Tuesday, 17 October 2017

About Our Stories

Media exploded with stories about Harvey Weinstein and the affair continues to flow with added topics like hashtag Me Too. It may feel like there was enough said and written. But I am compelled to talk.

When Harvey Weinstein's story came out not many people were surprised. He was probably unlucky that it was him who was named and dragged through press. I believe there are many others. Powerful men who used their position to their advantage and quite possibly considered it absolutely fine. He is probably feeling like the world is unfair. He may be genuinely surprised that the fact that he helped so many women isn't recognised. Women, huh? All about mixed signals, ambitions, flirting... how is a man supposed to read them? Why aren't they grateful for what they have? If it was so bad for them, why were they quiet for so long?

I grew up in mens' world. I took it for granted that men held power, had authority and behaved in a certain way. Men ruled our world for centuries. White men ran the world to be specific. For a long time women and minorities seemed to know their place. The world is changing and it is hard for them to grasp it. I do hope that Weinstein's story will make a mark in our history, that the attitudes will change and we will move closer towards equality.

I didn't consider it wrong to learn early in life to be careful. My point of view was that it is easier for me to take control of my safety than it would be for some random bloke or a very sick individual to take control over his hormones or ideas. When young women recently came out with statements about victim shaming and our right to wear whatever and go out and get drunk; I shrugged and thought about snowflakes. But after last week I can see that there is nothing wrong with demanding our voice to be heard, with ending the shame game and moving towards solutions instead.

I was led by men, I was used by men. I made mistakes. I saw it as my own failure. I thought it was my fault. I was never abused or raped so I considered myself lucky. But I was made uncomfortable and sometimes went further than I wanted. Last week reminded me about my past dark experiences. And I do understand a lot more now. I was young and eager to go ahead. I also wanted to be valued. And of course I wanted a great relationship.
Men are good at leading us on, manipulating, playing power game. Where we are eager to please they see a right to have whatever they want and only the best. It may have to do with our upbringing, the way boys are strong leaders and girls are polite and 'nice'.
Men build strong friendships and they are loyal. If someone like Harvey boasted to his friend about his latest adventure, chances are he would get a high five and be told that he is 'the man'. Either his friend would honestly think that or he would feel like he should. Even if he had doubts he would think that he better man up and strive for being the top dog. And so the culture could thrive.
The woman involved would most likely feel ashamed. Chances are she wouldn't tell her mum because her mum would quite likely consider it to be her fault - she led him on, she was asking for it. Her friends may not be very supportive, too. They may pass the story on and start a bad gossip. They may make her feel more at fault. Women are competitive, even as friends. Some may go through similar ordeal and would never dream about sharing the story. They may put the negativity into other woman's experience and make her feel bad for both of them. So silence seemed to be the easy option for long.

It isn't easy to come to term with experience like that. Boundaries are blurry. But we are talking and it is good. Women need to man up and stand up for themselves, men need to 'woman up' and think about other peoples' feelings. That is of course simplifying it, but it is my take on what we can learn from scandals and hashtags. I am glad that we are moving forward. And I wish all the best to the incredible people who got themselves through tough times.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The World I Want to Live In

Coming home after holiday with a voluntary withdrawal from news and twitter is a little bit like a slap on the face. Once you unpack and get over the glorious deliciousness of your own bed, you switch on the TV, computer, twitter feed... and you wish you could stay in the world of holiday - a world where you wonder around places, pose for photos, allow your child more ice cream than usually, meet new or old people and simply enjoy yourself.

Now you wonder whether there will be world war  3 any time soon, why do politicians not get useful, feel guilty about that holiday air miles and the bottles of water you consumed while sightseeing....

I found myself lying down in bed imagining a world I would love to live in and leave behind for my child and her children... It would be much simpler world. People would think differently. Money wouldn't be the main motivator and success would not be measured by how much you have and what you own. Therefore we would desire less. And less consumption would give us a chance to do much more useful things with our time. We would naturally want to protect the world we live in. Plastic or any material that can not be reused or efficiently recycled wouldn't be considered for use, no matter how cheap it is to produce (money isn't the king, remember?). There would be no islands of plastic swimming in the sea, no bags scattered across the countryside. Wild life would be respected.
In my perfect world, we would appreciate natural resources and share them equally. Water, soil, energy, animals, forests, they would be respected, not used for profit and destroyed without guilt. We would share this world with respect to each other and all living things.

