Sunday, December 30, 2012

In Real Life

I very much doubt that the world will become an emptier place should I discontinue updating everyone on exactly what I did at the gym today. There will be no volcanic eruptions or asteroids slamming into the earth. The world will simply continue as it has always done.
And why is it, exactly, that I feel the need to inform all and sundry just how bloody difficult that cardio workout was, or how my client's receptionist is a whiney, immature little madam who is so far up her own arse she can see her tonsils? Is it validation I need? If I don't post on Facebook or Twitter, do I cease to exist? Of course not. I actually exist in the real world with my flaws and moodiness and pouting silences, far away from the witty remarks and intellectual ponderings. The cyberworld gets to see the witty, interesting virtual me and thinks that this is the real me.
In fact, the real me isn't even the me that I think I am. You see, before coming here, I convinced myself that I am Tam Olckers, when in fact, the personality Tam Olckers doesn't actually exist. But that is a long discussion for another day and I digress.
I am quite seriously cutting down my virtual life. I am no longer going to be logging into Facebook several times a day to see how everyone is doing and to splash everyone's news feed with my petty, boring and unsubstantial remarks and comments. I don't live my life in status updates, comments and likes. I live it in sweat, blood, tears, laughter and copious amounts of coffee.
The decision to unplug comes in on the blazing comet tail of my other decision to no longer fill my life with emotional junk, clutter and noise. I no longer have the energy - or time - to get wound up in intrigues, scandals and photos of planking. Ditching the junk means ditching junk activities as well as all the junk food and junk thoughts I've been consuming. It doesn't mean I won't log on once in a while to say "Hi" to all the friends I won't get to connect with otherwise. I'll still post updates once in a while. I'll still comment and like and look at the photos of planking.  Facebook has become the only vehicle of communication with some friends and family. I just won't be communicating quite as often as you've become accustomed to.
Luckily for me, the people I have on my social media are people I respect, love and would invite to an elaborate multi-course dinner at my home. Life, I've decided, is too short for cheap red wine and fake friends. I have paintings waiting to be born, and those of you who began reading  my "Bitterhoek" saga will want to read more and I need the space - within myself and in my schedule - to do that. There is a lot of studying (of maths and science) to happen next year. There is no way I can do all this and still keep checking into Facebook six times a day.
It's time for me to live In Real Life. To have real conversations, cups of coffee and dinners with the people who live in Johannesburg and meaningful emails and letters with everyone else.
I miss the silence I had before. I miss seeing people face to face. I regret nothing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wisdom and Compassion

Buddhists are known for their compassion and understanding. They even have a name for this: Bodhisattva Practice. A Bodhisattva, quite simply put, is a being of great compassion, who has dismissed an opportunity to live in Nirvana and continue to live in the earthly realm to help others attain Buddhahood.

Sounds lofty. Impossible, even. Still, compassionate practice, as a Buddhist, is something to strive for.

It is an ideal that I have reached for, and often failed miserably at the task.

Recently, I have experienced an odd phenomenon. Young people have come to me seeking advice for their problems and I have dispensed said advice, reminding them that the advice came from my own experience, which may not be their experience. Advice dispensed, I sat back feeling a little smug that I was a) asked and b) all the problems in the world had been solved.

Yet, the next day, they came back for more advice on the same situation, which I could see was disastrous. I dispensed my advice. I did not feel so smug. I had been in the same situation as these young ladies and I so wanted to snatch them away from the grim abyss that awaited them if they continued down that path. I knew that path. I had walked it and had seen the sights.

I related all of this to a wise friend. She pondered the dilemma a moment and reminded me that compassion and wisdom went hand in hand. "Even the Dalai Lama is a man," she said, "He has to meditate on things first."

Sometimes being compassionate is simply not doing anything at all, respecting someone else's journey and allowing their karmic lessons to unfold. I cannot prevent another person from putting their hand into the fire, no matter how much I tell them it will burn and scar. They can see that it is fire. By being adament about the path someone SHOULD take is being disrespectful of their karma and life path. (And I am all about people respecting my journey, yet here I was disrespecting someone else's.)

So I step back. I honour and respect their journey by honouring and respecting mine. Compassion sometimes means allowing others to make mistakes so that they may grow instead of taking those opportunities from them and preventing them from growth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Making Peace with Mother

My mother: Marcella Theodora Olckers
13 October 1942 - 22 November 2001

Eleven years ago, around four in the afternoon, my mother, quite literally, dropped dead. Heart attack. One of such magnitude that only if she had been open on an operating table, would they have had a smidgeon of a chance of saving her.

