How to kill yourself

I don't often say a whole lot (anymore), but it doesn't mean that I'm not absorbing info and forming opinions.  And there's a whole lot of info plus daily experiences that are culminating in some very hard truths.

Just one example: at age 44, I am suffering with relatively bad arthritis in my hands - making daily jobs (and even typing this post) difficult, painful and just a little bit terrifying.  I used to have strong hands, now it feels like they're going to break.  And why, at my age, am I in this situation?  It's simple.  Inflammation.

Inflammation is a leading contributor to a whole range of horrible health problems (link to 2004 TIME article - this is not new news).  Simply put, it's your body attacking your body - misreading info on what's going on, sending in the troops to fix it, and in the process making it worse.  Kind of like killing a spider with a nuke.

And what causes it?  Many and varied...  but basically it's nutrition and lifestyle issues.

In my case, I've literally worked my fingers to the bone.  My last few jobs have involed hands-on hard work, and my fingers have taken a hammering (as well as a scraping, bashing, straining etc).  Between stripping e-waste and climbing towers / pulling cables they've had it rough.

But they could have handled it a lot better if I had been providing a bit of background support.

Let's start with the obvious one:  nutrition.  Inflammation is fought with appropriate amounts of anti-oxidants.  Years ago I used to eat loads of tomatoes, fruits, green veg.  All good anti-oxidants.  I drank a litre of milk a day (on average) - good bone and joint support.  Now... well not so much.  Our eating habits are sporadic at best, to terrible.

Which brings me to the lifestyle part.  When you spend your days running to keep business/es afloat, stressed out by work and clients and pressure, and then drag yourself home exhausted both work day and weekend, it starts to wear you out.  Lunch often goes missing.  Supper is "whatever is to hand".  Sleep (and proper rest) may or may not happen.

Big, bad circle of life.

The thing is this.  It's killing us.  I am not convinced we will last longer than the business will.  In fact, many days I think it will get us first.

And it compounds with every passing year, month and day.  I'm not getting any younger.  What I do now is going to determine how well or how badly I age.  The things I put into my mouth now will be the building blocks or lack thereof in years to come.  The stress I'm facing down daily will determine whether I go insane earlier or later, whether I lose my sight gradually or quickly, whether I'm mobile or immobile at 80.

In short, it's rapidly getting too late to change the future.  May already be too late.

And that is very scary.

Missing

I've misplaced my core of contentment.

I need to get it back....

Creative outlet

I am not the world's best artist.  That is a fact.

I'm not the world's best writer.  Fact again.

Nor musician.

Nor gardener.

Nor chef.

Nor photographer

Nor woodworker.

Nor decorator / home maker.

But that doesn't mean I can't do my own version of all of the above - and more.

For the past few years, as we've been building a company or two, time has been in short supply.  Specifically time for non-business-building activities.  Every waking hour it seems is devoted to slaving away in order to provide other people with happiness / service / the things they pay us for.

It's truly a never-ending slog.

In the midst of it all, any attempt at balance has been basically non-existant.  Which is fine for a time, but not forever.

Us humans are creative beings.  We have an innate desire to make things - things of beauty or excellence, that might not have anything to do with putting food on the table or a roof over our heads.  It's why we scratched figures on cave walls.  Why archeologists find intricate gold beadwork.  Why gigantic heads watch over the horizon on Easter Island.  We simply can't help making stuff, even while our main priority is not being devoured by a sabre-tooth beast.

And yes, you can spend your days commuting and typing and working and never see the stars.  But one day the time will come when those creative urges can no longer be surpressed.

Me, well I've taken to occasionally splashing paint on a canvass.  Not enough thereof, but it's a start.  The piano is languishing in a corner, and when my arthritic fingers are not too sore it gets a quiet tinkle.  The garden...well, that's simply a work in progress, a battle to keep ahead of the morning glory vines.  We'll get there.

Yet very often I find myself daydreaming about the other creative stuff I want to do.  There are words I want to write down (whether they're ready by other people or not).  Things to make in wood, wax, metal, clay.  A sewing machine waiting for inspiration to be stitched into reality.  Cameras with shuttered lenses biding their time.  A house that needs turning into a home.  An entire world out there that I have yet to explore, document, absorb and embody.

It's hard to express how I crave that outlet at times - it's a feeling of artistic dehydration.  Days like this past weekend where I feel I may lose it if I don't get a chance to do something - anything - arty.  Yet all of that gets cancelled out by the need to make numbers that go into computers in a building called a bank - where those numbers can be given to other people to keep body and soul together or the rain off your head.  The constant chase after money - it kills that little flame.

Or not?  Because as focussed as we are on making a living, still that pilot light of a fire burns away, waiting for the day it can be released and run wild, fleshing out those daydreams and ideas and imaginings into things you can hold in your hands and see with your eyes.

The day is coming.  It has to.

Success

What, exactly is success?

I'm 40-something.  Should I count success as (at this age) owning property, driving a snazzy paid-off car, never counting cents at the Pick 'n Pay tills, and being able to take holidays overseas?

