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June, 2011:

One life. Live it.

Nike – just do it?

Jeep – live without limits?

Really?

I understand the difference between an advertising slogan and real life. But I also understand the power of the media (advertising in particular) to define, create & redefine social norms.

I understand the positive, motivational power these simple yet effective one liners have had for many thousands.

Take the bull by the horns. Face the fear and do it anyway. He who hesitates is lost. Life is for the living.

Everyone needs a bit of a kick up the butt, when they are trying to make decisions, and they do know that the move would be a positive one, but just need that little something to hang onto. To chant when they need the courage. To remind them of the enormity of human potential that lies within them.

But, these slogans also have a tremendously dangerous effect on the ‘average’ person.

The single mother, who by no choice of her own finds herself raising two kids, with all that stress, and a full time job that does not quiet make ends meet.

 What is it that she should “just do?” to fulfil herself as a woman, as a person?

Responsibilities suck the life blood out of her. She is drowning in limits. The limits of the scope of her career, because she has to be breadwinner, mother, father, caregiver, provider. The limits of her womanhood as the years pass, as she cannot embrace her sensuality because she has responsibilities that weigh her down, and a society that talks. And talks and talks. (God, how I hate gossips, but that is another blog entirely)

The man who finds himself in a dead end job that he hates, that makes him feel less than any concept he had of himself as a younger person. He is treated like dirt, earns a pittance, but cannot “Just do it”, just throw in the towel, just tell his boss to bugger off, because he loves his wife and his children so much. They are his limits, because he chooses to value them more than his own satisfaction in career terms. Because it is his expression of love to them to be the provider. The fact that it’s part of his choice does not negate the consequences to his life’s dream.

The man who loves what he does for a living, but it doesn’t pay the bills. He has chosen his spirit and soul – to celebrate them in his work, above the possible financial gain of another occupation. His limits are financial, he can’t just go on holiday, join a sports team, he can’t just do stuff because he does not have the financial means.

So, what are limits? Are they negative? Jeep would have us believe so.

Should we temper our wants, our perceived needs, should we suppress our desires for the gain of others whom we value? Nike would have us believe not.

As a society, I think, we have to question where we are at, in terms of the excesses we face every day. Excessive materialism, the ease, and often acceptability of drugs and promiscuity (forgive the term promiscuity – because that in itself requires a whole definition and discussion – it’s a  word that to me is a value judgement, which I hate. I only allow myself value judgements after I have thought long and hard about any given situation)

 If we are to raise children to value the environment, to value life, to respect others, and most of all, to live at peace with themselves, surely we have to teach them a strength of character that can distinguish between what’s being sold to us as the good life, and what really is the good life?

 We have to know what we consider living authentically, so that we can proudly say, we do live with limits. And these limits bring us happiness. We impose and embrace these limits, because that is living. Really living. What happened to concepts like accountability? Are they only the domain of the religious fundamentalist?

We have to know whom we respect, if we are to tell our kids – contrary to Nike – Look before you leap. Consider your options, and the consequences, and wait. Be patient.  ‘Just do it’ is the stupidest advise I have ever heard. It implies immediate gratification and selfishness.

So what is our truth and how do we hold on to it in this crazy world of corruption &  greed?

What is being  “true to yourself” ?

Is it constantly trying to redefine who you are and what you need to do to live this one life you have been given?

What is the‘pursuit of happiness’ and  at what cost do we pursue that happiness?

Happiness is of course, a state of mind, a state of being  - outside of anything else, outside of achievements, money, career, but how do we maintain that state of mind?

By a constant conscience choice to accept where we are at, being grateful for that which we do have, knowing that everyone has their demons, no matter what level of success they think they are achieving?

Who can find total peace, who finds contentment?

Who can live out the promises they made in their youth, all the days of their lives, because they know that chasing a dream is often times just chasing.

Chasing youth, chasing desperation, running from the inner voices that you cannot still or calm. Chasing the dogs from your door, or the fear from overwhelming you.

Life is fearful. What if I get my heart broken? What if I am rejected? What if I can’t provide for myself and those I love? What if my best isn’t good enough? What if someone I love dies? What if my world changes without me being ready? What if the rules are redefined by my significant other, and I have to play a new game that I didn’t sign up for? What if I have to start all over again? What if age is not good to me? What if I don’t achieve all that I had hoped and dreamed? What if I have to acknowledge failure? What if that which I believed in my whole life is incorrect and I have ‘wasted’ years on a false understanding? What if I am unhappy.

