Solitude… Is it necessary?

By Belinda

Me at home, in deep thought!

I can’t remember when it became important for me to spend time alone. It was possibly in my 40’s. I separated from my first husband when I was 41, and around that time, I became more and more comfortable with my own company.

Before then, I needed to surround myself with people. I felt it necessary to spend my time in the company of others. I didn’t know who I was, and it was through the divorce, that I began to discover who I really was on the inside. My description of my life, since then, is “The Unbecoming.” To me, this journey up to where I am now, has been one of intense self-discovery. I have spent so much time, since turning 41, on uncovering all I thought I was, all I was ever told I was, and all I used to believe I was, to find out who the real Belinda always was supposed to be.

A moment alone in Mozambique.

My divorce for me, was the catalyst of my self-discovery journey. It was a time of deep questioning, unraveling what it is I thought I believed about marriage, unpacking all I assumed about divorced women, and finally forgiving myself for being so hard, both on myself and others. Initially, I felt so much shame and deep regret at what I thought I was doing to my children, what I thought “God” was thinking of me, and how I was going to hold my head up in my family and community. I had sleepless nights and sorrow-filled days. But all of this was so needed for me to really begin to deeply question what it is I thought I believed.

I realised how judgemental I had been of others who had gone through what I was now experiencing. I had to look through all the layers of what I now see as false beliefs (for me, at least), to the core of my inner-most being. Regardless what others thought of me, I, for the first time ever in my life, needed to be at peace with my decisions. Out of utter desperation and absolute necessity, I removed myself from my previous ‘friendship’ circle. The judgement I was experiencing from many of my ‘friends’, was too much to bear. My experience with divorce was one of profound loneliness. At the time, this felt like abandonment, but as I look back over my life, I see this as the greatest gift the Universe could ever have given me.

It’s now possible to look in the mirror and love the person I see there xo

Today, my views on marriage, relationships and life in general, are vastly different from the naive 41 year old’s. The most constant thing in my life, is change, and I welcome it gladly. My greatest fear was being alone. Well, I’ve been there – and I survived! Not only did I survive, but I came out the other side with the most beautiful and personal gift – I got acquainted with the ‘real’ me. Through facing my deepest fear directly, I found out so much about myself. I can stand for what I believe in, regardless the opinions of others. I can stand up for those I now perceive as bullied by others, and am a champion for women who need to reinvent themselves after years of being in the shadow of others. I am intensely in touch with my emotions and feel things on a deep level! My love for others, no longer excludes myself. In fact, I prioritise myself. I am forgiving of myself and others. I am an extremely kind and compassionate person. No, I never knew this about myself before…

Did solitude destroy me? The opposite is in fact true. It showed me who I always was and needed to discover under the layers of deception, unwittingly placed on me by my parents, teachers, friends and those in authority over me. Since my divorce, it has become increasingly important for me, to spend time alone, and even more so, as I age. Alone-time is no longer a punishment, a separation – it is my greatest desire and my most precious gift to myself.

My discovery – the more time I spent alone, the more I got to know myself. The more I got to know myself, the more I desired to change from being the co-dependent woman I thought I was, to the strong, hugely independent woman I came to know I was always meant to be! Yes, solitude is my best friend. Thank you for your gifts xo

Belinda xo

Meeting the guy

by Matilda


Us at my mother-in-law’s house

We drove all the way from Witbank to Potchefstroom to meet a guy. Not any guy. Our daughter, Karla, has been dating this guy for a month. We’ve seen the photos on Instagram and we’ve heard how stunning he is from Karla. It was time. Time to meet someone that has the potential of becoming part of our family.

How can I say this after just a month of dating? Even though they’ve been dating for a month, they’ve known each other for seven months. This is a friendship that blossomed into a relationship. The other clue was how important it was for Karla that we meet him and more importantly, like him. She texted me about ten times asking details about the weekend.

So, how does one handle this situation? This is our first time meeting a serious boyfriend. I was nervous. What if we don’t like him? What if he is nice, but I feel he is not a good fit for my daughter? What if he doesn’t like us?

