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My Jobless Life

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ABOUT LIFE

And life keeps moving on

So at the beginning of 2016 the resolution I made was to never be broke ever again in my whole life, ever. So I started a home-baking business which has been going very well. I also took up jogging because life is far more fun when you’re fit.

I have been supported in my business by my community in a way I really didn’t expect and I truly appreciate it, and for me this carries through one of my prior posts about the future of business. I really think business is going smaller and everything that is happening in my life right now is showing that it’s true. But then again, we make our thoughts our experience, so it is because of my belief that my life reflects my opinions as reality.

My objective of never being broke again might seem shallow and insignificant to the rest of the world, but I was heartily sick of wondering where the next buck would come from, so I decided to make a buck instead on wondering about it. It might be a self-serving goal, but it’s ensuring that many people enjoy some damn good baking at a very reasonable price.

Next time we meet I’ll tell you more about the jogging and how that’s going for me.

To all my blog friends out there, I hope 2016  is treating you as kindly is it’s treating me.

Love, Netta

 

 

 

 

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We aren’t we

There is a pain that goes with defying your limitations; and I don’t mean just a mental or emotional un-comfortability. There is actual physical pain in breaking away from who you have been trained to be and becoming who you are. I remember many nights just writhing in bed in bodily pain because my mind and my spirit rebelled against a life that was too small, too depressing and too stupid for me to continue with.
My eyes hurt when I saw people going to work every morning. The fear and anxiousness about going to a place they hate, being late, and leaving their children while still not having enough money to live comfortably is such an ugly site. I wanted to cry for myself as much for them. I despised everything that is establishment and order and authority imposed on me from outside. The life of an ordinary person was despicable and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Every night a voice came to speak to me, it said: “What the hell are you thinking? What are you going to do with your life if you are not employed? Where have you ever seen anyone getting anywhere in life without a good job and a solid income?” It made so much sense, it sounded so true, it seemed so right; but all that wasn’t for me any longer. So I had to kill that voice and the act of killing it is like going to hell. That is how I experienced it. It’s like being burnt from the inside out. Night after night I squirmed and scorched in the darkness. All I had to do for some relief was to say to the voice, “I give up, you’re right.” But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what waited for me beyond ordinary life, I didn’t know where I was going, I only knew I couldn’t stay where I was.
I was a loafer, a slacker, a weight on the shoulders of society, I was worthless in comparison to all the hard-working folk who gave up their lives to make a living. I abandoned my fellow human beings to the security of mediocrity.
During the day the voice screamed desperately for me to start acting sensible. It painted pictures of lack and deprivation that unsettled me but never scared me enough to make me change my mind. What I became fearful of was wearing cheap shoes and poorly made clothing bought on credit. I became fearful of fast food bought on pay-day to compensate for the week of meager meals that went before. I was scared of fancy cars with huge re-payments and tiny re-sell values. Huge televisions and satellite subscriptions, cell-phone contracts, church tithes, weekends out, hair-do’s, nail jobs; it all scared me. Problems, gossip, friendships, politics, religion, education – I couldn’t bring myself to care about any longer. Not caring was painful, it felt wrong, it felt dangerous. I had to pay to free my mind from all the limitations I accepted. I paid dearly.
I’m still on a journey to find out what life really can be like when you are free to make up your own rules. Every now and then I come across yet another limitation to break free of and have to stand in the fire again. It doesn’t hurt as much now as it did then, but hurt it does. I now see life very differently. I don’t feel bound by societal norms, I don’t feel bound by expectation, I don’t feel bound by rules made for the sake of making rules, I don’t even feel bound or fearful of the law or law enforcement institutions. I feel however the weight of carrying myself and that is a much greater responsibility than complying with the rules of ordinary life. The world is filled with restrictions and boundaries but from where I stand now it seems to me that these things are completely powerless. They are more mental and emotional than actual. They are imposed through a threat of loss of approval and fear of violence or persecution. And we accept them without question, empower them without resistance and then tell each other that life would be better without those who oppress us.
The truth is that we love our chains, it’s the perfect out from having to challenge ourselves. It’s easier to profess high ideals than to live them and a restrictive society gives us every opportunity to shirk the opportunity to be who we say we are. The truth is that maybe 1 in 100,000 people will break away from the rules that we all say make our lives pointless, miserable and difficult. The truth is that we don’t even realise that breaking the chains is a real option.
Ordinary life is still ugly to me. Ordinary conversations hurt my ears, I don’t participate in them. Ordinary people depress me, I do my best to avoid them. Ordinary things leave me unmoved, I stare at them and see nothing. Ordinary problems are stupid to me, it is insignificant things people stress about through lack of knowledge and power.
I don’t do anything extraordinary with my life, except live it; which to the average person is something extraordinary. The point of my pointless life is for this pinprick of awareness, a nothing in the greater scheme of things, to face an unlimited world fearlessly and curiously with an intense desire to know and understand as much of it as my being can handle. I eat food, drink water and breathe air, but I do it with no illusion of there being a point to all of it, the doing is the reason for the doing. It’s audacious, arrogant and highly presumptuous that this tiny grain of nothingness, called myself, dares to want to make a life that flips the bird at all good definitions of a good life.
There is no great reward for following all the rules. There is no golden star for getting the most approval. There is no sense in living in misery with a hope of rest and salvation in a nebulous state that follows your death. There is a chance to live a life that makes you happy now. There is a world of beauty, splendour and abundance, peace and joy hidden in plain sight. We walk right past it every day because we’re too busy following the rules. We can never be free because we want to win; win at a game that’s set up to ensure we always lose. We can never be the one calling the shots because we don’t want to carry the responsibility that goes with it, so we have to be the one who bends the knee. We can’t be unique because we have to be on trend. We can’t be independent because the price of approval is conformity.
We can’t be, because we aren’t we.

