When Depression is not a dirty word. Owning up to mental health.

This week is the decade anniversary of my moving to London.  Is this a depressing article, on the contrary, it is a joyful one.  So the title … yeah, about depression, but also in the owing up to it, the owning of it, and the liberation of saying out loud ‘I was, and still get, depressed.’

Let me explain.  I am in South Africa, mid-winter.  Sitting outside, the sun only just gone, with candles and a glass of wine and having a little chuckle to myself.  This for me, is England summer.  The days are warm, the sun shines all the time, and even though our houses are chilly early morning and night, it is so mild. Gets cold I know, but I have to smile when others are complaining and lighting fires and I think about the winters in London, and the SAD syndrome I suffer from every year. I get massively depressed in winter in the UK, I know I shall, and I do, and the best part of it is that I admit to it.

At first, a new recce to the Seasonal Affective Disorder, I was sort of taken aback at the absolute honesty of those who admitted to depression in winter.  Curious as to the easy admittance of those around me suffering from it.  But more, was intrigued that so many I met, openly talked about being depressed.  I never did.  I never really knew anyone who did. Mental health is a real thing in the UK,. not just in winter, and addressed, talked about, support groups in hand, a subject not to be hidden, but dealt with. Being depressed at times, was acknowledged.

Sort of wondering how to put this.

Growing up in South Africa, I hardly ever heard the word, depression. My mother, I learnt, took lots  of tablets, and later I learnt, some for depression, but it was never spoken about.  One never admitted to it, why I don’t know.  She never spoke about it. I didn’t know anyone who was depressed, or even just anxious, we simply dealt with life.  Life in London, was tough, I thought it circumstantial and smiled my way through it, especially when I came back to visit and like no, I wasn’t going to tell anyone how tough it was, how depressed I was, what would they think of me? A failure?

So it took some time, coping. It took some time.  Still never recognised the situation, until I found others in the same situation. Openly claiming to be depressed. But wow, aren’t you just supposed to deal and get over it? Like family secrets, is it not supposed to be way, way back in the closet?

Yet, my friends in England, famous people, the media … all addressed the situation.  Mental health and the effect of depression, particularly in the winter when the SAD syndrome is most prevalent.

Monty Don,. a secret crush of mine, wonderful gardener and personality, when interviewed in the Guardian in 2018 and in his books, speaks openly about the SAD syndrome and depression.

‘What do you hate most?’

Depression. Uncertainty. Crowds. Parties. Lack of sunlight.

A man talking about depression, uncertainty, crowds (get that), parties (get that too) and lack of sunlight – wow, I get him even more. Being open about mental health is not only important, it is essential and if everyone could just talk about it, then our struggle with mental health is a positive one, one to be addressed and shared, and solved. One can only solve a problem if one is honest about it, let it out, talk about it, and deal with it. And it is not a dirty word, but part of our journey.  Why do others still find it difficult to mention, or own up to it?  Why is that?  Does it lessen us in some way, make us weaker, hell no, it makes us stronger for the diagnoses and living with it.

I face the oncoming winter in the UK. I know the lack of light will get to me, that February will be my ‘Macbeth month’ and at times, I find it hard to deal with it.  I know that things happen, and have happened, that have seen me in the spiral of depression but I also know that facing it, admitting to it, and dealing with mental health issues is so good. I am a different person in winter there, but then, when spring comes … I know the life is back in my veins and I love it.  We have to go through the seasons to explore ourselves, and muster what is good and admit what is bad.  And it not just in winter.

So, here in the winter of not my discontent, I am not depressed when the sun rises and keeps me company. Natural light is the making of me in some ways. Rather I find myself depressed at the many who have to brave the cold in shacks, without heat, jobless and begging at the stop lights. I find myself depressed that they live depressed lives every day. Having to beg, never thinking things will be better. Hopeless.  That I find depressing. That they cannot even think about being open about mental health and finding support for it. When you have nothing, you are allowed to be depressed about it – so no, I am fine here, but depressed at times for the situation of others.

So what am I saying? Yay for finally being open and admitting that I am a depressive person, through environment, through situation and through circumstance.  That in England I can go and find help for it. That I know it does not lessen me, but empowers me to admit to it.

And it is wonderful! Mental health is as important as physical health and I have learnt that now. It is not a sign of weakness but part of my life.  Death, divorce, re-location, relationships, they are all party to the depression that I have experienced but take me out, not at all, it is the growth of me, because I admit, I do get depressed and I do seek help for it, and it has made me a better person.

So positive yes on the owing up to mental health. It is the stuff in the creation of many novels, discussions, politics, world events. It is the small stuff of positive change. When I sit here and wonder at how I survive the British winters, and love them still, even if I get depressed at the lack of light, the darkness and greyness, I know that by saying, it happens, I value the coming of the light, the first signs of spring and the impending summer all the more.  And it is good.

Talk about your depression. Talk about feeling low, about how life gets the better of you sometimes and in the harnessing of being depressed,. you will find that that sometimes, your admitting to it, is true, situational and really, just ok.  Saying you are ok when you are not, why? Say you are struggling and you have mental health issues, and get depressed sometimes – it is the most freeing thing you can do.

And you know what? I miss the British winters sitting here – there is something in her seasons that lifts my soul to another level, the contrasts are amazing, and exhilarating, and to get that high, I have to go through the low of the British winter, no sun, grey but with such promise of what is to come.

Life giving. It is a decade of moving, and a decade of growing. And more importantly, a decade of embracing not only my physical health, but my mental health.

PS. Dark now, but still mild. Nothing like the winters in the UK but I go back to another winter now, and so ready for it.