Wealth would be shared, people would live their lives without borders, respect one another. Your colour or religion would be your business, perfect world would be a tolerant one. Important issues such as health and education would be considered first, people would work together, politicians would care and so would the people in charge. There would be no need to bow to big businesses, greed would be limited as money and profit would be much less important. What a world we could have....

We all have dreams, don't we?

Monday, 6 February 2017

0 weeks to go

Last year, I counted 40 weeks to my 40th birthday. I just wanted to know. Deep inside, I assumed that I will take these 40 weeks and transform myself: sort my unfinished things to prove that I am grown up enough for the next decade and put my body into a shape reminding me of my late 20s (ha ha on that one) or at least back before daughter was born.

I didn't realise that I will still be sleep deprived, that starting nursery will take its toll, that I will be depressed and undecided whether I should grab my life and transform it or carry on with trying for another baby, miscarrying, worrying, crying..... I still don't know. And as yet, 40 weeks past, I am not a new better version of myself. I am myself. I am working on my novel day by day. I get my house in order every morning and going to nursery is fun, not an issue anymore. I meditate and exercise, I can go to swim once a week which is an unbelievable luxury for a full time mother (as is anything you can do for and by yourself - 15 hours childcare a week is a blessing).

I am not panicking about time running out. I don't think I worry about getting old, although I do see a wrinkle or a grey hair every now and then and my weight doesn't seem to be moving in any way. It is just sitting high, too high. I put it on after full time breastfeeding, while still sleep deprived, eating too much basically. The food substitutes bad sleep and there is too much bad or no sleep. That is it.

I will be 40. I never had list of goals, I was lucky, life was good, things were happening. I am a different person. Life seems more stationary, settled. It is a good thing. I don't like people who insist staying in their twenties mode, who don't want to grow up and change. I reflect more now. Reaching 20, I was looking forward. The only backward glance was towards the realisation that I didn't make it as far in the modelling industry as I once hoped and I knew that 20 was more or less the threshold. Once my booker said I would be great to play the mums in TV ads, I knew I can pack it. Only years later was I happy about the fact I never made it to the desired measurements which wouldn't be possible in any way for a woman of my height - to have as narrow hips as imagined by designers I would somehow have to change the structure of my hips as I was not fat (although I was called fat many a times). It was nice not to have to dream about loosing 10 kilos I never needed to loose, to give it all a finger. It hurt at the time, it is so not important now.

 I remember how happy I felt after 30. I finally had stable relationship, I could make plans for my future. I was very happy in my skin. All of my late teens and twenties, any other female around was a competition, even a friend. By 30, I lost the need to be the prettiest girl in the room, the slimmest and tallest and best and most popular one... I was happy to pass the baton and watch the new girls to steal the limelight and I didn't care. I wished them well but I could finally see how little it all matters. Being first in anything is nice but it doesn't mean that it makes one happy, there is much more to that. Only in my thirties did meditation, reflection and silence make sense to me and I started needing it.

So what will 40 bring? Everything changed in the last decade and I can afford a little bit of nostalgia now, but looking to the future is tricky. Around 30, there was a map - finding love and moving in together would logically lead to things like setting up home, building a career in a new country and hopefully starting a family. Now this is all done. So what can I look forward to? How will our relationship continue? Most aspirations and worries are for my daughter, not for me, I know I will manage. I just want to be healthy and find a way to fulfil myself. As for looks, I want to be strong and happy in my body, I don't want to go back to my 20s thank you very much. I am still learning to live in my post baby body, realising what I can  and what I can not do for real, not because of lazy excuse... But what will I be really managing in the next decade remains to be seen...

Monday, 16 January 2017

My TV Moments 2

   It is already a year since BBC started showing War And Peace. It was very well made. I know I am pretty late writing about it, but here I go.