Can I even acknowledge any of it?

Can I identify it?

Then…. Will I have the guts to do something about it – and should I do something about it??

Nike, Jeep, thank you for your slogans.

They have caused me endless turmoil.

But they have also caused me to think.

And because I can think it through, I can come – eventually – to a valid, real, unshakable conclusion, that will see me LIVING WITHOUT LIMITS !!!

Did I ever tell you, you’re my hero?

Role model.

That wasn’t such a buzz word back when we were kids.

I don’t recall ever having to do speeches on a role model at school. But then again – lets face it – what were our options – we had… Um… Princess Diana! And she was our role model becasue she was .. um…. oh yes … beautiful & proved that fairy tales were true! There were real live princesses after all! (And frogs!) And of course years later, she got involved with charity work, which thankfully validated our earlier hero worship of her.

Then, lets see, who else did we have …..(thinking… thinking…) Oh, oh.. yes .. Mother Theresa! Becasue she .. um… was kind to the poor! Come on! Lets face it: what does the average teenager know of real altruism? But I guess she was good for an English speech or as part of an arguement in debate club.

Remember, for the purposes of orientating this in time and space – we didn’t have pc’s or the internet, so our choices were limited to firstly what the press fed us, and secondly, we were living in a very censored South Africa, so the restrictions or limitations in exposure to other world views were even tighter.

Ok, so then we had… um.. Oh, yes, eventually we had FW de Klerk! Finally a prime minisiter, or politician  that we could start to think about admiring, not least of the reasons being, that he was the first politician in my lifetime’s history to broadcast a speech on National television in English! Now there’s a man we can identify with – but that doesn’t make for a terribly long speech on a role model now does it? After espousing on his bilingual abilities – we had nothing!

Talk of Mandela, in that time, was out of the question! Not chiefly because he was a banned person therefore not quoted in any literature available on South African soil, his image, name and philosophy banned … no, that in itself was not our greatest obstacle in presenting a speech on Mandela as a possible role model – the greatest obstacle was that the average white suburban teenager had no idea whatsoever that such a person even existed! So, I guess that would preclude the great Mandela from making it onto our list of potential role models.

Ok, so – parents. Yes, that’s always a good choice. You know, because of what your mother does for you, how hard she works, and all that. But how many speeches on “my mother is my role model’ can one teacher possibly endure?

So, it’s becoming a bit clearer why that wasn’t such a big buzz word back then.

But, lets humour ourselves, and see, who else did we have? Naas Botha!

Now Nass Botha was a rugy player…although the game originated in England, it was very much the exclusive domain of the Afrikaaner. But we had Nass…cause there was no bloody one else! We were isolated from all international sporting events due to Apartheid. So our two other ‘greats’ were Zola Budd and Bruce Fordyse.

Bottom line is… why are we encouraging our youth to be seeking so ferverently for someone to emulate? Why do we need to set someone else up on a pedastal, someone to admire, someone whom we wish we could be like?

Why should we be researching someone whose character traits we admire so deeply that we use them as an example of a ‘good /perfect’ human being. They are substitutes – you know, not the real deal, the stand it. (Substitute : a person or thing that acts or serves in the place of another) You know who the real deal is – the one you should be researching, examining, studying, trying to behave as …. Yourself! It’s just so much easier to focus on someone else’s life  instead of looking introsepectively, instead of having to ask ourselves the right questions. Instead of examining our own morality, our own reasons for being. It’s so much easier to read autobiographies / biographies, or to hear their life stories, than it is to focus on our own life story, to say, outside of everyone else, who do I want to be? What is right for me? What do I believe? How is acting like that or believing in that going to really work for me, as an individual, not as a component of society, but for me?

So, I am really glad we didn’t have all these ‘heros’ set up before us when I was growing up. I am glad we didn’t have that many people to admire. I am glad we didn’t have to do English speeches on someone else’s reality, on someone else’s achivements, on someone else’s victories. Because as we have seen all too often, receintly, the old adage holds true – the higher the tree grows, the harder it falls.

And they all fall. Every one of them.

And beyond the shock, or the moral reprehensibility with which we react, beyond that – imagine the message  sent to impressionable people.

I still adore Princess Diana, because I identify deeply with her hurt, her anguish, her search in life, her immaturity in her initial belief patterns, and her maturity in trying to forge her own reality in the end.

I admire Mother Theresa for her renunciation of worldly definitions of success, but I know she had her own payoffs for doing what she did.

Our psyches are just too deep, too vast, too complex to ever proclaim that someone else has it all worked out. Not only is that the furtherest thing from true, but you forget along the way, to validate your own virtues. So BE your own hero.

Every time you run a kilometer further than you thought you could, you have become a sporting hero.

Every time you cook a meal that someone else enjoys, you have become a nuturer, a provider, a carer.

Every time you deliver a presentation or speech to your own level of competence or satisfaction,  you are the greatest orator, because you communicated ideas effectively in a public forum.

Every time you give unselfishly, especially when you give out of a place of your own need, and not out of your own excess, you are Mother Theresa.

Every time you speak a soft word, show an act of kindness, keep quiet instead of speaking unthoughtful words, you are the best kind of hero this world could ever dream up.

The heros are not on the stages of this world, they are not on our sports fields, they do not wear the medals, the accolades,the badges of recognition, they do not necessarily have the hallmarks of success. The hero is the person who continually strives to make sense of thier own existence, in this very conflicted and confusing society we call home.

I look for heros in very different places. And I see them everywhere I go. I wish that they knew it. Did I ever tell you – you are my hero?

mirror mirror on the wall…

Do you realise, that -  you have – the most beautiful face?

Do you realise, that everyone you know, someday, will die.”

Flaming Lips.

 What is our obsession with beauty?

Really?

We are all guilty of it – either / or (not mutually exclusive) with our own beauty or the beauty of others?

 Think of a romantic comedy movie… staring Cameron Dias, or Jennifer Aniston. We love it. We soak it up – all the vicarious soppiness of it.

Now imagine that self same script starring someone not commonly considered beautiful, in fact, someone with many rather displeasing physical features.

Be honest. We just wouldn’t enjoy the movie as much!

I know it’s a fact, because I have caught myself in that exact notion more than once!

You kind of enjoying the story line, but find yourself distracted continually by trying to recast the protagonist! 

Yes, there are character parts for the less physically attractive, but when it is a movie about  quintessential lovers – we want beauty! We also love the ugly duckling transformation – but please God, don’t give us just plain Jane straight through!

Sometimes it’s even ok if the male is not all that attractive, as long as the female is gorgeous – it still leaves us with that feel good kinda stirring, about how this great beauty found true love with someone who had a good heart, but was always overlooked because of his lack of physical perfection.

That we still buy into.

But two ordinary folk, falling in love… mmmm… we don’t quiet get the same satisfaction from the romcom as usual!!

True?

Yes?

No really, come on – no one is judging your noble attitude here : you are reading this blog in the privacy of your own head. So acknowledge it!

So, what is this obsession?

Is it the fault of the media?

Has the media been that influential?

Is it some sort of “Darwinistic” pre-selection – survival of the most beautiful pre-programmed instinct to be so attracted to beauty?

We all know about the industries that obviously give preference to beautiful people – multibillion dollar industries have been built on the concept of beauty.. but it is even more insidious than that.

I once heard of a study that was conducted, whereby research indicated that school learners paid more attention in class to more attractive teachers & subsequently scored higher results. I have no reference to this study.. it’s just something I recall hearing when I was in a lecture many years ago. So the validity of it may be questionable, but I remember that fact, because it resonated as true with me.

I distinctly recall, as a 5th grader being terribly in awe of a particular teacher. She was fresh out of college, young, blonde, petite. We all wanted to be in her class. She screamed like a fishwife, taught Maths, which was my worst subject, but that did not deter my desire to be in her class.

28 years later – she still teaches in the same school, the same grade, and even with the passing of 28 years – she still has that effect on the kiddies! True story!

We’ve all had days when we felt more presentable (prettier / more attractive) than other days. And like it or not, it’s true. That perception of beauty influences your entire attitude – to the people you meet that day, your mood, your energy levels!

Oh yeah… you know the ones I,m talking about …the days when you wish you could bump into your ex-lover, or a “friend” you dislike! Like… ha! Bet you wish you were me (to ‘friend’) or were still with me (to ex-lover)! Because I am Ba – yooooo – ti – full!!!!

This is such a huge topic, I don’t know what to include & when to stop!

Perhaps this would be a good place to insert a pretty visual – to keep your attention ;)

Think of blessed Princess Diana… and dearest Princess  Kate – oh God help the girl.