Humans of the future

It’s a given that humanity will always grow and discover more over time. The general leaning is apparently that we will grow and discover more technologically, scientifically and even physiologically, but it doesn’t seem to me as if we apply that same thinking to our growth as people. The same humanitarian efforts, fund raising and establishment of organisations that are supposed to uplift humanity fall flat and seem to be less effective as we progress on our journey.
Are we still actively exploring what makes a human being tick or are happy with the definitions and understandings that we have come to thus far? It seems to me that what Freud and Jung and others of their time have been replaced by drugs that are meant to medicate us into being a certain way. We don’t pursue the understanding and knowledge of what we are with the same zeal as we do with things external to ourselves. Our understanding of our human nature and its challenges now lag centuries behind where we are technologically and even medically. We don’t understand these entities whom we are making smarter machines, better medicines, newer information for; no wonder these entities don’t become any happier or any more advanced by things that are meant to make them so.
To me there always seems to be one fatal error futuristic people make, ignoring the force of our inclination to be human. Humanity is an intangible thing, like instinct and emotions. We know it is there but you can’t bottle it and sell it at the shops, and because of that fact our materialistic society has been trained to ignore or downplay it existence and significance.

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I remember as a young girl watching programs like Star Trek and Buck Rogers that were all about how life would be in the future. I don’t remember the people on Star Trek ever sitting down to a meal, sleeping under nice soft blankets, playing with children or animals, chatting with each other or doing anything that was just too human to be exciting. I remember warp speed, being beamed from here to there, the crew meeting strange creatures and I especially remember Mr. Spock’s ears. I remember Buck Rogers doing some amazing things, but he never went home to just relax and see his family or friends like my father did. I remember movies or episodes of these space/future programes showing how we would pop a pill and all our nutritional needs would be met for a long period of time. I remember the holo-deck where you could go to any place or time you like, but everyone always went into the holo-deck alone. No shared experiences.
Today we have technology that makes Star Trek and Buck Rogers look ridiculously crude. The machines that we use in our daily lives are mind-blowing and I think only the really dull of mind fail to marvel at it. For us the marvelous has become common-place, and behind it all the human condition persists. Technological advances has not affected us as much as we thought it would. We still eat and we love food as much as we ever did. No pill is going to replace the awesome feel, smell and taste of food and I never foresee a time when it will. We still laugh, act silly and do stupid things, no matter how much we discover that is supposed to make us smarter or how easily accessible that information is. We will never become cold and technical creatures who only look at the facts and act rationally and sensibly. We enjoy our stupidity too much. We even employ people to create laughable situations when none occur naturally. Some of these people are called comedians, others are called politicians. We like silliness. No matter how wonderful a holo-deck there is, nothing will beat the experience of actually being there. We all see from a different perspective, our eyes are drawn to different things, we each remember our experiences our own way and having someone we care about sharing those experiences make them all the more vivid.
