Help Me #Move4Food

 

I ran my first 5km trail run today.

Ok fine.  I wanted to run my first 5k, but I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. So I ended up walking most of the way.

The only reason I signed up for the trail run in the first place was to prepare for the 10k that I’ve signed up for in September’s Cape Town Marathon. I needed something to challenge me to push past my fitness plateau. Although I’ve been working regularly with a personal trainer, my eating habits were sabotaging my results.

Admittedly, getting “in shape” is one of my lifetime battles.

As I study the value of whole person living (creating harmony in the areas of relationships, careers and finances) I am beginning to see how profoundly one aspect of life affects another.

I’ve lived as a victim for most of my life.

I didn’t choose that way of life. One could say that it was thrust onto me.

And I live in a country where we’d had deep trauma inflicted upon us by violence and hatred. (Not that we’re really that different from other countries – our social fractures are just closer to the surface.)

As a first generation professional (the first person in my immediate family to get a university qualification and enter into white collar work), the negativity, lack of resources, violence and fear I’d faced for years severely impeded  my success in life. I didn’t know how much until I participated in the Race of Life exercise. Twice.

The first time you do it, as the questions are asked, and you see the white people continually take steps forward, it makes you embarrassed. And then, it makes you sad. At the end, you are left holding anger that has no place to go.

And that’s how my country men live – walking around with invisible hand grenades, waiting to lay waste to the unfairness of inequality as if that is going to ensure restoration of a utopian state.

I’m tired of holding that hand grenade.

That feeling of “not enough and too much” has imploded too many times in my life, has left me voiceless and feeling powerless.

So now I want to move ahead, leaving the past behind and claiming my true personal power.

The truth is that the race of life involves so much MORE than race! The complexities of how success is defined, a person’s accountability for their lives, social capital (or the lack of it), the impending impact of the fourth industrial revolution, talent versus emotional intelligence… etc – there are too many factors contributing to how one navigates life. It is way more than the black and white divides that government agendas are forcing national thinking into.

All the political rhetoric is choking the hope of the current generation just trying to figure out what their future is going to look like.

Signing up for a 10km run was sparked by the passion I felt for others like me. The children of the disenfranchised who are trying to find their way in the forest of new freedoms.

Being the first in your family to get a university degree comes with a new frame of responsibility that no one has taught us how to navigate. Working within higher education over the past ten years, I have met resilient and phenomenal young people who are nothing short of heroes, based on everything they’ve overcome.

Their race is not over once they get their degree though. The hard-earned piece of paper is not a magic wand that transforms first generation white collar workers into confident professionals overnight.

The race goes on – there is more ground to gain from those already far ahead.

But what if we can help someone on one leg of their race?

Students on university campuses across the country are still struggling to have basic necessities like food and toiletries because most people are not aware of the funding shortfalls that still exist.

It’s not fair. But we can do something to help.

I can do something to help.

And so I’m going to #move4food so that I can help someone else run their race while I’m running mine.

Will you join me?

 

A Letter To The Fatherless

Father’s Day is not a joyous celebration for everyone. For many, it is a bittersweet, mostly painful reminder of what’s missing in their lives.

As people scroll through all the dad love on social media, there are many silent observers reflecting on what they wish they had. If Father’s Day causes you to feel numb, caused by years of disappointment and regret, then I wrote this letter for you. The effects of fatherlessness is scary (http://bit.ly/1D6Fi45 ) but it doesn’t have to wreck your life completely. (And it’s not just a local phenomenon: http://bit.ly/2rNadTc )

You don’t have to remain stuck in a place where you feel “less than” because you’ve never had a positive fatherly influence in your life. The parts of your heart that have become hardened needs to become soft again. It’s not serving you to pretend the void is not there, or that you’re “fine” because it’s been years and “you’re so over it”.

If nothing else, you need to acknowledge that your relationship (or lack of one) with your father has played a role in how you view authority figures, even in the workplace.

If you never received the nurture, care and acceptance you needed as a child, you will crave it as an adult. That’s just the way we’re wired. We’re wired for love. We’re wired for connection. Sometimes, when the internal wires gets crossed, or short circuited, we can’t function at our optimal level.

We will always be frustrated if we never fix the wiring.

 

 

Absent fathers

There is a pandemic of absent fathers in South Africa (http://bit.ly/2tEYqHM). If you’ve grown up in poverty and your father was never around to be a support, research shows that the odds are against you winning in life. This does not have to mean a death sentence. You can be one of the many exceptions and triumph over the adversity you have faced.