If so, I'm definitely not successful!  Although I work myself ragged every day, most days it still feels like I'm treading water, struggling to survive, getting nowhere except backwards.  There are months where I can live comfortably on what is coming in - and others where I barely survive.  I own no property - I have one old Land Rover that is paid off, but am working to give the banks money for all our other fleet vehicles each month (as most businesses are).  Holiday?  Not to speak of in years.  Definitely not overseas.  Even a weekend off is pushing it.

So am I successful?

I don't know.  I certainly don't feel it.  Yes, my name is listed as owner of two businesses.  Yes, I have raised a child without killing him.  And yes, I have an awesome amazing wonderful man who shares my heart.

Yet still so often I feel like a complete failure.

I dream big dreams about how life is supposed to look, how I'm supposed to feel at this age (retirement is not too far off!), what I'm supposed to have accomplished - what I still want to accomplish.

Beyond that though are the needs.  There are so many things I need to have done by now, which I can't and haven't.  Stuck due to a lack of time, a lack of funding, a lack of who knows what.  A lack of success?

So how do I measure success?  The fact that I can still get up each day and go to work?  That my better half is still with me after 8 years together?  That I have a roof over my head and probably more food in the house than most of our population?  That I still have the ability to dream, to bounce back from setbacks, to make a plan when a plan needs making, and somwhere under the frazzled exterior the ability to create?

I don't know.  Today, I'm not feeling it.

Photoblog - Winter mornings


Retirement

I am really looking forward to retirement.  But not perhaps for the reasons you may imagine.

Since I went the self-employed route, every day has been basically a mad rush.  On duty 24x7, one gets completely bound up by work, work-related thoughts, work tasks, and circling that single theme.  Weekdays, week nights and weekends - it's all the same.

There really is no time or space to think of or do anything else than plod on.  One of the reasons why my once-prolific blog is now almost silent.  (heck, even typing these three paragraphs have proven almost impossible!)

But my soul is multi-faceted and not singular.  In those brief moments where I'm not all about work, the brain flashes through images and inspiration of things I want to do and try and accomplish and research that have nothing to do with the daily grind.  A whole lot of them in fact.  There are projects and art and business ideas and garden stuff and places to see and things to learn or explore or discover or experience.  Things that take time and mental space which I simply not have now.  Most, of course, also need funds, but many are fund-generating and self-sustaining.  While I'm still working flat-out there simply is no space for anything else.  Hence retirement.  It's probably the only time I'll get to do these things.

On the other hand, I look at some of our retired clients and acquaintences.  So many of them are bored out of their minds.  They spend their days pottering aimlessly around - renovating their retirement homes can only go so far, and then what?  Bowls on a Tuesday?  Soup on a Thursday?  Afternoon naps and still in bed by 8pm?  No, that life is not for me.  I'd go mad.

We do have one or two who have managed to amass enough funding during their working lives to travel the globe, take on all sorts of interesting things and generally keep out of mischief, but they're the exception, not the norm.  They're sorta what I'm aspiring to though.  A retired life lived less ordinary, and certainly not slowly going off your rocker with mundaneness.

I just hope by the time I retire my mind hasn't left the building, and that I can actually remember what I wanted to do - as well as implement it...

Loadshedding

In South Africa we've moved on from talking about the weather, to talking about loadshedding...  If there's nothing else to complain about, this will quickly become the go-to topic across social media!

But this is Africa.  We're adaptable, and we've been working around self-centered inept governance for generations.

So don't panic!  It's only electricity!

What we're getting very good at as a nation:

Treating traffic lights as 4-way stops.  We're getting a whole lot of practice and people are becoming considerably better at it.
Braai-ing.  If you couldn't before, you can now.  Provided you can grab a bag of wood before they all sell out, then get your fire going and the food cooking before the power comes back on.
Thumb-twiddling.  Especially if your employer doesn't have backup power.  There was a complaint recently that "now my employees have to sit and look at each other" - horrors!
Alternative entertainment.  Some have reported the kids have started playing outdoors...

And for those of you with absolutely no imagination, who are tied into the grid for entertainment and edification, here are some ideas of what to do when the power's off:

Go surfing / boating / swimming / flying
Go strolling on the beach, walk the dog, run, cycle, climb a mountain.  You have (on average) 2 and a half hours to slot in a bit of exercise. 
Sex.  One Facebook user queried though whether Eskom will be paying child support for those conceived during loadshedding...
Candlelight dinners.  Plan ahead and you'll have hot food ready just as the power dies.
If it's dark out when your turn comes, star-trail photography is a great option - no disturbing streetlights around.  If you're not into photography, go lie on the lawn and just look at the stars.
Talk to your significant other / family / kids / neighbours.  No electronic distractions.
Potter around the garden.  Two and a half hours can get you pretty far in the planting, weeding or bush-clearing department.
If you're at work there's always filing!  Or clearing out your deks drawers / re-arranging the furniture / giving your keyboard & mouse a deep-clean.
Meditate / do yoga / sleep / sit quietly and watch the birds - get in some silent r&r while the noise of the surrounding world is dead.

I'm amazed how many people panic when the power dies.  In our little town, a good portion of them get into their cars and drive around aimlessly.  Or go looking for someone who can make them take-away food.  Or crowd the only shop that might have a generator going in their area. 

But there really is no need to do so!  Instead, we're getting a fantastic opportunity to get out of our electronic worlds and rediscover the real one around us.