The last couple of years have seen me attempting - and it's a decision I had to make consciously - to really be there for people. Sadly, I'm not talking about the ever-increasing number of homeless, begging people who seem to be swarming every intersection and stop street at the moment - even though my heart goes out to those poor souls, there's not much I (as one person) or we (as a couple) can do to make their lives better, apart from making donations to The Salvation Army in the hopes that at least a few people will benefit from our small donations.
I have come to realise that I can't be there for people that I don't know, especially if I'm not able to make myself available to the dear, sweet souls I interact with on a fairly regular basis.
Unlike Chris, who happens to be blessed with this ability to give of his time - be it an ear to listen, business advice - you name it; he will always try his best to be there and be present. Unfortunately, there have been times when a few people have taken advantage of this and Chris has had to learn when and when not to be there for others - it's sort of ironic in that sense - Chris having to learn to be more selective in his giving nature, whilst I'm having to learn to be more giving of myself. It's like we're simultaneously working - though, as individuals - towards that oh-so-fine middle ground between learning when to say no and when to say yes. We obviously aren't at the same place, yet, but it's comforting to know that I am not alone in having to realign my inner self and that my loving hubby (side note: I can't believe we've been married 6 months already!) are on the same - in an alternate universe sort of way - journey. It would be very easy for me to romanticise it and say that we have brought these qualities out in each other, who knows, perhaps we have. It's certainly not as easy as flipping a switch on and off. It takes effort and understanding - from the both of us - especially when one has their foot on the accelerator pedal and the other has their foot pushing as hard as possible on the brakes!
But I digress, back to the subject at hand.
I am more guarded; I have always had to be - thinking of it now - perhaps it has something to do with my tumultuous family life growing up (which I can't change and which I really wouldn't want to truth be told - it's a part of me, it defines me) I think it's given me a better, whole-view of situations - without my past, I wouldn't have everything I have now - in the form of Chris, our dogs, our life together - but there is certainly an element of me keeping people at arm's length; not sharing my time, not letting people see the best of who I can be. Why it took me over 30 years to realise that I am indeed able to contribute, have my voice heard - without fear - and be of meaningful service to my - albeit - very small social circle but baby steps, right?
I suppose in order to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, I indeed have to walk through the tunnel!
In order to grow - in my opinion - you have to put yourself into situations that force you to climb out of your comfort zone, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.
The last three weeks I have spent Monday through to Thursday evening's staying at Aunty Helen's place whilst her son is overseas with his daughter, visiting her maternal family. She politely asked a few months back if I'd mind staying over at hers; I said yes, the thought of her staying alone wasn't really an option but it's something I always do; I agree to - fill in the blank - and when it comes to showing up, I start questioning whether I can or cannot do it and sometimes I bail. This time I didn't, I couldn't. There was no way I could break my word to Aunty Helen - especially after the emotional and traumatic months the first half of this year have brought with it.
It only then dawned on me - two weeks into me staying over at Aunty Helen's - how used to a certain routine both Chris and myself had become accustomed to. Evenings spent with me making dinner and us debriefing each other on our day's news, etc. Little did I know how much we would actually miss each other whilst I was away - even though we saw each other during the day! How I worried if he was eating properly and just general stuff like, 'should I have agreed to stay over? Did I make the right decision?'.
Then last week Friday evening - whilst I was making supper - Chris arrived home with a bouquet of flowers; a huge smile on his face and when he told me how much he loved me and how glad he was that I was home for the weekend. I knew then, with that small gesture of flowers, that my small gesture of agreeing to stay over at Aunty Helen's place meant just as much to her as Chris' flowers meant to me.
The penny dropped! It indeed is the small gestures that count the most.
I may not always get it right but I am certainly heading in the correct direction and that's the important lesson I have learnt from these past three weeks; it will certainly act as a reminder the next time I am considering bailing out on whatever situation I may find myself in that requires me having to climb out of my comfort zone - that I actually can do it. That I indeed can be present and show up for those whom I love and respect.
The bouquet that inspired this blog, in full bloom!
