Welcome to the Western Cape- Please mind the gap

I’ve always harboured the belief that I could live in the Western Cape or in Cape Town, the mother city of South Africa. That aching beautiful coastline where white sandy beaches meet tortoise water. The wine farms, lush and green with abundance. That three hours out of Cape Town in almost any direction is a weekend away. Man, I knew that I could live there and more so I wanted to live there. That was of course, until I did live there for four months this year. It wasn’t that the Western Cape wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t that mother nature didn’t show off often and, in a jaw-dropping fashion. It was beautiful and that was part of the problem. It was challenging to see such beauty and think that it existed for a few, for a wealthy few. Nowhere else in our country has the divide seemed so stark and sickening. I would drive out of the estate I was put up in, the very same estate with private vineyards and stables, and not even a few hundred meters away was an informal settlement. Absolute wealth ran parallel to abject poverty. No sunset, no weekend away, no wine club “member only” benefits could take the taste of discomfort out of my mouth.  It’s one thing to read about the fact that we are the most unequal country in the world, it’s a totally different thing to see that gap manifest. How could I justify a world where the wealthy hide behind a walled, protected estate and the poor build homes of tin with no access to running water and electricity down the road? How could I justify living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, that is actually a place of misery and suffering for a vast majority?

I’d like to pretend that the idea for this blog sprung from some lofty, moral high ground. It didn’t. This post started because of a chocolate, a missing Lunch Bar to be precise. Part of me was trying to settle into being away from home, part of me was trying to find my feet on a new project and all of me felt like I was failing. So, in other words, it was another day at the office. On this particular day I knew that, despite my feeble attempts, I would succumb to the hollow and empty promises that comfort eating would provide. What I didn’t count on was not finding my “emergency” stash when I opened my kitchen cupboard (read hanging onto the cupboard door using my body weight to open it in a manner that was both lazy and satisfying). Upon closer inspection, I found that not only was my chocolate gone, but so too were some of the “just in case” biscuits I had bought earlier in the week. In the weeks that followed, other items, mainly food would go missing. I’m ashamed to admit it, but my initial reaction was one of anger. I guess it was easier to be angry at the person who had taken what belonged to me than it was to first look at myself, and to think about those tin houses walking distance from the estate. Whoever was sneaking away my junk food was actually doing me a favour but all I could focus on was the invasion of privacy I felt. All I could think about was that someone had stolen from me, someone had taken what belonged to me. Someone had gone through my things and had taken what they wanted, with no consideration of repercussions or of the fact that I was fundamentally a “good” person. I was in such a vile mood that honestly, in that moment, to consider the thief’s point of view would have been saintly. To think that someone had taken from me nothing that I needed, that someone who came to clean my apartment probably saw a reminder of life she could not afford didn’t even cross my mind.

It was only driving to work the next day, when I tugged my jacket a bit tighter to fend off the brutal winter wind that I thought about everything I had. I didn’t own the apartment I was living in, but it was paid for by work. I had warmth, I had more food than I could eat, and by many means, I lived a privileged life. When I went running in the afternoons in the estate, I would see Ferraris or people out on their horses, sure they almost always seemed offended to find a brown person in their midst but that’s a story for another blog. All around me there was excess, all around me was wealth and at a level I have never experienced before. And all around me that wealth had a face, it was white. Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither justifying theft nor am I saying that my junk food thief lived in an informal settlement or in abject poverty. But I do wonder what it must have felt like to be her. To show up at my apartment for a meagre wage, find my cupboards stocked with excess and to go home to whatever she had, all the while thinking of everything she didn’t. And to think that I never thought of her empty belly, I never thought of the fact that she might want to eat something when she came to clean my apartment. I had more than I needed and I never thought to share. I know that that scenario is no less valid in Johannesburg, where many of our domestic workers go home to small spaces, barely able to make ends meet, thinking about their children who are often sent away because their parents can’t afford to provide for them. It’s no less painful to think about, but somehow the contrast in the Western Cape was too jarring, too sharp. Somehow those high, guarded walls, the horses, the vineyards are all too much. And maybe it’s because the hands that tended the gardens, cleaned the homes and raised children were black. Maybe it’s because the wealth I was seeing was built off black labour with very little reward in return.

In the area that I lived in, it would be easy to think that the apartheid still existed and that I miraculously passed the pencil test and got in. Harsh, I know, but I don’t really have another way to describe it. Somehow, I had managed to sneak in, but I was never at home, I was always an imposter and I was constantly surrounded by talk of how our country was going to ruin. I’d listen to white women talking about how “things had changed” in the area they grew up in, and when I’d probe, they would look around trying to find a black face in the crowd and say, “you know”. I’d do a Sunday timed run in the estate and find that the only colour in that group would be that of my skin. It made me uneasy. It made me uneasy to see the clear divide between wealth and the help along racial lines. It made me uneasy to hear people talking at a wine farm about the house they’d just bought in Franschhoek and then hear of how there are no opportunities for white people in our country. I longed for the rainbow nation we were meant to be and all I got was angry. I was angry at the smugness of the wealthy, at the overt arrogance in their existence and I was angry to be a part of it. So, as much as I love the Western Cape, it’s really not for me. I cannot bear the beauty side by side with the ugliness of the divide. Nope, I do not think I could live there, my heart would not handle it.

Women in the workplace: Two reasons why we won’t let each other win

When I was a young girl my mother told me of how she earned less money than my father did when they both started working as teachers. I remember hearing the story and thinking that the world in the late seventies/early eighties was not only ridiculous, but also backward. It made no sense to me. My parents were the same age, got the same education and went into the same profession. The one fundamental difference between them was something they had no choice or control over, their gender. I found it hard to believe that humans could be that stupid. I admit that the idea of different pay scales based on gender as well as race fascinated and appalled me in equal measure, but I absorbed the story with a certain smugness. I was smug because I knew that the world would be a far different place once I started working. I knew that we would not make the same mistakes our parents did. Now all these years later, I’ve come to realise that our biases are far stickier than we would like to admit and that although we’ve come a long way since cavemen dragged women around by their hair, we’ve still got an awful lot more to learn and change in the name of progress. I don’t have the answers as to why women are still inadequately represented top of the corporate ladder or why patriarchy and toxic masculinity find such prevalence in our daily lives. What I do have is a few thoughts on why we, as women, don’t let each other win.