Karla and Eon

My husband has twin sisters, who both also live in Potchefstroom (and my mother -in-law). My sisters-in-law had their birthday on the Friday. Two birds with one stone kind of thing. Karla thought it would be a good idea if we invited Eon (boyfriend) to dinner and cake for the twin’s birthday. Then everyone could meet him. The poor boy. A lot of us at once.

He handled it well. He was a little bewildered, but no one can blame him for that. I did like it that he didn’t try too hard to impress us and he took part in the conversation. But my husband and I couldn’t really form an opinion without speaking with Eon one on one. We had a plan.

Us again, minus the little brother

Potchefstoom mostly revolves around the North West University and their School of Music has a small, but amazing conservatory. And luckily for us, we could go to see and hear the very amazing Tim Kliphuis Trio. Afterwards we could do coffee and grill Eon. Just kidding.

The Kliphuis Trio is just marvelous. Tim Kliphuis (Netherlands) plays violin, Nigel Clark (Ireland) plays guitar and Roy Percy’s (Scotland) instrument is the double bass. All I can say is WOW. They use a technique they call “Total Music”, where each musician will be alternately leading and accompanying, resulting in a sound that is a combination of all three personalities. I loved how each band member’s personality showed and how they enjoyed the music. They also know their instruments so well. It was an absolute delight.

The Tim Kliphuis Trio

But we couldn’t speak with Eon during the concert. So I just observed how he treated my precious daughter. I was impressed. They were so relaxed with each other. He didn’t jump through hoops to keep her happy, but I saw respect and tenderness. He also made her laugh. Scoring a lot of points there.

We went to Die Akker Koffiehuis for coffee, but ended up drinking milkshakes. There we chatted and got to know Eon a little better. Asking about his family and what it is like to live in Namibia. Oh yes, I forgot to say. He is not South African.

The verdict? We like him. He seems to be one of the good guys. This relationship makes Karla very happy. He brought a new energy into our lives. Do I think that he is the one? Could be, but nothing is set in stone. Let’s see what happens.

Matilda xo

Family Celebrations

By Belinda

When you have a blended family and between you, there are 5 children differing in age from 19 years to 30, celebrating birthdays, can get complicated. Add to that equation, one daughter living in another country, another daughter living in another city and a granddaughter who lives at home with her Mom, and you get all sorts of scenarios regarding family celebrations!

Our eldest is about to turn 30, not just yet, in fact, it’s still almost 2 months to go before her 30th, but she won’t be home until February 2020 again, so we decided to give her a surprise dinner party at her favourite kind of restaurant, including friends and ALL the siblings. This was not an easy thing to do, but out of everyone who initially committed to be there, only one couple did not make it in the end, so I would say, that was a resounding success.

We all met at a local Greek restaurant, Nikos, at The Grove in Pretoria, the city we live in, and all the other children managed to adjust their schedules in order to make the event as special as possible for Jasmine. I have been ill for 5 days with a sore throat, and my husband is almost on his way to Mozambique for work. Each of us had to do some serious shuffling in our lives, to make this possible, but it’s what we do for family!

My eldest is actually here visiting just for a week from the Middle East. She has lived in Muscat, Oman for the past 5 years. One of her closest friends, is getting married on Saturday and she is one of the bridesmaids. We aren’t getting to see much of her this visit, but that’s how it goes with adult children. They have their own lives and we need to allow them the freedom to live their lives as fully as they can.

My daughter Jasmine, in the middle, with her friend who is getting married, Melinda, on the left and a friend of Melinda’s (also a bridesmaid), visiting from Australia, Natasha, on the right.

Jasmine moved to the Middle East 5 years ago, largely due to a door that was opened for her by a colleague, Sean. They had worked together in South Africa and when the opportunity arose, Jasmine grabbed it with both hands. Although Sean and his wife, Hannah, have since moved back to South Africa, their friendship continues. I think living abroad with no family, unites friends in deeper ways. It was a lovely surprise for Jasmine to have both Sean and Hannah join the celebrations for the night.

Jasmine with friends, Sean and Hannah.

