The Choice Is Yours

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.” (Michelle Rosenthal)

If this is the first time you are reading my blog, thank you for visiting. I do not write very often and usually my thoughts go into my journals (which I shred when they are full!) but I enjoy sharing some things on this platform and as much as it helps me to express my feelings, my prayer is that it encourages others too.

I was excited to hear that a review of my book “Whole Pieces” is going to be published in our local newspaper tomorrow. This came as a surprise and I am humbled that my story is still having an impact. Instead of running from our struggles, or over hiding, it is best to own our stories and let this bring us freedom and grace, from what we once thought were failures.

I have often written about hard times in my life after they have happened. This is because scars are often easier to talk about than open wounds. I am currently dealing with a situation that has brought me to my knees. I felt like I was dying, physically and emotionally…

But God.

He is my everything and I wouldn’t be here without Him. Rarely do we let each other see the wounds as they are healing. This is an intimate process, often accompanied by shame and others may not want to look, even if we invite them to. Vulnerability is like a glue, that holds relationships together and this means continuing to show up and face hard times, when you have no control over the outcome.

Living like this takes courage. It takes courage to stay your course and not succumb to fear and have faith in a future you cannot see. The choice is yours. Choose what is right, over what is easy or fun. Stand up for yourself and your beliefs over choosing to fit in. All your mistakes can serve a purpose and your story can make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Even when you fall, you can rise again.

Gone To Pieces – a poem I wrote in 2010, which is published in my book:

“Anything you don’t feed, surely must die.

So I’ll starve my bad habits and let myself cry.

Must stop being so brave and show how I feel.

Remove the bandages that bind and let myself heal.

The smile through the scars is simply a lie.

Want to give my wounds wings, allow them to fly.”

debbie@ivins.co.za

Advertisements

Simply Be There

“Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.” – Proverbs 25:20

When dealing with insensitive remarks (I always use my experience with infertility as an example, but this can be applied to whatever situation you are dealing with) there are usually two kinds of people: those who are trainable and those who are not. I like to always be optimistic and believe most people will change, if we help them. We can never completely keep people from giving us unsolicited advice or criticizing the way we grieve, but we can tell them how to support us. (We also need copious amounts of self-control to keep us from retaliating!)

This point hit home for me while watching a Hollywood talk show on television earlier this week and prompted me to re-visit the subject. I was touched when the host explained he had made a joke about pregnancy to a guest and only afterwards found out she couldn’t carry children. He was gutted. Although he did not know her situation at the time, he said he would never make that mistake again and has since apologized.

What do we want from others when we are going through a particularly difficult time? Generally, we don’t want advice unless we ask for it. Even “Trust God” sometimes feels like we are being accused of not trusting Him. One of the best things you can do is sit there with us when we are stuck in this ditch. It may be in silence, or with a simple reassurance like, “How can I help you?” “I feel sad for you,” “It’s okay to cry.”

I have had a particularly difficult week. I had intended to write a lot more, but I don’t have much left in me right now to do that. However, I hope this post helps someone. We have all been in this ditch before and our needs and choices change, so have patience with one another. Everyone needs compassion. Most of us are doing the best we can, so let’s simply be there for each other.

 

I’m Still Standing

I heard Elton John’s song “I’m still standing” earlier and now I can’t get the chorus out of my head:

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Feeling like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

“I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah”

Although this is directed at a former lover and standing strong without that person, the universal theme of finding confidence after a difficult breakup, is something many of us can relate to. I didn’t intend on writing a blog after listening to this song, but it has got me thinking, so while I wait for my husband to return from running, I am going to share my thoughts (making sure I don’t get too distracted and burn dinner!)

It seems in life there is often someone telling us to be quiet, not make waves, go along with the path others have designed and neglect what we want personally. The pain of rejection often tempts us to do just that: go unnoticed and follow the crowd. I chatted with a friend yesterday about vulnerability on social media and finding the balance between sharing our story to inspire others and opening ourselves up to scrutiny and cruel remarks. Our stories are not for everyone and probably only a good idea to open our lives if healing is tied to the sharing.