It does mean however that children who grew up with absent fathers have experienced the pain of abandonment. The silent (and imprisoning) message that you may have received is: “I am not valuable”, “I am not worthy of being protected or taken care of” or “I’m all alone”. Even if your dad was absent because of premature death, not choice, the reality of living without a father in the home has the potential to manifest the same psycho social effects of fatherlessness.

These subliminal messages led to inner beliefs and you may never make the connection that these long term feelings are linked to why you’re trying so hard to make your manager like you, or why you get so upset when you feel ignored by your boss. It is not their role to correct the historical context of your life’s circumstances. If you’ve identified that you might be dealing with the pain of abandonment, seeking help from a counsellor or mentor will help you heal and become whole in this area.

(If you’re a person of faith, you can lean on the truth of God being an ever-present help. He is a good Father who will never reject you or abandon you).

Let us not forget that fathers who have never been fathered don’t know how to father. Unforgiveness leads to bitterness that keeps you trapped in a cave of defeat. The only way you can move forward is to make peace with what was so that you can fully embrace the potential available to you in your present.

There are many good people in the world, who are willing to help and support others in need. Just because one person, who has pivotal to your growth and development, failed you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. You past may have shaped you but don’t allow it to define you.

Abusive fathers

Depending on the situation, having a father who is present in your life – but extremely abusive, could be worse than dealing with the consequences of an absent father. The long term effects of post traumatic disorder on someone who has grown up in a home rife with domestic violence has deep seated wounds that will only heal once that person is a safe environment and embarks on a journey of healing.

Trying to participate in “normal life” can feel impossible for those who have experienced the terror of watching their father (the man that is supposed to care and protect), threaten the lives of the people they love the most. Children from abusive homes live in a private hell – and are often unable to ask for the help they need because the fear of speaking up has becoming ingrained.

If you have experienced long term domestic violence in your childhood, unfortunately it will take longer for you to adjust to the workplace in healthy ways. You might find yourself prone to workaholism, as the office becomes a place where you can prove your worth. Yet we know that a life off balance can never produce healthy fruit and sooner or later, you will have to deal with the core issues.

You will also need to learn how to establish healthy boundaries, so that the abusive and manipulative parent no longer has a hold over you as an adult. Seek the help you need to learn how to speak up, how to work from a place of identity and not for identity. Also, remember to give yourself time. Sometimes it will feel like you are dealing with the same things over and over again – but as you mature and grow, you will need to overcome old demons in new areas. It doesn’t mean that you’re stuck again – it just means that you are moving up levels emotional and developing deeper maturity levels.

Children who’ve had abusive fathers live with a sense of obligation and duty, but not much affection and closeness. In many ways, you live with the shadow of the father you wish you had. If we are serious about not repeating the mistakes of our parents, then we have to learn to make different choices in life.

There is hope for you.

Even if you’re never been told that you’re worthless, that you’re nothing… that is NOT the truth about you. Seek a second or third (or 20th even) opinion about what your strengths are. The are others that see the positive aspects of your character that you’ve been trained to ignore because you’re not used to focusing on the negative. You can live a healthy, whole and free life – no matter what you’ve experienced in the past.

Present (but imperfect) fathers

No dad in this world is perfect. No human on this planet is perfect. So if you’ve been privileged to grow up with a dad who was not only present but trying to play a positive role in your life, chances are you’re much more well-balanced and stable in the workplace than your ‘fatherless’ colleagues. You are reaping benefits in your life that will take them a while to grow. If you have a great dad, then appreciate and cherish him. If you can, share him with someone you know could benefit from a fatherly figure in their own lives.

Using your father (absent, abusive or imperfect) as a scapegoat for the current state of your life is also not the answer. In order to fully own your life, you need to acknowledge the factors that have led to your current reality – and then own the ways in which you will move forward. I know that this is not an easy process (or a quick one). There are things that you may have blocked out for years and prefer not to deal with, hoping they will just stay locked away deep down in the hidden chambers of your heart.

The pesky thing about unresolved pain is that they tend to build into volcanic masses if suppressed for too long. So you are going to have to deal with them at some point – whether you like it or not. And how much better to deal with it on your own terms, instead of having to cope with the results of an unpredictable volcanic eruption that makes you want to quit your job or fall into deep despair at the myriad of ways you’ve succeeded in sabotaging your own life.