I have a two-part theory about why women struggle to, as Melinda Gates urged us to, “share power”. It’s not novel and by no means entirely my own, but it is something that we need to start thinking about. Someone said to me that women don’t need to learn about how to empower other women, that we do it already. And while that thought alone fills me with hope, I know it’s not entirely true. Just because we’ve felt the strong hand of patriarchy pushing us down every time we try to rise, just because we face the daily burden of unpaid work stifling our growth, just because we’re afraid of what it means to be a woman in this country, does not necessarily bind us to a common goal of supporting and uplifting each other. I don’t have an exhaustive list for why it is that we don’t support each other, nor do I have a theory that will apply to every woman but what I do have is thoughts around what I’ve experienced. The first part of my theory is based on scarcity and the second on sacrifice.

It’s easy to buy into the concept of scarcity if being who you are invalidates your access to the opportunities that are meant to help you.

The scarcity concept makes us believe that there a limited amount of opportunities and that when someone, a woman, rises to take one, she’s taken something away from us. It’s odd though, because sometimes we aren’t even interested in that specific opportunity, all we know is that now it’s no longer available to us. Part jealousy, part competition, we believe in the idea of win-lose, that another woman’s success means the loss of an opportunity for someone else. I link this to the dark side of competition, to the thought that there exists two teams in the world, the winners and the losers. When you think about it this way, any win that isn’t your own puts you squarely in the loser camp. Doing something “first” is also important here, you’re not winning unless you were the first to do something. Your friend starts a blog and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to it, is your initial reaction to support her? Or did she steal the one last spot available to bloggers all over the world? A coworker gets a promotion, she’s your age or younger but progressing quicker up the corporate ladder than you did. Are you wishing her well while secretly harbouring thoughts that seek to lessen the comparison between yourself and her? I get it, I do. For so many reasons, but also because I’ve felt that way. And to a degree, who can blame us for thinking this way? We’ve seen men win at the expense of women for centuries, at the very heart of patriarchy is win-lose thinking. And sure, we’ve created more opportunities for women to succeed but in order to be considered for those opportunities, you need to the “right” sort of woman. You know what I mean, the woman who speaks her mind, but is never loud or assertive. The one who disagrees, but never strongly. The woman who is committed to her family but whose children aren’t sick too often. Go ahead, be who you are, we tell women, as long as your hair’s not too untidy, you’re not too loud, you don’t sleep around and, of course, you know your place and don’t rock the boat too much. Is it any wonder why we believe that opportunities for success, or getting to the top of the corporate ladder are scarce? Perhaps we all understand that there are opportunities but that getting hold of one requires the sort of backflips and jumping through hoops that is both offensive and inauthentic. How about we start talking about opportunities and a lack thereof, when women are rewarded for who they are, instead of who others expect us to be? It’s easy to buy into the concept of scarcity if being who you are invalidates your access to the opportunities that are meant to help you.

We become the very ones we hated, we fought against. We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that success comes with sacrifice, we need that pound of flesh because it’s what we gave up.

The sacrifice concept is based on the principle that women must often fight their way to success, that women often have to work much harder than men do just to be considered for the same opportunities. Our burden of proof is much larger and naturally, so are our sacrifices. That we fought, clawed and pushed our way into typically male dominated environments, that we sacrificed so much to do it, is sometimes a difficult thought to let go off. We want to hold onto it because it shows our strength, our perseverance and our sheer will beyond our capabilities, because we know capability alone is not enough when you’re a woman. We tell ourselves that we were more, we did more, that’s how we rose. The struggle we faced, did more than validate us, it defined us and our views on success. So, when someone comes along whose progress along a similar path seems easier, it’s hard for us to think of all we’ve sacrificed and make room for this younger woman who probably won’t face the struggles we have. Instead of shaping a journey that is fundamentally different from the one had to embark on, we shape something very similar. We become the very ones we hated, we fought against. We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that success comes with sacrifice, we need that pound of flesh because it’s what we gave up. We do it because we’ve learnt that success is painful, that it wouldn’t be right unless it was. We do it because we believe other women, need to “earn their stripes” in much the same way that the men who held the power expected from us.

I write this for women whose futures will be shaped by all sorts of men and women, in the hope that we are brave enough to claim our power or to ask for a share of it, knowing full well that it might be more than others think we deserve.

Like I’ve written earlier, I certainly can’t speak on behalf of all women worldwide, I probably know, in equal measures, women who both fit and disprove the descriptions above. I write this for the women who challenge the concept of scarcity, who go forth and shape opportunities, who challenge the notion that opportunities are only available to those who tow the line. I write this for both the women who will understand that their struggles have prepared them to make the path easier for those that follow and for the women who use their struggles as some sort of a measuring stick to gauge success. I write this for women whose futures will be shaped by all sorts of men and women, in the hope that we are brave enough to claim our power or to ask for a share of it, knowing full well that it might be more than others think we deserve.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any entity or organisation.

Everyday Racism: The “Good Guy” aka the benevolent racist

Let’s preface this blog with a disclaimer; I love creating villains. To create a villain is to bask in the ideology that I am right and that I have been wronged. It truly is a beautiful space where absolutely no thinking occurs, and I can spend the currency of my intellect picking dirt from under my nails. Wonderful, right? So, it’s natural that it was these villains that I was drawn to when I first started thinking and writing about race. It was the guy in the two-tone shirt flying the old South African flag in his backyard. It was friend who used the “K” word. It was the woman who could voice her hate in hushed tones to me because even though I wasn’t white, I wasn’t black either. I am drawn to these overt racists for a reason; they’re easy to spot and they’re still arrogant and ignorant enough to not think about what is socially acceptable before they speak. They are the ones we love to hate because there is nothing to debate, the burden of proof falls away and we can look at them with disgust and horror from our vantage point of superiority. These are a special bread of human, no doubt. And that we take notice of them is great, we should. They should inspire anger and conversation. But I wonder about the rest of us, the everyday racists, the ones who navigate social settings carefully, the ones who know just what to say and to who. Never the villains nor the heroes, these are the everyday racists. And they’re us, all of us. They’re harder to spot because they’re good people, they are mothers, they are friends, they are you and me. Not ready to believe me yet? Let me introduce you to one character you may recognise, the “good” guy aka the benevolent racist.

What if a racist could also be a good mother, a caring friend, a charitable person?