It was a lovely night with chatty conversations all around. Our second daughter, Roxann, was there with her own daughter, our precious granddaughter, Ella-Mai, who herself has not been in the best health, also suffering a cold. The twins, my husband’s daughters from his first marriage, were also there. Bianca, who is currently studying in another city, managed to coincide her own events, as she herself is planning her wedding for next year, to be here for the 30th. Monique started a new job the morning of the celebrations, and is herself struggling with a throat infection (yes, we have all been pretty much down with some sort of bug), also made it with her long-standing boyfriend whom we refer to as our other son, Laurence. Lastly, but definitely not least, our one and only son, Conlan, who is working such long hours, managed to co-ordinate his shifts to also make it to the dinner, together with his girlfriend, Cayleigh.

Everyone squeezed in!!

All in all, we think the success of the night can be attributed to the fact that Jasmine makes the effort to keep in touch with everyone. She prioritises family and friends and all that were there, wanted to be there to celebrate with her. This obviously makes this Mommy-heart glad! It’s wonderful to see how our children live out their adult lives so fully.

Belinda xo

Say Yes!

by Matilda


Procrastination has a very nasty sibling called self-sabotage. You think about something for ages, weighing the pros and cons. You contemplate all the possible outcomes, you Google it extensively and then you think about it some more. At last you have thought it through and through and then – you do nothing. You do nothing, not because it is a bad idea. No. You do nothing, because you just don’t.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have excuses. Not the same thing as reasons. I don’t have money. I don’t have time. I don’t know how. I don’t think people will like my idea. I am not a go-getter. This won’t really make my life better. These pitiful thoughts are usually how I rationalise not doing something. You probably justify your inability to take action in your own authentic way.

The horrible outcome of this lifestyle, is that you are paralysed. For a moment you have a plan and you are excited to do this thing. You’ve got this. You also know that this is not true and you cannot do this. You drop the ball. When you get into bed, you haven’t done a thing and you decide to postpone whatever it is you wanted to do.

We fear to fail. We are taught that failure is bad. We feel embarrassed, even ashamed when we fail. So it’s better to not try than to fail. And if we are disappointed in ourselves for not taking action, we can take comfort in our fantastic excuses.

I am no expert in psychology, but I am a professional procrastinator and I sure know a thing or two about self-sabotage. My advice sounds easy, but it is difficult too. Firstly you have to recognise your inaction as self-sabotage. This is not a once-off thing. It is not that you are in a bad place in your life and you struggle to move on. No, this is years and years of wanting a different life, but not doing anything to change yourself or your life. Secondly you have to be brave. You have to say yes to something. There are opportunities all around us. Say yes to one and take action.

When Belinda asked me to join “My Style Journey,” I thought about it for some time. I almost talked myself out of it once or twice, or twenty times. All my excuses sounded hollow and I said yes. This one thing has changed my life dramatically. I don’t want to bore you with how boring my life was, but it was really boring. Now, I interact with people from all over the world, I learn new things every single day, and I feel ready for more.

It definitely helps to be held accountable. Belinda relies on me to pull my weight and do the tasks that we both agreed upon, and I will not let her down. I said yes. That makes me responsible for getting things done. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and the sky did not fall. Not even once.

Getting off my butt and doing something, gave me confidence to try other things. I feel so much more alive. So go ahead, say yes.

Matilda xo

How I stepped into my power

by Matilda

 

I don’t know who coined the phrase, to step into your power, but it really speaks to a place deep inside my soul. The moment it happened I knew that I would never be the same again. For me it is a solid feeling on the inside and this power is with me constantly. When I was mulling the whole incident over, my conclusion was that it is a three step process. Realisation, responsibility and taking action. I am sharing my experience as I have internalised it, but the path to your power will be singular to you and your situation.

Taking that first step into my power was a result of a series of awakenings. It began with me looking for answers. What do I actually believe? What is really important to me? Who do I honestly want to spend my time with? What do I want to spend my time on? Can I keep on living this life? No, was the decisive answer. I discovered that I did not want my life to continue in the same way. I was tired of the lies, tired of the deceit. Most of all I was tired of my double life. I had two faces: the show face and the shit face. The show face was the me I allowed other people to see. The mouth on that face said: “I am fine. My finances are fine. My marriage is fine. My kids are great.” The other face said: “I am incensed. I am hurt. My marriage is crumbling. My kids are confused. I am dying inside.” I could have kept my show face in place, but it was so exhausting and I was done. Done with not honouring what I needed, what I wanted. Done with not honouring me. I could have chosen to continue with this ruse, but I was only fooling myself. I had a very realistic view on what rocking the boat was going to do to the people I love. No one would be spared. My husband and children were not going to be protected from pain. Knowing that I was going to be the cause of a lot pain, was terrible. I had to believe that something healthy and whole would come from realising that I could not continue in the same way as always. I made the conscious choice to step out of the known into a very scary unknown.

