My personal Adonis (a short story)

I shouldn’t be doing this. But here I am – rifling through his bathroom cabinet. They say you can tell a lot about a man from his choice of pharmaceuticals, but I’m not sure that’s really the scenario in my case. Besides hair gel, a toothbrush, toothpaste and two deodorant cans, I’ve actually learnt nothing new. That should teach me.

I place everything back as I found it and close the cabinet door. A quick peek out the bathroom door confirms that he is still sound asleep. The rumpled duvet covers lie half on the floor, half on the bed and my Adonis is lying on his back, spread-eagled. A sliver of the sheet covers his waist. It actually reminds me of the children’s bible story illustrations of Adam and Eve with a fig leaf over their private parts. That makes me smirk a little as I admire him from my bathroom door vantage point. He really is magnificent: sandy blonde tousled hair, tanned skin, a surfer’s physique.

The thing is, other than how he looks (and now the contents of his bathroom cabinet), I actually know nothing about him. What I do know is that a rowdy girls’ night out last night has, given my current precarious situation, not ended quite as planned.

It’s easier to blame someone other than yourself, so I blame Brendon, my long-time boyfriend of seven years. I conclude that his cheating shenanigans are directly responsible for where I am right now. We are – were – high-school sweethearts; the cliqued perfect couple. After being together for so long, I wanted a ring on my finger to seal the deal.  Yet Brendon was hesitant. Evasive even. I just didn’t understand why. We loved each other, had a stable relationship – so why then? I got the answer I didn’t want when Brendon’s recent activities were uncovered. He had met some girl at work and had been out with her several times. Apparently enough times to have moved the relationship to the bedroom! His explanation included a feeble excuse that because we had met so young, both of us had never really ‘experienced’ different relationships. He begged my forgiveness, but now it was my turn to be hesitant.

A night out on the town was determined by my girlfriends as the best therapy for a philandering boyfriend. Led by our one and only single friend, I allowed myself to be dragged out instead of comfort eating in my pyjamas in front of the TV. Not that I would’ve admitted it, but it was actually quite fun to dress up and act like a single, carefree woman again. My red party heels were pulled out from the back of my cupboard and my favourite fitted jeans donned. Topped with a splash of red colour on my lips and nails, I felt exciting and daring. Alas, the last thing I can confidently recall was swigging down the umpteenth shooter in some smoky club. Where I am right now, how I got here and with whom, I regrettably have no recollection of.

I decide to brazenly do the only thing a girl can do in this circumstance: I mentally channel the image of a stealthy ninja and make a grab for Adonis’ cell phone. Thankfully, no password and I’m in. A perusal of his text messages conclude that, while he is affectionately termed ‘Bud’ by his friends, I’m positive it’s not his name. Another bust it seems.

There’s something to be said of the cruel light of day, and now, as my bravado wanes and the Nancy Drew in me withers, I start to panic. Its morning. I want to go home. Now.

I scramble to gather my clothes, my cell phone and purse and head straight for the exit. I admit that I’m prone to acting first without thinking it through. True to form, only once I’m out the front door do I stop to contemplate my next move. I have one plausible option: phone my BFF Tina. Damn, my cell phone is turned off. Fumbling, I power it up again and, ignoring the flashing red light that signals my battery is about to die, I dial Tina’s number. She answers on the first ring. No pleasantries. Her first words are a half concerned, half irritated question: “Maddie, what the hell happened?”

I feel a big lump rising in my throat and the last of my composure crumbles. I manage to whimper, “Geez Tina, you tell me! I woke up in some strange guy’s bed. I feel …”. I let the words slide. Nothing can accurately describe how I feel right now. She mutters some profanity under her breath. “Ok, ok. Where are you? I’ll come pick you up”.

