Of things lost

This is difficult to put into words... I'm not even sure I can do so properly but I'll give it a shot.

This past weekend saw a get-together of old pals from late Primary School days, around 25 years ago or more.  Before we all hit High School, formed cliques, got snarky and grew apart.  We physically went our different ways in life at a good point while we were still kids - and picked right up where we left off.  Primary School reunions vs High School reunions - give me the former any day.

We've kept in touch through various means, mainly Facebook stalking, so we have a good idea of where we are in life and who we are.  Some of us are related - married-in family.  Some are friend-family from barefoot days, and some of us had parents who dated their parents before they dated our parents.  We've known each other since we wore polyester gym shorts, ran free and didn't give a flying.  Before crushes and conflicts and teenage angst, when we were all just kids.

Getting together this weekend was simply jumping back into our kid days relationships, where everyone was who they were and no-one tried to fit them in a box.  Some are still staunchly religious, others brought their beers and smokes, many are somewhere in between.  No-one really cared though.  It was just lekker to be together and catch up.

We've all gone different directions in life.  Not one of us has not had a kak time at some point.  One lost a child, one a parent, one a brother, two have fathers with Parkinson's, one has a mother so ill she can't travel, one a sister who is barely keeping head above water, many have parents who have split and remarried, all our parents have aged dramatically from those golden days and it scares us collectively.  We have vegans and carnivores, offspring and not.  Our kids are older than we were when we last saw each other as a group...

And yet we haven't really changed, not deep down. Scarred but alive, doing adult but still kid-crazy.

But there are things lost.  And sitting with this group of wonderful people made me realize that I've lost something important.  Something which some moaned at me about.

I used to be arty, creative, I used to write and draw and make music.  I had a fantastic imagination.  I was the chick with glasses, outside the cool circle - but hey, we all were, and it didn't stop us.

That creative side of me has disappeared.

Firstly arthritis - piano playing gone.  Also no longer playing in a church, and church stuff is about all I could play.  The last time I tried to play the piano my fingers were stiff, striking keys painful, and that muscle memory of tunes rusty to non-existant.  If I were to turn up to play in a church now, I wouldn't know the current songs - I didn't know them the last time I went to one.  What I knew well is long outdated and no longer used.

Then there's the art.  It takes time - I don't have time.  You can't whip up something in 5 minutes and go "tada!".  Nope.  I slapped some paint on a canvas a year or two ago, but haven't finished it and don't like it.  I have other blank canvasses staring at me daily.  It also takes money - unless you're painting with mud and sticks on the nearest road.  I don't have money for art - there are other priorities like food and shelter.  And I don't have inspiration.

Writing?  Also takes time.  I used to blog prolifically.  Now it's smatterings, and those I actually fear to publish because I've lost my Michelle voice.  Other than talking to clients bloody constantly (and craving silence when I don't have to), I don't say much either out loud or on paper - storytelling and creative writing are gone, along with my voiced opinions and beliefs.

Creating cool stuff?  Also disappeared.  I have these half-formed thoughts of fantastic things I want to make - thoughts that die like a drought-blasted potplant before they can grow big enough to bloom.  It feels like my brain is full of cottonwool.

I used to sew, I made many of my own clothes, household decor - heck, I even embroidered.  Now my sewing machine is hauled out for fixing stuff only and Mr Price Homeware is my friend.

Even the creativity of crafting beauty in a garden is gone.  I can only glance sadly at my overgrown jungle as I rush out to work each day, and hope the few things hurridly thrown in the soil survive a weed onslaught plus neglect.

I looked around at my beautiful friends this weekend and felt that loss.  Where I've shrunk creatively and personally, most are either making a career of it or incorporate it so thoroughly into their daily lives that I'm completely jealous of what they are able to do.  There's a deep beauty in them that I'm missing, that radiates straight out of their souls, a "me-ness" that finds its voice in things I could never even imagine doing.

I keep telling myself "one day when I retire I'll be creative again", those tiny sparks that still try to surface now and then will grow to an unstoppable flame.  But I'm not sure this is like riding a bicycle.  I fear that it's a use it or lose it situation, and that I'm now so far into the lose it side, it's not coming back.

Limiting factor

I woke up angry this morning.

Last night I had to attend a meeting to re-negotiate an important contract, as the sole lamb to slaughter representative of one side of the argument.

I failed.  I am very bad at thinking on my feet, increasingly terrible at remembering vital contributing facts, and unable to fight bullies.  I go in full of enthusiasm to do this right, to act like I actually own the business (which I do), and end up defeated.