I’ve met him. I’ve been horrified by some of the things he has said. I’ve laughed at his jokes. He’s sat across the dinner table from me. I’ve been impressed by the compassion he showed his gardener and his domestic worker. I’ve thought he was a good guy. I’ve thought he was a bad guy. I’m beginning to believe he is both. Here’s the issue we have with the “good” guy, he actually seems to be one and we like him. So, he can’t possibly be racist, right? Racists are terrible humans, they are always the villains of the story, they believe that pigmentation should serve to create masters and slaves. They are ugly, mean spirited people. But what if that wasn’t all that they were? What if that was the truth, but only a part of the truth? What if a racist could also be a good mother, a caring friend, a charitable person? What if that person you saw giving money to the beggar on the street was racist? What if the person standing next to you volunteering at the soup kitchen was racist? What if people you loved dearly, people in your family, were racist? What if you looked at yourself, examined your thoughts and actions and found bias because of race? Would you no longer be a “good” person? Would everyone stop being good people? Tough questions, I know, but it’s questions we must ask.

It’s easy to hide bias behind good intentions

I raise the point of the benevolent racist because it’s easy to hide bias behind good intentions and quite frankly, I’m frustrated by it. I’m frustrated because every time a benevolent racist is given benefit of the doubt, it is a missed opportunity to course correct. I’m frustrated that we’ve protected these benevolent racists in our social circles, in our families and at work. I’m also frustrated by people who tell me how “good” they are, or who try to prove that they “don’t see colour” when I call them out on their bias. It’s great that you’re putting your domestic worker’s kids through school, it really is, but sorry buddy, that does not automatically cure you of racism. I think it’s wonderful that you have a black friend, less wonderful when you use said friendship as some sort of a “get out of jail free card”, though. Let me clarify, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person, you’re probably not, but I am saying that you’re ignorant or worst still, you’re arrogant enough not to know you’re ignorant. But I guess what I am most frustrated about is the well-meaning racist, the good guy who can’t keep the condescension out of his voice, the guy who tells you that if people weren’t so lazy, they’d be able to make something of themselves. It’s also the same guy who believes he made it out of “poverty” by sheer will and determination alone. It’s easy to pick this guy out. He’s often the one giving well-meaning advice, oblivious to the anger or blank stares he’s getting in return. It’s that guy that really gets me angry. Maybe I just don’t like being told what to do, maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that a benevolent racist always believes he’s entitled to weigh in on a conversation that he probably understands very little about. Maybe I’m just an angry brown woman and I should learn to listen when men talk to me lest I decide to form my own opinions. Apologies for making this a male thing, be sure the “good” guy was meant to refer to both men and women alike, I guess my recent interactions with white men talking to me about race and feminism has skewed my writing a bit (read flared my temper).

If someone thinks your actions or words have something to do with race, it probably does, be sure that it’s not your job to convince them that they’re delusional

As I write this I wonder if there is a cure. Is there a cure for the “good” guy or the benevolent racist? I suppose to start thinking about a cure, one first needs to start by acknowledging the problem and I guess we all have a part to play in this cure. For me the message is clear, whether you think of yourself as “good” or not, whether you have good intentions or otherwise, outcomes and consequences matter. They matter far more than what we think of ourselves or what we wanted to achieve. So, I present to you this idea that is as startling in its simplicity as it is difficult to do, when faced with a situation where you see bias, confront it. When faced with a situation when someone calls you out on your bias, listen. When I say confront it, decide for yourself what that means, even if it is an acknowledgement to yourself about your own discomfort, it’s better than ignoring it. When I say listen, I mean, don’t defend yourself, ask the person talking to say more, maybe take some time to think about your actions. If someone thinks your actions or words have something to do with race, it probably does, be sure that it’s not your job to convince them that they’re delusional. If someone says something that makes you feel guilty about your privilege that’s on you, not them. You do not get a get out of jail free card no matter who you are or what wonderful things you’re doing with your life.

I don’t believe that we are either good or bad. We are entire beings who sometimes do good things and who sometimes don’t. We are more than the sum of those actions. But, for goodness sake, if you must insist on being the “good” guy or protecting one, then at least change your definition of what that means. A real good guy is one who is able to acknowledge his or her own bias. A real good guy knows that he will mis-step. A real good guy knows that she will get it wrong sometimes and who isn’t afraid of holding up the mirror to herself. Most importantly, a real good guy isn’t willing to hide behind being the “good” guy, he knows that won’t get us anywhere.

Borneo: I was a different woman two leech bites ago

For Louise, because I owe you a story…

Forget the lushness of the forest; the shades of green so recklessly plentiful. Forget the determination of people in Borneo; houses build to defy the ocean currents and the steep rock faces. Forget all of it, I want to write about leeches.

Having spent so much time avoiding them, thinking about them and over-reacting to them, it is only natural that the first thing I want to write about my Borneo experience, is the leeches. Forget the lushness of the forest; the shades of green so recklessly plentiful. Forget the determination of people in Borneo; houses build to defy the ocean currents and the steep rock faces. Forget all of it, I want to write about leeches. I spent so much time with the leeches, I feel like we got to know each other as a species. The idea of being “blood enemies” comes to mind when I think about our relationship; the leeches wanted my blood and I was rather fond of keeping said blood flowing through my veins (selfish, I know) but I must admit that I did come admire the perseverance of the leeches. Of course, this is the sort of admiration that can only be shaped by distance. Place an ocean or two between me and the leeches and I’m all “Oh what marvellously resilient creatures” (I hope you heard my British accent and noticed that that version of me was sipping a cup of tea). Place a leech close enough for me to see it do that weird flip/jump manoeuvre and its full-blown ghetto version of me, pulling out a shotgun/flip flop/frying pan to protect myself from a creature not even half the length of my baby finger.

Preparing for Borneo, whenever anyone would ask me about whether I was ready for the trip, I would launch into a bravado filled discussion about leeches, hoping that if I pretended to be brave, I might actually start believing I was. I was beyond daunted by the idea that I would encounter leeches during our jungle trek but after the panic subsided (and I realised that the booking fee for the jungle trek was non-refundable), I deluded myself into thinking that it would be okay. How bad could it be? I’ve more than handled my own with cockroaches (flying ones included) and apart from fish moths, bugs don’t freak me out. I would be okay, I’m a calm, rational human and no leech would change that. Right?

I’m a calm, rational human and no leech would change that. Right?

