Ikigai

“Enough!” “Enough!” I screamed and strangely enough there was instant relief and that was a shock.

My normal beautiful stroll with my dogs had turned me into a gibbering idiot, details will follow….

Some background to my final outburst : For the last 5 weeks, I’ve been treated for a glute and hamstring injury possibly incurred after 1 or both falls on my last two runs with my closest friend and mentor. So just understand that my karma is not good right now with no running at all added to the fact that I miss my soul mate dreadfully. 5 weeks of physio for the painful and often totally numb limb have eventually led me to a chiropractor who says it’s my sciatic nerve compressed as a result of non aligned hips, yeah, my undercarriage is in dire need of an overhaul . So I’ve had two sessions with a chiropractor who is gentle and firm, he has hauled my hips from left to right, had me in contortionist like angles, tweaked (literally) acupuncture needles into the whole area and I think I may be seeing the light eventually, HOWEVER between my first session and my second I had a 4 hour drive to Stilbaai and back to celebrate a beautiful couples wedding, but the sciatic nerve did not behave. I was reduced to tourette kind of outbursts of the most foul language every time it twinged. I tried sitting on a pillow, would then haul it out, throw it behind me, lower my seat until I could hardly see over the steering wheel, anything to relieve the currents of pain.

I don’t consider myself a wimp, I can take pain, and I know that there are many people every day with far more serious afflictions, but after this morning I’m feeling very sorry for myself.

To add to my sciatic ailment, I have suffered from (this is gross, sorry) acid reflux, which usually strikes in the dead of night, it has me writhing in pain in almost labour like contractions, sweating up a storm, I half think I’m having a heart attack and then it’s gone, like nothing ever happened. Well suffice it to say, there I was trying to enjoy my daily dog walk this morning with the odd tremor of electric pain shooting up and down my leg, when I coughed and swallowed and was suddenly aware of what was coming, well the pain came hard and fast, I clung onto the leashes and just kept telling myself to get home, don’t collapse on the side of the road…..what will the dogs do and half terrified that maybe it was my heart this time.

Well I did get home, it did settle and totally disappeared, but not before I screamed “enough”

I do know that this time will pass and that tomorrow will be a day of new opportunities. I will get fit again and join my friend to reconnect. My fortnightly couch sessions are enlightening me on my often irrational decisions. Somewhere along my road I seem to have lost my purpose.

Ikigai – a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word translated to English means “thing that you live for” or ” the reason for which you wake up in the morning “

In my latter years I’m suddenly terrified that I have no idea where to start. What is my Ikigai? Do you know yours? I would love your comments if any of you feel something like me.

Aquatic Anomalies

Finding myself on board a boat for destination and duration unknown, would be enough to make those who know me well to simply cover their eyes. I am a land lover, I like to run, exercise, walk in the forest, the proverbial terra firma kind of girl.

On the designated day when I enquired what time our flight was, I was told there was no flight just a taxi drive to the meeting place. I did start to panic, as at the time I was on a rather dirty island with not much beautiful to look at. Well the taxi arrived in due course and we were taken off along rough roads, chickens, goats, children and litter in abundance, with motorcycles weaving in and out at a rapid rate. Not long after I found myself on the shores of a river, a jetty was hanging lopsided and not able to be used and a little speedboat bobbing up and down was all I could see. I was waved towards this little vessel. Imagine this for a second, I had a separate suitcase of just shoes plus a suitcase of clothes assuming I was about to be transported to a beautiful island paradise with evening entertainment. I staggered in my mini heels over the litter infested rocks and managed to throw myself unglamorously into the boat, my heart racing, and trying very hard not to be rude to those around me. Blow me down, the boat spluttered into life and off we went to deeper waters towards a large pirate looking boat, my home for the next 14 or so days. As I ascended the steps to the boat I was advised that no shoes are to be worn on board at all…..

Well as it transpired there were 3 couples on board the vessel. She (the vessel) is beautifully fitted, and quite breathtaking at full sail. However, to be thrown together, a South African couple, an American pair, one of which is of relative fame but who did remind us repeatedly just how famous he is, an Australian couple, a property developer and his very silent wife, the journey was not without cultural angst. I also learnt from the first evening that this was predominantly a diving excursion, so much of the trip was centred around diving spots, conditions, excited chatter about sharks, mantas, octopus ink, turtles and various depths of expertise and the bends.