We understand so little about ourselves and I wonder why we are so disinterested or maybe distracted from doing research and development of the human entity to the extent that we focus on other areas. Is it because humanity cannot be quantified and broken down to a specific formula like mathematics, science and electronics? Maybe there is a formula or a system to humanity that we can find and use for our betterment but we haven’t been looking for it. Maybe there isn’t a formula and it is just chaos and random action, but who better to understand the chaos and randomness of being human than another human being?
Are we always going to react the way we do to the same situations? Will we always disappoint ourselves and fall short of our intentions? Will we always assume the worst about ourselves and be surprised when one of us perform a noble and caring act? Will we always need laws and rules and restrictions to protect ourselves from each other? Will we keep clinging to the definitions of humanity and how to manage it when those definitions have proven ineffective over and over again?
In one of my favourite movies, The Matrix, the machines that have taken over the world have managed to figure out what it is that would keep humanity happy enough for them to get the required amount of electricity from each in their vast human farms. Too idyllic a life and the human mind revolts, too hard a life with too little reward and the human turns on a kind of kill-switch in their body. A balance between sorrow and joy, and you get optimum performance. The film may also just be another flight of fantasy, but it holds up the hope of getting the optimum human formula right someday. The machines in the movie did it through trial and error before getting the perfect balance. We have millions of years of trials and errors, it’s about time we get down to synthesizing the right formula from all our experiments.
The technology and true science we need to expand on is that of being human. The concept excites me and it’s one of the things that keeps me hopeful about humanity, that somewhere in-between our silliness, eating, fighting, sleeping, chatting, working, loving we will stumble upon a clue and that clue will take us forward in leaps and bounds.
Who better to put a formula to the chaotic mess we are than our very human selves?

Black Souls in White Skins?

steve bikoThis is a title borrowed from Steve Biko, the father of black consciousness. In his piece he questions the assumptions white liberals made when dealing with black students in the organisations he was involved in those dry, hopeless, repressed and downright crazy years of apartheid in the 70’s. And in it he raises the question that always begs an answer in my mind as well. Is there something so inherently wrong with being black that we need white people to rectify us, civilise us, and educate us to be like them?

Many white people will tell you that they suffer discrimination too, and I can honestly say that when a black person hears that we think: Bullshit!

Such a statement goes out from the premise that a white person has any idea of the non-stop barrage of negative assumptions black people live under. It also says, in a very subtle way, that every time a person is judged as inferior or ostracised they are degraded to the level of a black person. Blackness being naturally inferior and deserving of ostracism.

I am always very wary of non-blacks trying to fight causes on behalf of black people. I treat them in a very circumspect way and never quite respond to their rah-rah bullshit about how badly black people are being treated. At the end of the day they go back to their big houses in the suburbs, with 2-3 cars, pools and dogs that eat gourmet kibble of the same cost as a black family’s weekly grocery budget. So like a good black person I just smile and listen, comment little and hit the delete button in my mind right after they leave. My head need not be filled with the prattle of people looking for an audience to their undeserved and often unappreciated privilege.