Perhaps at the start of this new year, you had to breakup with someone or something that has been a part of your life for a long time. It may be a person, a bad habit, an ideal you have held onto, a dream. (I spoke a little about this in my last entry, “Reflections”.) It may be time to let it go and move forward. Stop looking back with regret and go after what you want in life. Leave your mark on this world and when people laugh when you fall, dust yourself off, stand up on the inside and keep going.

It’s not easy but ultimately being frustrated and unfulfilled is worse than pushing through the public attacks. It does not mean being rude and rebellious towards friends who don’t understand us but rather having a quiet confidence and faith in God that everything is going to be okay. We need to keep standing up on the inside and not be so afraid of making a mistake that we end up doing nothing at all.

Perhaps sing the chorus above to stir yourself up (you know you want to!) Fight those negative thoughts that are holding you back and go for it.

Resolutions

“We spend January 1, walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. But maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws but for potential.” Ellen Goodman

As the year comes to a close, most of us will spend time looking back and if you are like me, perhaps you are surprised you are still here and made it through to the end in one piece! There are always so many unexpected highs and lows and yet, here we are, ready to begin again.

Sometimes these reflections lead to resolutions for the new year and focusing on things we want to change. While this is important, remember to concentrate on the positive potential and not the faults and flaws. Before stepping into something new, we usually have to let go of something we are holding onto and perhaps this is a bad attitude.

I know from experience how easy it is to slip into bitterness and self-pity but I have learnt to be better and choose joy, on purpose, even when I don’t feel like it and things are not going my way. We can make resolutions for 2019 but without a doubt there will be obstacles in the way. I read an article recently by Mark Gungor, on love in relationships, and how it is not something that is constantly there, following you around like a puppy. Instead it is more like a greased pig!

“You have to chase after it and pursue it. You have to run it down and tackle it. And when it gets away, you go after it one more time. You may finally get hold of it for a while, but then the little rascal can slip away and you have to chase it down again.”

I hope this brought a smile and reminds you to pursue what you want most out of life and don’t give up so easily. Keep chasing those dreams and working hard, despite difficult circumstances. It is also important to have fun between the obligations and responsibilities, so make sure you work in some things you enjoy and don’t overlook the little things either.

Photo Editor_Y6pMxj

A spoon of peanut butter always cheers me up. Maybe a good cup of coffee is something you relish or a glass of red wine like my husband. Your child’s laugh, a cool shower after a hot day or the sunset…there are so many treasures and pleasures in everyday life, that are easy to take for granted. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to blessings and it will serve us well to carry this gratitude attitude into the new year.

Sani Stagger Marathon

“It’s not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves.” (Sir Edmund Hillary)

FB_IMG_1542955796346

The Sani Stagger Marathon is one of the most challenging marathons that one can take on, with runners making their way to the top of the famous Sani Pass and back down again.

FB_IMG_1542955782539

The temperatures reached the high 30s and a 14 x veteran of the race said it was the harshest conditions he had faced yet. Those medals were earned!

46845381_2291416224426403_5669696515388473344_n

As always, there are many stories to be shared but for a change I am going to keep this light and simple and leave the deep thoughts for another time. However, I will say that looking at the incredible views from the top of that mountain, brought clarity to my recently tormented mind, that we need to zoom out and stop stressing about the small stuff in life, and instead remember what really matters and what brings us joy.

I started off slowly, full of anxiety and even though this was my 6th time doing this race, it demands respect with every attempt. After a three hour run-walk-crawl up the mountain, I reached the top, enjoyed the snacks on offer and then began the steep descent.

47072144_2291418701092822_3095897935460696064_n

FB_IMG_1543214472330

46945795_2291418744426151_2940720578077655040_n

I walked down the mountain for the first few kms, as my anxiety kicked in, but I also knew it would be wise to take care of my quads for later on. I was humbled as runners flew past me, but this paid off later, when I felt surprising strong and was able to make up time with a sprint finish, which earned me an age category prize and 6th placed lady overall.

FB_IMG_1543155399705

It truly was a race that epitomized struggle, growth, failure, victory, surrender, fear and love all wrapped up in the gift of running.