I guess that’s who I was before a leech bite, I was a different woman two leech bites ago. All exaggeration aside, something shifts in you the moment you see a creature feeding on you the way a leech does. Nothing in my life prepared me for the sight of a leech attached to my forearm, merrily having an early dinner while I was none the wiser. Nothing prepared me for this sight, bearing in mind that this was my second leech bite, having discovered the first leech on me moments before. Perhaps some context is important here. It was the first day of our jungle trek, Husband and I had just arrived at Nepenthes Camp, the first rest camp on our journey, and I was eager to get my backpack off my shoulders and rest for the day. My feet and shoulders were sore, and I was tired. I had the nervous sort of energy that comes with fatigue and uncertainty but far worse than any of that, I was smug. You see. I had made it to camp, leech free (or so I had thought). Not that this was a competition, or that I would ever get joy from Husband’s suffering, but he had two leech encounters during the trek, and he had reacted with the sort of foul mouthed, panic ridden flailing arms that is nothing short of amusing to watch. I, on the other hand, was the epitome of calm. I soothed Husband, kept my laughter in check and told Husband that it was okay, it was not a big deal. Of course, I could see that those tiny creatures were harmless, poor Husband, he just didn’t have the composure I did. I’d watch our guide gently ease a leech of his hand every now and again and place the creature safely onto a leaf and I was certain that I would react in much the same way in the unlikely event that a leech did find its way onto me. You see I was smug (read delusional) on two levels; the first was because I hadn’t even so much as found a leech on my person and the second was because Husband was totally freaking out allowing me to believe in my dominion over all things, including him.

A fat leech having fed off our guide's foot
A well fed leech having hitched a ride (with a free meal) while attached to our guide’s foot

So there I was, at Nepenthes, staring at the rain and the imposing forest before me, sort of soaking it in that we’d made it to the first camp and that I was this self-aware human who had made peace with the jungle and the wilderness when I felt a sting just above the waistband of my pants. It’s the sort of sting breaks one’s ego. It’s the sort of sting that makes you question your sanity. The events that followed happened in slow motion so you must forgive me for replaying the exact sequence here, it is important only in the sense that this would be the same reaction I had every time I found a leech on me including the next leech I would find moments after this one. It’s probably even more important that I make mention that borne from that very first leech bite, was a new character we’ve never met before; Denira- Queen of the Leeches (Queen not so much because she reigns over them, but more so because of their affinity towards her).

First there’s some self-talk lead by Composed Denira, “Deep breaths, you’ve got this” then an attempt, with the world’s worst hand eye co-ordination, to flick the leech off her body. Unsurprisingly ineffective. A deep inhalation and more self-talk, a less confident “Calm down” is offered. Composed Denira’s on shaking ground, she’s starting to doubt herself, she fights for control of the situation fearing her actions have only angered the leech. She issues another” CALM DOWN” to herself, this time in an altogether uncalm fashion before she’s able to reach for the leech and miraculously remove it from her body. Exhale victory. Exhale peace. The leech does some sort of back flip thing and sticks to her finger. Short sharp inhalations. Denira, Queen of the Leeches taps Composed Denira on the shoulder, she’s relatively meek at the onset, “What do you think you’re doing, this thing is going to eat us alive!”. Composed Denira shrugs her off, “It’s okay, it’s fine…I just need to stay calm. Look, it’s just a tiny creature…waving around…being…oh shit, it’s stuck! THIS THING IS STUCK TO ME!!” Just like that we unveil Denira, Queen of Leeches in all of her blind panic and sanity defeating glory,  “THIS THING IS GOING TO KILL ME, GET IT OFF. GET IT OFF”.  Someone’s screaming, no one knows who, all versions of Denira have shut their eyes. There’s more screaming and the violent shaking of hands as if the idea of dislodging a hand holds more promise than allowing a leech to settle on it.

By the time I’ve opened my eyes I’ve drawn an audience that includes Husband, the guide and ranger but thankfully not the leech. Embarrassed but glad to be alive I offer a frightened smile and say I didn’t expect myself to react that way. “I’m okay now, it’s okay”, I say more for my benefit than anyone else’s. Each time post that, I’m foolish enough to believe that my reaction to the leeches would be different, each time I discover myself to be a liar. I later turn my hand sanitizer into a leech stunning weapon and cover almost every part of my body but I never quite rid myself of The Queen of the Leeches title.

…each time I discover myself to be a liar

Here’s the truth about leeches, you simply cannot avoid them. Want another truth? They’re impossibly creepy, creepier than that old uncle in your family who drinks too much, or that sleazy guy at work with the moustache. In fact, a whole new word should be invented to describe their inherent creepiness. Worse still, that creepiness goes up exponentially the moment one lands on you. I think leeches are pre-programmed at some sort of leech finishing school to start behaving weirdly the moment the come into contact with humans. They start doing this terrible dance sort of jump thing that I’m sure is a form of hypnosis aimed making you lose your mind. I’m not sure whether I should be proud, scared or freaked out that I can not only identify two species of leeches by sight, but also by their bite. That you can’t feel the one type of leech bite is nightmare inducing stuff, at the least the Tiger Leeches have the decency to say hello with a sting before tucking into your blood. I will admit though, that at times of sheer exhaustion, when Denira, Queen of the Leeches could not be summoned, I had one or two clam leech encounters. I even saw a Tiger Leech land on my pants, and I admired its pretty colours and stripes before the ranger removed it lest I invoke Denira, Queen of the Leeches, and scare away the jungle creatures. Whether I had incorrectly identified the colours on said leech due to close contact with an hallucinogenic plant or if I had truly lost control of my senses is still to be determined but I’ll take the wins where I can. There’s no denying or fighting the notion that leeches are creepy, it would be easier to stop breathing. In the battle of man versus leeches, leeches win, every time. Am I ready for another jungle adventure? Probably. Am I ready to fend off ten million leeches to do it? Not a chance. Let’s leave Denira, Queen of the Leeches, where she belongs, deep in the middle of a Bornean rainforest.

Sutherland: Searching For The Stars

Nostalgia clouds and softens a memory of the first time I heard of Sutherland, a sleepy town too tiny to be called small. Of course, the man doing the telling was in himself an enigma, a learned man who had spent decades of his life looking towards the heavens. He worked in relative isolation and seemed to speak a language only he understood, but when he spoke of Sutherland I listened, marvelling at the unbridled enthusiasm in his voice. When he spoke of The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), two things became abundantly clear to me, astronomers are literal people (how else would you name the largest telescope in the Southern hemisphere?) and that I had to see this telescope for myself. I cannot adequately explain the pull or how South Africa housing this telescope inspired me, I just knew that one day I would make the journey. Many years later, Sutherland, my first taste of the Northern Cape would charm me with it’s startlingly clear yet biting cold days and unpretentious solitude. When I stood before SALT, the sun benevolent in a cloudless sky, I had to stop for a moment. It felt like magic. It felt like possibility.

