So the gears of 2018 have started turning…
The past few days I started revving, rocking and getting back into action. Thinking about what lies ahead this year reminded me of a thought I had a few months ago – embracing uncertainty. Embracing uncertainty in 2018 means allowing myself to feel intrigued by, even curious about the unknown. Yet every time I think of the ‘unknown’ tis human nature to instinctively feel fear…no?
Moments of fear and sadness cannot be cured or defeated. They can only be transformed by learning to love and support yourself when they arrive” – Sarah Blondin (Live Awake 2017)
Fear has a purpose. What is it that my fear is trying to tell me? It has a message for me. Every time that I stopped trying to run away from it, or stop pushing it away from me and actually let it in to determine it’s message for me, then fear releases its tight grip on me, and my life becomes more pleasurable indeed.
In 2018 I will embody my fear, free my spirit, look up, step forward, move ahead …believe, breathe, believe, dance, cry, laugh and love….. C’est la vie. Let’s just frikkin do this.
And so this above is the only picture I have of an amazing weekend spent with some new and extremely interesting friends on the West Coast.
The weekend was different for a couple of reasons. For starters it was a meat free, and mostly preservative free weekend… kind of. In total we were 10 people, of which 3 were vegetarian, 2 pescetarian, and 3 others weren’t vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian, but did not eat anything with preservatives or added sugar. That made the weekend menu very interesting. We all helped with the cooking, and I’m thrilled to share that we had the most delicious predominantly plant based meals that were tremendous fun to prepare.
The other difference was it was really chilled in strange way, considering we don’t know each other that well. I guess I expected some anxiety since I didn’t know them well, but to my surprise, everyone was super relaxed and friendly (happy?). I think it’s because everyone that was there, was self assured and just confident in their own skin. Silly things to illustrate my point…. after an amazing dinner and socialising on both nights, everyone went to bed by about 11pm. Despite there being loads of alcohol (and vegetarian food) available, overindulging just wasn’t something that appealed much to anyone. Over the weekend I went for two longish runs and my friends did various things including cycling, kite-surfing, sculpting (one posed and one sculpted), a few of us read a bit, listened to music, had stimulating conversation while we prepared food and at times we just all chilled on the beach. And during the entire weekend no one bothered to watch tv.
The culmination of this translated into the most significant difference, the outstanding feature about this weekend….To me is feels that everyone there was present. And that was seriously cool.
It truly was different to any other weekend I’ve been on before. We didn’t take pictures. No one bothered to ask anyone else to take selfies with them. No one posted on FB or Insta or anywhere else that I know of. It’s not because the weekend wasn’t fun – it’s because we were all fully engaged in the weekend. On Saturday I realised that there wasn’t a single person that seemed to be preoccupied with their smart phones. Smart phones all lay on a pile on one of the tables while we sat outside sharing pita and talking about that various activities that everyone got up to that day.
Every time I caught myself thinking about the past, or the future (besides a few very practical things that needed my attention), I gently acknowledged and then dismissed those thoughts. I don’t know for sure, but I surely am inclined to believe that this thing, this new experience to me, aka living in the present is the source of true contentment and happiness.
Anyway who knows….. but lets try this Bronwyn why not!
1. Making a huge pot of popcorn, after coming home from a run and eating it all while watching a movie
2. Watching an old’ish movie you intended to see ages ago when it was on circuit… but you missed it. So you stream it #iTunesRocks
3. Listening to Ed Sheeran #CutieWithAmazingVoice
4. Devil’s Peak First Light
5. Burning rose or geranium scented incense for no particular reason …just because you are beautiful and life is good.
6. Watching your children interact with their friends #Priceless
7. Giving yourself ‘off’ from working on a particular night even though you didn’t finish those impossible goals you said you would that day. YOLO… life is more than just work!
8. Having a Din Din club to send drunk texts to. …. not like that I send drunk texts like sometimes… like ever (or blog when drunk 🤞🏾) 🤦🏾♀️😱…. much.
