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Archive for April, 2008

These were the words of Mahatma Ghandi. He believed that for change to take place, you must first become the change you want to see. If you want to live in a peaceful world, you must first become peaceful. If you want to live in an ethical world, you must first become ethical. By doing this, you become an inspiration. You become the light that others follow to make the world the place that you want it to become.

It certainly bares thinking about, particularly for us South Africans who are so good at complaining about just about everything, from crime to the fact that the DSTv channels are being shuffled again.

Perhaps you are one of those perpetual complainers. I’m not saying you don’t have a right to voice your dissatisfaction, and I’m certainly not trying to downplay the problems we face in this country, all I’m saying is become part of the solution.

“Crime is out of control, there’s nothing I can do,” I hear you say. Well, actually there is:

The next time you’re running late in the morning and decide to park across the pedestrian crossing so that your child can beat the school bell, consider that it is not legal to do so – you’re breaking the law. It’s okay, it’s just a little thing, it’s not harming anyone – except that you are teaching your child that it’s okay to be selective about the laws that you break.

Have you taken a stand against buying pirated DVD’s? I personally know a lot of people who don’t see a problem with this.

How about the time you were stopped for speeding and realised that the officer was open to a bribe? Did you take his badge number and report it? Did you pay the bribe and drive away relieved that you’d saved some money? Did you pretend not to understand and do nothing?

Throughout history, revolutionary change has come about because of a few people who refused to do nothing. You would think that being South African we could relate to this more than most.

If each of us, in our individual capacities, took a zero tolerance approach to crime – yes, that means the minutiae of your everyday life, we would be setting the standards high for others to follow. We have no control over what others say or do – change comes from a personal locus of control.

Think about this and commit to living to a new standard.

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Daughters and Sons

I was chatting to my closest friend this morning, as I do most mornings. She’s the one I can talk to from my heart, from my soul, with no pretending, no masks and no fear of judgment. I am privileged to have her in my life. Well, this morning the conversation was all about our children, as it often is.

I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of bringing up my children. I am overcome with uncertainty for their future and I am engulfed by a love deeper than I could ever have imagined.

It is by far the most difficult, most challenging task I have ever undertaken, and it gets harder as time goes by, I don’t care what people will tell you to the contrary.

When they were babies I was able to meet their every need with ease, colic notwithstanding, and as toddlers I was able to comfort them and more to the point, contain them. They never wandered out of my site and 99% of the time I knew exactly what they were thinking and what they were feeling.

As they gain their independence and move out into the world more and more I am frightened for them. Stark terror comes with the knowledge that I cannot protect them from everything anymore, that they are growing into the independent thinkers I have guided them to be and I am no longer privy to every thought, every emotion. The “boo boo’s” are sometimes on the inside now and I am powerless to kiss them better as I once did.

Whereas before I would open my arms to embrace them, I now find that I must open my arms to let them fly.

How much more terrified would I be if I didn’t have my friend to talk to, to empathise because she feels what I feel. We weep together she and I, out of grief, out of fear, but mostly out of pride and joy and boundless love for the very special people our daughters and our sons are becoming.

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I am disgusted and ashamed of our President, Thabo Mbeki. “No crises” indeed! I am moved to ask, is it a conspiracy, the “old boy’s” club or just plain stupidity?

Having done my ranting, and wallowed in my feelings of powerlessness , I set about finding ways in which I, as an individual, can contribute to fighting for the Zimbabwean people.

I invite everyone reading this to e-mail, call or fax a message to President Thabo Mbeki – President of South Africa:

Tel: +27 (0)12 300 5200 and +27 (0)21 464 2100
Fax: +27 (0)12 323 8246 and +27 (0)21 462 2838

Send an email to Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga Thabo Mbeki’s Presidential Spokesperson: mukoni@po.gov.za or mukoni@mweb.co.za

Copy all your emails to this general SADC email address:
Email: registry@sadc.int

Let him know that we, as South Africans do not stand behind him in his “quiet diplomacy” and that it’s time he stood up like a man for what is good and right.

The Zimbabwean people have behaved with dignity during this very trying time and the Sokwanele Civil Action Support Group urges everyone to be polite at all times, as people don’t respond favourably to angry messages.

And just before you click away from this post and go about your day, have a look at the e-mail posted on facebook by Annette Strachan.