Another thing I don’t know it seems. I walk a bit further from the spot I’m standing in, turn the corner and see the main gate to the street. A car is driving out the complex and I make an ungainly dash for the gate. I silently thank the municipality for erecting a large street sign about 200 metres up the road. I tell Tina the street name. As the resourceful heroine she always is, she orders me to stay put and wait for her. “You can’t be far, I’ll plug the street name into my GPS. I’m on my way.”

Barefoot, holding my shoes in one hand, my hair dishevelled and my eye make-up smudged, I conclude that I must be a glorious sight to behold! I’m sure Tina thinks the same thing as I climb into her trusty Polo fifteen minutes later. During the animated ride home she manages to fill in a few of my self-inflicted memory gaps and tells me that she left before me last night as she had to get up early this morning. When she tried to phone me and her calls went straight to voicemail, Tina phoned one of our other friends to find out how things went. She found out that the girls had left me at the club with a friendly guy – hopefully the same one I woke up to this morning – when I insisted I didn’t want to go home and they should leave without me. It explains some of what has transpired, but not who my Adonis is and what happened after their departure. Perhaps this is one event I should really try to forget instead of trying to remember.

With much cursing and consoling, Tina finally drops me at home and leaves me alone on condition that I promise to phone her later on in the day. My first point of business is to make a cup of my favourite tea and take a hot shower.

I charge up my phone to check my text and voice messages. In addition to the harried messages from Tina, I have a long-winded message from Brendon. He says he loves me and asks if we can meet to talk things through. He also states emphatically that he believes it would be a huge mistake if I just end our relationship so easily after one foolish indiscretion. Characteristically Brendon – always trying to control the state of affairs and minimise the damage.

I’m contemplating whether I want to call Brendon back after so much has transpired, when my phone rings. I don’t recognise the number but I answer anyway.

“Maddie?” an unfamiliar voice asks.
“Yes.”
“Maddie, my name is Jeff.  We met at the club last night?”
I remain silent.
“You left your watch at my place.”
I balk. Oh boy, this must be my Adonis. Did I really give him my number?
He clears his throat, “You could’ve woken me up. I would’ve taken you home you know.” Now I hear a soft rumble as he tries to contain a chuckle. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or angry.
“Why don’t I take you out for lunch today? I like you and we seem to have tons of stuff in common. Based on your quick escape this morning though, I think I might’ve scared you off. How about we start over?”
I think about it and after a short pause, I hear myself say “Ok”. Surprisingly, I am ok with it.
“Oh, and by the way Maddie, we didn’t sleep together if that’s what you were wondering. You were a little wasted and I couldn’t get your address out of you. So I took you back to my place to sleep it off.”
“But you were naked!” I blurt out.
He laughs. “I sleep in the buff.  See you in an hour.”

I’m smiling now – a big goofy grin that crinkles the corners of my eyes. He sounds like a ‘nice guy’ and I sure could do with a ‘nice guy’ around about now. Maybe there is a life after Brendon?  I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but it’s one step at time. This is my first step – and it’s out the door to meet my personal Adonis. Adios Brendon.

~ A short story by Sherrie Dyer-Bracher

Stressed out and strung out. Now what?

Stress does funny things to a person.  A person’s health and emotional well-being. To relationships. Sure, a little stress is good – motivating even. It can be a needed kick in the pants to help us re-focus and rise to the occasion.  But too much stress … it throws that delicate balance out of sync – and the results can be disastrous.

Run a Google search on “stress” and the first site that jumps up on the screen makes the bold statement of “Don’t let stress hijack your life”.  A profound statement in itself, because stress really and truly can “hijack” a person’s life.

StressWhile it remains to be said that stress comes in all shapes and forms, stressors affect each and every person in a different way.  What’s stressful to me may not be that stressful to you.  Yet, whatever those stressors may be, stress overload can result in a variety of health conditions.  For instance, high blood pressure, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and asthma, amongst other conditions.  Emotionally, things get more complex.  Now we’re talking about insomnia, loss of libido, difficulty relaxing, low self-esteem and depression, agitation, moodiness and frustration.  Such symptoms can also lead to a cache 22 scenario, for example, suffering from insomnia because due to stress will mean a person is less likely to be able to handle stressful situations because of being sleep deprived.  And round and round we go.