Then there are those who are fighting their own demons under the guise of empathising with the horrendous condition of being black. Because when you feel like shit about yourself you now know exactly how it feels to be black. Every time a black person sings they hear the pain in her voice, the suffering she had to go through, the hardship is palpable; her loving, happy upbringing notwithstanding. Being black is painful and the suffering they hear is not theirs, but hers of course. By siding with the lower level forms of humanity, masses of them to be sure, they have a big army and worthy cause to hide their insecurities behind.  Their questions about their worthiness and their issues of self-rejection couldn’t find a better home than with a group of unworthy people who face rejection as part of their daily existence. The perfect fit.

There are those smart white people who are quick to describe black people as illiterate and uninformed and form arrogant little theories about how black people can be educated to know all the wonderful things up to know destined only for the fair skinned. Never do they stop and ask if there is anything black people know that might enlighten whites. They know it all and you are a savage until you allow them to teach it all to you. They say that being a white woman is equal to being a black person. Blacks are thought of as dumb and incapable of complex intellectual functioning, so are women. Blacks are being paid less for the same work than whites, such is the case between white men and women. Blacks are often first to be picked and limited to performing servant-like tasks such as cleaning, housekeeping, child-rearing etc.; just like the white women of this world. Black are considered prone to responding emotionally rather than logically to situations, and women too. So being white woman whose husband thinks she doesn’t have to work, expect her to take care of her own home and children and don’t pay her as much as he does her male counterpart is equal to treating her like a black person. The poor, poor darling. How will she cope with all this free time while the real black people of world are busy in her house and garden and she only has to do the hard work of giving orders? We blacks really feel for her.

The rebels of the white world want to wipe their lily-hued behinds on the unfair advantage they grew up with by using darky slang and listening to rap music. They want to show up their mommies and daddies by consorting with undesirable types. They want to stand out, they want to be the only one. The only one in their circle who actually knows how to get to the nearest township. The only one of their friends who’s had a fling with a black chick. The one who says “Siyabonga, sisi”; the one white guy who spoke your language even though the language in your town is Tswana, not Zulu. They want to be the only white dude in a black crew. That will really give daddy some serious palpitations and have mommy panicking to calm him down while trying to untangle the huge knot in her expensive lingerie.

We know most white people smile to our faces and use derogatory terms to refer to us at home and with their friends. We know the best pranks are pulled on darkies. We know all the stupid jokes have either a Sipho or a Gatiep in them. We know that when there is a dirty bit of hard labour to be done us blacks spring to mind first. We know that you think singing and dancing are about the only things we do well besides everything you are too white for. The only people who are stupid enough to think all that escapes us are the ones doing it because they’re scared of being found out.

I can’t say I am 100% non-racist, the differences between races are too blatant for me to ignore. I do avoid anyone who wants to improve or change me for their own reasons. As stated before, such desires are based on a belief of inherent sub-humanness. I have some white friends, believe it or not. One of the most amazing people I have ever met is white and some of the people I like best and enjoy being with most are white too. I consider them my friends, a title not lightly given. They don’t try to make me into anything other than what I am. They accept that I might be looking at the world differently than they do and my viewpoint is no better or worse than theirs just because of the colour of my skin. They realise that I might just know more about being black than they do and that I never have and never will consider it a condition to be cured of.

Black people don’t feel inferior to whites or any other race, but we do feel black; because we are. We know however that being black earns us the label of inferiority in the minds of white people. There is a delicately nuanced distinction between feeling inferior and being treated as inferior. We suffer from the latter not the former. We love our black selves, ask any black you know. We don’t want to be rescued from being black. We don’t want to be civilised out of being black. We don’t want to educate away from being black. Black works for us; in ways no white person could ever imagine.

So a black soul in a white skin? I haven’t met one yet.