We cannot stand by and do nothing as our president so obviously is doing…

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There is a common thread that binds us. We are women of Africa. There are, of course, those who would dispute that I, as a white woman can refer to myself as “of Africa”. But it is not debatable.

Africa is my home and always will be. It is where I was born and most likely where I will die. It is where my children were born, those born physically from my body and those born of my heart.
Women of Africa are truly women of strength. Africa holds the Cradle of Humankind and the women of Africa rock that cradle.
What does it mean to be a woman of Africa? It is something mystical and at the same time earthy, something that you feel with your soul. Buddhism emphasises “the interconnectedness of things”, this could just as well refer to African Women. We are connected to one another and to the earth that bore us. We walk bare footed with the sun baking down on our heads.

It isn’t as romantic as it sounds though, it’s hard and sometimes painful and it’s not beautiful in the western world’s idea of beauty, it is beautiful as in “resilient” and “forged in fire”.

I am humbled by the women that I have met, and at the same time profoundly proud to count myself among them.

We are oysters, we women of Africa, a select group who are able to take the stones and rather than choke, produce pearls to present to the world as a lesson that all is not lost. No matter that it may seem that way for a time. And when we string our pearls together it is a thing that transcends beauty, laughs in the face of perfection and glories in the gift of what unity can do. It is an honour to be a woman of Africa. There are ‘ladies’ and there are ‘girls’ and there is the ‘fairer sex’, but we Women of Africa stand apart.

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The empty cup

I’m not really one for television, but I’m a chronic insomniac, so when I am too exhausted to sit at my computer, but unable to sleep, I channel hop through the wee hours.

During one such long night, I happened upon a Dr Phil show about mother-daughter relationships. Given that my own relationship with my mother is non existent I paused to watch. He made a profound statement that has remained with me and influenced much of the work I do with women. He was chatting to a mother who was obviously at her wits end, doing everything for her wayward and, from my perspective ungrateful, daughter, and he said “If you love your daughter so much, why don’t you take better care of her mother?”

Pow! As Oprah would say, an AHA moment!

As women we tend to put ourselves last on the list when it comes to nurturing. We give and give and give. We have to learn the art of taking care of ourselves. We need to realise that it is not possible to give from an empty cup. How do we teach our children to value themselves if we don’t lead by example? How can we expect others to value us if we do not value ourselves?
Taking time out of our crazy schedules to pamper ourselves isn’t always easy or even possible, so I’m going to suggest something that you can do in your own time, perhaps when you’re in the bath, or for ten minutes before the rest of the family wakes up.

Close our eyes and concentrate on how you really feel, take a journey inwards, step away from the ordinary and listen to your truest self. Ask yourself the question: If I truly love this person, what would I do for her? And dare to answer!

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Imagine a Woman

It was Kierkegaard who said “Life must be understood backwards; but… it must be lived forward.”

Does this mean we should disregard the present? Absolutely not! The actions we take now, the decisions we make, however small, are what influence the future. We don’t have control over what has happened in the past, our responsibility is to take what we can from the past, to learn from our experiences and to be the best of who we are today, to nurture and care for ourselves so that we can move forward to become who we were meant to be.

I make sense of my life through writing, and I suppose that was part of the reason for this blog. I have spent much of my life writing, from the first tentative letters spelling out my first and last names when I was four years old to the angst filled poetry of my teen years and the outpourings of longing to the boyfriend in the army. I’ve authored articles for magazines, written research papers, developed web sites (some of you may remember the worldofwomen site, another reason for this blog) and training material on many a diverse subject. All this writing together with my journaling has given me a pretty good insight into myself. I know where I’ve come from, I sometimes lose touch with who I am in between the roles I play daily, but the picture of where I am meant to be is becoming ever clearer.

I would like to share with you a poem that I keep taped to the front of my filofax. It serves to remind me of who I am and the purpose I am here to fulfil, I hope it will start you on your own journey back to your authentic self.

(Patricia Lynn Reilly, M. Div.)
Imagine a woman
who believes it is right and good she is woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.
Imagine a woman
who believes she is good.
A woman who trusts and respects herself.
Who listens to her needs and desires and meets them with tenderness and grace.
Imagine a woman
who has acknowledged the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.
Imagine a woman
who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.
Imagine a woman
who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.
Imagine a woman
in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.
Imagine a woman
who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her precious life energy disguising the changes in her body and life.
Imagine a woman
who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.
Imagine yourself as this woman.

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