It took me years to get to this point. Not just a couple of years either. It took more than a decade to get to a place where I could be honest with myself. Everything in my life was there as a result of either me allowing it to be there or me actively choosing it. To accept responsibility for the totality of my life was the hardest, best thing I have ever done. Previously I felt like a victim. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t me. I was the wronged party. Poor me. I was powerless and I couldn’t stand myself any longer. I knew then that only I can change. I can’t force anyone else to change and my circumstances can’t change if I stay the same. I had the power to change my inner self. Self -discovery was the only way. Brutal honesty was the road littered with potholes I had to travel. Admit to all the bad, feel all the guilt and shame, take responsibility for it and let it go. Choose a new you and a new life. I took responsibility for my life and it gave me the power to change my story.

Lastly, I had to take action. Confronting the issue or issues you want to change can be very daunting. It took a lot of courage to step into my power and reveal the disconnect and not know what the outcome will be. In my mind all the possible outcomes were going to be really, really difficult. I chose to act in spite of all the pain and loss that could possibly follow. That was the moment when I truly stepped into my power. I took the risk. Whatever the consequences, I would be true to me. And it has been really, really difficult, terrible, messy, beautiful, enlightening and powerful.

I stepped into my power four years ago and it has been a rough ride. My show face and the other one are in agreement: “I am learning. I am growing. My marriage is a work in progress. My kids are okay. I feel powerful.” The most important thing for me is to know my authentic self and then live true to that person. I am still doing the work, asking the questions and staying in my power.

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”
― Patrick Overton,

A Tender Goodbye.

by Belinda

 

I once heard it said that you don’t know what it’s like to lose your Mother, until it’s too late. Obviously, this is true. No one can know the loss, until it happens. However, I never knew the depth of the loss, the pain of knowing she won’t ever be there anymore for me to chat to.

My mother passed away last year on the 15th November, 2018. She died in my arms, which I am forever grateful for. This is how I entered this world, in her arms. I am filled with deep appreciation for that moment. On the day she passed away, my aunt, her only surviving sister, was with us. The carer who had taken care of my mother both day and night, except every third weekend, had just bathed my mother and had gone into the house to have her late breakfast. This was a Thursday. My mother had slipped into a coma on the Sunday prior. The doctor explained that she had an infection, but because of the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s that was my mother’s disease, coupled with her low body mass, her body was unable to fight the infection. It was possibly a strain of the flu, as both myself and my granddaughter, who also lives with me, had been ill the week prior to my mother’s illness. I digress… My aunt had stepped out of the room where my mother was lying in the bed, to take a call from one of the many family members, who were calling to find out what was happening.

When my aunt left the room, I climbed onto the bed and lay next to my mother. I contacted my sister who lives in New Zealand, to say the end was close. I could see a change in my mother’s breathing. Her breaths were slow and shallow and quite intermittent and erratic. My sister was awaiting the call and her and each of her three children, sent a voice note that I then played to my mother. Each one was able, from far away, to say their goodbyes. My nephew, Jethro, asked me if I could play the song, “Blue suede shoes”, by Elvis. As I started playing the song, my mother took her last breath. For a little while, I could just lay with her in my arms, listening to Elvis, her favourite singer of all time, and be a little bit lost in memories and nostalgia. I stroked her hair and told her how much I loved her and how much her life had meant to me. It was a brief but exceptionally tender moment. My aunt then walked in and I stood up from the bed. She asked if it was over and I nodded. She too, came over to my mother and hugged her and said her own emotional goodbye. We needed to let Gladys, the carer know, so my aunt went to call her. She was the kindest person in the world. She had taken such expert care of my mother, who could be extremely difficult at times. If you understand Alzheimer’s, you will know the terrible mood swings the person suffers from. Gladys took everything in her stride. She lay over my mother’s frail body, lamenting in her own language, tears streaming down her face. My cleaning lady, who happened to be working that day, also came in to say her goodbyes. Each of these women, come from different African cultures and it was quite telling how differently they showed their grief, but each one of us, needed in our own way, to let go the best way we knew how. Nelie, my cleaning lady, prayed for my mother in her own language. I don’t know what she said, but I do know how moving the prayer was. I could sense something far larger than all of us in the room, as peace descended and we seemed to take a collective, deep breath.