Now before you all start composing comments that start with "OMG, I am so sorry...", save it. Seriously. Comments like that annoy me. I discovered a taboo after she died: people find it really difficult to deal with me telling them I don't miss my mother and I am really not sorry she is dead. There've been a lot of how-can-you-say-thats and you-don't-really-mean-thats. Of course I can say that. Yes, I really do mean that.

You didn't know my mother. Even if you did, you would have found her charming, generous and dedicated to helping others. You would never have guessed that she was a controlling, narcissistic, emotionally abusive bitch.

And I am sure that that last paragraph evoked a lot of a lot of how-can-you-say-thats and you-don't-really-mean-thats too.

I assure you that I can and I do.

Enough of that, though. I decided this year to make peace with my mother, even though she is long dead. And what it means is actually saying nice things about her, which I find quite challenging. I did put some thought into it and I discovered that I actually do have a few  nice things to say about her and I thought I would say those nice things today (Ten. Ten nice things to say. That's as far as I got.):

1. My mom was a beautiful woman. It is from her that I get my good looks (no, really, I am a good looking woman beneath all that fat)

2. I got my love of music - particularly the vintage and classical stuff - from her. She was musically enclined herself and I guess she passed that on to me too.

3. She made awesome fish cakes.

4. It was rare to see her laugh or smile, but when she did, there was suddenly light in the air.

5. Because of her, I became the funny, clownish person I am today.

6. She taught me how to make potato salad

7. She birthed me and took care of me and for a time, she must have felt some sort of affection, if not love, towards me. I think mostly when I was a baby and a toddler.

8.  She sometimes let me stay home from school for a day or two if I wasn't sick, but didn't want to go.

9. She believed me when I told her I had really bad headaches, which later turned out to be migraines. She could easily have told me I was silly, but didn't.

10. She understood my fear of the dark.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Personal Thoughts on Motherhood

I took a book out of the library on Saturday called “Mother-Daughter Wisdom” by Dr Christiane Northrup.  The book goes into much detail about pregnancy and birth, while also giving insights into how these events affect mother-daughter relationships. I chose the book purely because I believed that there may be something in there to help me heal my relationship with my own mother, who will be dead for eleven years this month.

Reading through the pregnancy and birth stuff, and the glowing joys of motherhood stuff, it came crashing in on me that I will never know how that feels in this lifetime. It surprised me a little, and as short lived as the “OMG – I will never have a child” moment was, it was more than a little unsettling. More unsettling, in fact, than being reminded that women who have never birthed a child are more likely to die of ovarian cancer.

There was once a time when I ached for children. It was a visceral ache. It pulled on ever nerve ending and I questioned my sanity much of the time.

As women, we live within an ocean of chemicals that trigger all kinds of very bizarre reactions. My (almost) demented longing for a baby began at 25, reached its peak at the age of 35, with me weeping uncontrollably every time an advert for formula or nappies flashed across the TV screen. It was clear to me that there really was a biological clock and that I could, in fact, hear it ticking.

And then, just like that, it stopped.

I figured that, realizing that babies were so not going to happen, my body decided that rather than waste its time on pushing me towards procreation, its energy would be better spent elsewhere.  I quickly became comfortable with the idea that there would be no children for me.

I am not a natural nurturer. I have little patience and I have not learned how to “kiddie-speak”. When I talk to children, I talk to them the same way I would talk to adults, because that’s what I know.  I have never been that natural earth mother that children are inherently attracted to. I am more of the strange lady with the cats that it’s best to avoid – in case she’s a witch. Despite all of that, though, my cousin’s three children seem to love me. A great deal to boot. Weird.

I also do not understand why complete strangers in a doctor’s office or queue at a till wish to engage me in lively conversation about little Johnny and little Stephanie. I find that the only news of children I would actually like to hear, is news of the children I know, not random waiting room and queue children.

As a young woman, and even while married to a man, I felt ambivalent about having children. On the one hand, I felt that perhaps my life would have some sort of meaning if I had a child. On the other hand, I feared that I would be the kind of parent my mother was, completely messing the poor kid up and sending it into many years of therapy. And even then, even with one or two ‘oops’ moments, I never conceived.

I have no idea what that is like. I’ll never know the anticipation, the heartburn, the swollen belly and swollen feet or the ‘push, dammit, push’. And sometimes it does feel as though I have missed out on something. Then I remember that along with the gift of life, I would be handing them the not-so-much gift of depression and an insane woman as their mother who will make their lives a living hell.

