Not so silent scream…

Stop talkingIllustration 147365356 © Archivector – Dreamstime.com

We have new neighbours in our Belgian abode. We know them intimately even though we haven’t met them yet.  And no…we are not twitching curtains and peeking through our very high and dense hedge…

In my home life, my preference is for a quiet life.  Over in the coastal reaches, I know my neighbours…just enough. In fact, we are closer together (by way of meters) than we are in Belgium. We exchange pleasantries. Keep an eye out for each other, each other’s parcels, pets and parents… and, generally life proceeds at a reasonable volume and we all get along.

Can’t say the same for Mr. Angry and his wife/partner/concubine (her status varies…) who, in the land of Ned (a.k.a. Flanders) have moved in next door! Even with hermetically sealed windows, pouring rain and a fair offshore wind from Zeebrugge, we can still hear them screaming at each other. I don’t mean ‘a bit loud’. I mean blood-curdling, ear-splitting invective!!

word for word…

some words you really don’t want to hear…

Don’t get me wrong…all couples disagree.  And yes, they argue. Sometimes voices are raised and frustration is expressed. That is of course part and parcel of married life, or life in general…

This is not what is happening here!

Under other circumstances, I would probably turn my stereo on max, light the fire and generally ignore what was going on with other people. Believe me, I have enough of my own shizzle to deal with.  In this case, I am seriously concerned. 

He is a dangerous man. She gives as good as she gets. And perhaps we should leave it there?

I can’t.

She is also pregnant, and already has two very small boys who are routinely screamed at by both of them…because that is how you parent, don’t you? 

Half my readers will berate me for judging. The other half for not having kids of my own. Well, I may not be a biological parent…or a judge… but I am a human being. For me, this is not ok. It’s not ok whether you are a kid, or a grown up. It’s not ok on so many levels!!!

Which creates a dilemma for me…

I am concerned for the small people who have to experience this as regular life.

  • No, it is not normal for you to be told you are a ‘ball-sack’ when you are three years old!
  • No, it is not normal for you to be screamed at for jumping in the inflatable pool when it’s boiling hot outside.
  • No, it is not normal for the adults in your life to make you feel scared, unsafe and at fault.

I am concerned for her unborn child, and for her – seriously, if alcohol affects your foetus, why would stress hormones be any different?

And yes… I am concerned that her partner/husband/ass-clown (his status varies…) will move from verbal abuse to physical abuse.

What do I do?

Here are some facts*,**:

  • * Up to 36 per cent of women in Belgium have been assaulted physically or sexually.
  • And although the study shows that Belgium is about average in the EU when it comes to abuse, it was at the top when it came to violence committed in the past year.
  • Preliminary findings** show that more than 35% of all murders of women globally are reported to be committed by an intimate partner (husband/partner/ass-clown)

All of this troubles me. Despite advice to ‘leave it alone’ and ‘don’t get involved’.

I can’t.

I am resolved not to be the neighbour who ignored the silent screams.

* Source: European Agency for Fundamental Rights  ** Source: World Health Organisation: Femicide

 

 

 

 

Project 52: Days are numbers…

purple peril

Image: Copyright Pantone

Was it just me, or was 2018 one of those years?  You know, when the days on the calendar keep turning, but the world doesn’t…

Well, not for me anyway. I spent most of last year feeling like a spectator in my own (personal) life.  Watching things unfold from the sidelines.  I mean…nothing majorly bad happened, but then nothing spectacularly good occurred either.  If I coloured in last year, it would be…erm, mostly beige.

For a monkey mind like me, this is not actually a great state of affairs. If wine is not involved, time spent mulling produces spiky notes instead of spicy ones.  And beige is certainly not my shade of choice! 

I’ve decided that this year, I am holding the palette and the pens!  Monochrome may be the filter through which I observe life, the universe and everything, but in my heart I most certainly am a purple girl. Exciting times? Colour those days scarlet…Fun with friends? Those would be mauve. Happiness? Violet, of course!

Days may be numbers, but in 2019 days of beige are most certainly numbered. My inner crayons are not for sharing with people who love blandness. You have been warned!