Why does being beautiful dictate self esteem? Worth?

This whole mentality has become so deceptive that we have rationalised it in the most sickening ways.

 Like the pastor’s wife/ves who have had to spend tens of thousands on shoes to erm.. cough..look pretty for their husbands! ( oh and the hair extensions, and outfits and beauty products in a bottle are so that um…er…the shoes don’t start feeling all uncomfortable and  out of place? )

Or… or.. or… Oh, it’s important to ‘take care of yourself’ or or or… to ‘make the most of yourself’ … Bwwwaaahhhhh… vanity…. thy name is rationalisation!

Trust me.. I judge not, … I do feel oh so much better about myself when I have had my hair done, and lost a few extra pounds… so who am I to deny you your beauty….  but that’s just it – isn’t it?

Who are any of us – as individuals, or as industries, to deny someone their AMAZING beauty … yet we do it every day, don’t we??

We deny ourselves the opportunity to get to know someone, because they are too intimidatingly beautiful – so we don’t feel at ease to either approach them or engage in a meaningful conversation.

And I know it’s happened to us all – when we are in a situation where we do get to interact or engage with a ‘beautiful person’ we are taken aback, and comment in surprise how nice they actually are, after all !

When we are younger, and just beginning to form intimate relationships – becoming a couple, we deny ourselves the most amazingly rewarding relationships with people of character, who have traits like loyalty, faithfulness, wisdom, because we can’t see past a sexy figure, or nice hair. Or can’t get past the comments of our friends with regards to the person we are dating. Its sad. It’s sick.

And I don’t understand why it is that way.

In the morning of your life – look to the sunrise

Humming: Oh Very Young Ones…  (Cat Stevens)

 Hindsight! How many of us would have lead very different lives … if only we had known…

This is what I do know now:

When you are a young adult (17 -24ish) you make decisions (specifically with regards to relationships) with your heart, based on what feels right, based on your belief system at the time, sometimes based on rebellion.

For the lucky few, those decisions work out well. Per chance. Per grace. Predestined?

 But overwhelmingly so, those decisions do not work out.

Do not blame yourselves or others. Do not feel guilty, stupid, ashamed!

Do not explain or excuse.

Analyse – yes, a little.

Learn from it, yes of course.

Then move on, without regret, without shame, without sorrow for the loss, the “mistake” the pain.

I do use the word mistake in inverted commas on purpose, because I strongly believe that nothing is really a mistake in terms of the definition of the word, for even if an action is incorrect, wrong, unwise, it will contribute to your wisdom, to your life lesson, to your life story, having it’s own purpose, it’s own value and it’s own merits.

The sooner / earlier you realise that it was not the best decision, the better. Do not agonise over what you can do to fix it or make it right, or make it work.

You can’t.

What you can do, is start again. Start right. Right now.

(Obviously if you go ahead and make those same mistakes / bad decisions repeatedly, you need to analyse why!)

An astounding number of marriages result from teenage romances. A surprisingly many of my peers met their future spouses in high school, aged roughly 17.

Larry King, in his autobiography “My incredible journey” observed that you are not the same person when you are 20, as when you are 30. And when you are 40, you are not the same person you were when you were 30.

In essence of course you are – the blueprint if you like – but experiences, careers, travel opportunities, relationships all alter, add to your paradigm. And sometimes a huge paradigm shift can completely alter who you are, and the ‘deal’ the other person bought into. Racists, who became non racists, Christians who lost their faith, or found a new religion.

Some relationships work through the decades, for various reasons, sometimes those reasons were thought out, and other times, it was a set of variables that happened to work in the favour of the couple.

But many don’t.

You can’t possibly have the knowledge, wisdom, life-experience at 17, that you have at 37.

The journey is wonderful.

Make sure that the good decisions are a destination, and the bad ones, only a pit stop on the way.

Don’t make your bad decision your destination because of some misguided sense of duty, morality, self expectation.

Do what you believe with your whole heart to be right and true, because that is the very best rationale for doing anything. At the end of the day, you were true to yourself, and this is a process you will have to repeat many times throughout your life, continually being true to yourself. And from that strength of being able to acknowledge your own truth at that time, you will find it a lot easier to discuss your truth with those whom it impacts most, those with whom you have relationships, of any kind. Keep discussing your truth. Keep identifying your truth.  And thereby you will live your truth, and that, my friend, is a life lived with no regrets.