Images: Unsplash, the medium and the torch.

 

 

 

Feeling low? Get yourself gorgeous, for you, wonderful will follow.

Yeah, let’s talk about the slumping time.  It happens.  Nobody loves you, darling has well, darling has … the children have flown, the job is sort of unfulfilling or non existent at the moment.  Menopause is the devil, you are feeling less than sexy … unhappy … and then … of dear Lord, you have succumbed to the precarious, comfort fit of being slumped in the standard outfit of tracksuit pants and can I say it … can I even say it … comfortable shoes … and oh, my … crocs.  There I said it.  You have taken the mood and suited up, or not, to the depression outfit. It exists, the depression outfit, it does.

I get it.  Not feeling up to getting dressed … who for … much better to do the no-make up, grey uniform, plastic shoes (or slippers) and for some, an entire day in the pj’s.  Not the sexy lingerie type pj’s but those flannel numbers that remind you of childhood. A wardrobe nest against the world. I had the gown you remember, the purple cloak of depression that was worn with despair, a castle of wallowing wrapped safely around the ‘giving up body’ to sit on the balcony and eat crips and drink wine and care not an iota for anything but the wallowing. I admit to the gown, much ripped from me by concerned children and tossed into the skip, but for the rest, never.

Why is it that all the slumping and feeling low clothes are so ugly?

Admittedly there is a time for the tracksuit pants – when you are actually an athlete, or slippers when the snow is outside.  There is reason for hoodies and flannel gowns, even pj’s that are Bridget Jones status, but unless you are boxer, an athlete, a gardener (and I am and don’t do the crocs) or stranded on an island, there is never a reason for crocs. Yeah, I can hear the indignation, at the sighs and ‘what the hell’ coming my way, but just hear me out.

It is a simple truth. If you look good, you feel good.  No matter how dire the situation, falling into the well of hopelessness is fine for your spirit and may be necessary for your mind at this time, but your body? Never. It is the one who is going to save you. It did me.  If you look good, you feel good, and being proud of how you look is going to resonate and that will drag the spirit and mind out of the well, in time. Apart from the fact that it will send a clear message to others out there … excuse me, I am going through some shit storm, but I am going to look fabulous whilst doing it. And more than that, looking good is all about self respect.

A little note here:  Having just delivered my first child, in hospital and feeling like death warmed up, wanting nothing more than sleep and everyone else to go away, except for darling little girl of course, there was this amazing woman on the ward. A neo-natal nurse and though she did the usual, she also gave me the best advice ever: ‘Put make up on everyday, get up and shower, prepare yourself as if you were awaiting the Queen, for your little girl, she is a Queen and she wants to see you strong,  You have just become a mother and that is immense.’ I never forgot that.

So, to the here and now, and life has been a orchard of lemons, but what I am trying to say is, getting up, making an effort and still thinking myself, despite the muffin top and sagging boobs, wonderful, it was the antidote to depression. Some went for counselling, I went for a wax.

Apart from the gown episode, I still get up every morning, dress as if to receive the world, do the highlites, the tinting and facials and let me tell you, best therapy ever! A single compliment is like the best anti depressant drug. Found myself striding rather than stumbling through the storm.

So what am I saying?  Many are going through tough times, like I did. Many are wondering what the hell is the point and letting go of the one thing that is the most important thing. You. Your body and your beautiful you and if you think no-one is caring, the fact that you do, is everything.

Others may take it all from you, but not the real you. And the real you is not festering and loathing in some grey track suit pants, or crocs, or pj’s that need mending, not in comfortable mum jeans and big tops and hectic eyebrows and no exercise.  It’s being absolutely determined to be the person you used to be, and still are … and care less about what others think but about who you are, beautiful on the outside, and on the inside.

The slump is good for awhile.  But if you must cry and rail against the world, do it in Chanel. Do it with flair, fortitude and grace. Do it with presence, with elegance and attitude.

Not about revenge in mind. Or pretending. It is about you remembering who you are. The sophisticated, cultured, educated and classic woman who may have forgotten, but will come to remind you, you matter. You are the gift to the world. You matter and you have much to do.

Image techjunkie

 

 

 

Let’s talk about fathers today.

To each and every one of you fathers out there, that love and nourish and cosset the relationship you have with your children, Happy Father’s day.  Being a father, creating a life and not only steering that precious gift forward, but being on board, totally, through the many storms, and lulls that happen – you have been blessed and it will be returned.

Not everyone has been a biological father, but many have fathered.  It is important to recognise this. If you nurtured, be it an animal, a child, an old person, a friend or a colleague, and given of your time, advice and love, you are part of this day.

Some of us come from a generation where father’s, bless them, didn’t really know what to do.  The stoic, quiet presence in the background, was mine.  There to provide, discipline and dish out advice on the world even he struggled with at times, but not emotional. Never emotional. Left the hugging and birthday presents up to mother.  Dependable was my father, loving to the extent of reading the report card and going ‘that’s too good’ when it wasn’t so good and I fearful that anyone would not jump to attention and shake his hand when he walked in the room. I could say he was cold, but now I just know he was at odds with what men could mean to their daughters on a loving scale.  I fear he thought it weak to show emotion, and never did, but he was there and that was everything to me.

The father of my children knows how to show love.  My children have thrived on this and though we are no longer together, his love for them is so intense, it makes us better as a family. I wished him ‘Happy Father’s Day’ today because he deserves to know how much I value his input in our children’s lives.  There are some who did not like their fathers, who had no fathers to name, who struggled with daddy issues and felt let down – felt frightened by them, avoided them and it only highlights the neglect and sadness of those who had the opportunity to be real fathers and wasted it.  They shall have to live with it.