And then there’s the ultimate cog in the wheel, the negative impact stress can have on relationships.   Some people will emerge as moody, easily agitated and short-tempered ogres, snapping at loved ones and being so impatient and intolerant that unintentionally loved ones are pushed away – or perhaps sent running for the hills in search of cover.  In short, the home may invariably become a war zone of disharmony and discontent which only worsens the situation.

StressI know that we can’t always control what will cause us stress.  Yet surely we can find ways to maximise what we actually can control?  Seizing power over the foothold stress has in our lives means learning to recognise its symptoms and finding out how to handle it.  I found the World of Psychology’s “10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress” very helpful.

The great thing about the Internet is that, thanks to the myriad of websites and blogs dedicated to the topic, the information to help us cope is at our figure tips.  Applying it in our own lives is, of course, the real challenge – but not necessarily a battle that cannot be won.

Back to basics – when the going gets tough

When things go wrong, they normally do so on a grand scale.  Ask anyone you know how wrong things can really go … ask me. Descriptive terms like “cascading effects” and “downhill slide” don’t actually do any justice, but it’s a start.

Silly as it may sound, I had a bit of a personal crisis when I turned thirty.  I looked back at my twenties and saw only the bad things:  the things I didn’t accomplish, all the apparently unfulfilled hopes and dreams.  After the past year though, those years look more like a walk in the park than tough times.

Let me tell you, I’m not superstitious by any means. I have no qualms about walking under a ladder or a black cat crossing in front of me. Surprisingly then, the whole “bad things happen in threes” is oddly fitting.  Case in point:  I suffered with depression last year like never before (strike one), I lost my job after being retrenched (strike two), and then for the finale, I finally fell pregnant after trying for quite some time and after 9 weeks had a silent miscarriage (strike three).  Like I said, when things go wrong, it really does feel like things go from bad to worse.

Of course, shit happens!  Whether you’re Oscar Pistorius or just a normal Joe Soap (like me), it is unfortunately a guarantee that at some stage our lives will be affected by turmoil, disappointment and tragedy.  Luckily the degree and duration thereof differs (I’m damn happy that I’m not the one on trial for murder!).

DepressedNo matter how bad a situation may seem and no matter how we may wish for time to pass us by, a new day will always dawn.  I still fully prescribe time off to sulk and skulk around in pyjamas with scruffy hair, unbrushed teeth and no deodorant, but don’t fool yourself, the time will come when a choice has to be made, and that is, the choice to keep living.

It will be about getting back to basics.  Get up, shower, brush your teeth and hair, spritz on the perfume and walk out the door.  The best medicine is as simple as facing the world and literally taking things step by step or day by day.  Getting back to basics is about focusing on the little things that help to get us through the day.  It’s also about not dwelling on the pain, grief or anger and allowing the healing process to begin.

Whoever first said that time heals all wounds is a wise man (or woman).

Is love a feeling or a choice?

Every living person craves it. Of course, some will deny it. Some still don’t understand it. Some even have a warped and twisted view of it, while others will live in pursuit of an elusive concept of it.

Consider it a warm and fuzzy feeling or a day-by-day choice, it remains the one thing in life that every living person wants in some form or another.  Love.

Whether it be love for another human being, for a partner, a parent, a child, a friend – we are all capable of love, although our translation of it may differ.  For me, romantic love has always been about ‘feelings’.  You know what I’m talking about:  that all-consuming feeling when you first meet a prospective partner, the way their touch can set your skin on fire, how a simple look can speak of a myriad of future promises … all those happy, excited and euphoric ‘feelings’ of being in love and of being loved.  For a person like me, a person who wears their heart on their sleeve, falling in love is actually quite easy.  But staying in love when the initial blaze has waned is a far harder task.

love-300x287Staying in love requires a directional movement from the conditional love square on the game board to the unconditional one.  Unconditional love is considered true love, and true love has staying power.  It means learning to love another person without expecting anything in return.  It also means putting the needs of that person above that of your own. For example, when you say your marriage vows, you pledge to commit to and love your partner for the rest of your days “until death do you part”. It doesn’t mean loving that person for as long as you still feel loved by them or until that person no longer gives you what you need.  I wonder how many people really know what they’re getting into when they pledge before God to honour, cherish and love their husband/wife for the rest of days?