I don’t regret not producing a mini-me. It’s been a long time since I moved from ambivalence to the choice of not having children at all – not even through adoption or fostering. I do, however, feel a little less of a woman for not having had the experience of that.

Still, when the inevitable question of children rolls around to me, I reply: “I have five children. Four girls and one boy.” There are delighted smiles all round, “None of them are human, though,” I add. Crestfallen faces. Oh well.

Sometimes I do try to imagine what my furbabies would be like had they been human: Tippy would have been the athlete, Jock the little boy who does boy scouts and rock climbing and adventure games, Bokkie would be one of those popular girls, Bijoux would be our ADD child and Coco the delightful little toddler with a fondness for sticking everything in her mouth and pulling all the tablecloths off onto the floor. They’re all the children I’ll ever have. It’s the closest I am ever going to get to parenthood, and I guess that whatever nurturing feelings I have in me is channeled into them.

All of which sounds silly, and which, no doubt, will alienate my friends with (human)children. Sorry guys. But furkids are the only kids I am ever going to have.

I’ve contented myself with being the cool Auntie. Ok. Not the cool Auntie. The Weird Auntie. Which will most likely see me excluded from wedding invitations in the future. “Not Auntie Tam. She’s too weird. She’ll just talk about aliens and anacondas. OK. We’ll just have to seat her next to your senile Uncle Simon.” I can see it coming.

I have a great deal of admiration for my friends and family who have taken on parenthood. It’s a task too daunting , and motherhood far too noble a calling for the likes of me. I am a selfish cow and a coward. I’d have been one of those clingy psycho moms. I don’t have the stamina or the strength or the grace to be a parent.

So, no, I can’t do what you guys do. I feel sad that I will never know what it’s like to be a parent, but relieved too. If that means that I can look forward to being seated next to senile Uncle Simon at family events in the future, I’ll take it. I discovered that Aunties can do no damage to the children they love from their safe, distant palace, and that’s where I choose to stay.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kintsugi in Daily Life

Last night I dreamt about Kintsugi. I dreamt that I had a turquoise coloured bowl, which I had dropped and it had broken in two. I took it to an artisan who practiced Kintsugi, who repaired it for me. The broken bowl came back to me with a beautiful gold seam running across where the break had been.

The art of Kintsugi originated in Japan. Broken ceramic and porcelain items are repaired using a technique of applying a lacquer that is inlaid with gold. The broken item comes back even better than new, which is the whole idea. The idea was to make something truly beautiful out of something that was once broken and unwanted.

It's a wonderful metaphor for life. My life, at least. I can't speak for anyone else's. I admit that I have been a broken human being. I see that, acknowledge it and accept it. For me, Nichiren Buddhism became my Kintsugi and I am sure there are dozens of seams of gold running through me. Not only repaired, but better than before.

I don't think you have to be a Nichiren Buddhist to appreciate how we've been shaped by adversity and how each obstacle has been an opportunity to add a seam of gold to our souls.

And this year has been particularly trying. This year I have added several gold seams. Realising that Kintsugi can be a metaphor for life, though, has made me feel more comfortable with the challenges I have faced - and those that are still to come.

And Now.... A Meme...

Thank you, Kerry. Don't mind if I do.... 

I am: alive and mostly sane

I have: clean underwear

I know: how to tell the time, dress myself and recognise the people around me. I hope this will not change when I get old.
I think: too much.
I don’t think: a sense of humour is a frivolous thing to have
I want: (right now) a cappuccino, my duvet, vintage jazz and a good book
I like: cats, writing, reading, singing, art-ing 
I dislike: being touched (did you see that coming?)
I hate: cruelty
I dream: most bizarre dreams, some vivid and some lucid. Most entertaining.
I fear: heights, escalators and lifts
I am annoyed: when people touch me after I tell them I don't like being touched
I crave: the life of an artist
I search: the Buddha within
I hide: my insecurities behind self-deprecating humour
I wonder: if there really are aliens from outer space and if they do exist, why they are so obsessed with probing our butts. After all we are talking about an advanced civilisation that uses space travel. Surely they'd have scans for that sort of thing?
I just can’t help: straightening piles of magazines in waiting rooms
I regret: many things
I love: my wife and our beautiful furry family
I can’t live without: coffee
I try to: be grown up. I don't like it much.
I enjoy: art-ing
I don’t care: what you think of me
I never want to: go bungee jumping
I believe: we are all one
I dance:ZUMBA!
I sing: where no one can hear me. Which is a shame, because I do have a good singing voice. I wonder why I do that.
I argue: about the stupid shit
I win: when it comes to getting up after being knowcked down
I lose: keys - often.
I wish: that I had followed the calling in my soul when I was young enough to do something with it
I listen: to vintage jazz when I want to be cheered up.
I don’t understand: maths
I forget: things more often than I used to. This worries me.
I am happy: with all I have in my life right now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Inspiration Avenue - Seasons - The Green Man

A painting of The Green Man, who is said to come out at Spring  and help the season to change. He's quite fun to paint. This is the second painting I have done of him. He rocks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To Grieve.