Many of us, like me, have lost their fathers at this age.  It is only then that we may begin to understand how much a role they played in our lives, and more importantly, that we accept their strengths and weaknesses – that we now see them as human, with all the faults in the stars and how they struggled with life, just like we do, but never wanted to show that side to us. My father had a difficult father, lost his mother as a little boy, a step mother, brutal discipline, never a kind word – and now I understand that he was only doing the best he could and that he loved us. And I miss him for it.

Today, with father’s day and all the wishes and instagrams and social media hype, there are fathers out there who wish they could have said more, done more, loved more and then there are fathers who cannot let go, who love unconditionally, race into the storm to save us. There are fathers who are broken children themselves, those who are warlords when it comes to protecting us,. fathers who sing, tuck in and cry at the very sight of us.  There are fathers all.

In England it is known as Mothering Day.  It should also be Fathering Day.

Women, like me show every emotion right out there. There are still men who believe that showing emotion is good, and those that believe it is the only thing. Some are more hesitant, but let’s just take one day, one day like today and try to understand, that deep down, I think most are bursting with hearts so full at the very idea of being a father.  And let’s give them this day, and say, yay you are my hero, not so much or whatever, but let us try to understand that. Let us acknowledge we are here because we do have a father.  And let us just honour them.

If you stood up for anything dad, and especially if you stood up for me, you are the best father I could want.

All I remember is how my father would swing me around, and know he would never let go.

He never did, and never shall. Happy Father’s day.

Images abc and paedicatricsoffranklin

Me, and my money jar. I learn, and I shall earn, and do it my way.

In 1970 … something, a defining turn of events would forever change my course of history.  Mid junior year, the nuns of The Notre Dame Convent, my little school, were instructed to cease teaching arithmetic and begin teaching maths. Babes, us all.

Boxes arrived with green books for the students and a red one for the teacher.  The answers were written in the red one.  No-one, including the nuns, were sent on preparatory classes, understood it quite frankly:  numbers and the alphabet in between, it was simply easier to reveal the answers and let us run, with barely a passmark. I ended up hopeless at maths, and though I loved arithmetic, was left with a deep distrust for anything that made no sense to me.

Rather Pluto than Pythagoras.  By no means ‘ahhhhh ‘ I can’t do it, or understand it, but rather, if I did not need to … I have other things to do.  And so, Belle left the financial investment side of things to darling during marriage – such a cliché now isn’t it?  Darling and Financial Advisor would build the portfolios, pension funds, growth this and risk taking that and I would make sure the children had swimming costumes for the gala, and run the car and diary. Tax was like a distant relative, one I had heard of but never really to meet up close.

Personally, half the reason I didn’t really pay attention, other than I was not required to, is that I was weary of predictions and all that stuff – I mean, every economist in the world, still claims they did not see the Sub Prime coming, and they were supposed to be the experts?  Anyway, I digress:  when darling did decide to leave, and the shock and horror of divorce anaesthetises your very existence, finances are the very last elements you are thinking about.  Yes, you do think you will die, and I did believe that I was going to end up in a council flat, but that was only because I was dealing with a pocket full of not knowing what the hell my future finances were.  I never want to be in that situation again, ever again.

Whilst re-training to breath and a very odd habit of hiding money under the pillow, just in case –  (anyway started the fuck you fund far too late – was never going to happen) also informed by those at the head of the Financial portfolio Information desk, what I would and would not be getting.  No negotiation,  no requests, and honestly, no reason to not accept, so hopeful was I of a turnaround and romantic ending.  I was also told that apparently no-one leaves a relationship without planning it for a long time, so if this is true or not, there would be a few elements to the Financial Portfolio that could well have been omitted for sake of brevity and a swift separation. Besides, I did not even think of challenging or questioning or whatever, demanding an audit whilst flaying myself religiously, I mean, what could I have done about it anyway?  Possibly nothing then, but certainly now.  Some notes:

  • It never ends as badly as you think it will.  It will be bad and you may have less than you imagined, may have to start all over again, but hey, you have control of your life now.
  • Whatever you thought, or did not know about finances, astonishing how fast one learns.  Wunderkind you!  Was that you I saw reading the FT, you go smartie!  Still a trifle boring though,  methinks…
  • Back to the having little left.  That little is like the magic bean, it is going to propel you into many different actions, a job, a career, investing in your own or someone else’s business.  It’s like having pocket money all over again, and remember how so little was all the money in the world!  
  • Cutting down is so in these days. Minimalist everything is sexy and strong.  
  • Nothing like that drive deep in your heart to prove to yourself you can control, and empower your own life, to make you sit up and be the Chairman of your own financial portfolio. Take advice, but let your decision be yours, the person you trust the most.
  • Finally, the learning to say ‘no’ because you are saving money, does not make you a poverty queen, only that saying ‘no’ means it does not work for you, and you have other plans.

When darling told me; ‘ It’s time to take control of your own finances,’ I thought he was kidding.  That’s not fair, I whimpered, mumbling I was too old to learn. Hah, thanks for doing that darling, I am so loving this new adventure, and today, when my Financial Advisor suggested something, I could actually say … it doesn’t work for me and let them know what I wanted to do.  Felt fabulous and something else, my darling was right, he knew I could do it.

When said FA told me would not be able to afford a property,  let alone get a mortgage in the future,  I thought to myself … time was I would have simply believed it, and now, thinking, maybe it’s time I made a plan, or find someone who does believe like I do.