Naysayers & Dream killers

I recently had an incident that should have made me feel bad, it should have made me angry, it should have made me doubt myself, but I decided not to give in to the usual drama. I decided not to give the dream killers of the world the satisfaction of allowing their slights and jealousy to threaten the good thing I have going for myself.

When I say I want my life to live and not to answer to someone else’s agenda, people assume a lot about me. Some of it true, yet mostly they couldn’t fathom the pressure that comes with taking as much responsibility for your life as you can. People think that when I say that I don’t want a job because I don’t want to work, it must mean that I, childishly, only want to do what I like. The latter part would be the part that’s true. Yet, living life beyond other people’s definition of what it should be and having to draw meaning and purpose from yourself instead of a societal role, is damn hard and anything but childish

The naysayers of this world are also known as family and friends, well-meaning, but the worst kind of people to have around you when you decide not to conform.  They presume to know you, so family have already painted a picture of who you are and they will cling to that image stubbornly. What kind of love and care measures the image of who you think a person is as greater than who the person themselves desires to be? It’s easy to gather the criticisms, doubts and opposition of those closest to you under the heading ‘Love and concern’, but I don’t swallow it that easily anymore. I have 3 children and I don’t understand why I should stand in the way of their desires for their lives. I don’t understand that brand of love and care at all.

 

Family and friends are there to comfort you when things go wrong. They help you through the tough times and they encourage you in their own way. But people on the whole have a smaller dream planned for you than you have for yourself. The more dependent a person becomes on the support, opinions and approval of others the smaller your dreams have to be. Has no one ever wondered why so many success stories start out with dire family situations which the person has to rise above? I’m not discounting the value of close friends and family wholesale, but in some ways their love and support is an insidious motivation for failure or at least an unremarkable life.

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Those who are step above you, or at least feel that they are, I’ve found to be the best dream killers the world can produce. I seem to run into them all the time. They make the mistake everyone seems to make about everyone else, they think I want what they now have. Well, hello, how did you figure that one out? Dream killers have an intense desire to keep you beneath their station in life. When some people recognise your abilities they mostly do one of two things; or if they’re really slick, both. One they try to use it to their own benefit. Or they try to sabotage your progress to minimize or eliminate you as a threat.

Some dream killers don’t want you to have what they know they can’t. They have their ways and means of making you think you don’t have what it takes, but the truth is they’re talking about themselves. They are the ones who blatantly say that going after your dream is attempting to be superior to who you’re meant to be. They tell to you stop thinking you’re more intelligent than anyone else, when all you were thinking is that you’re intelligent. They ask why you hang around reading books from the library when you can have a secure job that pays slave wages. “Young women like you should be working; especially when you have children,” they say. They tell you to stop doing things that are meant for people much better than you, like being a writer. They try to guilt you into being as small as they are, anything else is hogging the limelight according to them. They’re also the first ones to start sucking up to you when they think you have bit of power or influence that could benefit them. They’re the ones who give medical diagnoses because someone in their family is a doctor. The very ones who told the doctor to become a mechanic or a plumber; the dream killers.

I’m not an adversarial person, I generally don’t get caught up in moaning about how difficult life is and how I need to be cut some slack. Yet, every so often one cannot help but conclude that some people seem to have a vested interest in seeing you fail. Some people appear to derive some strange pleasure from your misfortunes, especially if they’re the reason for those misfortunes.

I’m not one to waste much of my time on those who don’t like me, but it doesn’t mean I’m unaware of them or that my silence means they are getting the better of me. You don’t have to agree with me; just stand aside and do your own thing. You can be sure that I will be.

 

Preserving the heritage of Promosa Secondary

There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Promosa Secondary and the teaching medium the school will be employing in future. Recent interaction on Facebook inflamed some tempers, mine included, that Afrikaans might be done away with as a language of instruction. The two Coloured schools in Promosa are the only ones outside the traditional white suburbs where Afrikaans is both the home language and the medium used for education. Coloured people in Promosa now feel as if their language and heritage is being side-lined in a school standing right on their doorsteps.