Suffice it to say, I was very happy to chill on board, loungers at the ready, gin and tonics, wine, bubbles, whatever a girl would want, but the days did become very hot, and while the divers were all missing and the boat was at anchor, the odd dip in the sea was mandatory. Mid chapter, my partner at the time decided he was going for a swim, so of course I jumped up too. Having grown up on the coast, swimming came to me as naturally as crawling. Down the gangplank he went, and I followed suit, grabbing some goggles on the way. In my mind I always knew I would dive off the platform away from the boat, but said partner, leapt into a semi dive come bellyflop right next to the boat and was of course sucked alongside the boat even though we were at anchor. What ensued was, terrified blue eyes, gulping, spluttering, thrashing and eventual clinging onto a rope on the side of the vessel shouting hysterically for saving. The more I urged him to let go, the wider and more engorged his eyes became with panic. The staff were alerted to the shouting and thrashing and after they also realised that he wasn’t going to let go and relax, emergency measures were called for and the orange safety ring was lowered and successfully grabbed onto.

Now, imagine my dilemma…….did I stay onboard and try and hide my guffaws or get out of the way to be gracious?

I decided on the latter, sprung up into the perfect dive over his thrashing legs still steering his orange life ring to the deck and swam out into the beautiful calm, azure blue waters laughing loudly into the deep blue see.

Needless to say, I swam entirely alone for the duration of the trip. This was not to be a match made in heaven.

Sink or swim

With Ease and Grace

It took me more than a year. 14 months in fact.

The night of my court date a close friend phoned to see how I was doing, my response was, “well alright thanks, I’m having dinner with my now ex husband.”

There is no accounting for how we all have our own ways of protecting ourselves and coping, but mine is to go into hiding, something I am working so hard at changing as you become a victim by your own hand. You punish yourself for something you haven’t done.

Precious has arrived at my door over the last year, to simply say hello and check in, and on one specific occasion I sat inside in the dark, a trembling mess, too terrified to see his face and engage. The doorbell sound ricocheted right through my very being and he pursued for a while. As bizarre and stupid as it sounds, it is/was my reality. Enough already right? Own it, make the call, face the fear.

I scanned the faces, and out of the corner of my eye, I sensed his stance, one leg a little bent, arms folded, creasy smile, as I got closer, I noticed wet eyes, soft eyes. Brief hug, became a bear hug with a catch in our throats and a squashed giggle. A remembered feeling. Heart fluttering with fear, anticipation, emotion. No amount of anything can demean the time, love, sweat and tears you share with someone you have grown with over an excess of more than 10 years. Those memories are there for life and no one has the power to take them away. When you are in cope mode it is so often fuelled by anger and you remember only the bad, as that propels you through the pain and justifies why you are where you are. Time has taken that away from me. I have found a peace, I have ceased obsessing over why I wasn’t enough, or why decisions were made and suddenly they don’t matter any more.

As is my nature I’ve written pages of notes for this long anticipated meeting, time lines, subject headings, children, flow charts, you name it, but it is only the last page of my scribbling that I refer to, “At the end of all this writing I come to the realisation that I am here now because it’s the first time I’ve felt strong enough, empowered enough and happy enough to see you.”

“Yes, he says, I know.”

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love” Mother Teresa

Giving it Shtick in Spandex

What a glorious time of life our 50’s are!

We have the chutzpah to be authentic. We can live safely or dangerously and not be afraid. We are suddenly aware that time is important and we need to live life to the fullest every day, not look forward and say “when the next thing is accomplished I’ll be happy.”

A recent trip to The Labia Theatre had me in fits of laughter. I identified so much with the women of “Book Club” (with one in particular.) On her allotted month one of the book club ladies introduces the others to “50 Shades of Grey”. At first they are all dismissive of the standard of literature but you watch each of their lives unfold as they all begin the read as Christian Grey seduces Anastasia Steele in a variety of “different” ways. None of them can put the book down and latent sexual curiosity runs rife. They are totally absorbed invigorated.

The movie runs through Tinder in your middle ages, impotence, miscommunication between spouses and partners, loneliness, rediscovery of self and sex, fear of rejection, fear of saying no to your well meaning children, it is in fact so significant as it is precisely how most of us are reaching our middle age. Poignant stuff.

I remember lying on the floor of my teenage home trying to get the tightest “Lee” jeans on for a Friday night date and then being hardly able to breath all night, and now some nearly forty years later, bless, we have spandex to help us look toned enough to to pour our svelte selves into anything as long as it’s “suitable”. Stilettos have been replaced by pumps, our homes and cars have numerous pairs of +strength readers readily available. Sex however, after many ups, downs and angst becomes raunchy and fun again. We thrive.