Grief - Original Artwork T Olckers. All Rights Reserved
I grieve.

I have lost three children since April this year. They weren't human children; two were cats and one a dog. That doesn't mean that my grief is any less than if they were human children.

I still look for them. Sometimes I catch glimpses of them from the corner of my eye that turn out to be shadows. The pain of their passing is real, and I miss them every day, as much as I miss my father who died four years ago.

Yes, I will be ridiculed by some people. Of course, that is to be expected. "It's just a DOG. It's just a CAT. You can get another..." and "Don't be silly. They weren't REAL children."

To me they were real. I have no human children and I love my animal children as much as I would if they were human.

I still expect to see Bodhi sauntering up the drive to greet me. I expect to find Diego wagging his tail at the gate. I still sometimes think I see Leilah surveying the world from her perch on the roof. And then I realise that none of them are there, that they are gone, and I grieve.

I have cried more these past four months than I have in the past four years. My children are gone. I still have five living, four legged and furry babies. I love them too. I miss the ones who are no longer with me.

And I grieve.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Vision of Three Buddhas

Buddha - T Olckers - 23/8/2012 - All Rights Reserved
 As I was falling asleep, I had a vision of Three Buddhas.

The first one, I fashioned out of beach sand and it stood up, out of the sand,   a magnificent being at least 7 feet tall, and then stood beside me as we watched the ocean. He looked at me, smiled and walked into the ocean where the sand disintegrated and became part of the ocean.

I looked beside me, and there stood a second Buddha, also tall and one made entirely out of onyx, gleaming and beautiful with a very elaborate headdress. He too smiled at me, and as he did, the onyx cracked and fell away to reveal that he was made of gold (see my cartoon drawing, left) and his headdress was less elaborate.

He held his hand above my crown chakra and a light the colour of which I can only describe as yellow-blue as there is no colour like it that I have seen before, enveloped my body in a warm light cocoon.

The Buddha stood before me and dissolved into the light, which now swirled around me. He too smiled and walked right through me as a being of light and disappeared, leaving me surrounded by the swirling light.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'd Be Happy Too If I Could Meditate All Day.

I used to believe that spiritual people were really happy people who never had to deal with crap. Because they are enlightened. And vegan. Who don’t drink or smoke or fuck. Vibrating on a higher level on a cloud somewhere with their own personal gurus on the astral plane whispering the solutions to all life’s problems into their ears.

Which, of course, is utter nonsense.

No one is constantly happy every single day of their lives. I think it’s silly to expect that of anyone. Yet, when we begin the journey towards the Divine, that’s what we are expecting of ourselves. To have a silly grin slapped to our faces 24/7, to never experience hardship again and to spend our waking hours with the energy of a troupe of Hare Krishnas on speed.

I have expected that of myself. The reality is that regardless of how far I am on the journey (and I am guessing I am only at the starting gate in any case, and completely unqualified to even offer my opinion, but here it is nonetheless), I will still spend some time in uncomfortable silences, have days (or months) where I am not up to chanting, and I will experience challenges in my day to day life. What I have seen of the people I admire the most for their spiritual journey, some things have become harder, not easier. However, a connection to the divine has somehow made diversity easier to navigate.

I doubt that finding your spiritual core elevates you immediately to a place where you are untouched by life's challenges. Those same people I admire still cry and laugh and have fat days and low days and joy days.

If I followed all the advice given by this, that and the other teacher in this, that and the other book/DVD/audio presentation, I would have to devote myself full time to all the exercises that I would be expected to do. (Deep breathing, journaling, yoga, chanting, reconnecting my energy to the universe, clearing my chakras, clearing my aura, empowering my chakras, empowering my aura, honouring my ancestors, honouring the gods and myself .... and then a little snack before more prayers, mantras, painting of mandalas and silent meditation.) I understand why Buddha, Jesus and all the rest of the great teachers didn’t have day jobs – there was no time for one!