When the light-hearted, seemingly easy side of love fades, a decision needs to be made.  That decision requires a bit more than just feeling like you love someone, it requires effort, hard work, commitment and an actual choice to love.  It may even require frequent reminders as to why and how to love.

I believe that most of us battle with unselfishly loving another person such as our partner. I know that I do.  I can go a step further and admit that I even battle to love myself; so trying to love another person unconditionally is far more complex that I would like it to be.

Luckily, while love is open to our own personal interpretation of it and is sadly influenced by past experiences and hurts, unconditional love has only one definition and one set of rules:

•   Love is patient and kind.

•   Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

•   Love does not demand its own way.

•   Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

•   It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

•   Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

(1 Cor 13:4-7)

“Christmas, bah humbug!”

When you’re trying to fall pregnant, waiting for your period is a bit like waiting for a last minute pardon when you’re in the executioner’s chamber, or the sound of the buzzer indicating the end of a boxing match round when you’re up against a mammoth opponent. Will the tampons and panty liners win, or will a positive sign on a pregnancy test declare victory?

For the past year we’ve been trying in earnest to conceive a baby. The timing hasn’t been perfect by a long shot, but I’m not getting any younger and nor is my husband. My life has begun to centre around my monthly ovulation timetable. There’s no romance involved, just serious baby-making business. Given the total focus, when the attempts to fall pregnant fail month on month, it’s hard not to take it personally.

This past week has been particularly taxing though. I confess: I was truly convinced I was pregnant! I knew it was too early to officially tell, yet for the first time since we’ve been trying for a baby, I just had that “feeling” that this time I really was. Throw in several early symptoms of being pregnant (complete exhaustion, some severe mood swings, tender breasts and an absurd food craving), and my hopes were cemented. And so the wait for my period was torturous; a volatile combination of excitement, eagerness, impatience and anxiety.

In a cruel dashing of hopes, I began to spot today. I sat on the loo with tears streaming down my cheeks and lamenting that I am being punished for my past sins. Motherhood has never before been so elusive. At a time when I should be celebrating Christmas with cheer and thanks giving, I am mourning the loss of a child that wasn’t even conceived. How pathetic! The worst is that I can’t even vent my feelings openly (other than writing this blog post).

I therefore apologise for being dark and gloomy in the full knowledge that you’ll understand when I say these words:
“Christmas, bah humbug!”.

Why companies are plagued with unskilled managers

An unhappy employee can, 9 out of 10 times, be linked to a bad manager.  And companies are rife with bad managers.  It’s most certainly not a new phenomenon – but when will the cycle of employing managers who are not actually skilled in managing people end?

Take for instance many large corporate companies.  A rising salesperson or a specialist excelling in his/her field is suddenly deemed worthy management material and promoted to a middle or senior management role managing a team or division of employees.  It seems the next logical career advancement right?  What we should rather call it is a calculated risk.  Sometimes it works out ok, but more often than not, the person is just not equipped to lead other people.

Managing and leading people is a full-time job

There’s a distinction between the two:  managing, and leading.  The famous saying, “Leaders are born, not made”, still stands true.  A person who takes up a management role should ideally have natural leadership qualities;  and even with natural leadership abilities, these skills still need to fine-tuned and developed further.

bad-managerVery few companies seem to evaluate a potential manager’s leadership and people skills before actually appointing them in that coveted management role.  Just because a rising star in a company is good at what he/she does, doesn’t make them a good candidate for management.  Instead, if not evaluated corrected, that person finds themselves in a job bogged down with a never-ending cycle of people duties – mediating, collaborating, motivating, managing performance and competencies etc. – with little time to focus on their core strength.