Until next time,
Spending the day in a snowy Drakensberg a few years back
I recall a good friend of both Chris and myself (who I see once a year, when she takes her leave and comes back to South Africa - my dear friend, I do miss you so) saying to me a few years back that her mother had questioned her about what I do on a day-to-day basis to validate my existence - I vaguely remember telling her something along the lines of that I look after Chris, the hounds and make sure that everything is running smoothly around the house. Which is completely and undeniably true.
I also remember feeling slightly annoyed by that statement / question - that somehow working a regular 9 - 5 job in some way 'validates one's existence'. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed with my friend nor her mother - whom I adore just as much as I do my friend - it's a question / statement that, fortunately, doesn't get asked or stated anymore as the years have gone by but it is annoying nonetheless. Why do we - or any couple for that matter - have to explain the inner workings of our relationship? Or to justify it? Luckily those close to us have come to realise that both Chris and I support each other wholeheartedly - just not in the conventional (whatever that may mean?) way.
It's not as if I haven't worked before, if anything I am a good worker. I remember when I was working and studying to become a high school educator, I was studying full-time through UNISA and working a 3/4 teaching timetable, 5 days a week - the last year, before I became disillusioned (and finally chose to leave the field) I was in charge of the Grade 8 English department. Essentially I was doing all the prep work for the entire grade. It was exhausting.
Donating all the supplies that we managed to accumulate from the various regions that Chris was GM of in Johannesburg to aid the owners of the dog kennel that the hounds regularly stayed at when they took in over 30 abused Greyhounds on behalf of the SPCA last year.
Then I did a complete u-turn and found myself managing the front office of an Architect firm - I had never answered a phone for a living prior to this - but I excelled and was, by the time I left a few years later, in charge of the front office, assisted in the creditors and admin department and was the PA to both the partners of the firm.
Then I was involved in the accident that put me out of commission for a year. When you can't use one of your arms - it limits what you can do. So Chris and I managed on one salary and we made it work. I was traumatised by the accident and went for counselling - we then added Max, Cleo and shortly after that Jessie to the family. So in short, by the time I was physically able to work we had a pack of dogs that needed constant attention - I still maintain to this day that our Jack Russell's are so chilled because they weren't left alone during their formative years.
At Wimpy on the Durban Promenade, many moons ago!
Before we started our company, Chris worked for a big corporation that required him to move from region to region, as and when they needed him, so with me not working it made it easier to follow his rise up the ranks - which I totally supported - we wouldn't be here today if he had not taken those opportunities and ran with them.
Late 2014 I found myself being offered a position as a PA to a tax practitioner - by this stage I hadn't worked for at least 2 years - thoughts of 'Can I actually do this?' ran circles around my mind but I gave it a go and enjoyed it, there were days that I was like 'I can't do this!', 'I'm exhausted!' but one gets on with it. Then we started the company and because of Chris' previous employment contract, we weren't allowed to operate within a certain radius of where he was previously employed - so we headed back to the East Coast - I handed in my resignation to a very sad ex-boss but I did it because Chris needed me, I could have easily stayed on in our home in Johannesburg with the hounds whilst Chris sorted business out down here but it has never worked like that with the two of us. We're in it together.
A couple of months later, my ex-boss contacted me and asked if I would be willing to return back to Johannesburg and work for him again, with him giving me a certain amount of leverage to negotiate a deal that suited me too - I toyed with the idea, I turned him down, he approached me again and I have sort of left it there. As exciting as it would be be, my place is here - with my partner in life and best friend, Chris. Some may see it as me halting myself to put Chris first and to a certain degree that may be true but I believe that Chris wouldn't be where he is now without my support and encouragement driving him - I wonder if he would agree with that statement? He probably would. I am not saying it has been plain sailing all the way, I'm a wilful Aries but so is Chris!
At an award evening in Cape Town, where we met Ryk Neethling.
It is so easy to question a relationship or partnership that doesn't quite fit the mould - where outwardly it appears as if one is giving more than the other - you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that all is not what it appears and that sometimes in order for one partner to give, the other needs to sacrifice.
Until next time,