I feel that everyone’s journey is personal. Teachers and Buddhas and gurus and masters provide (often conflicting) guidance. There is a lot of “This path is the only path”. To paraphrase Kalil Gibran: say that you have found a path, not the path.

And that’s all it is: guidance. Our personal journeys towards our own divinity is just that: personal. My path is not your path, and my path is not ‘better’ than your path. It’s just a path. A bumpy one with detours and a few crazy people jumping out of the bushes, but still, a path.

So I am going easy on myself. I don’t have to be vegan or an accomplished yogi or a nun to live a life that is richly spiritual. I don’t even have to believe in God to do that. Nor do I have to be constantly happy. I just have to live my own, authentic life while I walk a path that suits me right now. I don’t have to listen to every teacher that comes my way. After all, they teach what comes from their path and their experience. I may agree or disagree, but I don’t have to take the same path.

(Secretly, though, I would like to have my very own cloud and the energy of a troupe of Hare Krishnas on speed).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Call Me Reverend.

So, Maddies and I have been interested in opening an investment savings account with Nedbank. I phoned last week Thursday and gave them all the details they needed and they sent back some forms, which I refused to sign as they were incorrect. They got our address wrong and they had me down as 'Mrs' - after I told them I am 'Ms'.

Today, just over a week later, they finally decided to return my phonecall (after numerous calls placed to their AskOnce helpline; and I had to ask more than once).

The lady I spoke to, Melanie, wanted to know why we hadn't returned the forms. I gave her the whole story. She asked me what was incorrect. I told her. And then, she argued with me and it went something like this:

Me: "I am not 'Mrs'"

Melanie: "I do have you down as married out of community of property. I am not sure where I may have gone wrong with that information."

Me: "That information is correct."

Melanie: "Then you ARE a 'Mrs'"

Me: "I am certainly not. I am 'Ms'"

Melanie: "Could you please tell me WHY?" (REALLY? WTF? Is this woman serious or stupid?)

I then launch into a brief history of feminism, as I wrote HERE in Adventures in Dykeville as Kitty van Dyke.

Me: "I choose to call myself 'Ms' because I do not belong to a man. I am a lesbian who is married to a woman."

Melanie: "Why didn't you tell me all that when we filled out the telephonic form?" (This chick really has a death wish.)

Me (really pissed off now): "I don't feel I have to justify either my sexuality or my title to anyone, and most certainly not to a stranger from a bank."

Melanie (sounding self-righteous): "Well, it's Nedbank's policy to use those terms."

Me: "Nedbank's policy is archaic. Nedbank's service sucks donkey arse. And if Nedbank has an issue with calling me 'Ms', they can call me 'Reverend'."

Nedbank is going to get a very nice (not) letter from me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Inspiration Avenue - Swirls

All the swirls I started drawing fresh for this challenge looked really naff, so I am submitting a photo of a painting I did of the Goddess Astarte, who appeared  through swirls of light in a vision. I hope the folks over at Inspiration Avenue are cool with that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Some of My Paintings

These are photographs of some of the paintings of done. Something gets lost in photographing a painting. But you get the idea. All works are oil on canvas or oil on canvas board.



Green Man




Monday, July 9, 2012

Inspiration Avenue - FLY

Vlad, The Ice Mosquito

For Inspiration Avenue, I submit a cartoon of Vlad, The Ice Mosquito.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Inspiration Avenue - Fantasy Vacation

One of the things that Madelein and I would love to do is to take a road trip around South Africa, stopping off at those little-known towns, visit the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda and see if we can spot the Uniondale Ghost. The trip would include seeing the Namaqualand daisies in bloom and a trip up to Mozambique to swim with Dolphins. The Tsitsikamma Forest. The bushveld. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chickens and Roosters - Inspiration Avenue

Chickens and Roosters - An Abstract Interpretation

"I am Mishka the Fierce, Dissolver of Windows! Yah-Hah!"

"Now watch closely, Medeah, as I dissolve the window by licking it so that we can go inside."

"Mmmmm. Tastes like chicken."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Meme - Via Kerry

Right now, I am updating my blogs

I’m currently obsessed with aliens. I always have been.

Cannot live without Coffee and cats. Not necessarily in that order. OK. In that order.

I’m reading The Richest Man in Babylon. In Afrikaans.

I’m listening to my mellow mix playlist on my iPod. 

Favourite place in Joburg de Ouwe Werf restaurant in (I think) Honeydew.