More on The Jam jar, but for now, there are many great women out there with brilliant financial advice, many women who work in conjunction with Divorce lawyers to assist in this transition and make sure you are supported all the way.  I love ‘The Wealth Chef’ and blogs by Mary Waring for inspiration but if you are looking for more details on professional contacts I have to help you, please email me.

We are there for you.

Those darling nuns, no-one to provide some help, but how times have changed – bless them!

 

Images: 123rf, 

Love. Of course. The only place I choose, is to be in love.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” — Morrie Schwartz

I need to say this.  Love still lives here.  She has been a little abused, some self-inflicted, but gone, never.  And it is a lesson I forgot to talk about – that despite the bumps and anguish, I never want to be anything, but in love.

Love is the best thing that can ever happen to you.  The constant in the pathway of life.  And we need to talk about it.  You see, I had quite forgotten the subject – call it survival instinct, only today I met a wonderful young woman who, knowing my story, and hearing so many others, was quite dismayed at the high grey divorce rate, so many people she knew were ending decades of life together, it seemed a given, was this what was waiting, does love dissipate with time and age, the concern etched on her beautiful face, and I just thought Whoa!  This has to stop. We have to stop.  We are after all, the educators, the experienced, the guides into the future with our little footsteps deep in the grooves of those who came before us.  And what did we learn?

Blinded by our own experiences, we missed the very message we were sending to those still dreaming of forever.

An understandable, but somewhat sad state of affairs.  Which got me thinking. Yes, it has been painful, and let me just check if my heart is actually still there, but now, now that the time has passed and the smoothing of self is happening, I just had to tell her. Fabulous stuff.

I totally, wholeheartedly, unashamedly, am in love. In love with love.  Been hurt, questioned it all, and now, if the showers come down, I really don’t mind getting wet because I refuse to be any place, but in love.  It has just changed somewhat, taken on a different hue, altered the fixed lines and still, as it softens, it is still there.

As a child I loved without restriction. Love was safety and warmth in belonging.

As a young women, I believed love affairs would be straight out of Mills and Boon. Intoxicating, exhausting, passionate and profound.

As a mother, love became acute and almost paralysing, so intense the feeling for my children.

As life turned and hardened, grief, as they say, is just love with nowhere to go.  It is still love.

Like a tapestry, the threads of love is in the whole, they bring the self together and if at times we feel the prick of loss, the blood letting of broken dreams, it is still the making of us. It makes no difference how we love, the many phases of love we experience, but that we love. And now, perhaps now, for the first time, the real sensation of self love is taking hold, and it is good.

When others leave, through choice, or death or circumstance, we doubt love, we rage and fight the furies that allowed it so, but what remains, is that we loved.  And that makes us all worthy. So when I look back now, I still love them – they had to leave me, only I send them off with my heart, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.

They are my chapters of love.  They are part of my book.  And now, when I think of them, it is, after all havoc has been poured over my soul, it is the love I remember. Took a very long time for get here, honestly, but no, lovely young lady, we do not all end up broken, but with learning.  Wisdom is seldom bought cheaply.

Be romantic.  Be never fearful that who and what you love, will not last.  It will, perhaps in another form, but it does. You can learn from us, take notes, be more attentive.

Never stop loving with the fierceness in your heart. Never hold back, never be concerned that it may almost kill you, for it also the one thing that makes you feel most alive.

Passion, intoxication, forever dreaming of it, still.

Oh, romantic? Guilty as charged M’lord.

 

 

Times you need to be alone, but trust me, you are never alone.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude.  The latter smacks of zen like karma, that space of oneness with nature, the universe and all is as it should be. A feeling of peace.  Loneliness is the exact opposite – experiencing intense loneliness is the same as having a slow heart attack.  It should kill you, just it doesn’t.  The physical grief of feeling alone is a bloodless, harrowing experience, a numbness of self and despair. It is the worst.  Loneliness I believe, is the worst human condition there is.

This morning I was listening to a quip on the radio and it went something like this. How do you make your parents, grandparents, friends and children live longer?  You visit them. It is heartbreaking to find so many elderly abandoned and living in the real fear of being lonely.  It is not just the elderly, it is anyone who feels lost and vulnerable.  It is an insidious disease.

I speak from experience.  Until a while ago, I was never alone, literally and physically, always meeting, chatting, planning and engaged in the lives of others.  Things happened and in the turn of a season, I felt totally bereft, so acutely alone.  There were days I would walk through the city and wonder if, say I died, would anyone really care? What did my life matter after my divorce, the broken relationships, the letting go, of me. Call it depression or purposeless, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of being left behind with no clear agenda was all I knew. In that state, and if you are experiencing it now, you actually don’t want to reach out do you, you just wallow and wake in the early hours of the morning with feelings of panic, fear and worst of all, worthlessness. What have you lost, what have you achieved, what are you going to do next, what happened?  And you feel so terribly alone.  I have the badge, believe me, but I also managed to crawl out of the void and two things happened.

Only you can get up from the cold, lonely floor of despair.

No rush.  You need to go all the way, and I mean, all the way down to reach rock bottom and then like JK Rowling, start all over again.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Not sure how to begin?  Herein is the first lesson.

You cannot stay there for the rest of your life.  No-one but you can stand up from the floor. It may feel like learning to walk again, but you will.  You need to get up. Being lonely sucks, I know, but it is up to you to say ‘ so what if I am alone, I will not be lonely, unless it is the way I want it to be.’  And then being alone becomes being alone on my terms.  And being on your own will slowly become the empowering medium for you to take time out, re-think, re-evaluate and like the Phoenix, rise again, only this time, on your own terms.  The being alone becomes the doing time, the dreaming time and you will come to value the time you, you unique, misunderstood, imperfect you, takes time out to undertake the most important mission of your life:

Take care of yourself.