{Please leave a comment below – I would love to hear how you’ve overcome the challenges of your past… or how you’re dealing with them now.}

 

 

 

Special shoutout to the real dads loving in the real world

To all the men who have stepped into the role of fatherhood (biological or not): thank you.  Good men often have to fight the stigma that those who reject fatherhood have caused. Our families need you. They need your strength, your support, your love, your presence. Whenever I see an amazing dad who has his arms wrapped around his kid and is taking obvious joy from that encounter, it fills my heart with hope. An active and engaged father today builds secure and confident adults of the future. You’ve embraced fatherhood every day of the year, not just on the one day when the world decides to notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Just The #RedTieGuy

I can’t believe that I’m writing this today.
When I last wrote about Mikhail Hendricks, it was in the present tense. I’d just seen him at an event, where I placed him at the table with the Rector of the University he attended.
My most vivid memory of Mikhail is his intense energy as he approached you to greet you. It seemed like he reached towards you with his whole being. The smile that captured the attention of the world and made him famous with the RedTieGuy hastag, was definitely infectious.
Ironically, he didn’t want people to remember him that way. In our last FB chat, a week before he would run out of words, he said: “I am very eager to retire RedTieGuy… When people are exposed to that, they fail to see that there is more to me than that.”
Although his close friends and family obviously knew the real Mikhail, he will never get to show the rest of the world what “more to me than that” would have looked like.

Continue reading

Tribute to Simba Mhere

I only met Simba Mhere once.

That’s all it took for him to leave an indelible impression on me.

I didn’t ask for his autograph during our hour-or-so interview. I wanted to play it cool and not come across as an over-eager groupie. He’d just been selected as Top Billing presenter and was taking it all in. I voted for him during the competition and when he won, I thought “I wish I could interview him one day.”

And there I was, listening to his amazing story and sharing in the joy of his relief and disbelief. I remember how amused he was that the girls who’d ignored him in school were suddenly sending him Facebook messages.

His authenticity and character spoke volumes: he would be able to handle the sudden fame. Here was an ordinary guy, who dared to dream big. He related a story of the disappointment he experienced when he met an internationally renowned comedian he admired. The “star” was rude to him and that was the moment that he vowed that if he ever became famous, he would always make time for his fans.

I told him that I’d check up on him to make sure he was still being nice as the years went on. He wasn’t fazed. Simba’s humour, humility and honesty made him unforgettable.

When I saw the terrible headline that Sunday morning, I didn’t expect to be so deeply affected by his death. I realised why the country was in mourning. Simba – and others like him – represent the hope of our country.

Young people who are passionate, educated and excited about the impact they can make in the world. The deep sense of loss we all felt also reflects the deep sense of hope we still have in the future of our country.

After all, South Africa is it’s people.

Essentially, Simba’s passing served to solidify things in my heart that I’ve known for a long time:

1. We can’t just keep saying that life is too short: What’s the point of just shaking our heads in sadness when we hear of young people dying? How are we being intentional about the way we live our lives everyday? If we don’t lead our own lives, something or someone else will. And Simba made the choice to lead his own life.

2. We need to honour the living – for real: I’ve had enough of platitudes. I would like to have as little regrets as possible when my time comes. I started an #HonourTheLiving tribute on my Facebook page so the people who have impacted my life know how I feel about them and how much I appreciate them. We need to let our loved ones know that we love them.

3. When you come alive, you help others do the same: The passion and pleasure Simba expressed in the work he was involved in was inspiring. In the words he adopted from a Robin Banks seminar: “Life is a menu, order what you want.” He had the courage to do that. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have known him and grown to love him.

4. We get to determine the legacy we leave: Are we really doing the things that matter to us or are we spending time on selfies and temporary entertainment? We all have a role to play in building a better country – don’t rob the world of your positive contribution.

5. We need to live with an eternal perspective: It’s easy to put off the important things for a tomorrow that may never come. My husband and I took decisive steps to get our wills done (the lawyer was surprised to see such a young couple in his office). You’re never too young to save for retirement and you’re never too young to have a will. Resolve to leave a blessing when you die, not a burden.

Rest in peace Simba. Your memory lives on in the hearts of thousands of South Africans who will continue to love you.

Let’s honour the memory of Simba – and our own friends and family members who showed us the beauty of life – by celebrating each day as the gift it is and living our lives from a place of authenticity and truth.

When Heroes Fall

Everybody wants a hero.

Not too many volunteer to be one.

Let’s face it: a true hero is fictional. They come alive on 3D screens and dominate the focus of media coverage. But deep down, we all know the deal. Someone is about to fall.

It’s a familiar story… someone becomes an overnight success – whether in business, sport, entertainment, etc… and they have more than ten minutes of fame where the world worships at their feet.

Until the moment that the stilts of man-made pedestals come tumbling down. Until the man or woman that has been glorified for super human feats is now shamed for the very humanity that lives in the hearts of their accusers.

Its become like a bad movie where one can tell the beginning from the end. Yet we keep watching because we hope that this time – there will be a different ending. We all fall into the trap. We want to believe. We want to hope that there is infallible goodness in man. That if he/she can take on superhero status, then maybe I too can achieve the impossible.