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The Northern Cape!

Now, I’m not overly fond of the cold, I love the romance of a fire and a glass of red as much as the next person but when the car you’re driving beeps in indignation and indicates that the outside temperature is 4 degrees Celsius at the warmest part of the day, I tend to question my life choices. Yes, I did once meet a Canadian who faced an Arctic Winter with nothing but a smile, a bathrobe and flipflops, but my constitution is one that developed over warm winters during which my hometown would host an international surfing competition, so I’m slightly less equipped. Make no mistake, Sutherland is cold, so cold that I’ve managed to manufacture a “fact” about it being the coldest place in our country.  I could feel the weight of that “truth” in my bones, so I have no desire to modify it with what could constitute a fact. If you have any ideas about correcting me, you best leave those intentions well enough alone, thank you. Misery and melodrama aside, there is something beautiful about the cold. There is a brutal honesty about it, one that brings with it a startling clarity, an exaggeration of the brilliance within the barren landscape that surrounds you. A tree that grows on the Martian like landscape is not just a tree, it is a brave and noble seed that sprung from hostile beginnings to flourish in world that did not want or appreciate it. You cannot help but be inspired by it’s presence and as it stands alone, you stop for a moment to give thanks to it’s tenacity. You must marvel at it’s grandeur, it is all the more impressive in it’s isolation. Bright, clear days give way to a darkness that is absolute but not heavy, and night skies so adept at capturing an imagination that they seemed to be created for that sole purpose. Sutherland invites exploration, you look up towards the heavens, feel the crispness of a winter night and are driven to see more. You tug at your jacket to keep warm, but the night sky ignites something in you. All at once you are completely insignificant yet an incredible part of something much larger. And there is nothing you can do apart from grabbing hold of someone’s hand and marvel, revel in fact, at your insignificance.

 

I didn’t really expect much in terms of tourism at Sutherland (and even what little I did expect I was wrong about in any case). Besides, I had already convinced myself that I was taking the three and a half hour drive just to see the telescope. What I didn’t count on was having to fight off Swine Flu while visiting Sutherland in the middle of their coldest month of the year. We arrived at the SALT visitors centre in time for both the first tour and for me to feel incredibly sorry for myself. Not even my teddy bear/mutant cat named Guinea Bissau could bring cheer to my feverish mind (more on Guinea in another blog, I’m convinced he wants to take over the world but isn’t smart enough to do so). There was a point at which I felt like the cold was a personal affront to me, it mocked the frivolity of my layers and I took it rather personally that the weather could be so inconsiderate towards my suffering. I lasted a good ten minutes inside SALT before trying to curl myself into a ball and praying for death. After my imploring looks at Husband had failed and once our tour guide told us that the temperature inside the telescope was set to mimic the night temperature, I almost ran towards the warmth of the four degrees outside. Okay, I’m being dishonest here, there was no “almost”, I ran out of the telescope, emerging like a drowning woman gasping for air while (rather counter-intuitively) trying to wrap my hat around my face in the process (I know Swine Flu is incredibly glamourous, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).

The tour cut short, we headed off to our bed and breakfast where I would find the bed, crawl into it with my boots still on and emerge a good six hours later. Strange is definitely a word I would use to describe this bed and breakfast, not just strange because there was a small dining table in the bathroom (where else would you put a dinning table?) but strange because it could have easily been the setting for a low budget horror movie and the darkness abound did nothing to quell my fears of vampires waiting to capitalise on this little (dark) town in the middle of nowhere. I guess this is the thing about Sutherland though, it is a small town and it can’t be bothered to convince you otherwise. You can find everything you need (as long as you don’t need a pharmacy or the trappings of a modern life) on one road quite simply because there is only one road in Sutherland. I love that the “Mall” consists of one shop and that the most popular restaurant is actually in a house that was converted to a B&B. Even better, said B&B is run by a woman who greets you as though you’ve just interrupted the most important thing she’s ever had to do AND you’ve tracked mud all over her favorite rug. The place is called The Blue Moon and I’m convinced the name reflects the frequency of the owner’s smiles or ability to be pleasant. We spent the better part of an hour there, I’m convinced that most of our time was spent standing in the hallway in that awkward moment between us greeting The Lady of Perpetual Sorrow and her showing us to our seats. Maybe it was because we had left The Blue Moon without a meal that we were able to hold out for the two and half hour wait at the next restaurant we went to. Just to be clear, it was a two and half hour wait from order to meal and by the time our meals are served, the owner looked exhausted and we felt like inconsiderate fools for still being there.

Small town, strange accommodation and shocking service aside, Sutherland has some sort of magic to it. I felt something akin to regret driving out of town. I wanted to stay longer. I wanted to spend a night under the stars. I wanted to brace myself against a Northern Cape winter and look up to the heavens in awe. And that feeling makes me believe that I’m not quite done with Sutherland yet, it makes me trust in another road trip towards the solace, the stars and the strangeness of Sutherland.

(Un)Happy Womens Day?

In South Africa, we celebrated Women’s Day yesterday, we sent each other messages about the strength of women, we wished other women a happy women’s day, we decorated our messages with flowers. But what did it all mean? Did we stop to have conversations about how gender bias still exists in our homes, in our thoughts and actions? Did we stop to talk about what it truly means to be female in our country and in the world we live in? I’m not sure. Part of me feels like we’ve cheapened Women’s Day somehow, like we’ve missed the plot on what we should (or rather should not) be celebrating.

When I woke up this morning post our public holiday my initial thoughts were that I was grateful for a day off but that I didn’t really understand the what the point of Women’s Day was. Sure I understand the history and the significance of the day in our country and sure I’m moved by the strength and determination of those women who marched all those years ago but if I consider my actions on Women’s Day, I’m really not sure I gave enough thought to where we are as women in our country or even beyond that. Stats SA helped to paint a fairly grim picture this morning as I read about how we’ve achieved gender parity in terms of access to education but that women are still getting left behind in terms of pay, promotions and benefits. I had to stop for minute and breathe deeply before I could accept that one in five women in South Africa have been subjected to physical violence by a partner. I remember attending a Women’s Day event and one of the speakers telling the audience that she had seen first-hand that domestic violence increased when a woman moved up the ranks in her career, threatening the traditional power dynamics that serve a patriarchal home.