When googling “Spandex” the definition is; “a product of exceptional elasticity, stronger and more durable than natural rubber. The name “Spandex” is an anagram of the word “expands.” I love this, our lives have expanded. We can choose to make it as expanded as we like while still keeping it as tidy and trim around the edges as we feel necessary.

~ “Ordinary women who do extraordinary things – that’s my shtick”

Involved~Committed

She flitted, dark eyes flashing, barks of high pitched laughter. She delivered a distracted tour of the newly renovated home, but not having known it before, I had no point of reference. Loads of nervous energy abounded. Lunch was served by the chef, her husband, she raced in afterwards and did a quick shuffle to get the correct number of plates on the table, serving spoons she had forgotten, salad dressing, then salt, and by the time she did join us with the gravy she had hastily made, some had nearly finished lunch while others were waiting politely with cold mounds of food. Total non engagement. Conversations around the table started and died. Some reminiscing on a shared past long gone.

Once seated she chitter chatted while she pecked at a small serving but it was when our eyes met that I saw the desperation of the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, it struck me instantaneously that this woman would rather have been anywhere else, but at that table, in that home, in that moment, with any of us. This was an exponentially difficult day for her. She was involved as the hostess but trapped in her life.

I happened to be at her table having been recently introduced to this old friendship of small town friends who have all over the years ended up in Cape Town and surrounds. It was a long Sunday and although I wasn’t well known to the hosts I did have some expectations. As hosts and hostesses we take pride in opening our homes and lives to people we care about. As a newcomer to this group I am more inclined to listen. On arrival she got my name wrong. The name of an ex girlfriend and it wasn’t speedily corrected, it was in fact tactlessly queried first, “Really, are you sure?” I did manage to convince her that my name was actually “Shan”. The husband did his best. He was totally committed to his luncheon. He dashed around first pouring drinks, and attempted other introductions around his tasks . He churned out pizzas from the pizza oven for children and cooked slithers for us while at the same time browning two fat chickens with crispy, perfectly cooked roast potatoes.

You notice things when you are a spectator, a listener, his drink was constantly refilled, his eye movements quick, the lack of intimacy between them palpable. I do not know the complexity of their joint story, nor do I need too, I did feel an instant empathy and it was when I chanced upon this saying about “going to the woods to live deliberately” that it reminded me of the fragility of our lives, how we need to nurture ourselves, live with gratitude, be impeccable with our word and how very essential it is to be present. Present with ourselves and present with the people we choose to be with. If that choice is no longer sustainable, well perhaps it’s time “to go to the woods.”

Precious and I used to entertain lavishly and often, we were good at it, we were both involved and committed to our guests. It elevated us as people and was truly the one thing we did well even at our most vulnerable times. Our guests became our focus and we moved well around each other, ensuring everyone else had a great time. In hindsight we should have been taking more care of our own lives, but I presume it became an escape to having to be alone together. I discovered I was not really living until I chose to live deliberately.

When you next eat an egg and bacon breakfast, think this thought; the chicken has been involved, the pig however is totally committed.

Confluence

My life thus far has taught me some incredible things and with us all, none has come without extreme happiness, the depths of despair and the rawest of pain.

I have somehow managed to hold onto the belief that we are all meant to love and be loved. I like to think of myself as optimistic rather than impulsive but fact is I do randomly throw myself at things, all my energy going off at a tangent in business, and sport and I make grandiose declarations in my love life, embroiling myself in life situations that then became difficult or seemingly impossible to extricate myself from. Gay abandon is a nice way of wording it.

My motives and feelings are my absolute truth and full of purity. Every once in a while our lives are illuminated by something or someone.When you start to see a new person with all of their own life attachments  ( I hate the term baggage), and add the complexity of a different culture, your words so easily become skewered.   I think that even when you learn to truly think and speak another language, it is not the same as engaging in native fluency.  You will neither understand nor be understood.  Language and the nuances of it are fundamental to me.  I love words, I speak quietly and articulately in a soft voice.  Where you are misunderstood there is no one to hear you.

For two people so full of mysteries, there is a spiritual intimacy between us that needs no coaxing. I am protected in a fierce grip of dedication and piercing eyes that bore into my being, but if I dare protest some particularly bewildering response or event, he perceives aggression and changes flags, haughtily defending his island. I try to tell him that I don’t mean to judge.  I’m not trying to change anything about him, his people or their culture.  I am only trying NOT to change anything about myself or mine……One step forward, many steps backward.  Even now,  right now, that road behind him is long, still he dances the old dances and I dance mine.

I have endured four unbelievably tortuously painful weeks at his hands. I spent the first two coping, charged with intense anger at him, the third and fourth weeks have been a time of reflection, of forgiveness not only for him, but to release myself from the anger, as I have borne witness to what anger and bitterness do to the soul and this decision has opened a side of me I never knew I was capable of. I would believe it’s love of the purest kind. Unconditional.