And I let myself go. Like the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) I did not resort to the trakkie pants and dirty hair, but I sort of stopped everything else. Eating well, exercising, going out, too much wine, indifference and self inflicted boredom. Being lonely had me being bored with things to do, and so, I did little.  The basic daily things, and then … mindless TV, not going out, not engaging with the world. Thinking no-one else would care, I didn’t. Not for myself anyway. I became trapped in the wallowing.  Take care of yourself, if you look great, you will feel great and great things will follow. Create a diary and be honest. Walk often. Make plans for trips, yup, solo trips are become the thing du jour.  Work, work hard, even if you have to take a new job or better still, create your own. Hello you entrepreneur!

Embrace your loneliness and transform it into a positive things – it is a wonderful transformation.  Soon being by yourself is rather creative and empowering.

The second thing that happened, is that I discovered I was not alone.

You are not alone.

Like an idea, it is never an original one. Your situation is not unique to you. Its life, even though you got dished a few more negatives than those around you, you are still better off than many others. Crushed relationships happen to everyone, empty nest and distant children are part of life (this took me a little longer too accept), losing parents and those you depended on is hectic, but that should not lessen you; you were there for them and if they are no longer there for you, all the time, or part of the time, you are not alone in this.

During my divorce, I spent hours searching for blogs, information, advice or just about anything to make me feel less than a leper on an isolated island, and was amazed at the amount of women, and men, going through the same experience.  Living alone, being part of the grey divorce syndrome, having to find some validation for our lives.  Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation did not have careers and strong financial accounts; imagine ourselves single. Some were suddenly homeless, orphaned, caring for elderly parents.  Widowed too soon. I was not alone.

Thank God for my children who deserve medals for putting up with me whilst enduring their own grief in the separation of their parents. I was too indulged in my woes to really take it in.  Thank God for friends who were supportive, even though I did not think they really could understand.  And thank God for finding, as one does, so many others who are going through the same thing – strangers who connected in the ‘being alone’, became friends.

Turns out I was not alone.  Lonely perhaps, but never alone.  Now not lonely, but solo.

Now, many seasons later, I have become rather comfortable with being, not lonely, but alone. It has been the growth of me – and I had to go through the hell of it all to say this.  I have grown immensely as a person, for being on my own, and taking it all in in the silent hours, thinking it all through, I am more about becoming the best of me than relying on others, to validate who I am.

Take heart. When you think you are on the cold, lonely floor of life, you are not alone.  Never.

Here for you.

Hello to being solo, not lonely, and if you never thought you could do it, you can, and be the best you, walking out from the wings, onto centre stage.

Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit

My fifth visit to Babylonstoren, and not my last.

 I am listening to the soundtrack of ‘Downton Abbey’,  luring my heart to rural England. I am watching Monty Don’s series on French Gardens, calling me also. Writing tonight about the magic of Babylonstoren, in the heart of the Cape Wine lands.

Best in a garden. Most spiritual in a garden.  The grander the better, no, that is not entirely true, I love the small cottage gardens just as much.  Babylonstoren is grand, in a style I see in Europe and of course, it was when reading Monty Don’s book: ‘The Road to Le Tholonet’ that it came together.  Monty talks of visiting Babylonstoren and that the garden was designed by well known French garden designer, Patrice Taravella.  Inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town and the early Dutch influence, Babylonstoren is a tribute to European garden design, lots of Delft influence and then, the lovely mixture of South African taste.

 

Perfect rows of lettuces and the heady surprise of hanging calabashes – watch out!

Driving into Babylonstoren is like driving into a beautiful painting.  The mountains rising in the distance, almost surrounding the farm, the golden Autumn hue, pink and mink wild grass by the roadside.  The vines are turning deep jewel colours, rich and crisp.

The buildings seem newly whitewashed, gently put on verdant, lush lawns.  A contrast to still signs of the crippling drought experience last year. Everything is fresh and growing.  As a wedding venue, you could not ask for a prettier background.  And the donkeys say ‘hello’ as you enter, the speckled chickens scratching at the base of the old, oak tree. Proud and haughty chickens.

The Kitchen Garden begins around the corner of the shop and I always leave the temptation of visiting the shop, till last.  And the rooms begin: long, rustic pathways of dirt or peach pips that cross-cross the garden.  Small squares and rectanglular blocks.  Ponds of shimmering water and a variety of fish, water-lilies, glossy and clean.  The ponds and water furrows, instant attractions for children, playing their own version of ‘pooh sticks’ with leaves and twigs, anything they can chase down in the game of winning.

This is a working garden, food supplied to the hotel, Babel and the Greenhouse, which is the reward at the far end of the garden.  The actual planting and schedules of it, as well as daily tours are all available on the Babylonstoren blog and I am no expert, but fancy the odd recognition of plant and design, much to the thrill of the brain so long last used when it comes to gardening.

Shades of Autumn and twisted vine, and the gorgeous delft mosaics.

For me, it is the ambling, the ‘flâneur’ and picking of path in an unhurried way.  From dappled light to cool repose beside the fountain, a minute here, careless adoration of it all.  Much like any successful garden, the garden at Babylonstoren works in any season.  Planting is done in such a way.  Structures take on a bolder presence when leaves are lost.  All fifteen clusters offer up a difference scene.