   There is a scene where Natasha, a young but poor aristocrat, goes to a ball with her family. It is important as young girls were introduced to society, met their suitors, marriages were arranged, lots depends on the way how Natasha will be accepted. Yet they stand there and they are being avoided. Even old friends, now young men who know what it means to be seen with someone, avoid eye contact. There is no money for them in that match. And Natasha's face goes from happy and excited to very anxious. And her parents' faces tense more and more even though they knew on arrival it may not go well. But they hope that their family's fortune will turn.

   It reminded me about my own youth, the anxiety around boys, the unending popularity contest, the hope to fall in love and experience romance....

   But then Andrei Bolkonsky shows up. And he is handsome. And rich. And from a great family. He is the best possible suitor for many girls there. He looks like most girls in any century would love their first love to look.
   He sees her and doesn't pretend she isn't there. He goes straight to her. He asks her to dance. He takes her hand. And very slowly, they get into position and start to dance. They dance and everyone can see them but they can only see one another.

   As this scene was unravelling, I was getting more and more emotional. Because the scene had the perfection of a love scene, the atmosphere of first love, it had everything I remember from the times when a boy's look could give me butterflies. It had so much romance and so much hope in it. And I realized in that moment that I will never feel like this again, that this time of my life is long time over and I didn't realize it. Only then, watching Natasha and Andrei dancing did I realize all of that. It didn't make me sad, of course that I moved on, but it made me super nostalgic and aware of all the years that passed and how different I am from the girl I once was.
   There are no more illusions, no more great hopes. There is stability and a relationship I don't have to fret about, a partnership and a family, so I do have my happy end, I am not writing about this because of sadness. It was only made so that it stirred these emotions in me and made me think how much I actually lived. As well as caring for the characters, of course, and waiting for their story to continue (and it didn't go well for them, sadly).

   So that is it, my big TV moment from year ago, which stayed with me for so long and I which I won't forget. For a while after that I went through a bit of 90s nostalgia, listening to old music and watching old videos, remembering old shows and the fashion, how much more normal everyone looked back then (no botoxed up fake hair orange looks and every character in every story perfected to abnormality, no reality tv, less political correctness...). I thought the world would change a lot for the better, yet all through last year I thought people are still the same, nothing is changing, same mistakes keep happening, issues are more or less the same and we are not better or wiser... Oh well. At least now I know that and can carry on with my life and hope that my daughter's ideals will end up better one day.....

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Girl, Unconnected

I am going on and on about connectedness. Maybe because most mornings while I am trying to get daughter ready for school and absorb some of the news before Milkshake takes over the tv set, husband descends down the stairs and sticks his phone screen into my face to show me some important moment/photo/joke his friends shared on their special whats up page. He does it to me when in town together as a family, which happens about three times a year. He talks to me about friends' problems while I am trying to use the moment he is away from his computer (works from home) and find out what to do about car servicing/diy emergencies/daughter's stuff. He makes me feel like much less important person. He takes daughter out and I can see her running down the street, him hunched over phone. When she does something nice or funny he tries to film it so he can share it.

I do often say that if I want something done I should whats up it to him. The problem is, I am not on whats up. I do not own a smart phone. The one I have could theoretically connect and work the app but I can not be bothered. Phones are for calls. I like to use camera for pictures, too. And an alarm clock - no phone in the bedroom (or on my side of the bed). I am a dinosaur, I know. Sometimes husband accuses me of cruelty towards him. Do I not want him to keep in touch with his friends? In his very difficult cushioned 21st century life he struggles to keep friendships alive. He misses his dear friends. Do I not want him to film daughter for grandpa? If you want your close knit family and tight friendships why do you move across the world, I ask. Years ago in Cape Town, he would call his dad in Durban twice a month and see all his friends for 'gentlemans' dinner' once a week plus ocassional weekends outings sometimes spoiled by presents of wags. They used to have real interaction. Now they share 24/7 and even those who still live in the same town can not be bothered to physically show up unless is big birthday/wedding/christmas party.