My former manager is a great example of what I’m referring to.  He was an expert in his field and damn good!  He should have been given the opportunity to grow in that specialised field.  What transpired instead was that he was promoted as manager of a division of people.  Without any natural leadership abilities, limited skills evaluation or managerial training, he took on the task.  As a result, under his management (or lack thereof), communication without the division suffered, the division’s strategic direction remained unknown, and ultimately motivation and general productivity in the division decreased.  He didn’t know how to manage different personality profiles and how to get the very best out of each person.

Again, it’s not a new story for many companies.  Bad managers negatively impact the moral of the people working underneath them, which impedes creativity,  initiative, personal growth and ultimately the overall success of the division.  Bad managers lose valuable and experienced personnel because they simply don’t have leadership skills.

Can the cycle end?

Yes it can, but “will it?” is the question we should rather be asking.

Internal company politics unfortunately play a large role.  The choice to appoint a management candidate who is promoted from within can be riddled with political undercurrents.

It’s a continuous battle.  Perhaps the only way to turn a bad situation into a slightly better one is to train and mentor that manager.  He/she may not be the perfect manager with the inborn leadership abilities needed, but maybe the damage that manager can do will be curtailed if whatever his/her leadership and managerial competencies are, are at least improved and developed.

A manager without a cooking clue how to actually manage his/her staff can at least be taught valuable and correct management techniques, and additionally be given much-needed people management support before he/she learns unbreakable bad management habits.  He/she will never be the idyllic inspirational leader, but it’s better than having a “bad manager” at the helm.

Office relationships: A born killer

I wonder if anyone has ever killed their spouse because of working together?

It’s been just over a month since I starting working with my husband, and even after such a short period of time, I can now fully understand how easy it is to have murderous thoughts.

There are couples who can mesh their home and work lives seamlessly and successfully, then there are couples who just can’t make both work simultaneously. I was hoping that the latter would not be true in our case, yet the signs are clearly on the wall.  Peace has grown wings and taken flight, leaving us to snarl, snap and bicker with each other at will.

Love aside

The problems we experienced with each other at home has cascaded into our working environment.  Only now I feel like there is no reprise, no space to escape and no time to gain any perspective.  We are in each other’s hair 24/7 with no distinction between work and play.

To reiterate, I do love my husband dearly. Although our relationship has been tumultuous and challenging from the get-go, it has been rewarding.  We have found – and continue to find – ways to make our personal relationship work despite our differences.  So, given that we are still exploring means and ways to live together harmoniously, I have to consider that perhaps I was too quick to think it would be plain sailing to also work together?

Bad timing has its own part to play.  While we’ve always talked about me coming to work in his business, we planned it for a year or two down the line.  The surprise of my retrenchment put a spanner in the works and bullied us into pushing our plans forward.  Subsequently, I’m convinced all of this has made my husband question his sanity in suggesting we work together in the first place!

Boundaries and truces

Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality (Photo credit: charlesfettinger)

I read somewhere that husbands and wives who work together have to apply the same rules that exist in their marriages to how they work together. For example, if the couple see each other as equal partners in the marriage, well then they have to be equal partners in the workplace – a manager/sub-ordinate relationship just wouldn’t work in this case.

Defining boundaries and setting the grounds for a mutually beneficial working experience is tantamount to success.

We didn’t do these things.  That leaves us having to take ten steps back in order to move a few steps forward again. I’m now on the verge of a new dilemma:  do I admit defeat and sell my soul by heading back into the corporate working world to save my marriage, or do I continue to try to make a success of our working arrangement which would mean having to wave the white flag and suck it up in the hope of things eventually getting better? This fork in the road is a new twist for sure; I only wish I had a crystal ball to make the choice easier.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers

%d bloggers like this: