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.

Liebevoll recognition with the Liebster Award

I know I’ve been very quiet as of late.  Truth be told, I’m experiencing some … erm … inspiration difficulties. In short, my creative well is a little dry at present.

Do I have a plan of action you may ask?  Well, I know that I have to firstly stop feeling sorry for myself and secondly, most importantly, write something – anything!

The best advice is often for free

I follow many talented writers, and thankfully, the advice given by these individuals is free for all.

Their advice on overcoming writer’s block is simply to write something – anything.  To entice the creative writing juices, you have to start somewhere right? To this end, I’ve set my timer for 20 minutes, and that’s what I’m doing:  I’m writing something with the hope that I can clear this writing blockage.

Feeling the love by fellow bloggers

Liebster Blog Award 2013Knowing that your writing is appreciated definitely helps.  So thank you Marci Wise for nominating my Teatart blog for the Liebster Blog Award.  Marci is one such talented author and columnist that I regularly follow, and I regard her site as truly motivating (http://marciwise.com).  Thank you again Marci for the recognition.

As part of accepting the Liebster Award nomination, I have to answer the ten questions posed by Marci to me and the other nominees.  Here goes:

How would you sum up your blog in a single sentence?
My Teatart blog is about sharing life’s poignant experiences and lessons with those who are in, or will encounter one day, similar scenarios (I certainly wish someone had shared this kind of information with me when I needed it the most!).

If you could have dinner with two people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
This may sound clichéd, but I would really want to sit down and have dinner with Jesus.  I have so many questions, and I really want to understand how to love without expecting anything in return – who better to ask than the ultimate sacrifice?  The second person I would love to have dinner with is Stephen King. He is a true artist, whether you enjoy his genre of writing or not.  I’m sure a few pearls of wisdom shared by this man would be enough to guide any amateur writer into writing greatness.

Do you have a saying or a personal motto?
“What comes around goes around”.  The wheel turns in life, albeit sometimes a little too slowly.

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you’d spend money on?
A beach home.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Cheese, because everything with cheese just tastes better.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Learn to love yourself.

What do you do to cheer yourself up when you’re feeling down?
I eat.  When I feel down, I crave all the feel-good carbohydrates.  Add shopping to the list and you have a plump, broke comfort eater.

If you could change one thing to help the environment what would that be?
I would make recycling compulsory.  We have a long way to go with the recycling issue in South Africa.  Legislation needs to be changed and resources need to be allocated to the issue to make it possible and easier for people to recycle their waste.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I am a klutz and a scatter-brain for the most part.  I attract embarrassment, so it’s hard to pinpoint just one incident. One recent embarrassing moment involves warmly greeting and hugging a perfect stranger because I thought it was someone else.  It turned out to be the person’s sister who looked, in my opinion, almost identical.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My mom.  She has gone through so much in her lifetime and yet still manages to stay upbeat and level-headed.

Now it’s my turn to nominate

I in turn nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Award:

I Am Lovely

Lost Companion

The Big Book of Dating

Theothersideofinfidelity

Ohh, honey!

That precarious gait

Serene and sweet

Find Fabulous

nevercontrary

Black Box Warnings

My questions to you are:
  1. What goal motivates you to keep writing?
  2. How would you describe your blog in one sentence?
  3. If you could be any one superhero, which superhero would you be?
  4. Which food would you eat everyday if you could?
  5. What charitable cause is close to your heart?
  6. When are you more productive:  morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening?
  7. What has been your biggest writing achievement to date?
  8. If the world was overrun with zombies, who would you choose to be in your group of survivors?
  9. What piece of technology can you simply not live without?
  10. Who inspires you?
Don’t forget that for all Liebster Award nominees, there are a few simple rules:
  • Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
  • Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award that has less than 200 followers.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them

The problem with relying on good looks

When you are young, slender and beautiful, the world is your playground. A sparkling smile, a flip of the hair and a batting of the eyelashes accomplishes far more than the average person would suspect.

It’s a catch situation:  you know you’re gorgeous; and because you know it, you ooze confidence and charisma; and because you ooze all this charm, people notice you wherever you go; and because people pay attention to you all the time, you know you’re gorgeous.

Whether anyone will willingly admit it or not, if you’re beautiful, things seem to come easier. It therefore becomes quite natural to rely on your good looks to get your way.  Unfortunately, that’s where the real danger lies! Forget the other jealous and insecure women who are not at all enchanted by your youth and beauty, it’s when your good looks start to wane with age that the real challenge is afoot.

Speaking from experience, I relied heavily on my good looks in my twenties.  Tall, pretty face, slender body – I got used to the attention I attracted simply by being attractive.  No wonder I went into crisis mode when I hit thirty!

The ageing process isn’t for sissies

For the vain woman (and yes, I hang my head in shame), it feels like a death sentence. Your attention is taken away by younger, prettier girls and alas, you find yourself in the shoes of the older, jealous woman that you pitied in your earlier years.

beautyTo quote Liz Smith, “One of the best parts of growing older?  You can flirt all you like since you’ve become harmless”.  It’s an appropriate quote, especially to me.  Flirting in my younger years was my weapon of choice; now, flirting is not really something that I can get away with in too many situations. If I’ve learnt anything it’s that physical beauty is not permanent and it’s not ageless.  Relying on good looks alone will only get you so far and no further.

Yes, I do still nostalgically dwell on my twenties at times, but with age has thankfully come a little more wisdom.  It’s far better to be revered for your inner beauty, intelligence and strength of character, than simply as a pretty face that can be easily forgotten.

True beauty is timeless and that is something that can only come from within.

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