It takes me back in time to the dark ages of my youth which was pre mobile and pre internet. Internet grew up alongside me. I saw the beginnings. I used to visit internet cafe once a week to check mails and had a list of things to research, too. It was enough. Now I couldn't live without a broadband at home. But back then, I could have some secrets. I see girls making money through social media and I think it is great that they can utilize the technology like that. I watched documentary about call girls who function solely through some special website and I am glad that they can do what they do without any pimps or brothels. When internet went mainstream, sex exploded and it wasn't only porn. However, I spent enough time in the night clubs' world to miss the old enigma of it. To see girls to strip or to sleep with you, you had to go and find them. As a customer, you created a story about yourself. As a girl, you did the same. I knew many wives, mums, nurses, who substituted their income with prostitution in small clubs and private flats. I met strippers who travelled the world and their mums and partners thought they were working in casinos, modeling, doing 'proper' dancing in dance clubs. You could keep secrets back then. Owners of establishments weren't interested in big promotions, too. They wanted very little information available on them. And the girls could function absolutely differently in the daytime and chose what information about themselves they would share with the world. Nobody could google us back then.

It all changed. Not only the underworld, even the modeling world, which I frequented, too, is ruled by online existence. In my years, you would get your 'book' and go to castings and try your luck and hope to be in a magazine and make a name for yourself. Today, if you don't have online army of devoted followers, you will not get your lucrative contact. And for the underworld, you dad is only three clicks away from finding out what really pays for his little princess's rent. It is a two edged sword, it can lift you up, make you and liberate you, but it can also undo you if you are not wise about what you post about yourself. Or if you do not have control about what is posted about you, how images of you, taken with or without consent, are used. For me, I am glad I was there at the beginning and I am proud to be a dinosaur, happily unconnected. And I really don't care what my nearest and dearest have for breakfast at any day of the week.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Back From the Wilderness

I took long time off. I did expect to blog a little less and focus on other things but truth is, my revisions are going extremely slowly and I spent most of this year in a weird state of doing what has to be done and surviving.

I think that 3 miscarriages in less than a year do leave their mark and I can not not to mention them. I don't want to be defined by them but I can not undo them and I can not deny that experiencing these losses took its toll. I had no need to go out into the world. Just to exist around my own family was hard enough. I had to deal with my 3 years old, fussy eating, potty training, nursery and anxiety associated with the new big world that awaits a 3 years old little madam. And I had to keep the household running and try to function. I struggled to explain myself to Husband and I don't think that he even realizes how low I felt at times. It's hard to explain to a man something that is actually quite clear in your head.

The funny thing is I don't really want to write about my miscarriages or about my disillusion with marriage. The writing could go on and on forever and I would not come to any conclusion. I lost four babies in my life and I have a husband who loves me but doesn't always understand me. And I am trying my best to live the best life I can.

Loneliness is scary to most people. To me it is healing. I went 'in' and kept to myself because it is what helps me. When I am ready, I can write about it. I know I am not the first one. There are many posts on mental health issues and miscarriage and all else. There is hardly an issue of modern life that wasn't written about on someone's blog. There were times I was anxious, times I was terribly down and didn't want to do anything, I didn't sleep good. Time helped. At the end, exhaustion helped to get better sleep, that led to more energy. At times I felt inspired, started to meditate, swim, walk and revise my book. It all helped. Walking daily to school and focusing on my daughter and settling her in nursery helped. Being alone, people watching, anything. And when the darkness returns and I sit in front of day time tv for a day so be it. I don't have a need to be perfect.

And the self enforced time by myself made me very appreciative of the possibility to be alone. The constant 'switch on' mode that most people I know operate on seems impossible to me. I can not count number of friends I lost over the years because I or them moved to different country and didn't join this or that online network. Even email feels like too much of and effort to most. So be it. I accept my friends, but not by these conditions, and if I am not worth an email the friendship is not worth pursuing in my eyes. And it is all nice and good to share the good times but when you are down, really down, for days on end, what do you whatsup or facebook? And if existing from day to day is hard, why make it harder by maintaing an ideal online version of yourself? I like to look at the world around, I love to see people, I am an observer and I have no need to see my life through the screen. I don't have the urge to reach for my smart phone every time something noticeable is going on. I may not share the moments, I live them and remember them. To many, what is not shared online is invalid. In the reality, it happened and that is that.