So where does that leave us as South Africans? It leaves us applauding and cheering the man who talks of how “women are better/stronger/more intelligent” than men are, all the while knowing that he reigns over a home and a position that patriarchy has prepared him for.  Personally, if I never have a conversation about how “women are better” than men again, it would be too soon. That isn’t the point. The point of talking through these issues shouldn’t be some placitude about the power of a woman or how we compare against men. The concepts of “being better than”, to me, just serve the narrative of “women’s work” and “men’s work” instead of challenging the assumptions in the first place and it is immeasurably frustrating and juvenile. We celebrate and cheer, yet we’re unwilling to look deeper, into our own homes where we know that the burden of unpaid work still falls on women, a fact that will continue to stifle women until we are willing to acknowledge it and take steps towards shifting it. We want to claim progress (or maybe just the public holiday) but we don’t genuinely want to have the difficult conversations that will help us move forward. We laugh and celebrate a day off from work, yet women in our communities are being raped, more often by someone close to them and I wonder just what it is that we are celebrating. We read the stats, we are exposed to the reality almost daily and we face this reality with a sort of jaded indifference.

Last week I came across the stat that over 130 million girls were not in school worldwide and I thought of Amartya Sen’s paper, written in 1990 titled “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”. My first taste of Sen’s writing moved me because it brought to light the severity of gender bias and unequal access to basic resources. I would read, and reread Sen’s work many times over after that. Sure, this statistic of girls not being in school wasn’t as severe as the mortality of girls in Sen’s paper, but I wondered if my assumption was valid. I wondered if it wasn’t just as severe. I wondered if robbing girls the opportunity to be educated, if that “unfreedom”, was not the same as robbing them of their lives. I think about how, closer to home, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and subsequent careers are still dominated by men, serving to validate the myth that men are simply naturally inclined or better at these subjects than women are, and I wonder about the lost potential. I wonder about the “missing women” in our country, those missing in male dominated industries, those missing a seat at the table where real decisions are made. Those “missing women” who carry an unequal burden in their homes, those “missing women” who have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition that a man would.

It’s enough to break your heart. Not just because women should be given the platform, not just because it is “right” to level the access to opportunity, but because it makes sense. It makes sense that we capitalise on the opportunity that an inclusive society can bring. It makes sense that every member of our community has the opportunity to live a life they chose to value. It makes sense that our women can live in a country where they are not afraid, it makes sense that the men in our country respect women enough to also be part of breaking the cycle. It also makes sense that we stop pretending this isn’t an issue, it makes sense that we are part of the solution.  If I had one ardent hope on this day post our celebration of Women’s Day, it would be that today, you start a conversation. That you start now. That you look to your friends, you look to yourself and ask how you can be part of the solution. You ask what your ideas are about what it means to be a man or women in today’s world, you ask what messages we give to young boys and girls, you ask how in your homes you chose to serve the gender biases you were raised with. It may not be a solution, but it sure will be a step towards understanding, and in that understanding there might be a hope of knowing what the answer is.

Appreciating the Double Take of Misery

The double take of misery. That’s how I want to start this blog, with gloom and drama, also I sort of like the way it sounds. The double take of misery is what I found myself doing a few minutes ago when a grainy-headache inducing screen sealed my fate by placing the word “delayed” next my flight status. Now, I know it’s not the screen’s fault, but I still found myself hurling silent insults at him. I accused him of having a bunny aerial connection, I told him no one would look at him like the other screens but most of all I willed him to be wrong, I promised to forgive all his shortcomings if he was wrong. I looked away, I pretended it wasn’t a big deal, that I hadn’t even seen the update. Then I stared at him, I turned my head sideways, I squinted my eyes, but he would not budge. He threw those angry red letters at my face as if he didn’t care. Still I couldn’t move, convinced that if I did, I’d miss the moment the world righted itself (yes, it’s dramatic I know). Finally, after realising that I was in the middle of a walkway, having a silent argument with an inanimate object, I decided to try and let it go. But first, let me get a drink.

So, here I am, sighing like my life depended on it, nursing my whiskey and writing. I’ve decided that after what feels like a week from hell, what I need is to write and beyond that to write about everything that I am grateful for. I started doing this about a year ago, forcing myself to be grateful when I was annoyed, when I had a bad day and then it became a habit almost. I started to write an appreciation log daily, no matter what kind of day I had and it actually gave me greater sense of control in a weird way. I’ll let you in on it today to preserve my sanity. Since you’re still around, here is the appreciation log of a woman who is going to make great use of this airport lounge before her flight departs:

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Don’t you love this?

I’m so excited to share this one with you, I almost didn’t write it for fear of messing it up. I saw the best road sign this morning (well not the absolute best but at least a very good one). It read “Shoulders Drop” and to assert it’s authority, it paced an exclamation mark above it’s bold lettering. I love it. I love it so much that I had to stop my car to take a picture of it. I can’t quite tell you why I am so deeply moved by this otherwise ordinary object other than to say that I was moved by it. Literally. I read it and immediately dropped my shoulders as if it had given me an instruction. The very action of dropping my shoulders in response to a road sign was so ridiculous that I started to laugh. I had been dragging my feet and “dropping” my shoulders all week and for some reason the sign made me realise how ridiculous I was being.

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That I’ve just spent the better part of my work week in a beautiful small town. A place where even the sight of power lines over a blushing sky can be romantic, where the mist rolling over the mountains in the mornings brings not only the cold but also a sense of wonder. I got back to my rental apartment late the other night and while stomping out of the car, moaning about the fact that outside light that did not work, something made me look up. When I did, I saw a night sky so clear, so bright, that when I stood there watching it I didn’t even feel the cold. My hands spread out beside me and I twirled with my head lifted towards the heavens. I fought the urge to grab a blanket and lay on the grass to get a better look. With the stars twinkling above me, I felt as though the world was sighing along with me, the world was saying Hey, stop being so annoying. There’s magic here and if you’re stuck in your own head you’ll never see it.

My nephew’s laugh. I have harboured this soul crushing belief that my niece and nephew are growing up without me. They are, most definitely doing that and more than anything I hate the physical distance between us. But this week, I got to see my niece hide behind her hair (when did she grow up?) and I got to hear my nephew laugh the laugh I have known throughout his life. It’s a laugh that makes me wish he’ll never grow up. It’s a laugh to bring tears to my eyes because I miss those two crazy children beyond belief and it’s a laugh that helps me store joy in the pockets of my mind. It’s a laugh to start another conversation with my sister convincing her to move back to Johannesburg, back to where I am.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t appreciate the whiskey in my glass. It’s a Glen something and I must say, he’s quite a charming character.