Project 52: Home, your heart…and where you are…

In case you all think I have a jet-set lifestyle, may I correct your assumption. A week in New York – for work – followed by a fortnight in South Africa – for family – can seriously mess with your melatonin levels, and your mindset. Jets, notwithstanding.

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

Both trips were welcome, but having spent exactly one night at home with The Belgian, swapping suitcases and clean underwear to hop on the overnight from Brussels to Cape Town via Dubai was somewhat dislocating. Even the cat was upset!

Which got me thinking. At the ripe old age of 52, being asked where I am from, or where I live is more complex to answer than you might think.  I can legitimately claim ancestry from at least 3 places (hence the triple passports) but I also find myself living somewhere I did not choose, with someone who I most definitely did.

So where is home for me? Heading back to the Mother City was a revelation, and yet I felt apprehensive.  Not to see my family  – I love them and we come together far too infrequently – I felt nervous because I wondered if I still belonged to a place I had left decades ago. Would I fit it? Would I feel comfortable in a city, a country, a continent that had changed so radically? Was it home?  Or just homesickness?

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

It might have been both. Sometimes your soul itches…Driving through landscape that captures the light as much as it captures your breath, I felt somehow whole. As the desert flowers shared their beauty, my soul stretched. When I saw the ocean…I wanted to cry with the loveliness of it all.  In that moment…I realised that family, fynbos and familiar landscapes all reminded me of who I really am.  And perhaps of where I truly belong. In my heart, in my soul.  Here. My heart.

But here I am instead. Northern Hemisphere. And according to people who know, the most boring country in Europe. Well, it is rather flat. Geographically speaking. Emotionally speaking. Sometimes your soul contracts…

This week’s lesson is about expanding your universe. That only happens if you choose to ignore your emotional geography and go exploring anyway.

 

 

Age is just a number…

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Illustration © Vladvm – Dreamstime.com

This weekend marked my 52nd year on Planet Earth.  Which probably makes me old school to anyone born in the Snapchat era, but which doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Gravity induced frown lines and fuzzy felt jawline? Now that’s pesky.  The opinions of selfie-obsessed snot-noses? Not so much. One of the perks of maturing is that some things just aren’t worthy of your worry. Which got me thinking…

52 years. 52 weeks in one year.  If age is just a number, then I’d like this to be my lucky one. Instead of waiting till 2019 to craft a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to make this birthday a year of revolution. In short, I’m beginning my Autumn by turning over more than a few leaves. 52 to be exact!

I’ve decided that each week from now until September 2019, I’m going to pick something positive that I do consistently for the week, and then blog about it. Some things may stick, others may flop. I won’t know until I try, but I’m curious to see if I’ll be the same person this time next year.  I’ll be sharing my adventures and experiments here under the guise of Project 52.  You can join me if you like…

 

Across the pond…

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Image: Chiromancer 2018

It’s been a while since I packed passport, arranged a visa and hot-footed it somewhere else for work.  This week took me to New York for a new assignment.  In my previous, pre-stepmom life, this would have been an ordinary trip. I travelled a lot. For work. For pleasure.  I used to do a lot of other things…a lot. Now that I’m married to the Belgian – and stepmom to his boys – this trip adopted new significance.

Being alone in NYC as a kick-ass consultant reminded me of my days when I really was kick-ass, no-kids. No husband.  Fun. Me. Just me. Me…alone. This time, being alone in New York also reminded me that I have some boys at home who might be missing me. Turns out they did…even Watson, our cat was happy to see me…But, it also reminded me that I’m good at what I do, that in my professional life, I am respected, valued and rewarded as…me! Sometimes this is hard to know when your role is being a stepmom and wife to boys who are from a different culture.  Sometimes a different planet…

Change – which I do for a living – is not rocket science , but somehow, having to change my life from careerista singleton to married stepmom was harder than I expected. Not so much science as a rocket up my butt!  Ouch! Much harder! Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Belgian and I would not swap my current life for the world, but it’s nice to be myself – just me,myself, I – for a change.  For a change…being a working woman alone in New York meant I could order juice for breakfast, spend hours blowdrying my hair, explore the city after hours and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Sometimes you have to go back, to see how far you have journeyed…

 

 

 

Enough…

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I started my week doing outdoor yoga with a view of a windmill and a canal on one side and the most beautiful medieval city (Bruges) on the other.  So far, so…okay.