Favourite place in SA Tsitsikamma forest

Favourite place in the world Venice.

I’ve lived in Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Groningen, London, a rural English village and Johannesburg

Next up on my bucket list is to be super healthy

The last thing I crossed of my bucket list Shave my head

I realized I was an adult when I received my first real pay cheque

I realized I’d never be an adult when I received my first real pay cheque.

In the movie of my life, I want to be played by Janine Garafolo

Best invention since the wheel: iPod

A house is not a home without a cat

This week I’m crushing on art

I’m currently working on some art, two books, poetry, paintings and the business I have with my wife.

I’m really proud of my sense of  humour

You’d be amazed if I showed you my hats

I cannot survive winter without cappuccino

Signature dish spaghetti sauce

Guilty pleasure a bubble bath in the afternoon when I am all alone at home

When no-one’s looking, I put post-it notes up telling people how beautiful they are

In my next life I want to be a cat

Every morning, I cuddle with the dogs. It's the best part of the morning.

I believe that we are all one

I’ve really got to work on my health and fitness

Best advice I was ever given  was to pay attention to the Universal Baseball Bat when it's gently tapping you on the shoulder and before it swats you over the head

Wishes - Inspiration Avenue

"Wishes" - Pencil sketch - by T - 5 June 2012

Sometimes we wish we had what someone else has, but we have no idea what their life is like or what they have had to do to be who they are. It's easy to think someone else has it all. Much harder work loving your life just as it is and enjoying what you already have.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Concluding... and Beginning

Birthdays, in my book, are retrospective. You celebrate your first birthday at the end of your first year. Tomorrow, I turn 39, effectively concluding my 39th year and opening the door to my 40th.

Ten years ago, at the age of 29, I was a very different, and confused person. I was coming to the end of my Saturn Return, which inspired a great deal of upheaval and I had no idea where to turn in my life. I had no idea who I was, what I was meant to be doing in life and I was quite depressed.

In the years that followed, I changed my life quite dramatically. I came out, lived in the English countryside, converted to Nichiren Buddhism, went through a great deal of emotional pain, lost my father, my job and then-girlfriend all in the space of 3 months in 2007. I returned to South Africa, discovered chiropractic, fell out with my sister, met a wonderful lady and married her... It's been a busy ten years.

I have learned great things in my thirties.

I've learned that it's okay to set one's pride aside and ask for help. That no one is actually looking at me all the time. That sometimes, depression presents the gift of being an excellent bullshit filter. That one's purpose is not going to be found popping out of a hat, or a cake, or a fortune cookie: sometimes you create your purpose, sometimes purpose finds you. And that's okay. I've learned that it's okay to make mistakes. The world won't end, lightning won't strike me, and strangers won't be magically imbued with the ability to read every mistake I've made on my face. I've learned that being at the centre of my own life is the most important thing I can do for myself. My happiness is my responsibility and no one else's, and by the same token, I am not responsible for the happiness of others. Family is who you choose to be part of your life, not necessarily those born of the same blood, with the same surname.

Finally, that life is okay, and I am okay, and it's perfectly acceptable to enjoy my life, as I am, with all my quirks, mistakes, weirdness, seriousness, child-likeness, joy, sadness, grab-it-by-the-fucking-balls-ness.

I am more accepting of myself and others than I was ten years ago. I am far more emotionally centred. And I am enjoying my life.

And so, another exciting journey begins as I prepare for another decade in this world. A decade I choose to live in a healthier body, living my purpose, being connected to life and source. Living from the centre of my life. Loving those around me without condition, being more compassionate, especially to myself.

I raise a glass to the woman I was, the woman I am, and the woman I am yet to become. Happy Birthday to me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Delays, Detours and Self Doubt

Delays and Detours

STEP ONE:  Study and pass Grade 12 Maths and Science

Step one update: ON HOLD.

Financial debts that we had incurred have caught up to us, and settling these has become a priority. This means that my journey into mathematics and science is delayed by a year.

Yes, this is a a little disappointing. It has cast a great deal of doubt on my own abilities, my knowledge of myself and  my dreams. I spent most of the weekend thinking that perhaps this is the Universe's way of saying I don't deserve my dreams, that I am not really meant to be a chiropractor. I've been thinking that I am not clever enough to study chiropractic, that I suck at maths and maybe this is all for the best. How silly was I thinking I could go to chiropractic school? I've never been to university. In short, I have been feeling pretty crappy about it all.