That I started this blog with the words “The double take of misery”. It makes me feel more important than I am to have strung those words together. Maybe, years from now experts will find this piece of my writing and marvel at how astute and insightful I am. Maybe, (a more likely option) it’s all madness

Most of all, what I really appreciate, is that I can hear the first call for my flight. I’m one short flight away from home. One short flight towards Husband, towards the dogs that will ignore me before they forgive me for leaving. One short flight towards home.

It’s a “doggy-dog” world

Husband and I have some of our most frustrating conversations in the car. Well, perhaps calling it a conversation is being generous.  More often than not, it’s entirely one-sided rambling on my part about a variety of “interesting” topics, like for instance how I’ve discovered the exact quantity of Easter eggs one should eat in a single sitting. It’s three if you’re interested but I’ve only proven my hypothesis on frozen Easter eggs, I have a hunch the number decreases with an increase in Easter egg temperature but that’s a topic for another blog. Somehow Husband’s lack of response and the sight of passing scenery from a car window gets my mind into musing mode. Of course, I want Husband to be enthralled by my usually inane banter just in case I’ve accidentally slipped in a gem and I didn’t know it. I mean if Husband does not exist to marvel at my ingenuity, then who does? I was deep in the middle of a contemplating how insecurities play out at work and how certain of my behaviours may be a trigger for other’s insecurities when Husband offers this in response, “Yeah, it’s a doggy-dog world”. Three things happen, first I’m excited that he’s responded to my ramblings. Second, I think, “That doesn’t make sense in the context of what I was saying,” but Husband so often replies to an internal conversation that only he’s privy to instead of what I am saying it doesn’t surprise me.

Then, a realisation hits me like a smack in the face and I ask, “Did you just say ‘doggy-dog’ world?”

Husband doesn’t skip a beat, “’Doggy-dog’ world,” he says somewhat smugly.

At this point I can’t quite keep the laughter out of my voice and I ask him with a furrowed brow, “And what exactly do you think that means?”.

“You know, people often say it’s a doggy-dog world. Haven’t you heard of it before?”, Husband explains, relishing the opportunity to educate me.

“I know of the saying ‘It’s a dog eat dog world’, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of a ‘doggy-dog’ world,” I try biting my lip so as not to laugh before saying, “Wait, do you actually use that phrase in public? Like have you said those exact words to other humans apart from me?”

“Yeah, I’ve said it at work even”, Husband starts to laugh

“You’ve said ‘doggy-dog’ world at work? What on earth did you think it meant?” I feel the need to tell Husband to pull over, I’m finding the situation so ridiculous that I need to look him in the eye to make sure he’s not joking with me.

“I don’t know, I thought it meant something bad, like things were bad. But that didn’t make sense to me because dogs have such good lives so it would be good to be in a ‘doggy-dog’ world. Also, what does ‘dog eat dog’ mean? That makes no sense. Why would dogs eat each other? My version makes more sense” And like that Husband has summarily dismissed the conversation

I’m not so eager to let this go and I can’t stop laughing, “What do people say when you say that to them?”

“I don’t know, I think someone looked at me weird the one time. But are you sure it’s ‘dog eat dog’? I mean in the Snoop song it goes ‘Snoop doggy-dog’” At this point Husband is completely nonplussed and although I know he’s joking I fear there may be an element of truth in what he’s saying. It’s very believable that he thought the saying came from a Snoop Dogg song.

Later that evening, I’m still laughing at the ‘doggy-dog’ world comment and I wonder what else Husband has up his sleeve. So, when he admits that sometimes he uses “ur” to replace the word “your” and “u” instead of “you” in emails, I’m flabbergasted. Part of me thinks that he’s making this up just to provoke me. “You know I have a relationship with words, right? And that part of my purpose is to string those words together to make meaning?”, I feel the need to make this explicit, so he knows he’s on dangerous grounds.

“Yeah, but everyone knows that they mean. Besides it takes too much time to write out the entire word,” and then he offers, by way of peace making, “But I don’t always do it, sometimes I write out the entire word”.

“What, when you write emails to the Queen? Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing with you” I laugh, there’s no menace in my voice when I say it. Husband very often is the antithesis to my ability to over-think and look deeply into everything. Very often it’s an annoying juxtaposition but at times like this it reminds of our place in each other’s lives and that I love Husband for the ease in which he navigates uncertainty, or simply, the things that don’t interest him. It’s sort of like he decided very early on that words where just that, words. They serve a purpose and if there is a common understanding, there’s no need to pretty things up. Does he care that he goes around saying “doggy-dog” world when he should be saying “dog eat dog” world? Not a chance. He doesn’t even care that he barely understands his made-up version either. For him metaphors and recalling the correct version of age-old sayings don’t move the dial. I put myself in his shoes and think, If that were me, I’d be mortified. I’d want to hide myself away for a few years and only come out after the world had ended. But here is Husband, not a care in the world, one shoulder shrug away from forgetting our entire conversation.

Somewhere in Husband’s madness and his reluctance to be pulled into mine, is a thing of beauty. Somewhere in that I find myself wishing I coined the “doggy-dog” world phrase. I wish I had made meaning of it in the cavalier way Husband had. Because in that meaning making process Husband had decided what was important and was not. He had made meaning in a way that mattered to him and he didn’t take himself seriously enough to be flummoxed when he was wrong. In that I find the elegance that was missing from the phrase he massacred. In it I am jealous and in it I marvel at the way Husband’s mind works. It makes me feel like I should observe him and document my findings for the next generation. It makes me think that maybe Snoop and Husband were on to something, that maybe we should start embracing what it means to live in a “doggy-dog” world.

Conversations with myself: Happy birthday Denira

This is weird. Well, I suppose not really weird because I have a constant dialog in my head throughout most of the day but it’s odd to talk to myself through the words on the screen this way. Anyway, before I get into a tailspin around my weirdness, let me get down to business. Happy birthday Denira. It’s easy to wish someone I love, celebrating a loved one’s birthday makes me remember all of the reasons I’m grateful to have them in my life and that I actually feel privileged to be a part of their journey. Somehow, I struggle to do the same for myself, I struggle to let go of the negative self-talk and just appreciate who I am. Wait, hold on a minute. Have I just admitted that I don’t feature on the list of people I love? Man, that’s deep and to think we’re not even through the first paragraph yet. I’m almost impressed at how broken of a human I am. But suppose, just for today, I imagine I am someone else. Suppose just for today, I have a conversation with myself as though I am someone that I love. Do I have the courage to show up that way or to even post this once I’m done? Let’s see.