I will forever be indebted to my father, who allowed me to take care of my mother in her final months of life on earth. He did the best he could, but is seven years older than my mother, and had himself, suffered a cardiac arrest five years prior to my mother’s passing. He himself wasn’t well, and the toll of taking care of my mother, was beginning to affect his general health and well being. The day I brought my mother to live with me, was the first time I truly realised the extent of the severity of this disease, as it presented symptomatically in her. My husband and I, committed to visiting with my parents, who live a good 2 hours away, every third week. Sometimes I would go alone, but mostly, we would visit my folks together. Of course I had noticed the decline in my mother’s memory, her inability to hold a conversation, her excessive and rapid weight loss – but I think each one of us, all the siblings, was in denial. My two birth daughters, my granddaughter and myself, were holidaying in Greece when my father called me to say he could absolutely, no longer cope with taking care of my mother himself. Many times before this point, my husband, Johann, and I had made the suggestion to get a carer in for the day to assist my father. Each time, he refused. So I had no clue it was as bad as it was, until that call whilst in Crete. As soon as we arrived home, I started making the preparations to bring my mother to me. As a family, my Dad, my siblings and myself, made a unanimous decision to let me take care of my Mom with the help of a carer. Fortunately, my sister, who lives abroad, also agreed and she arrived to assist with settling my mother here. It was such a precious time for her and I too, to bond over the caring of my Mom. We are the only two daughters, so it was indeed special that we chose the carer together. As a family, we also made the decision, due to the advancement of the disease, to not give any active treatment, should any other illness arise. I don’t think any one of us knew just how close the end of my mother’s life was, but there was a profound sense of peace knowing we had had the difficult conversations before her death. When she became ill and slipped into the coma, no one reneged on our initial decisions. We just made sure Mom was as comfortable as possible. She passed away with not one single bedsore, even though she weighed only 35kgs! Gladys would get up in the night, even before my mother was in the coma, and turn her over every few hours. She was our angel who was diligent with my mother’s pressure care, having conversations with my mother that made no sense, laughing at my mother’s jokes, even though she could not make head or tail of their meaning. She was a rare treasure to all of us, but especially to my mother. She only cared for my mother for a little over 4 months, but became my mother’s safety blanket in that short time. My mother would cling to her for comfort and support. Because she was so close to my Mom, she also bore the brunt of her anger outbursts. This Gladys took, all the good and the not so great, with dignity and grace. We still remember her fondly, and keep in touch with her even though she has now moved on to assist another family.

And so it is, as I come to the end of writing my first ever blog post, that I remember my mother as a woman who deeply loved. She was a woman who truly loved others without expectation of being loved in return. She had a rather difficult life with my father. He was a wounded man, an unconscious man, who could never love her as she loved him – but that never deterred her. Because of his wounds, there were times when we, his children, suffered as a result of his verbal, emotional and physical abuse. We often witnessed my father abusing my mother. When I became a mother myself, I vowed my children would not suffer the way that I had. I could not understand how my mother could stay with him, and allow her children to be hurt over and over again. But in later years, it was revealed to me, that my mother too had wounds from her childhood, and in the best way she knew how, she tried to love us all from her own broken place. I was in my early forties, when I finally forgave her for not protecting us. We had a difficult conversation around that time, where I told her I’d harboured hatred toward her for many years for staying in that abusive marriage. She apologised to me, but could never give me the answers I wanted. I had to decide to forgive and let go, or forgive but disconnect. I chose the former. Am I happy with my choice? Yes, today, I’m so grateful I decided to stay in connection. We had the most beautiful goodbye I could ever hope for, and I believe the Universe gave this to me, as I was the one who chose to let go.