The more I think about it, the more I realize why I have not shot up the business world ladder as a Leading Woman.  It's because I am the limiting factor.  I am not good at business-fighting.  I'm a frikkin peacemaker, people-pleaser, and soft target for wolves.  I am easily hurt, flustered and intimidated.

I look at some women who have broken through to the top and realize they fight well - mostly because they're absolute bitches in the corporate world.  They can take out the competition with one swipe and get what they want.  I can't - I only realize hours or days later where I went wrong, and am not able to correct my path second by second in the middle of the fray.

I'm simply not destined to be a force in the corporate world.  Frankly, the thought of the amount of interpersonal conflict required to get there says I don't even want to be.

I really should rather keep away from people.

There are more than enough ways to make a living without having to spend my days fighting for steps on invisible ladders, being shouted at by nasty humans, and battling one-up-manship. 

It would be best if I found one of those ways as soon as possible and left this business world crap to a bulldog with teeth.

Small Towns

On our recent roadtrip to Joburg and back, we went the "back roads".  Cape Town to Calvinia, then up to Britstown where we joined the road to Kimberley - from there to Joburg, and back the same route.  It was a lovely quiet road, with things to see on the way and no excessive trucks, roadworks or other kak en drama.

We passed through many small towns on the route, some were lovely, and some were simply dodgy.

One of the dodgiest was Britstown (coming in a close second behind Wolmaransstad).  Driving in on the "back road", you turn left to head to Kimberley, and fuel is to be found on your way out at the end of town.  We stopped there to top up, and were immediately accosted by beggards old and young.  They were insistant beggars, made the stop very unpleasant.

On our way back, we headed past our turnoff to the other side of town and found a much nicer, cleaner and friendlier fuel place - but again, beggars everywhere, insistent and pushy.

While filling the tank I got chatting to the young man wielding the nozzle about life in his little town.  About water, weather, how crime is down and he doesn't want any city folk moving in to spoil that.  And about the beggars.  He told me that they are doing road upgrades in the area at the moment, but that once these were done, they would be back to very high unemployment rates once more.  These guys were just the tip of the iceberg.

I cannot stop thinking about that conversation.

How does one go about fixing unemployement, hopelessness and lack of viable future for the residents of a small town isolated in the middle of a crossroads to nowhere?  There are only so many employment opportunities to go around - the garage, the shop, the school - that's about it.

And yet the homes are in need of repair and painting.  The roads could do with fixing in the "suburbs" that we turned through to get back to our exit route.  They don't have the water problems of the Cape despite being in an arid environment - supply and demand is balanced by the relatively limited population.  They're the middle stop on a long road, whether you're heading North, South, East, West or somewhere inbetween.  They're the only town for the nearby farming communities.  They have a boutique accommodation farm a few km out of town.  They have all the vastness and stillness of the beautiful Karoo region.

Surely there should be some encouragement to make the most of these?

Is it a case of no-one knows where to begin?  No entrepreneurial spirit that ferrets out opportunities for service and income?  Laziness - easier to beg than to work?  Or is it that you have to have money to make money, and the unemployed have too little to even start?

So I went looking online for answers as to what was being done. 

And found the usual.  A conference where institutions and charities had gathered to discuss, to make bullet points, to do presentations - and nowhere in all their reports from 2016 could I find a single practical resolution as to what precisely they were going to do.  Not a single indication as to one concrete step that was given to one of those institutions or charities to go out and DO.

Instead they sat around and talked about it.

And those communities are still living with excatly the same problems.

I would love to have the means, the time and the experience to go gently into a place like Britstown, sit with and listen to its residents and hear what is right, and what is wrong about their town.  To find and inspire people who can find and inspire other people, and turn it from a dodgy, begger-ridden hole to the kind of place its people can be proud of.  Not to change its inborn small-town character, but simply to give it hope.


Thought struck me this week.  My mother was my age when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She died ten years later age 56.

Stress and hormonal changes approaching menopause may well have been contributing factors.

I'm living with both of these right now. 

It may be time to pay better attention to my health.

Grind to a halt

100 years ago, inventions and innovations were in full swing.  Think of all the major steps in flying, driving, technology, household goods and office machines etc that happened then - there was simply a gigantic surge in stuff being discovered, made, tweaked, and lightbulb moments.

100 years later, we seem to have ground to a halt.  Every now and then someone comes up with a brilliant new invention or discovery, but most of the new stuff today is merely reworking things that are already discovered, shining them up, and adapting them for a slightly different market.

So where have all our inventions gone?  Why are we not making leaps and bounds, given the incredible wealth of info, collaboration, networking and knowledge every single one of us has access to?

I think it's because we've literally ground to a halt.