9. Insight Timer to lull you to sleep.
10. Drinking gin, beautiful gin in the dark, taking selfies and laughing at yourself for being an idiot.
So yes, I am being incredibly brave, and the truth is I am not at all scared of my own opinion. Opinions are dynamic evolving things and for now this is mine.
Over lunch yesterday, my best friends and I had a great conversation and engaging debate, which got me thinking about the content of this blog post. Who knows how it started, talk about cheese and beer drifted into a conversation on societal inequalities, and an opinion was expressed that education is the key to change (this I agree with) however a continuation of this sentiment is that education should be free (and this… I most vehemently disagree with).
Nothing can ever be free. Not even love. Everything in life costs something. The love from even your mother comes at a cost to her. If it did not, it would not be so powerful. Anything and everything that is worthwhile in life comes at some sort of sacrifice. So hold on …..wait, before I become too philosophical, let’s backtrack because I think my friend/s meant in the more practical sense. The example of Sweden was offered as a model for free education. Very practical yes….. and IMNSHO, very ridiculous yes! It is outright insane to compare South Africa with Sweden. Sweden is a very socialist country, because they can afford to be socialist. As in literally (they have the money) to afford to be socialist. Their basic human rights are taken care of – in South Africa ours are not. Without that, any plight to educate will be futile.
Education is more than studying from a few books, writing a few research papers, getting a degree or three or seven. It is not the cognitive abilities of our society that will fix our problems, it is our metacognitive abilities that will do this. Our thinking about our thinking. The foundation for our metacognitive abilities is only fertilized through socialisation. You can be smart, but a sociopath at the same time. And those fuckers are absolutely no good to society.
It is at grassroots that we must foster development. The past is in the past. Yes I was not popular with my friends for saying that, but I will stick to my guns.
We have what we have. Now – the present. No actions now will undo what was done. There is always the option for vengeance (….yes peoples that what it is – call it whatever else you want to now, but know that it is vengeful to 20 years ex post facto lash out now for something that was not addressed). AND vengeance stagnates growth #Fact. Again IMNSHO, there is no difference in looking at this from a personal point of view. Let’s say I had an abusive husband…. treated me like dirt, emotionally disempowered me, the shit beat me to pulp regularly and verbally lambasted me for years…you get the story. We got divorced – and we each got our settlement. A settlement we agreed upon. Some years later I am unhappy because my life still isn’t going according to the ideal I thought it would – so now I want to go back and take more of what I feel is rightfully mine. It’s driven by emotion…. and yes THAT is vengeful. While there would be some comfort to be gained from vengeance – it’s comfort that is short-lived and short-sighted.
Education is the key, but redressing the more basic problems in society is needed before an attempt at educating the nation will be successful. Academic degrees won’t make us a better or more caring society – and that’s actually what we really need. Not more educated people, more caring people! We need to address those needs first. Higher education (HE) is a luxury, when security, health care and basic education is so severely restricted as it is in our country. One has to actually respect the ingenious way certain politicians use the thought, the notion of HE as a carrot, which they dangle in front of the masses, getting them to believe that is the solution. It’s really clever.
A note of education…. UCT and MIT have a comprehensive selection of MOOCs which are freely available. Surprise, surprise….there are cost free options to educate oneself! However perhaps because current “paid for” university education seems more “prestigious” … the politicians would have us believe that it is key. Sadly MOOCs cannot be fully utilised without basic needs such as a safe learning environment. Besides that, the throughput in general is not good…. Why?, again IMNSHO because it is free – so the quality of what is offered is not on par with a paid for face to face course. It takes time, energy and resources to develop and offer educational content that is worthwhile – Anything that is free, is not worth as much as something that has come at some sort of sacrifice. Why should education be different to food? It would sound outrageous and ridiculous if people demanded free food from the government, wouldn’t it? Why doesn’t it sound ridiculous when people demand absolutely free education? Or does it……
Anyway, I could go on and on and on, but enough of this already. Time to get on with my jobs – coincidentally, one of them is being an open education practitioner (For example I use YouTube to make educational resources available for free for any/all students who need help with stats) …. so I have nothing else to prove. My views on educating people, and facilitating public access to educational resources is clear. But as a whole, South African society – we are not ready for Fees to Fall.