The influx of learners who don’t have Afrikaans has a home language saw the inclusion of English, making the school a double medium institution. Many of the new pupils and teachers use Setswana as a home language. This has created a situation where it has become an unofficial supplemental language of instruction. Poor academic results have also added to the concerns the community have about the future of the school.

The community has found very little sympathy from the Department of Education (DOE) regarding their concerns about the use of language. Conflict ensued when the candidate preferred by the community, Godly Burrel, had to stand back for the government selected principal. Promosa has since adjusted and accommodated the current head of the school, Pelesa Mafisa.

The Potch I grew up in had barriers between White and Non-white, but those divisions were far less rigid between Black and Coloured. The residents of Ikageng and Promosa had a shared communal history prior to apartheid policy being instituted. I recall a home-town where everyone who spoke Afrikaans could greet and say a few phrases in vernacular and vice versa. I’m from a town where family ties remained strong despite being stretched by a policy where members of the same clan could be classified under different races. Being considered both Black and Coloured the home I lived in Afrikaans was generously enhanced by Setswana and English. The Potch I know has always been a mixture of Coloured and Black culture and its languages.

At its core the school’s problem is not a race or language issue, but the drop in education standards that the whole of South Africa is experiencing. The school might advise parents to instil values in their children that aids teaching and that is a fair request. Yet, many parents are disappointed when their children, well-behaved, punctual and appropriately dressed receiving no instruction for months because there is no teacher or textbooks for a certain subject. Race and language would be far less a hot topic if the end result was an orderly school that produces the results Promosa Secondary has always been known for.

The concerns about the future of the school is about the decrease in academic results and the dilapidation that has occurred at Promosa Secondary. The school has lost a proud history of producing results that attracted many out-of-town learners and now struggles with basic discipline and teaching. When representatives of the DOE state that the school is the property of the government not the community and will be run accordingly, it increases the level of anxiety in the community.

The problems now seen at Promosa Secondary are the result of a gradual decline in teaching standards, community participation as well as good parenting. There is no innocent party in the situation.

Those in the community of Promosa who want to preserve their heritage and language have to become more active in community matters and not leave important decisions to be made without their knowledge and participation. The decline in the state of the only Coloured secondary school in Potchefstroom is evidence that this has not been happening. Those who value their Afrikaans, have to teach their children to speak the language properly; schooling will only supplement what is taught at home. Parents also need to show understanding for teachers and schools that are over-crowded but under-staffed and under-resourced.

The government has to realise that it exists because of the people and aren’t above communities. The school belongs to us more than it does the government because it affects what is most precious to us; our children.

There is talk of establishing an alumni club of the schools old pupils to weigh in on school matters; a positive step in the right direction. However it must also be accepted that years of neglect and under-performance will not be rectified in a year or two. At this point the best thing the communities of Promosa and Ikageng can do is become involved in the schooling of their children. If each parent does their bit to ensure their child is effectively educated all the problems the school faces will be greatly reduced.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Northwest Independent Newspaper of 22/10/2015

How I Created The Life of My Dreams

There are some areas of my life that remain a work in progress, but for the most part I’m living my dream. Through trail and error and a lot of reading and experimenting I have come to learn a few things that have made my journey much easier. Here is what I have learnt during my journey

Know what you want.

I know that one seems too obvious and everyone has heard that before, but it took me almost 40 years to finally admit that writing is where I belong. As soon as I did doors were flung open that I could not have entered otherwise. Knowing what you want is so powerful that I think the +- 40 years I spent fumbling about was not a waste of time but a huge boost in the right direction.

Commit to yourself first.

As a woman and a mother it is accepted that I would always put others ahead of myself, but I have learnt that the best thing I can do for those I love is to love myself first. In this context it means not shelving my dreams, plans and desires for my own life in order to make room for someone else’s. I’m a far more pleasant person to deal with when I prioritise all the things that keep me happy.

