The summer of love
Yeah… this post is not about what the title suggests. I wanted to still add pictures, but as it is, with everything going on, it took me weeks to write, so pictures would take even longer. Maybe I’ll still get to that.
I started writing this piece 3 weeks ago. I was suffering with a fibromyalgia flare after months of relative comfort (I.e. pain levels were under control, predictable and not too severe). When it then hits you out of the blue, you have to work hard to control your mind most of all and manage it as best you can. With a bit of help I mind over mattered it and cut it short by 2 months at least! In any event, as I was going through that, I wanted to focus on happy things and look back on all the wonderful things I did in the past summer… and as I wrote a theme presented itself and that theme is love. This post is not about what the title might suggest to a mind conditioned by the media, not about a carefree summer of frivolity and debauchery. Rather it is about expressing love for myself, the people who matter to me and the world at large and thinking about that love and the manifestation of it I try and cultivate each day no matter what I am doing and to carry a lesson from that into the new year. So, this summer I…
…painted something tiny… Charl’s new (possibly momentary) hobby is miniatures for role playing games. Barely 3 cm tall, with incredible detail, we painted these models as though they were life-sized! The focus and intensity of that moment of zen, just takes you away from any concern.
…nearly knocked myself out… sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. I’ve been known to trip, fall, bump into things, but sometimes real life is even funnier than the movies. My coordination is a bit off at the best of times, and as I opened the gate on my way out one afternoon, I stood too close to it and as I swung it open with full force, I hit myself on the forehead. True story.
…made my work space beautiful… On my desk there is now a scented candle, grass-covered bunny, plant in a bell-shaped glass container, a ceramic fox pen holder and a coaster with an elk on. Need I say more?
…read an old classic and bought a book that thrills and inspires the writer and literature student in me… that I will freely admit I have been too afraid to read in the past month. I’m intimidated by ‘S’ by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst… what a thought :-) I want to give it my full attention and the full force of my scholar’s mind, and I’ve just been too busy, my attention too divided, but I really look forward to it when I get to it. I also reread The Hobbit – a distant memory from my high school years and probably one of my first real exposures to literature and books that moved the world.
…created something I’m really proud of… I’ve had the opportunity in the last half-year to venture into the realm of publishing. Teaching myself how to use industry-standard software, all the processes, etc. It’s been a tour de force and while the first one was a terrifying experience and a lot more work than it seemed worth (in terms of hours paid for) because of the very steep learning curve, I felt so proud when I held the finished product in my hand with a glowingly happy client that I really started enjoying it. The work came to me out of the blue, without any effort on my part, and seemed a direction from the heavens, guiding me to explore this new path. The 2nd and the 3rd one came to me just the same way, and it became easier each time. It came to me that there is a niche between the rudimentary self-publishing process and big publishing houses who are nearly impossible to reach or even get an answer from even for a talented writer with a good idea. So I created a venture called The Six of Us Boutique Publishing and the logo and the website are creations I am really proud of. See it here: www.wepublish.co.za
…escaped a room… for Charl’s birthday in December, I booked us to play HintHunt in Woodstock. With his sisters, brother-in-law and my brother, we worked together to escape a locked room, unravelling clues, hints and puzzles to solve a ‘crime’ in an hour. The biggest adrenalin rush I’ve felt in a very long time! It was an outstanding experience, each one contributing on some level, not getting anywhere the first half-hour, to eventually make it with just a few minutes to spare! Unbelievable exhilaration!
…saw exhilaration on the face of a loved one who hasn’t seemed truly joyful in a while… for Charl’s 40th birthday I went all out. I baked a cake shaped like a car (triumph!) and I bought him a track day in a Reynard racing car at Killarney Race Track. He always said he thought he might have missed his true calling and true to form, he excelled behind the wheel. The look on his face when he got out of that car will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter what deep waters we go through.
…walked on the beach alone… On the 21st of January I took my camera on a perfect evening after work and decided to go to the beach alone and as I watched the sun set and wrote the following: “Sitting at the beach, my feet in the sand, listening to the waves, I feel deeply comforted by a certainty that the world can be truly perfect depending entirely on your perspective. This is a perfect moment that no-one can rob me of, putting myself first for a change. This is my moment to shine, but I must therefore take the stand not to let anyone tarnish that. I am bigger than this body, this job, my abilities. I can be at one with God and nature. And sometimes pursuing that means making tough decisions and cutting ourselves off from people we would otherwise move the world for, because when you get caught up in their apathy, only ignorance, self-destruction and hurt lies down that path. I’m watching the tide come in and I feel utter peace, and joyful. This is the true magic of our ability to direct our thoughts and change our minds.”
…passed my Dog Behaviour exam with flying colours…. Yes, I’m a nerd, but even nerds get nervous when you write a proper exam for the first time in years. The volume of work and facts we had to learn was staggering and after my car broke down on my way to the exam in November, this was my one and only chance to pass (the rewrite for people who failed the first time). It was really difficult and while I was semi-confident that I would at least pass, I thought that the 75% ‘best practice’ was only a dream. Imagine my surprise when I got the news that I passed with distinction – 81%. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my whole life!