The Insect Hotel.  Something to think about for your own garden, no matter how small it may be. With all the fear of disappearing bees and pesticides, fostering sanctuary for wildlife should be a priority for any lover of this planet.  And I do so miss my garden, have spent many years living with a single crabtree, and then David Austen rose on my balcony, and now have a sliver of a patch around my house here in the Cape, but I think I shall find a little place for an Insect hotel – as long as they stay there and don’t come into my house!

As a wedding planner, Babylonstoren holds an added charm.  Their Wedding venue is the stuff of dreams.  A perfect backdrop, ideal accommodation, old Dutch style buildings, nature in a five star setting.  Love the whole idea of it.  Stay, even if it just for a night, partake of the cuisine and spa.  The new Scented building is pure indulgence: Karen Roos has thought of every detail and it will be difficult to tear yourself away.

And you can shop, take a token of this heavenly repose with you.  First a wine farm, their wines a gift to my palate, but there is so much more, eg, as the Dutch say … leuk. A deli too. In short, everything for the perfect day out and indulge, in sheer beauty.

I like to visit early in the morning, and late in the afternoon.  When the mountains are pink and envelope the farm in a calmness difficult to emulate elsewhere.

Please take note that there is an entrance fee of R10.00 on weekdays and R20.00 on the weekends, which is little for the glorious experience.  I did however, on my last visit, enquire about some sort of loyalty card, much like the National Trust, and was offered an annual, as many times as you like to come, card for R50.00.  Ask for it if you, like me, cannot stay away.

If you want to know more about Babylonstoren, are planning a trip to South Africa or getting married, kindly contact me at karen@londongreenafrica.com, or karen@mysilverstreet, or even at karen.devilliers1110@gmail.

Thank you so much for reading.

Honey, if you keep talking about how old you are, you are.

Let’s face it.  This writer has every reason, at times, to feel like Methuselah. I sort of deserve it. He lived to 969 and I sometimes feel I have done the same.  Packed a hundred lifetimes into one and yes, the body has been felt to be broken, the heart stopped a few times, but have I ever said: ‘ I feel old’ or ‘I am old’,  never escaped these lips. Because I do not.

The little wisps of wisdom count I suppose.  Experience done, but feel old, not a chance.  And it saddens me when I meet other exciting people in their Silver Street who sort of, capitulate and blame life on the fact that they are old.  I am old now, they say, I cannot do this, or this, and I am settling for … what I wonder? All the time, wonderful individuals who are interesting, experienced and just bloody beautiful going … oh, I am old now.  Seriously, may I say, you piss me off.

I am for the never settling.  Not going to ride a pony in the jamboree or begin a career as a dancer in the company, but neither am I going … ‘oh I have a bucket list and maybe when I am eighty going to don the purple wig and jump out of a plane’. Why do we do this to ourselves?  My legs may be showing signs of those little bits of crumpling, actually google why my stomach looks like a roof after a storm. The belly wobbles on its own, without any invitation and well, the boobs, the boobs are no longer pert and ready for attention, but still, I am not for the ‘oh, I am over the action station, sort of gone to seed, it’s the way it is and I am going to spend my life getting all agog about knitting a square or waiting for the children to visit’

Talking of the bucket list, I loathe the very idea. Buckets are for water for mopping floors, and the defeatist attitude of the ‘bucket list’ rather than the future itinerary of things to do is just, plain, stupid. You are greater than the bucket. Call it a wish list or a to do list, but a bucket, dear Lord save me from the bucket listers who think that time is running out and we are going to the Andes and being a mascot at the football game before it’s all over. And why do I rant so?

Because we are not old, we are present and alive.

Age is not about giving up, but about wanting different things.

And I choose the company of Karen, another Karen.  Whilst others are complaining of life and succumbing to age, Karen is writing a musical, creating a Persian garden in Spain, writing a novel and travelling the world.  Our regular meet ups in London are short of ‘wow’! A chartered psychologist, specialising in the future in business, I often just have to sit and listen and think, get off your sorry horse and go forth!  So I turn instead to people, women in particular who embrace life despite the years for they keep me moving forward.

My friend Sylvia, deep in her sixties is still working and productive, owning properties, wheeling and dealing on a daily basis and never falling short of ‘I am old and this is hard.’

I follow bloggers who do the same.  Find them, like ‘We are ageist‘ and ‘Parisbreakfasts‘ and ‘Chic at any age‘ and ‘That’s not my age‘ and so many more if you are looking for a different, more fulfilling life than going ‘I am old.’

There are so many prolific bloggers out there, full of life and taking on the challenge in our Silver Street and I learn from them. Every day.  They continue to inspire and challenge me to a different level. And on that note, I have been a waitress in a coffee shop for the last two years, doing tours of London, running a travel company and a Wedding and Events specialist and stopping, no way?

Why am I writing this tonight?

Today someone I love dearly kept talking about feeling old. Not being able to do what they used to. Feeling as if the children were taking over, as is good, but a little redundant. Just feeling, well, a little out of place in their lives.  As I listened to the conversation, the word, old, kept creeping into it. Wanted to shake them and go, No!, don’t do that, don’t succumb because others are telling you this.

Perhaps the fault lies with me.  Should I blame or laud my mother who would have not one grey hair showing, ever?  Or blame the gods perhaps because, really, I do not feel old. I feel heartbroken at times, redundant in the fast moving world, a little out of place with the new technology and trying hard to keep up. I do feel some things have passed me by and I struggle at times to keep up, but I do not feel old, I feel incredibly blessed.