Dreams are built one brick at a time.

What has tripped me up in the past has been the idea that success should come quickly or else it might never arrive. I now realise that there is something big or small (but mostly small) that I can do every day to build my dream. Failure to do the little that is required right now is tantamount to self-sabotage.

Dream as big as you want, and then LET GO.

This is the single biggest lesson I have ever learnt. As a driven, determined, self-reliant woman I always wanted to control every step of making my life as I envision it to be. I am learning now that knowing what you want and being steadfast in that while doing what you can is all the effort you need. The quicker you can set a dream free the quicker it will materialise.

Every opportunity to doubt is an opportunity to increase in belief.

Nothing in life is all sun-shine and roses, but your private world – the world as you experience it –  is shaped by the spirit in which you act. There inevitably will be things that don’t work out and days where all efforts seem futile (yesterday was such a day for me) and doubting seems the only logical response. I have learnt that doubt is a habit like any other. It’s a habit that we cling to because we believe fear and worry are sensible. To be doubtful but take no action is just plain dumb. Yes! If you truly are concerned about something just take action instead of sitting around worrying. Acting will already remove most doubt and worry. And any successful outcome that flows from your action will increase your belief in your ability to deal with your life.

All battles are lost or won in the Mind first.

Having a strong mind just makes life so much easier. I have learnt that my Mind can only produce fruits based on what I feed it. In general I think we are much to nonchalant about what we expose our awareness to. Whether it is the right entertainment, the right people, constructive thoughts or even the right food, the mind is too precious to be negligent with. I refuse to let any random thing sully the mind I have been working on to strengthen for all these years. A strong mind allows one to choose your actions consciously, to observe yourself objectively, to experience your feelings authentically to make your decisions with certainty and conviction.

I can’t say that I have the keys to a wonderful life for everyone, but these things surely have made my life much more peaceful, satisfying and purposeful. All those I believe are core requirements for the life of one’s dreams

I’ve Given Up On Life As A Non-Writer

non writerAt this point I’ve completely given up on live as a non-writer because I am finally ready to admit that I’m anything but a non-writer.

I’m a semi-recluse who needs the whole world to leave me the hell alone, so I can think and listen to the voice inside my head telling me things I’d be better off not knowing.

I can’t feel my experiences unless I write them down. I don’t know what I know until it’s shaped into words. I can’t make sense of life unless I my eyes can tell it to my mind. I don’t know how other people know their lives while it remains unshaped and unarticulated. If I don’t write I’ll end up having conversations with myself in the mirror all day. That’ll bring the crazy-police knocking at my door. Can’t have that.

I wish it didn’t hurt so much to write. I wish that I was confident enough not to want to snatch back every word I’ve ever written and return it to that place deep inside of myself where it came from.

I say fuck, shit and hell, and take the lords name in vain when I write. I know that unless I do, I won’t be writing me. So I count on those who read what I write to not be too precious about politeness and instead be more interested in feeling what I try to convey.

I don’t know if I post too often or not, use too few words, use too many words, choose the right topic or get my point across. I don’t know whether I’m too shallow, too deep, too personal or too detached. I don’t know much I just know that I cannot stop writing. I want to go back to writing in my journal and hiding everything away from the world, but it’s too late. Writing is an illness.

I’ve given up on life as a non-writer because writing leaves me no choice. I’m learning to tone down expectation and I’m learning to throw hundreds of words at unresponsive audiences.

Unresponsive is so much better than non-existent.

My Town, A Small Town

IMG_0826 My town used to be considered a barometer for white sentiment in the old South Africa. It used to be judged as being very “verkramp”, meaning bigoted, and some of its past glory still remains. But like most other things in life the view from the outside differs from what insiders see.

Being Black/Coloured in South Africa meant that we were allocated our own little portion of each town. Even if the lines that separated one portion from another were only in the imaginations and town planning maps of those who wanted it to be that way, each portion developed its own identity over the years and my town actually refers to the portion where I live.