Obstacles and Devils. That's what it is. So I found this quote from Nichiren Daishonin:
“Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbour doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God, The Devil and a Rastafarian Shapeshifter

A cartoon I did of the dream

I had an odd dream:

I am in a beat up blue Ford Anglia, driving around, looking for the way home. In the backseat are God, The Devil and a Rastafarian Shapeshifter. I find myself driving from daylight into a dark forest, where it's night. I have no idea where I am. There is an old sign, but the letters have worn down to illegible. So I look up into the rearview mirror and I ask God: "Where are we?"

God replies: "I don't know."

Me: "Then you can't be God. If you were, you would know where we are."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


For the second time in two months, we have lost a furry child.

Diego was with us for 24 hours. He came to us from the SPCA Vereeniging. He died most likely of a bad reaction to the anasthetic used for his sterilisation.

Rest in Peace little one. We'll find you again in your next incarnation.

Art for New Blog

Meet Kitty van Dyke, my alter ego. I will very soon be blogging under this name in a new blog I am creating, focussed solely on lesbian life. Watch this space.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Life nella Casa della Lesbica

You'll find a lot of dogs at our home. Four dogs and one cat. And here they are:


Bokkie and Leilah Madam Kitsika

Jock and Tippy under the apricot tree

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Parktown Prawn

The Parktown Prawn is a greatly misunderstood creature. Certainly, to most people living in Johannesburg, it's appearance is usually greeted with shrieks and arguments about whose turn it is to get rid of the Big Ugly Fucker.

Legend has it that nothing can kill one of these. In fact, it's destined to share the earth with the cockroaches after a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, I have witnessed the Parktown Prawn's resilience. While gardening, Madelein happened to slice one of these bugs in half with a spade. It's front half continued to crawl around for two days after that, ending up in the lounge and exciting our already excitable dogs.

They seem impervious to pest repellents and you can empty an entire can of Doom on the thing and it will still stand there in the kitchen, laughing at you. And they jump. High. Causing more shrieks, of course. But that's not the worst of it - they squirt a hideous inky goo when threatened and the stuff stinks worse than a fertilizer factory on a hot day. (Bodhi would sometimes be squirted by one of them and the stench would hang on him for days.)

The Parktown Prawn seemed to make its appearance in Johannesburg in the 1960s. Prior to that, they were relatively unknown. Now there are several ideas as to why this may be, and you can read it all here on Wikipedia, if you are curious. I, on the other hand, have a theory of my own.

You see, there is also an unprecedented amount of UFO sightings in the 1960s, the same time period the Parktown Prawn emerged. I reckon that the Parktown Prawn is an alien life form that bugged a bunch of beings on some other planet. They piled all their Parktown Prawns into a flying saucer and went whizzing through the cosmos in search of a suitable place to dump the lot.

They discovered Johannesburg and opened the hatches.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Views on Religion

Whether you believe in a particular faith or not, I believe that you have the freedom to that belief. As long as you are respectful of the beliefs of others, and invite discussion and non-violent interaction, you're ok by me. Killing or maiming others within your religion for not conforming or because they are different because of their sexual orientation is not ok. Killing or maiming others because they don't believe what you do is not ok.

Nichiren Daishonen's followers claim that only his teachings and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra are correct. Christians believe that only Christianity is correct. As do many other religions. Thing is, we don't know. I don't know if Buddhism is the only correct path to enlightenment. What I do know is that it is one path to enlightenment. It is no greater nor less than Christianity or Judaism, or Islam or Zoroastrianism or Eckankar or Spaghetti Monsterism.

Buddhism is a path I CHOSE. Yes, you can choose your religion. And I chose Buddhism. Within my faith, I choose to treat other beings as though they too are Buddhas. That is what I have decided what's best for my life path.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lessons from Mr Gay World 2012

Andreas Derleth from New Zealand
Mr Gay World 2012
Mr Gay World 2012 was held last night at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City, Johannesburg. The first international all gay competition of its kind to be held on African soil. Yes, there is Mr Gay SA and Mr Gay Namibia and so on. But nothing international. Nothing like this.

Madelein and I were able to be part of the audience watching this spectacular event, thanks to some comp tickets that were generously passed our way.

It's not often you will get to see a half naked man on a lesbian's blog. The half naked man in question is Andreas Derleth, Mr Gay New Zealand, who took the crown from the previous winner, South African, Francois Nel.

My spiritual brother, Frank Malaba from Zimbabwe, was one of the judges.