“And by pushing past our comfort zone we did not only climb that mountain, we became the person who could climb that mountain.” (Michael D’Aulerio)

Life Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

‘Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.’ – P. Chodron

30709505_10155658002859895_1991918742832939008_n

I heard the above statement earlier today and scribbled it down, along with a few random thoughts, which I am now sharing with you. It’s rather messy but that is life, so I’ll simply throw out some ideas.

We are often told to withhold judgement, as it is impossible to know what storm someone is walking through. Showing empathy goes a long way in letting others know they are not alone. That connection is vital, which is why initiatives like ‘Movember’ are so important in raising awareness for men’s health, both physical and mental, because that community support is essential to help break the silence and shame and support one another.

We all wear masks, but behind the smile may be a broken heart and although nobody can see it, the pain is unbearable with every breath. Most of us have been through tough times, which requires incredible strength and courage, to enable us to get back up and keep moving forward. We joke about ‘running away’ but we know we have to sometimes face the same challenge, more than once, to win it.

IMG_3250

‘The strongest hearts have the most scars.’

We often use various means (hobbies or substances, work or other distractions) to distance ourselves from the way things are, when they are not how we want them to be. Our culture makes us believe if we stay busy enough the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us. When we feel uncomfortable, we want to bolt and if we can’t do that, our ‘distraction’ gives us something to do besides having our heart shattered by the painful events. It drowns out the madness of life.

This is very prevalent in our world today and sometimes the only thing to do is to not live in reverse and dwell on the pain of the past but to stay where you are, with what you are feeling, let yourself be vulnerable, and be in the present moment. This has been happening to me a lot recently, crying a bucket of tears, simply letting myself feel deep emotion instead of containing it. It takes courage to go there, resist the temptation to bolt or squash your feelings and instead, let them out and embrace who you are, while letting go who you think you’re supposed to be.

‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ – Socrates

Remember to be kind to yourself through this process and know you are enough. Don’t let someone treat you badly just because you love them:

‘Your level of belonging can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance.’ – Brene Brown

27331832_10155459711919895_8450785080514036751_n

I hope these thoughts above encourage you and help someone out there who needs to hear it. Being a runner, let me end with some quotes that parallel running and the journey through life:

‘Go as long as you can, and then take another step.’

‘Relish the bad training runs. Without them, it’s difficult to recognize, much less appreciate, the good ones.’

‘Running is so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel you can’t. But then you find your inner strength and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.’

Peanut Butter And Peace

A day without peanut butter is like…

…Just kidding. I have no idea.

It has been an interesting week and it is not over yet. With my husband out every night with various commitments, I have had a lot of time alone to think.

7f72cf87ccc103b1f4af930aa24d87d7

Jokes aside, between the deep thoughts (and evening baking sprees!) I have also helped friends with various challenges, from where to buy peanut butter in bulk, to how to pursue peace when you’re waiting on God. After chatting back and forth, we had success and all parties left feeling satisfied.

43426725_10155677056005598_1619631261083500544_n

I am more of an expert on peanut butter than peace, but I hunger for both and am willing to make great sacrifices to have them! I am far from perfect but making progress.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Awareness Day and anxiety was a hot topic. Anxiety is a problem for many people and I relate to this struggle too.

5fca8d42959439be8b5a5b72a87f1851

Constant worry is also something that drains us and is totally useless. Usually we worry because we are afraid things in life won’t turn out as we hope. We even worry about things like a traffic jam, which we cannot control, and being upset won’t change it. We worry about what others think of us. What the future holds. If we want to have peace, we have to give up worry.

At first it may feel strange to let go and enjoy each day, without trying to figure out tomorrow. We get addicted to stress, strife and being busy, without even realizing it. It takes courage to say yes to rest, in a culture where exhaustion is often seen as a status symbol. If you sincerely want peace in your life, you have to pursue it and make this a priority. It doesn’t just come. We need to trust God in all things, beyond what we see and beyond what we know.

Peace is power. Peanut butter is too. And in my humble opinion, both are good for you!

Follow Your Butterflies

Don’t compare your struggles to anyone else’s. Do not be discouraged by the success of others. Make your own path and never give up. Whether I am running on the road or competing on stage, it is not about being perfect or like anyone else. It is about being the best version of myself and confident in my own skin. 