‘Okay!’ I hear you yell! ‘Stop bragging, Be grateful woman! ‘ I am. I mean… I am grateful. Nevertheless, no bragging involved as I am the most caterpillar of all the yoga class – between translating from Dutch to English, then having to learn the moves while breathing in or out…or is that out or in.  Buddha knows, because I certainly don’t! I still struggle to tell my downward dog from my derriere and my warrior pose resembles a wobble…

The highlight of this morning was the warm down – everyone lying in a circle, being zen. Except me, because an insect bit me so hard I shouted out loud while everyone else was ohm-ing! The humiliation! ”Eina!’ is not ‘ouch’ in Dutch. Nor is it ohm! There I lay, berating myself for being so ungraceful and on top of it all, just being the outsider. ‘Not good enough! Not…enough!

The ‘not enough’ demon is one who comes to visit fairly frequently – perhaps I’m peri-mental (more on this in another post) or just deranged, but he seems to have taken great delight recently in making me feel somehow smaller, and less than I am. I mean, less than I know what I have been and accomplished. He’s also managed to add a few more kilograms than are necessary!  How can I be less when I weigh so much more! Earghh! He’s there when I examine myself in the mirror, he’s dogging me when I’m on assignment (or looking for work), and today, he showed up in my yoga class.  Really?

The thing is. I got home and read a post from our yoga teacher, where she shared how she felt…’not enough’.  I was puzzled. Here is this fantastic teacher , who runs a great business and on top of it is super bendy and slim…and yet, she felt like me…well, sort of…except, she can do warrior pose in her sleep!. 

Which got me thinking…

As women we judge ourselves so harshly.  Not thin…enough! Not perfect…enough! Just not..enough. Too old. Too fat. Therefore not good enough as a parent, lover, wife, sister, stepmom, CEO…Is that really how others see us? When did this happen? And why are we accepting this heretic inner dialogue as the gospel truth?  What a crock! 

The truth is…we are enough. We are women, and we have power. We just need to reclaim it. One breath at a time…

 

 

 

 

How to be a grown up…

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Image: Copyright Oleg Dudko | Dreamstime.com

A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Year of Living Dangerously – about using the New Year to live fully in the moment, and to dispense with things that no longer served me.  What I did not know at the time was that 2015 would be the year I met The Belgian and began to write my own happy ever after.

Three years later, it’s been a fairy tale with it’s own peculiar array of villains and heroes. We’ve had the best of times, and we’ve had the worst of times, which is why as this New Year begins, I was tempted to call this blog The Year of Living Sensibly

A few days before Christmas, I had a high-speed blow-out in my car, lost control of the vehicle and ended up trapped against the central reservation – in the fast lane!   Clearly not the sort of dangerous living I’d recommend!  Luckily for me the emergency services arrived in time. Luckily for me, no one else was involved and I walked away with minor injuries.  It was a sobering experience.

It’s made me reflect that perhaps the universe isn’t quite finished with me yet…and that if I am to set a New Year’s manifesto for 2018, it has to be about courage and commitment.  Being brave enough to make the life changes I need, and showing up as a fully fledged grown up – and I don’t just mean with my hair brushed and my laces tied!  

The reality is that no matter how magic the fairy tale ending, Cinderella still needs to do the dishes, Snow White has to deal with her wicked stepchildren and Prince Charming steals the duvet and farts in public. Yes, really!  Adult is the only antidote here.

So here are my resolutions for the New Year. In 2018, being grown up will be about striking a balance between acceptance –  not wasting energy on things I cannot change – and ownership, which means taking mindful charge of my goals, setting firm emotional and spiritual boundaries and putting my well-being first.  Dishes or not!

Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you a sprinkling of fairy dust.