We are both spent, exhausted and have cried buckets. Will this awareness of what our loss has been bring us together or is it wiser to walk away so as to be unscathed against any further possible pain. Am I the eternal optimist, the impulsive fool, or am I just a woman who may have found her true north?

Will I be judged for going back, to search for more to validate the soul I thought I’d found initially?

I believe there is a place of CONFLUENCE ~ “A place where two rivers or streams join to become one. : a situation in which two things come together or happen at the same time”

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time”

Maya Angelou

Out of the frying pan…….

And so my middle aged dating began….From a Western party in the Southern Suburbs, we progressed to a few pre-accepted lunches with my friends, to dinner dates, to eventually the inevitable sleep over. This is a strange place to be when you’ve been married to the same person and not quite sure how this dance works anymore. Sharing a bathroom becomes daunting, and little routines that you’ve had are shattered by a new presence. Dogs who have had no restrictions are suddenly en point and having to “stay in your beds.” Schnauzers can look particularly confused I’ve found.

To add more to this conundrum, I am a runner, and known to wake up pre-dawn to get my fix, come back, walk my dogs and for me that’s the perfect way to start my day. The reality of this has not gone down too well in romantic quarters especially for a man who doesn’t wake up before it’s light, has never run, and has been quite vociferous in what dogs mean to him.

So let me take you back to a Saturday morning many weeks ago.Winter came suddenly in Cape Town and fortunately I was well stocked with wood. Friday was a warm and romantic evening, fire blazing, beautiful wine and delicious food. I had declared that I was running in the morning and put my running stuff out in anticipation. At the sound of the alarm, I was up in a flash and stumbling around in the dark as I got ready, there was no movement from the dark shape in the bed, and I exited pleased as punch with myself with mission accomplished.

Well, run completed in an hour, I quietly unlocked the front door, to the sound of said Schnauzer barking, grabbed both the dogs leashes and thought the best thing to do to was go walking to once again avoid awakening the sleeping beauty. I remember looking at the carpet and thinking, ” How the hell did we make so much mess with the fire?” There seemed to be soot all over the place.

Forty minutes later after a lovely amble in the vineyards I strolled home, sure that if he woke now, it was more than reasonable.

As I unlocked the front door I was hit with my name being barked out. I climbed the stairs with a heavy heart. Seated in bed with arms crossed over his chest, eyebrows knotted and hooded, glowering, his words were, “We’ve got a f…………. problem here.” Oh my beating heart.

So let me switch and tell you his side now. He vaguely heard me get up and leave and turned over to settle back into deep sleep. The dogs were quiet and slumbering.

Suddenly he is awake, the Schnauzer is barking, reverse jumping and backing hysterically into the bedroom, gazing intently down the staircase. There is a banging noise and with heart pumping, he steels himself to see who is downstairs and what the commotion is. Towel draped around his waist he begins the cautious descent to the lounge. What a surprise awaited him, there is a little boy clad in gumboots, jeans and jacket banging my fireplace door open and shut.

“What are you doing?” he yells. The response from the wide blue-eyed child was a lot of senseless mumbling but the door banging continues.

“You must go home, you are not allowed here, where are your Mom and Dad?” More mumbling, so he rapidly finishes the descent, takes the little hand, leads the child to the patio door, pushes him out and closes and locks the patio door again.

Schnauzer continues to be extremely vocal and is still jumping and barking at the fireplace. Bewildered he leans down to look and opens the door properly. Gazing up at him, sad eyes, with an air of inevitability, is my Yorkshire Terrior, covered in soot. In one fluid movement, like a true firefighter, he takes her out, rescues her from her dismal fate and bashes her down of all the soot. Clouds of soot dust settles everywhere.

Not long after this whole debacle, he hears my car, hears a muffled bark and then silence.

I, of course had come home totally oblivious of the preceding antics, thought he was sleeping, grabbed the dogs and left again. He then has a further 40 minutes to stew over the goings on and get more and more irritated by the start of his day.

As I stand hearing this furious account, my belly gets this unmistakable twinge and I begin to giggle, tears form in the corner of my eyes and soon I’m hanging over and gulping for air, the guffaws just can’t stop and I’m reminded of a school poem called, “Mrs Reece Laughs” by Martin Armstrong. “It germinates, it spreads, dimple by dimple……clusters of subterranean chuckles rise”

Staring at me the hilarity of it dawns on him, and the rigid, furious lines dissolve into shared hilarity.