…discovered another reason why I am proud to be South African… Our nation has produced many wonderful musicians and bands. On the radio they’ve been playing a song by Shaun Jacobs, Love Can, which is catchy and inspiring. So I listened to some of his other tracks on SoundClound and then I bought the album on a whim. One of the best buys ever. The music from the first track to the last, truly expresses the emotions that have haunted me in this past summer. The spirit embodied in the title track, Love Can, perfectly sums up my approach this summer and how it’s changed. Well worth a listen. From Little Things You Don’t Say to When the Bells Ring and End of the Road, this album is the soundtrack of my summer. On the topic of music, there has been so much good music on my playlist this music that perfectly expresses my conflicting moods – So much happy music – ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams and ‘On top of the world’ by Imagine Dragons and ‘Brave’ by Josh Groban… more than that, the sorrowful songs, ‘Happy in my heartache’ also by Josh Groban and ‘Say something’ by Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera (which Charl played for me before we went out the one day as one of his new favourite songs. Unbidden tears were rolling, How is it possible that you can play me a song that so perfectly expresses how I feel out of the blue, and there not be a deep and abiding connection between us? I don’t know… human relationships have always confounded my understanding).
…was deeply moved by a TV show… Two episodes of two of my favourite shows moved me to tears, unexpectedly, this summer… no, it wasn’t a soppy Christmas episode about how fortunate we all are or an episode of Glee. Sherlock season 3 episode 2 – The Sign of Three and Bones season 9 episode 11 – A Life in Movement. I am not a prodigy or a genius in any quantifiable way, nor am I an outstanding mathematician that cannot relate to the world (although I can understand that when you glimpse the patterns of eternity and divinity and are enraptured by the desire to unravel them, it will take you away…), but I understand deeply caring for another person, be it the redeeming love of a wonderful friendship and relationship (such as is the Sherlock episode) or the beauty of a life shared and expressed in a glorious and deeply personal way (such as the life of a mathematician’s daughter expressed in mathematical formulas from birth to her premature death). Watch these episodes. It will give you a new appreciation for love – sometimes ridiculous, but capable of reaching perfect purity… truly an inspiration!
…mourned the passing of a hero and woke up to a world without Mandela – Wow, I love semantics! The English language is wonderful! Consider a moment the difference in mood between saying I watched the sun set on a world without Mandela, vs waking up to a world without Mandela? Words are truly magical. Our country isn’t perfect. There is much that our government and our people have not learnt from the injustices of the past. Much we still harbour that should have been wiped clean, but as I’ve written before, what we carry with us is a beautiful hope. And we’ve proven that the passing of an icon is a source of strength rather than a cause for chaos and discontent. I think, not to sound callous, but in death, he may have even more power than he had in life. And certainly he wasn’t perfect either, a man with flaws, perhaps somewhat idolised and the bad stuff and personal flaws glossed over, but when it comes down to it, his personal power and the truth of his noble spirit cannot be reduced.
…marvelled at nature… seeing the lions and tigers at Vredenheim, I was awed and inspired. The wonder of the creation is a constant reminder of how small we and our concerns are. At the same time, our ability to think, to create, to make art, is even a greater wonder and our higher faculties a source for joy.
…contemplated the power of love… The journey to perfect love towards everything, everyone and every circumstance is not an easy road. Our social condition and the world we live in wants to always focus on the negative, but to approach people and circumstances with love and understanding creates not only boundless peace and harmony in our environment, but also within ourselves. That sounds like ‘guru speak’, but I believe that it is possible to achieve it or at least to get close to it and every day it is a conscious decision. I think that sometimes my efforts have the opposite effect. When I try to show understanding or compassion or that I care more about some people than anyone has ever cared about them in their whole lives, they seem to fear that or fear me. I don’t think they think that’s because I have an agenda… anyone who knows me at all knows that I say what I think and I don’t care who knows it and manipulation is not something I ever set out to do (except on an intellectual level when I’m writing for my work, but even that is harmless and benefits people who cannot help themselves). It saddens me a bit, because I feel like Sherlock (in the very same episode described above)… like people admire me for what I am capable of, love my character (strange and sometimes unpredictable as it is) and find me a useful person to have around, but perhaps too intense, standing apart in the masses (but not a high-functioning sociopath like Sherlock!). It’s a perfect goal for an imperfect person in an imperfect world, but whenever I contemplate what love can achieve (not romantic love – that would be awesome to have in my life too, but I’m after a manifestation of something so much bigger!), I want to burst into tears. The song, “The Power of Love” performed by Gabrielle Aplin is a perfect expression of how it makes me feel to contemplate love… beautiful and poignant, because most days it doesn’t feel like an achievable goal, but no less worthy of pursuit.
For all this, it’s been a strange summer. When I started writing this piece, I felt very different than I do now. I felt conflicted. Wanted to withdraw from this world of empty meaninglessness around me. Feeling like an island, detached and adrift in a sea of madness. But without consciously trying, I found the balance within that pure-hearted despair*. Now I find the joy and romance in the simplest things, like taking the train to work. I feel at peace with my singularity, with the perfect moment, taking and enjoying each day for the unique challenges or routines it brings. Talk less and listen more and when there’s nothing worthwhile to listen to (people only complaining, always having something hurtful to say or gossiping behind others’ backs), I just tune it out and retreat inside… that’s how I am maintaining the balance and the joy and peacefulness for now, not letting anyone or anything steal it or invade my good spirit with their apathy or disinterest. I want more than that, and if you know me at all, there’s nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice in pursuit of change and growth… To quote a wonderful old song: “You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. Hopefully one day you will join us, and the world will be as one.”
So for this new year (even though it’s already February), this is what I wish for you… that you would think on eternity and let grandeur inspire you. Protect your being, your true heart. Contribute and serve with pure intentions. So that, in this way, you will find your path, your peace, your joy. Listen more than you talk. Think, contemplate and meditate even more than you listen. Be brave. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And never let the smallness of circumstances or people destroy the greatness you are capable of. May you not be dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the truly beautiful and uncomprehending in the face of the happy (thanks Sherlock) and may your life come to rest and your world be balanced while in perpetual motion.
*when your heart is sore for noble reasons, I think you can describe it as ‘pure-hearted despair’