents like to think that doing the best they can is enough to raise well-balanced, well-rounded, well-adjusted human beings, but the truth is that they can’t. We all got wounded when we were children, even by loving, well-meaning parents. Parents can’t know which words will be taken the wrong way or which intentions will be misread. I believe that it is our own responsibility to face the wound. Everyone will deal with that pain in their own way. Everyone’s journey is different.

For many, many years I blamed other people or situations for my inability to live. I was especially fond of blaming my parents. Even if I never said it out loud. They didn’t even suspect that I felt this way. So we could never hash things out, so I didn’t have to take responsibility for my life. I could keep on playing the victim. I could just keep on living other peoples lives.

Somewhere in my forties I started to wake up to life. I can’t give you twelve steps to follow to an authentic life or ten ways to heal your pain. Big things went to shit in my life. I lost a lot of people and things that I believed defined who I was. I couldn’t cheat my way through life anymore. Life became too real. Oh, I tried at first. Desperate to keep the mask on my face. That was the hardest – to let go of what I thought I should be and what my life should look like.

When I eventually looked at myself and my life with honesty, I could start doing the work. The inner work. Not blaming, not looking at others, not hiding. And what a ride it is turning out to be. The more I discover about myself and life, the more I want to learn and live. Really live.

You see, that is why I want another fifty eight years. I’ve got some catching up to do.

Matilda xo

Self-Compassion

by Matilda


 

Self-compassion isn’t a term that I was familiar with until it came up in my Instagram feed. I was intrigued immediately. I have practiced self-love and self-care , but self-compassion is new territory for me.

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. (Wikipedia) To be conscious of your own distress and have a desire to alleviate this feeling of suffering. We are so quick to go to self-criticism or to ignore the shame and pain we feel when we fail.

Dr Kristin Neff described three elements of self-compassion. Dr Neff is an associate professor in the Austin’s department of psychology at the University of Texas.

The first element is self-kindness. This means to be warm and understanding towards ourselves when we do something really stupid or fail, or feel inadequate. Don’t ignore the feelings or torture yourself with self-criticism. Be gentle towards yourself by accepting the reality of your circumstances and work with the feelings and not against them. I have made so many mistakes with raising my children. I think that all parents do. And for the longest time I always felt that everything that did go wrong in their lives was my fault. I practiced self-criticism like a pro. Only when I learned to accept that, although I did make loads of mistakes, I can’t go back and have a do-over. It is what it is and to keep beating myself up about it is not good for anyone.

The second element is to recognise that our experience is part of a larger human experience. All humans suffer. I am not the only person that has ever made mistakes. Humans are vulnerable and imperfect. Self-compassion acknowledges that suffering and personal inadequacy are shared human experiences. These are things we all go through not something that is just happening to me alone.

The third element is mindfulness. Self-compassion calls for balance. Our negative emotions shouldn’t be suppressed, but neither should they be exaggerated. We must be willing to take a step back from our situation and see the bigger picture. It is the readiness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity. Holding them in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive and honest state of mind. You observe the feelings as they are – you don’t deny them, but you also don’t go down the rabbit-hole of negative reactivity.

Self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-pity is a state of mind that makes you play the victim. It is an emotional response that brings about the belief that you cannot cope with an unpleasant situation.

For many years we have been taught that we should have good self-esteem. Self-esteem is a subjective evaluation of the self. The cost of subjective emotional evaluation of the self can lead to distorted self-perceptions. Self-compassion requires you to mindfully observe your emotions and to take responsibility for your feelings and your situation.

How do we practice self-compassion? We can start by answering a few questions mindfully and truthfully. What things are stopping me from being kind to myself? In which small ways can I be kind to myself? If I loved myself completely, how would I treat myself? What kind thing can I remind myself about when I need it?

These questions have challenged me yet again. I found that some parts of my mind are still functioning in victim mode. Every so often I get confronted with stuff I haven’t completely worked through yet. Self-compassion is definitely something that I want to pursue. I am so very grateful for opportunities to see the truth of me.

Matilda xo

We are dating again…

By Belinda

Have you ever been oblivious to a distant hum, for example, a lawnmower being used in the distance, and it suddenly stops, and you become aware of the blissful silence? This is how I am feeling.

My husband left his job he’d had for more than 29 years, just over a year ago, and it has been a tough year for us. We have not wanted to touch his pension as he is still too young, but his salary made up the bulk of our monthly finances, which is needed to pay the bills. I work from home and we do make some money from a small resort we have in Mozambique, but it has felt to me, as if we have steadily slid into debt. This is unfamiliar territory for both of us. And yes, it’s been extremely scary.

Well, nothing has changed that I am aware of in the physical, but you know that sense of ‘everything is going to work out well’? That’s what I’m experiencing, and so we have begun to take each other out on some day-dates. These have been so much fun and we are beginning to communicate again, without speaking about problems and issues. I can’t really speak for my husband, but I am feeling hopeful and beginning to dream again.

Out for dinner at Salsa, Menlyn Main, Pretoria, for our 2nd daughter’s 28th birthday celebration.

On Monday evening, we took the family out for our second daughter’s birthday. It was a noisy affair. We went to a Mexican restaurant and honestly, we could hardly hear each other, but the evening was so much fun. It most certainly brought much needed laughter to our family. We sure enjoyed the lightness of the evening and the food was brilliant too. We haven’t been aware of how stressed out our adult children have been about our situation. The two of us, have felt so isolated and haven’t wanted to trouble our children, but forgetting they are adults who are extremely thoughtful and concerned. We had no idea how much they needed to see us enjoy intimate moments with each other. This dinner was far more meaningful to them, than we could ever have imagined.

Out for a quick breakfast at Die Stoep Restaurant, Charl Cillier Street, Bronkhorstspruit.

This morning, we got up quite early to drive through to a neighbouring town. I needed to renew my driver’s license and my hubby explained that I could go to the traffic offices in the neighbouring town, without an appointment. Before going, we did try and make an appointment online, without success, but he insisted we would be helped. I had my doubts. It turned out, I was right. After queuing for over an hour, we were finally told they would not assist us and I would need to make an online appointment.

This past year, I have felt so annoyed about the littlest things, and I expected to experience that exasperation today. Imagine my surprise, when I responded with a shoulder shrug and a little, “I told you so,” but no anger or frustration. This was such a key for me to know that we are through the worst of our experience. I didn’t feel helpless. I didn’t lose my cool. And when my hubby suggested we find a place to have breakfast, I quickly Googled the nearest restaurant. We enjoyed a healthy breakfast together and chatted so much. This past year, even when we have gone out for a meal, we would both be on our phones, and there was so little communication.

I think we’ve turned a corner, and we are focusing on ‘us’ again. My fear is subsiding and gratitude is beginning to fill that space. We get to spend more time together, and although we still don’t have a solution, I know that we are going to be okay. Whatever happens, we are in this together, and our future is bright, because we have each other. For the longest time, I have felt lonely and isolated and afraid. This lightness suits me well. And we have found our way back to sharing with each other once again. This is a beautiful and positive place to be.

Belinda xo