Denira, I don’t really know how to tell you how I feel or how to wish you a happy birthday. I want to say that you fascinate me. I want to say that I love the way you think and that you’re funny, compassionate and creative. You’re interesting beyond just the things you find interesting, I guess getting to spend the rest of my life getting to know you would be an adventure, an epic journey. Not one that would be easy but definitely one that would be worthwhile. This would usually be the part where I start to say that all of this is difficult for me because my relationship with you has always been strained but for today I forgive us for being so silly about this concept of self-love. Because when I think about it, I do love you. I love that when someone’s going through a rough patch you show up for them, I love that you talk and sing to your dogs (even though the dogs aren’t always willing recipients). I love your honesty. I love that you think deeply about things, that you question and challenge everything including yourself. I want to joke about you being hard to love but you’re not, you’re human (even though you did think you were an alien that one time). You’re a complex person with simple hopes, dreams and desires- to be heard, to be known, to be understood and to be loved. And I know that you know that, because it’s how you connect with others. I also know that sometimes you hide your sadness behind a smile and that no one on earth is meaner to you than you are to yourself. I don’t really know why though, perhaps that’s something you and I need to figure out together.

If I had only one wish for you on your birthday, I wish that you remember who you are. Not what you’re good at, not what’s going to get you your next promotion but just who you are. I wish you remember that girl who loved writing more than anything. I wish you’d remember the courage you have to stand true to what you believe (yes, Husband does call it being stubborn, but this isn’t about him). I wish you never forget that nothing is worth sacrificing who you are. Out of the billions of people that exist, there is exactly one version of you. It’s the same version of you with the terribly weak selfie game, the same version who wants to start every sentence with “I’m reading this book…”, the same version who falls down with both feet planted firmly on the ground. It’s the same version of you who shuts both her eyes and asks if she’s winking knowing full well she isn’t. It’s the same version of you that finds laughter in everything. It’s the same version of you that I love and appreciate. So happy birthday dear self, it’s disgustingly corny, but it’ll do – the world is better because you’re in it. So let’s celebrate that you were born, let’s raise our glasses and hold each other tight because at the end of day “we are the ones we have been waiting for”.

Let’s not be friends

Here’s where I am. Here’s my honest, vulnerable self. It isn’t pretty, in fact making this acknowledgement makes me want to run for the hills, but I’m here so you’ll have to deal with me for now. I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I have friends that I no longer call friends. I am more ashamed that I have friends who no longer want me to be a part of their lives. I am confused because a friendship “breakup” was something no one ever prepared me for. I am ashamed that this makes me feel as though I am a little girl searching for something, searching for my own sense of adequacy. More than that, I feel alone.

I am not even ready for my own honesty as I constantly try to reframe this so it doesn’t seem that I am a friendless loser. But to a degree, I am. To a degree I am that person who has been cast aside by another, who has been found lacking in some fundamental way and no pretty language or clever metaphor is going to change that. The truth is that friendship is important to me, deeply so. When I love a friend, I love them unconditionally. I am fiercely protective, and I try and show up for them no matter what. I don’t always get it right, but I do try. With a close friend, I am vulnerable, I am me. Not the me that needs to drive a deliverable or needs to say the right thing, I am the deeply flawed, often-puts-her-foot-in-mouth version of myself. The version I like the most. It’s hard to think that someone sees you at your most real, sees the real you and then decides “well this isn’t for me”. Hard, but no less true.

The funny thing is with that when you’re part of couple and things go sour, you’re allowed to demand answers. You’re allowed an explanation at the very least, even if it’s a load of rubbish. But with friendship breakups, its slightly more sinister and a hell of a lot more subtle. We live in the unsaid. Maybe I was not designed to be susceptible to the mild hint, maybe I was designed for direct conversation. I’m the sort of person who needs you to blunt, mainly so that I can complain about your lack of tact later, but also because it helps me understand you. Perhaps that’s why this whole thing is so complex for me. Friendship breakups sometimes don’t even have a “breakup”, you know the awkward “it’s not you, it’s me, but let’s not be friends” moment. I’m weird in the sense that I need things to be explicit, so if you’re trying to get away from me you’re better off just telling me to leave you alone instead of just hoping I disappear. I won’t. What I will do, which in the history of all things ever has never worked, is confront you. After you’ve ignored a few of my messages or made up some lackluster excuse why we can’t meet up, I’ll ask you why you’re behaving strangely. And this is where the wheels fall off. Maybe you’ve already made up your mind about our friendship and I’m not clever enough to have gotten your subtle hints. So, I’ll ask because I genuinely want to fix things. I’ll ask to see if you’re okay. And you’ll respond out of politeness, sometimes you may even apologise but most often you’ll pretend there isn’t a problem and that will frustrate me because I’ll feel like I’m being lied to. Unfortunately being lied to, or rather my belief that I’m being lied to, is a massive trigger and this starts the journey towards a path where you fail me in a way I can’t bring myself to forgive. If you think the situation pans out differently if you do apologise, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately unless you apologise and genuinely want things to change, an apology is worse than an outright lie because it allows hope to survive.  See all that muck, all that fear and insecurity and my strong desire for clarity? No wonder I don’t have many friends.

I really don’t feel like we give enough attention to the trauma of a friendship “breakup”. Can I talk openly about what a colossal idiot my ex was? Sure, I can. In fact, you’ll probably pour me a glass of wine and commiserate with me. But talking about friendships that go wrong seem taboo somehow and to me feel like a bigger failure than a “relationship” breakup. What’s even more weird I suppose is that friendships are relationships but that I can’t really talk about my “ex-friends”. I suppose talking about my “ex-friends” cuts to close to talking about my failure, it cuts to close to the shame of not being liked. A friendship breakup hurts. Not the kind of hurt that is good or the kind that brings growth. This is the hurt that makes you wonder if you’re worthy. It’s selfish and melodramatic. Maybe friendships weren’t built to last through your entire lifetime, maybe you’re meant to walk with different friends on different journeys. And as much as I don’t want to, maybe that’s just something I need to come to terms with.