I am proud to be a gay South African. I am proud that I live in a country with a constitution that recognises gay rights and that we, as gay people, have the right to choose to marry our partners. We can adopt children. We can be free from discrimination in the workplace and we can openly visit gay bars and clubs.

And yet.

Despite all these apparent freedoms, we still have the issue of corrective rape, with lesbians being raped and murdered for being 'different', for not wanting to be with men, for shunning the advances of men, for simply LOVING another woman.

Madelein and I discussed the visibility of gay women. We openly held hands - like we always do. We are white lesbians living in the suburbs. If we were black lesbians in townships or rural areas, we would be raped and murdered.

We are very privileged. And Mr Gay World pointed out that the competition was not about physical beauty, but about being a global ambassador for gay rights.

And, as so many of the contestants pointed out last nights, it's not about GAY rights, but HUMAN rights. We all have a right to love someone. We all have the right to enjoy that love returned. As far as I am concerned, that what two consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one's business. Not the church's. Not the state's. Not mine.

We have the right to love who we choose without living in fear for our lives.

And I see how complacent I am as a lesbian. I have a nice life. I have a loving partner. A happy home. A good job. I live in the suburbs and, apart from some stares and scowls when we hold hands in public, my wife and I have not experienced much discrimination. I can live openly without fear of losing my life.

South Africa is a bit of a contradiction.

Last year, I walked WITS Pride with photographer and activist, Zanele Muholi. Her dedication to the plight of black lesbians was inspiring. But what have I done since then? I've gone back to the comfort of my suburban lesbian life with my three dogs and my wife, and my business, without a second thought of my black sisters.

I've forgotten my commitment to be a daily activist. Gay men, it seems, are more outspoken when it comes to that.

Time to change, I think. Time to step up and put a voice to those who don't have one.

Question is: HOW?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Esho Funi - Oneness of Life and Environment

We live in a dualistic world, yet the duality we accept as the real world is illusion.

We are one. All of us. And we are one with our environment - the space we share with other beings. The Japanese call this unified concept "Esho Funi", translated as The Oneness of Life and Environment.

Our lives touch the lives of others. Our reaction to others creates reaction in them and so forth. Our karma is active in our daily lives and influences the lives of those around us.

An example: We all know someone who always complains. Complain is their default life setting. We avoid that person, don't enjoy their company much and come away from meetings with them feeling drained and not quite as happy as we were before. The Complainer sees a world in which people don't want to be around them - and they complain about that. They also always seem to have friends who need to leave early or have to cut telephone calls short. Their life state has a direct impact on their environment.

We are one with our environment. Change within the self creates a ripple effect in the environment. The Complainer starts chanting. Or attends a seminar. They decide to create a more positive and loving perspective of life. Their environment begins to change. Friends notice the change, spend more time with them and they find that they are feeling better about the world they live in.

The water pays no mind to the stone that is cast into it, or the ripples that form. It makes no judgement. Life is like that. We can cast helpful or less helpful stones. The choice is ours.

For me, Esho Funi has been about integration. About seeing the influence I have on life and it has on me, and to make choices about the stone I cast into the water. You can't change others - only yourself. Change begins with us and then the change is manifest in our environment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Life of a Freelance Writer...

.... is a lot less of this:

.... and a hell of a lot more of this.

As a freelancer, you're seen as a bottom feeder - the lowest of the low. It's a frustrating existence. Particularly if you absolutely love writing and enjoy putting articles together. Thing is, because you're right at the bottom of the food chain, you're the last to get fed, and often, what gets fed to you are scraps.

I have written for free (that's exactly what I am doing right now) and I've written for money. When you write for free, you know there's no cheque. When you write for money you're never sure when the cheque is coming. Clients promises are usually empty and it's a rare publication indeed that pays the invoice when it is due.

It's though I am expected to see the fact that my article is accepted and will be published as recognition enough and that the money is just a little 'extra something', due and payable whenever the Goddess Editor deigns to bless me with the cheque.

Editorial staff never communicate adequately with the freelancer. Sketchy briefs (if I am lucky enough to even get one) and re-writes are the order of the day.

And it's not as though someone is going to happen upon my blogs and declare me the new literary genius of the decade either.

But seriously, is it too much to ask? A little respect and communication?

I know I'd like to give it all up and walk briskly away into the comfort of my 'real' job. But I know I will be back like a junkie looking up her old dealer for a fix. That's why I make nice with the editor, smile and thank her for the bag of shit I have just been handed, deceptively wrapped with an elegant ribbon. Shit in a bag, though, is still shit.

Today, though, I'd like to give writing the middle fingered salute.