I shouldn’t have ignored the warning sign. But I did. I didn’t know better.
I’m addicted to tobacco – cigarette smoking specifically. My plan is to never smoke another fag again in my life. But just like alcoholics stay alcoholics for the rest of their lives – despite never touching an alcoholic drink again, someone like me will be a smoker for the rest of my life, ….I just won’t, never want to smoke again.
Started at age 14, because I wanted to be cool. Stopped briefly each time I was pregnant and breastfeeding – But I knew each time, when I stopped breastfeeding I’d restart the habit. A Long Time Ago I realized how bad smoking is for me. Because of that, I distinctly recall three occasions when I quit briefly. After each of those occasions, something very significant and traumatic happened in my life (e.g. getting divorced) and I relapsed. For some addicts, ‘that thing’ that you’re addicted to, whether it be smoking, drugs, alcohol or even sex/pornography represents a comfort mechanism. After the initial trigger that started the habit, your brain begins to associate your habit with ‘reward…. relaxation…. and ultimately comfort’ and then you’re addicted.
The fourth and longest time that I quit smoking for was from 2014 till 2017. I firmly believed that it was for good that time, plus I had the best reason and motivation ever to quit cold turkey – a cancer scare!
So when I experienced an insatiable craving that physically debilitated me in late December 2016 and early January last year, that should have been a big red glaring blaring blinking sign for me! A malfunction was in the process of happening…
Tonight on someone else’s blog I read the most eloquent explanation for this. John Cheese (I kid you not….. that’s truly the guy’s name! tough break uh) is a recovering addict too and explains how his body felt like it was screaming in pain. Your body tells you that you need this now. Your body convinces you, but it’s actually not your body – it’s your brain. John clarifies “it’s the broken cog in the brain — the mechanism that makes an addict“. There’s a pretty awesome TED talk I found that put ‘addiction‘ into perspective for me : https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong/discussion?language=en
Post 2017’s introspection and self discovery, knowing myself the way I do now, if it happened now, I would have recognized that sign (the insane craving) signified that I was in very serious trouble with some aspect/s in my life. And I was…. before the trouble even properly surfaced in my life, I started feeling its presence. It was something I wasn’t equipped to deal with.
Because I didn’t consider myself an addict at the time, I did not recognize what actually was truly the most beautiful warning sign. I humbly and sincerely am in awe of how amazing our human intuition is, if only we would listen to it. So I relapsed again.
Anyway, I battled during last year – smoking on and off, feeling guilty, quitting, then feeling sad/lonely/scared and restarting when things felt overwhelming again. Like a yo-yo on steroids. Until I decided to just flipping quit quitting darn it! I’ll spare details and get to the bottom line. For the first time ever in my life I currently feel absolutely no pressure from anywhere and anyone (including myself) to quit smoking.
Thus I’ve decided it’s time to quit. Cold turkey again. Not for money, and not because I have pre-cancer again, not for my family or for other health reasons, and certainly not for any person either. I was completely off-guard today when the thought entered my brain. In-between the thought of “what’s for dinner” and “when must my car must go in for a service?”, I had the most random thought…. “the time is right to quit smoking“.
So I am Bronwyn and I am addicted to smoking. I am an addict. I’ll never escape the consequences of my addiction if I don’t admit that.
So Yes I am, but I’m a nonconformist too so I will just not smoke. And after my withdrawal symptom period is over, if I feel that craving again as strong as it was at the beginning of last year, then I’ll see it for exactly what it actually is next time. This time I’ll face the whatever fear or issue that ‘craving’ is drawing my attention to. And I’ll deal with the real problem next time.