I have survived.  And lived.  Born children, worked hard, had relationships, some good and some not so good and learnt from them.  Still love travelling, my workouts, a little botox and colouring my hair. Love being there for friends and family and making new plans, all the time.  Love good food, a full diary and sex. Love waking every morning with so much enthusiasm and ending the day with a glass of good wine, wonderful memories and sleeping, not to sleep but to energise myself for tomorrow.  Love thinking, I will do this and try that and maybe, if I wanted to go skydiving, it’s not for some bucket list rubbish but because I have not done it before.

Love this watercolour from Carol Gillot at Le Grand Colbert.  My 60th birthday perhaps?

Rant over.  We are amazing, at any age, even better at this age. Paid the dues and open to so many possibilities. My year is full of them. A business that allows for growth, a trip to Paris and Lake Como, a sixtieth birthday to plan, and London.

If you want to spend most of your day talking about getting old, feeling old, I will listen.  Only for as long as I am here, and then I am gone. The bikini awaits, the cocktails on ice, the maybe who knows … but say I am old, not for me.

You are never too old for anything.

You must never compromise.

You must be the best you are now.

Image: The daily mail.  The Independent.

 

 

Been a medieval lass of sorts, but Thank You God, for Broadband.

It’s a simple tale.  Were I living in the 1700’s, with no broadband, I would be dead. Death would have been boredom, or gin. Back then I reckon Gin would have been cheaper.  There was little time to be bored when hunger pains, labour and disease were taking up all of your time.  No, it would have been the gin.

When I give  tours in London and talk about ‘Mother’s ruin’ in particular, I often think, of course quietly to myself … well, what would you do living like that?  Take the gin and drink yourself to death, as living was just not an option at times.  But I digress.

The preface to the story. Past years and staying here a short while and letting most of the while, met my reluctance to pay for broadband in the house.  My visits would come down to three best friends:  my UK phone, my ancient 2008 Nokia SA pay as you go phone and a router with data to be bought, switched on and off and suffice for the time.

As she is here for longer.

Dutifully she decides to get broadband.  The powers that be must have been fighting in Winterfell, where its cold, everyone wants to kill you and no time to heed my call.  I buy data on the router, and more, and more and there is a thief afoot!  The data circles the drain and disappeared before I could say ‘Come back, little Sheba, come back!’ So I complain and buy some more, and more and whoosh … the thief I believe is watching Youtube.  Aside, the little Nokia has the battery life of a sigh and dies regularly so limiting to say the least but I resist here, I want my UK phone, cling to it. Need it.  Costly, but rebellious on that score.

Enough she cries as the Lords are still absent with my broadband – I will not pay another cent for data.  And so the Winterfell of moi begins.

Imagine if you will the scenario.  Daytime visits to connect with the world. I stalk cafés and lurk near the plug point.  I get fat for the shame of it.  Then comes the evening at home. Nothing.  Absolutely bloody nothing.  It’s ok I say, I can pretend I have gone camping and make the most of the hours till morning. Well, um well, it’s six o’ clock.  Okay, I say, it will be about thirty minutes to bath … and then. Seven o’clock. The phones and laptop are silent. Dark now.  Fiddle with thoughts.

Now one thing that did make a million mile trip around the world was the collection of DVD’s.  Remember those?  My fingers trail the movies on offer, all of which I have seen a billion times.  True, I have reconnected with Magnum PI. The entire series of Friends, Midsummer Murders and every other movie from two decades ago.  Find myself counting minutes to bed and for me, that is what I remember my mother doing, it does not suit me.  The world is moving outside these walls and I am pacing the floor, watching the candles burn, listening to the radio (which I thought I liked and now loathe for no Spotify).  Now nothing.  No dailies, no facebook, no Instagram, no connection, Oh My Lord this is excruciating!  Where is the embroidery?

I know my daughter is to New York, son to Wales, other daughter acquiring a new puppy and I cannot deal with not being able to message, laugh at photos or even emoji kiss them goodnight.  Emails are lost, dates for appointments vague, research well, research work, kaput. And the mornings, me up at five from going to sleep at nine, with a cup of tea and wishing the shops would open.  I pick up wi fi outside random shops, drink too much coffee all in the attempt to reconnect.

Note: let’s just add the empty post London diary and I am to drink for sure.  Try to pretend to live like those ages ago without Internet and you know what … can’t be bothered. Perhaps if I were putting babes to bed or talking to spouse about the war it would be different but now … can’t be bothered with the silence.

I think the crying helped.  Today the technicians (will not mention the length of time for the battle must have been lost at Winterfell and all returned to work) arrived.  They connected, me, not so much. More drama, some threats and more wailing but behold, I am back in the world of technology and darling, I do love you so. I am valid again, in touch again and all is well in the household of the mother with children on the other side of the world.

Of course Judith Dufour was hanged for killing her baby to sell the clothes for gin. With such a shite life, gin deadened the senses and murdered the mind long before she swung on the rope. Not condoning anything but after this spell, understanding a little more.  I would have been a hag of note back then, if I had been deprived of basic life, of love and broadband.

Suffice to say, living in this day and age, being so dependent on technology and communicating with life out there, not having it has been more than bottom of the pond scum awful.  And interesting.  Time, rather than the lack of it, became the too much of it.

In this new chapter, with all the doing and Ewings of the day, all I can say is I missed you all out there, it’s lonely without my daily Paris, London, everything fix.  Glad to be back.

And no, didn’t do the Gin. Did the wine as after all, I am in the wine lands which is so much more appropriate, don’t you think?

Now to the business of not going to bed at eight, staring at everything around me and getting back to business.  The business of life as we know it now, and it is good.

Image: TNT magazine.

The ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Banish it.

‘We can live in a world that we designed …

However big, however small, let me be part of it all.’