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What stands out about my town is the two main activities my co-habitants engage in. One is religion and the other liquor. The contradiction is lost on my fellow townsmen because it has always been this way. It’s hard for the people in my town to believe that a person could choose not to drink and still have no desire to partake in any religion. I just love the way life is so cut and dried in the minds of those I live with.

My town is a place where your character is mostly determined by what your surname is. Great for those with upstanding pedigrees, crappy for those who come from less decent stock. People assume to know the content of your character, your future prospects and your status in societal hierarchy based on what they know of your family. For some it’s hard to break free from history. For others an undeserved bump-up which they struggle to live up to.

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Like most small towns we pride ourselves on our communal spirit. We are always there for each other we say; and it’s true. “There” might be as support in your time of need, or it might be in your private business. That is after all what small towns are best known for, nosy neighbours. Oh we might donate money, or time, or effort when you need us, but we will whisper about you before you’re out of earshot. Mostly because we want you to know that you have done something scandalous and gossip-worthy.

The people of my town love pretending that they just live here, but actually belong in better towns. Everyone actually belongs in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, but by some fluke of circumstance they just can’t get the dust of this horrid little place shaken off their shoes. Having left my town, lived in Johannesburg for 13 years, and had a good life there by any standard, I think a reality check is in order.

Being known in my town is like having money in the bank when living in Jo’burg. “Small-town Famous” is a term that was coined after a visit to my town, I’m sure. The assumption that everyone wants to be known gives my fellow citizens the right to question anyone in depth. The answers of which couldn’t possibly have any relevance in their day to day life, but if you want to be well-known you have to spill your guts.

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My town has long established a way to walk, to talk, to dress, to think, where to appear and when to appear there. Everyone knows what our sentiments and opinions should be, who we should side with, what our ambitions should be and how we must go about conducting our private affairs. It might be many stipulations but the answer to all of these is the same: whatever everyone else is doing.

A burning desire of those in my town is to have a big funeral. You pay for this by attending as many funerals as you can while alive. The question: “Who will attend your funeral if you don’t support the funerals of others?” is meant to strike fear into the heart of any dissident member of my community.

Those who love this burg act as if every feather on every bird flying over the town has been placed in their custody. Sometimes this custodianship extends itself to the grocery cupboards, garden implements, toolboxes, cars, and children of fellow inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if someone you barely know comes and knocks on your door at any time of day asking to use/borrow your lawnmower, mayonnaise, child (to send on an errand) or baking trays. You have very little room to refuse. Remember, you want to build up goodwill for your funeral and not be gossiped about as being stingy. Anyone living near you has unlimited emergency rides booked in your car. Please take note and act accordingly. My neighbour asked the other day what my pottering in the garden was all about. I explained it’s a food garden where I’m growing vegetables. Her response was: “Ooh great! Now I can borrow spinach from you.” Wow!

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The part I have most difficulty with in my town is the unsolicited visit. The drop-in. The head poking through the doorway. The knock when you least want to hear one. And if you don’t answer, the people of my town start calling your name. If you still don’t respond they ask your neighbour where you are. Both the unwanted visitor and neighbour might start calling your name. All that noise to force you out of your unsociable behaviour. The rule now is, always keep the dishes washed because you never know who might come to ask/lend something. Always keep the sitting room in perfect order so you can let your guest in without shame. In fact, make sure your whole house is spic and span by 11 o’clock because anyone might drop in from then on. I can do without uninvited guests; they’re the ones who stay the longest because they have nothing better to do.

My town is a gem and a soft place to fall when the big, big world stops treating us nicely. My town is a family town because most of us stem from a few core lines going back generation before generation. My town will make a space for you even when your ancestry is foreign to us, there’s always room for one more branch on the family tree.

My town is a study in the best and worst of human nature and especially its paradoxes. My town is a concentrated dose of the whole, wide world.

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