Observing makes me think, thinking makes me to write. Again, lots of us see reading as a waste of time. And there are too many informations and stimulations thrown at us every day. But one of the things that helped me this year were good old fashioned books, most noticeably books I suddenly remembered from my youth, sourced through antique shops and read with great pleasure. Nothing beats a book. Some stories stay with us forever and reading is the best escape for troubled mind. That is what makes me want to write - love of stories.

So that is it for today. A little flood of words. I will carry on with my musings on switched on life and I hope I will do it soon. I wanted to create mini- musings on favourite tv moments earlier this year before I got bad. If anyone was eagerly waiting, I hope to revisit these, too. And I hope that I am back for good (or at least for a while)...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

My TV Moments 1

This year brought two big TV moments for me. I don't know if it means that my life is desperately sad. But last week's episode of The Good Wife definitely brought a sort of insight to me, and it stirred my emotions, there were tears.... Is it silly or just a part of growing older?

Alicia Florick had her moment in the last episode, with everything falling in pieces in her work and personal life, the ever cool and perfectly looking woman finaly lost it. She screamed, she cried, she opened to her partner Luca, who, in exchange, expressed her own soft side and explained that she trully cares about Alicia, gave her the long needed hug and explained how lonely she is in her life with no friends.

It made me think. I am on a crossroad myself. Child is growing up and I am thinking about the next steps - school and work. What is next for me? I decided to stop waiting for the next pregnancy. I don't want to dwell on it any longer. To have more children was the big plan, I saw myself as the busy mummy you see around and don't understand where her strength is coming from. But with one child in tow, you seem to have it easy. And I should not write about this any longer, this post isn't about my three little tragedies that defined a year of mixed hope.

But all of it plays on my mind. Life isn't what I expected it to be, not only with the way motherhood is working out, with everything. Sometimes, when husband and I argue over nothing, I do wonder whether it was better that our subsequent pregnancies didn't work out, because bringing up one child is putting its own strain on us. I am much more dependent on him, which isn't what I expected to happen to me, ever. But to have a child and to provide for myself while bringing the child up is quite impossible to do. If I had the means to support myself, would I still be here? It the big love different now, past all that we were through together, or is it gone?

So here I am. One fantastic child, no hope of others. Supportive husband who doesn't seem to understand me. No career to go back to. No friends. Lots of dreams but no way to follow them - who would take care of the child while I wonder around like I used to?

So Alicia's and Luca's little TV moment spoke to me. Of course it is only a drama, but there was a moment that made it real for me and when I was crying, maybe I was crying for myself more than for the characters. The truth is, like Alicia, I feel stuck. And I don't know how to 'unstuck' myself. It will probably work out at the end. One thing is, I am surprisingly happy to be a home maker, again, something I never imagined I could be or enjoy to be, and maybe I don't really want it to end. I don't see it as laziness, I just lack ambition. I want to write and learn to meditate and be healthy and do sports. And be with my child and be there for husband and take care of the house and the garden while doing the little things I like. I don't need titles, money or impressive CV. I like to be alone. I was considering further study, but I don't think I want to start and build a career. I will probably carry on with odd jobs which I can leave to do my own thing before I have to work again. My lifestyle was a nomadic independent lifestyle and it doens't correspond with a family dynamic.

Husband had the 'proper' goals, he wanted to progress in his career, have a family and he doesn't understand that I don't really need to hang with other wives, am not keen on all the get-togethers and do not have much to talk about with people. I often wonder why was husband so crazy about me when he was getting to know me, saw the oddball I was and yet thought that I was ideal wife material. I went on with it, because if somebody loves me so much than it is worth it, but I will not become someone else. So I have my private cry with The Good Wife and carry on with my quiet existence.

It is a strange mix - being not obviously unhappy but not being happy enough, wanting to be happy with what I have but needing to reach certain steps in order to feel happy, as if I did not deserve it right now... What a nonsense sentence. In every day moments, life is good. That is what matters. But it is also OK not to be floating with happiness all the time, isn't it? I probably just need to put myself together. Just like Alicia.