A million dreams. Pink.

‘This psychological phenomenon, known as Imposter syndrome, reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.

In short, it’s a hot mess of harmfulness.’  The Muse.

Imagine if we all just trusted ourselves.  Believed that we were worth something, not just in glimmers of light or a break in the clouds, but that we were always worth it, and stopped self sabotaging – first do no harm of course, but more importantly, do no self harm.

The Imposter Syndrome is often associated with those who are already high achievers: the doers that have done and now doubt that they actually did achieve, but continually inflict doubt upon their abilities and in so doing, lessen their own self worth.  We think of the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ as one pertaining to specialists, business men and women, those who are of high standing and successful.

But we suffer from the Imposter Syndrome on every level. No matter who we are, we doubt, and it is that doubt that cripples us.  Others may never see it, we may not show it, but it exists in every one of one us – I am not capable, I am not enough, I am not worthy. Who will believe in me, can I really do this, am I up for it … how will I muster the courage to invest in myself and in so doing, make a difference in my life?

I have felt the fraud.  Life has made me doubt myself.  What do I really have to show for myself at this age, was what I did before amount to nothing if I don’t have the label, the status, the financial wealth and the social standing others have?  Do I count at all and more importantly, how do I go on from here – how to begin again, gain the confidence to break free from any ties that bind and make something of myself.  Good old doubt, good old disbelief that it is too late, has amounted to little to show for it, that my life has been, well average. I hear you. I hear me.

There are types of sufferers of The Imposter Syndrome.  The perfectionist who will not ask for help, believing that if they did not do everything themselves they would eventually be caught out as frauds, as imposters.  There are the Super people who continue to study, to gather certificates by the dozen in the belief that enough is never enough for fear of being, caught out.

The genius, always the overachiever, who fails to keep up with the expectations of others, or the expectations they perceived that are thrust upon them.

The expert, according to ‘The Muse‘ who is always lauded for being the go to person and cannot ever admit to not knowing, but fears being found out for not knowing everything.

Recognise yourself?  I am guilty and have been for a long time.  For a time it was simple, follow the rules and do the duty, but when faced with another life, a different situation, fear of being seen as less, not worthy and incapable of driving myself forward, I fell into the Imposter Syndrome.  Whatever I thought I could be, evolved into falling short of my belief that I was not capable.  On the outside I knew it all, had done the homework and could speak for hours on every subject, give advice, but actually put the dagger to the sticking point – well that was a whole different story.  Who would trust me if I did not trust myself?  Asking for help was a sign of failure, of weakness.  Yet I always spoke of it all, tried a little of it, and never quite took the leap into the unknown for fear of falling short.  I would then, I believe, be found out as the fraud, the talker rather than the doer and rather than face failure and possible mockery, did little. Best to hide behind the knowledge than fail in the trying.

Sadly, the Imposter Syndrome was of my own making. And there were always excuses.  I have them, and then I hear others at this stage of our lives, succumbing to the listless living of little gratitudes, of acceptance rather than trying, perhaps for the first time, to be the person they were meant to be.

Can’t do that.  In her acceptance speech at the Baftas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge thanked her mother, who said: ‘ Darling you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you’re outrageous.’

My mother said, find a good husband and live a simple life. Like I did.  Don’t stir the waters, so to speak. Bless her heart. Within that beautiful world of marriage and raising children, I did feed the burning curiosity of learning about absolutely everything, but not acting on it.

I didn’t believe I could. Never felt the imposter in pouring my life and knowledge into them.

And when they grew and left, I felt inadequate to try anything new, something I thought I could do, but held back for fear of being the fraud. Confidence lacking syndrome. Imposter Syndrome; Hold so many degrees, certificates, diplomas and nurtured the mind but launch myself into a business, open a shop, put myself out there, at my age … was too big a task, even for myself. And I have procrastinated, lingered, loitered in the green room. What if my family saw me as a fraud, not the example to follow, if others rejected my ideas, if no-one wanted me? The doubt was my own invention and in that the Imposter Syndrome, at this age, became the milestone around my own neck.

it doesn’t matter what it’s called today, Imposter Syndrome or the lack of confidence, it is what it is. A lack of belief in that I matter, that I can do what I want to, to fulfil my life in the coming years.  It is a question, when it comes down to it, of whether I am going to settle for a gratitude journal or walk tall into the unknown, trying and failing and trying again until I can actually say:

‘However big, however small, let me be part of it all.’

Not a spectator to my own life.  Not a feeble excuse not to try. Not the gatherer of knowledge and ideas and the instrument of my own doubt.

Ageism is a thing of the past. We form one of the largest communities of doers, changers and those with an income for change. Paid our dues, worked hard, contributed in our own way, but if we begin to fear lessoned, reduced in anyway, it is our own imagination. Time for a re-brand.

Whatever your situation now, it is never acceptable to resign to life. Life is only what you, now in your situation, will make of it. Re-brand with the confidence that you can choose a different path, fall hard for it will make you feel more alive, change if you have to and in the end, realise that you can overcome the ‘Syndrome’ of resignation and defeat and find another beacon to reach.

Rebrand yourself.  Gather the knowledge of life and use it for good.  For your good, for your sanity and satisfaction and banish that Imposter Syndrome to the the wings while you take centre stage of your own production.

I am scared about doing it. I doubt still. I have no choice though, for I cannot submit to idea of just being content.  I need to be fierce still, to be worthy of my life and in the end, to be just in that I gave myself the opportunities to not be a fraud, but a legend in my own eyes.

And if I can reach. fall and reach again, so can you.

Image: The format.