When was the last time you were so UN-busy that you had time to sit down in peace and quiet, and finish a thought train.  Or endless hours available to experiment, create, try, or mistakenly blow something up?

Nope, we don't have that luxury anymore.  Instead of all our inventions giving us more time to expand our horizons and delve into becoming richer human beings (both materially and in depth of person), we spend our time running around after the numbers required to keep up with the Joneses, or simply keep bread on the table.  We herd ourselves into cramped accommodation and follow the crowds hither and yon.

A lack of invention?  The daily grind has ground us to a halt.  There are no science labs included in your hours-long commute, there are no libraries and a comfy chair at the office.  Kids are kept running from one extramural thing to another instead of being left to wonder, explore and discover where they fit in to the universe for themselves.  Adults work, sleep and eat.  Leisure time is spent in collapse or distraction, not doing something profoundly meaningful or important.  And that leisure time is limited to mere minutes, hours, or a day on a weekend.

I wonder what would happen if we collectively claimed back our time and our lives ...


I must be getting old.

I don't see the point of Virtual Reality, when you can have Real Reality instead.

I start raising an eyebrow when the majority of the population spends all their time on their devices, oblivious to the world around them.  I don't get the quest for the latest upgrade, the brag-right wars of brands, or the bigger and better (or smaller and better).  I especially don't get their price tags.

I look at our neighbouring "professional gamer" and wonder why anyone would want to spend their days sleeping / do a 3am Burger King every night / live in a virtual hole with a computer and a bed but not much else.

Neighbours having a party?  By 11 I'm hoping they shut up and go to bed.

Reckless driving?  Nope, I'm becoming the speed-limit-sticker-to, who gives you the evil eye if you drive like a doos.  (Though I do ensure I get up to that speed limit at a respectable pace, with due consideration for others on the road)

Night out?  Less noise please, more quiet eclectic experiences - no doef-doef or dragging yourself home drunk as the birds start chirping.

Night in?  Preferable.

I'm watching my health, what I eat, what I drink, how much I sleep.  I'm choosing natural over artificial, whether food, medicine or just living.  Dumbing down my preferences to the purest and simplest forms available.  

I'm getting more and more cynical about the whoring habits of one of our friends, the religious habits of many of our friends, and the quest of most of the planet to integrate themselves with things that track them, call them, watch them, and do stuff they should bloody well be doing for themselves.

I'm valuing the handcrafted, the lasting, the lost-art living skills more and more.

I'm increasingly concerned about our planet, our resources, and how to be self-sufficient.  I may just hit a stranger one of these days for littering or leaving the water running.

I'm developing strong opions on things that didn't used to matter - but have also learnt to keep my mouth shut.

And I'm really looking forward to retirement.

Age - not just a number

You've seen them - the old folk moving their book closer and further, trying to find that focal point where they can read, and hoping it's not somewhere beyond arm's length.

This morning, that was me.  Not a book, but an attempt to re-thread my sewing machine needle.  And realising that it wasn't as easy today as it was a few months ago.

Quite frankly, it's scary.

But I'm starting to understand that there are some things creeping up on me as I grow older that I may not necessarily be able to do anything about.  And that these things can effectively kill stuff I wanted to do when I "retire".

Take the eye thing.  I recently invested in a 2m length of fine silver wire to play around with, to make something delicate and cool out of.  Delicate and cool means it's going to be small, intricate work.  And I fear that I actually won't be able to see to do it.  Which means all the other small, intricate work I had looked forward to doing is also going to fly out the window.  And that'll I'll instead have to learn to crochet like Granny did.  At least you can do it without having to see clearly :-)

Then there are the increasing aches and pains, loss of flexibilty, and tendancy to start a day with good intentions - but tire out by lunchtime.

Yesterday, that was me.  Beautiful Spring day, full of potential.  Got going at a decent hour, worked enthusiastically through the first few tasks, and then started petering out around lunchtime, and ended up feeling so tired and ill by 2pm that I had to go have a lie-down.  I guess I get to look foward to afternoon naps as an elderly.

The aches and pains?  I'm still trying to do everything I did 10 years ago, but finding it a little harder.  I have wrecked veins in one leg thanks to work position, work boots and work activities.  That leads to the kind of varicose veins that burn, ache, and cause you to get out of bed instead of sleeping in on a weekend.  Arthritis.  Yup.  Have worn my hands out and am now on "chronic medication" with a bit of help from natural ingredients. 

OK, I'm not ancient.  I'm somewhere around 46-ish (after 40 it's difficult to remember exactly how old you are without having to calculate it..).  Maybe I'm just worn out?  Maybe when I "retire" and live a bit more gently, eat properly and get enough sleep, these will all go away?

Hell, I hope so.