A98A7039

A few weeks ago, I was chosen to represent my province, KZN and take part at the IFBB South African Bodybuilding Championships. This weekend we were in Rustenburg to compete and it was an experience I will never forget. It was incredible to connect with old friends, who have become like family, while building new relationships too. We had so much fun!

41990686_10155633450175598_6018381210521174016_n

It was an honour to be on that stage and I am beyond happy to come home with a medal and memories to treasure always.

42146792_10155639714125598_6367011995224375296_n

At times I still battle to be vulnerable in this way and overcome the self-doubt, but the support and encouragement I received during the show and now after since being home, has helped squash my fears and lift my spirits tremendously.

“The strongest action for a woman is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could.”

Behind every tan and sparkling bikini there is a story and I am grateful to be able to use mine to encourage others, while being inspired by the stories of fellow athletes too.

IMG-20180918-WA0014

I am humbled to have stood alongside some of the top competitors in our country and wish our World’s teams all the best, as they prepare for the international stage later this year. We are behind you every step of the way!

Bikinis And Butterflies

Wow it has been a crazy year. Lots of hard times, tears and fighting fears, mixed with good memories and growth. After overcoming injury and managing to run my strongest Comrades yet, I was again reminded how blessed I am to be able to enjoy my sport and despite the obstacles that this body of mine keeps throwing at me, I will never give up and keep fighting.

dfb6d91170017571f9dc0ada5313606a_DSC_2071

After Comrades I had no intention of stepping on stage, however, on Saturday I competed in the IFBB KZN Bodybuilding Championships. Listening to my heart and not my head, I made this drastic decision, took a big risk and knew no matter what happened, I was doing this for the right reasons.

_DSC0128

I was humbled to place 6th in my Fitness Bikini division and after many years of competing, I finally earned a medal at this prestigious show. It still feels surreal.

However, it didn’t end there. At the end of the night the team was announced to represent KZN at the South African Championship later this month. When my name was called, I shrieked in disbelief. My fake lashes hung on tightly, as my eyes welled up and I made my way onto the stage to join my friends.

40802710_10156129014189608_3976252994327937024_n

I am proud to have been awarded my KZN colours and honoured with the opportunity to compete at this level. Although it leaves me feeling vulnerable, as I am not as strong as I would like to be, I will always give of my best and am grateful for everyone who supports me, through the ups and downs. Let the adventure continue!

Own Your Story

I was recently chosen as one of the winners for the BLURB “Share Your Story” contest. I printed my book with them in 2011 and years later, it is still having an impact. I was excited to receive my generous voucher prize but more importantly, have another opportunity to reach people and encourage them to own and share their story too.

2018-07-07_10.34.53

I have learned that nothing in my past can stop me having a good future if I keep a positive attitude and decide to believe that although I’m a mess (aren’t we all!?) with God living on the inside of me, I’ve got what it takes to turn the page when bad things happen and begin a new chapter. You have to keep moving forward because you will never get to where you want to be if you keep complaining about where you’re at.

11045412_920736744625033_7883914262652062928_n

With August being Women’s month, various topics are being discussed, from physical well-being to mental health awareness. I am under construction in both these areas and overcoming self-doubt is a big one at the moment. Self-doubt will destroy confidence and cause confusion. I still let people’s remarks tear me up inside from time to time and it makes me second-guess my decision to speak as openly as I do about my life. I wonder if it is worth it. But I am responsible for my path and have discovered you can’t let anyone else write your story for you. I am grateful for the friends who love me because of my imperfections and have been there through the messy bits with me.

I took the vulnerability leap a long time ago and am always sensitive to those who do the same and feel safe enough to share their story with me. Many of them recognize that empathy is lacking in our world today and sadly I have noticed this too. Trying to put a silver lining around your friend’s pain is often not the best way to respond. For example, the words “at least” hurt, especially when the wound is still fresh. “I had a miscarriage.” receives the reply “…At least, you know you can fall pregnant.” If you are at a loss for words, rather say, ‘I don’t know what to say, but thank you for telling me.’ Rarely can a response make something better, but a true connection can speak volumes. That is in my experience anyway.

Those are my Tuesday thoughts. Let me know yours.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S Lewis