One day. When I finally get off the couch. Watching other people live the lives I wish I did. Secretly coveting and the seeming inhuman courage and strength exhibited by someone as normal as ourselves.

We relish in their triumphs, we cheer them on in their winning – but turn our heads in shame when they lose. When they disappoint us, when they hurt themselves, when they fail at the impossible task of being superhuman.

You would think we would all learn the lesson. You would think that we would begin to say: “Hey, people – there’s something wrong with this picture. This stuff doesn’t work.” But we chose to suspend our disbelief and believe in the lie once again.

Because its easier to make someone else accountable for what’s our responsibility. Its easier to say it’s the government and blame the past and anything and everyone else than it is to say: “It is up to me. What can I do to stop the madness?”

Individuals are not meant to taken on the weight of human expectation. We can’t all abscond from our duties to the collective soul of humanity and expect people to stand on their own, enduring pressure from all sides to be ‘perfect’.

We are meant to be led by others and to lead others. We are meant to be middle men between reality and possibility, between mediocrity and excellence, between despair and hope.

We have messed up the scales of equality. We are not less equal or more equal to others. We are all on the same plane in the eyes of God. Human. Part of a family that needs all parts to be pulling in the same direction, headed towards the same goal.

We can all be heroes if we make no one a hero. And when one falls, we all stretch out our hands to lift him/her up.

This Is My Country Too


I write this letter to all who will listen to a South African woman who wishes to let her voice be heard amongst the dissenting clamour threatening the purity and promise of our hard won  freedom.

I wonder what people think about when they look at me. Perhaps they see just another ‘Indian’ and unconsciously wrap the string of stereotypes that come along with that descriptor around my neck.

Yet when I look in the mirror, I see ‘South African’.

I don’t know what the rest of the Indian population (yes the largest outside of India) in this country are thinking and feeling right at this minute. I can only speak for myself. And this speaking, this articulating, this daring to let my voice be heard, this rising up of courage… has been many years in the making.

I’m not sure whether it was something I gave up, something that was taken away from me or something I never took ownership in the first place.

Partly the reason for the self-censorship of my voice has been that I too have been a victim of the ‘old oppressive system.’ And no we can’t just ‘stop talking about apartheid’ because if we forget where we came from, then we will forget just where it is that we want this country to go to.

And yes I too want to see the national socio-political discourse shift towards a more progressive, action orientated agenda. But maybe we are stuck in a moment of national intransigence because all of its citizens are not leaning on the same side of the ship. Maybe all the voices haven’t been heard yet, so we don’t quite know how to take the next step of progress.

So now that I am finally letting my voice be heard, I am determined that it will not just be another angry shout that adds to the pervading negativity. Instead, I hope that my voice will be a heralding call to action to stop making war with our words and rather to be brave enough to open our lives to personify love in action.

Yes I know many will dismiss my voice as being naïve and overly optimistic, but it is a voice calling out to ‘true South Africans’ nonetheless.

A true South African?

Since this is the first time that I am articulating my South African voice, there is a probability that it will be lost in translation. I am trying to make you understand that maybe, just maybe, we need to reform our understanding of what it means to be South African.

No one has ever bothered to ask me what it feels like to be a South African. I may not be able to give you a succinct definition, but I can tell you how being a South African makes me feel.

I may not have been one of those who took to the streets to protest unjust laws. Neither am I tormented with memories of loved ones who placed their lives on the line for my political freedom.

But when I visit the apartheid museum, I don’t have to be black to feel the anger of righteous indignation. I don’t have to be black to read Solomon Mahlangu’s last words and feel the indelible weight of responsibility fall on my shoulders.

I don’t have to be white to feel the confusion, false guilt and loss of place that dominates everyday conversations. I don’t have to be brown to feel frustrated at the defeatist attitude prevailing in aforementioned minority groups.

In fact, I don’t have to be a colour at all.

My identity as a true South African is not tied to my colour – it is tied to my character.

My fellow South Africans are people, and stripped away of all the political codes, they are individuals who are just like me, trying to find a way to find their place in this country, trying to find a way to move past all of the pain and injustice, all of the burdens and the pressures of what we are facing.

A true South African dares to hope, dares to dream, and it is not problems that are tied to our country but if we can find a way to learn to see each other as South Africans in the core of our identities… then maybe, as we make an attempt to chart a different course, we will be able to teach the countries of the world, about reconciliation that comes from forming real and true relationship.

A true South African is a mosaic of beauty, culture, love, integrity, freedom, hope and joy.

And I wouldn’t want to change that for the world.

This is my country too.