Cracked Eggs

This weekend we celebrated our first Easter, in our new home province, Gauteng.

Autumn is here, with the falling leaves and brown trees symbolizing not only letting things go but also renewal and rebirth. One of the many lessons I have learnt during this transition season is it is possible to be scared, brave, strong and frail all in one and more importantly, things don’t have to be completely fixed for us to be completely fine.

Another lesson I have learnt is that when we struggle and hurt, it is easy to doubt God’s love and become guarded with others. We also judge ourselves and believe the lies the enemy tells us. Swop those negative thoughts for what you know to be true about God. He loves you. He is good. He died for you. You are forgiven.

Hold on to hope that whatever is hurting you in this moment will not last forever.

Whatever is breaking your heart right now, know that the ache is proof of a beautiful remaking in progress.

Don’t give up.

Instead, look up. Believe God is at work behind the scenes, even when it doesn’t feel like it. God is good at being God. Trust Him. Trust Him with it ALL.

Telelestai – “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Paper Plates

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together.” – Brene Brown

An unexpected conversation with a friend yesterday, left me reflecting once again on how none of us can know for certain what happens ‘behind closed doors’, and we need to always be slow to judge and give others the benefit of the doubt if they appear to be acting out.

“Today you could be talking to someone who is trying their best not to fall apart. So whatever you do today, do it with kindness in your heart.” We have heard this several times before but it is worth mentioning again.

Everyone struggles with trauma differently and may not experience it in the same way as the next person.

You may think someone does not have a lot on their plate compared to you but maybe their plate is flimsy and cannot hold as much as your sturdy one. They are using paper plates, you have ceramic. Perhaps their plate is smaller than yours, so they cannot hold a lot to begin with.

Life is hard for everyone.

We all carry pain to greater and lesser extents. And it is all valid.

The journey is about embracing it, learning from it and healing.  

So I guess this short #thursdaythought is to remind you to: BE KIND and keep this in mind.

Getting Up On The Inside

I haven’t written a blog for weeks and so much has happened, with both physical and emotional challenges coming my way that have left me depleted and scared. I don’t look like myself, I don’t feel like myself, but this season of life is not going to defeat me. This is not going to steal my joy. When everything settles, I will be standing strong and I believe the same for all of you, as you are fighting your own battles.

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We have to trust our journey, even when we don’t understand it.

I am usually able to keep an enthusiastic spirit no matter what life throws my way, but it has been necessary to sit in the shadows first and be still, while remembering what really matters in life and humbly surrender my burdens to God through my tears and fears. I realize now I need to stop venting and start praying because I need strength to keep fighting.

I am not going to write about these challenges here. They will be ongoing for months to come and although I have been knocked down on the outside, as we all experience when things come against us, the key is to learn how to get up on the inside and remain positive. This doesn’t mean ignoring the negative but overcoming the negative, and even though it feels like life is caving in and it is hard to breathe, I will keep fighting to stay in an attitude of faith.

It is during the tough times that we find out what we are really made of. We all face struggles, challenges and confusing circumstances when things don’t go our way. Ultimately, they refine and change you and good can come out of it, but gosh it is so very hard in the moment. It tests your endurance and character, but you cannot give up. You cannot quit. I have to believe that even though I am feeling weak now, these struggles will give me strength.

A strong person is not one who doesn’t cry but instead is one who sheds tears for a moment and then picks themselves up and carries on fighting. I may do this several times over, bit by bit, up and down. Healing is weird like that. However, I know from experience that most of life’s valuable lessons are learnt through pain, and I won’t let it turn my heart into something ugly. Someday I will look back, and know exactly why this had to happen.

Life Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

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

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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.

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‘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

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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.’

Recovery Is Not A Race

Over the years I have grown more aware of my thought patterns and make a constant effort to think about what I’m thinking about. The mind is powerful and I have overcome a lot of struggles by keeping a positive outlook and not letting negativity poison my mind and rob me of the ability to enjoy my life.

This isn’t always easy and when there is a lot of stress at the same time, I do battle. I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child and it still plagues me today. It isn’t something that goes away; it’s something you learn to control. My running helps in this regard but sometimes it has the opposite affect and triggers an attack. Instead of helping me, it becomes part of the problem. Recently I was blind-sighted when the feelings hit and I suddenly felt my heart beating faster and my hands getting clammy. I have had some nasty falls in the past both on the road and the trails and while running this weekend, every step felt like I was going to trip and my mind went wild.

It is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced this firsthand but imagine you miss a step on the stairs and your stomach lurches. Anxiety feels like that but lasts much longer. During a panic attack you can’t control your body and you may have difficulty breathing. There can be chest pain, dizziness, nausea. Symptoms vary. You cry uncontrollably and tremble. I have also experienced a feeling of pins and needles all over my body, which I now know is called Paresthesia.

Why am I sharing this? I feel it is more common than we realize and if this is something you relate to, I want to encourage you don’t ever give up. You are not alone and this isn’t unique to you. The more you change your mind for the better, you will notice your life will change for the better too. Keep a positive mindset, full of faith and hope and remember, a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. Tomorrow will be better. Be patient with yourself. You are capable and brave, even when it feels like you’re not.

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Lending A Helping Hand

What would it take to change the world? There is so much pain and suffering around us, it can be overwhelming at times. How can I make a difference? What can I do to help? I don’t have all the answers but one thing I have discovered is to use what I have in my hand. Writing is something I love doing and by using this gift, I have been able to share my story and in turn, help others.

My infertility journey opened up a whole new life mission, to help hurting people, not only those who had suffered the way I had, but anyone who needed encouragement to press through hard times and live a life of passion and purpose. During those days of heartbreak and learning, I self-published a book, which was a compilation of some of the emails, journal entries and poems I wrote during the first five years of my infertility journey. I thought having a memoir like this would be the closing chapter on the journey but it proved to be just the start of something that I could never have dreamed of.

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I was asked to speak at church and put in contact with people needing help and support. I was interviewed for several magazines and newspapers and my humble book circulated around the neighbourhood and I eventually printed 100, then another 100 and today I collected a fresh batch, hot off the press. Suddenly the interest has sparked again and I feel blessed to be able to keep using my gift to meet the needs of those around me.

I enjoy baking muffins and this is another way I show love to others.

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Maybe you are good at cooking and can bless someone with a meal. Is your phone in your hand? Why not use your free weekend minutes to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while? Perhaps the remote is in your hand, ready for the soccer later today. Why not invite someone over, who lives alone and would appreciate the company.

What can you do for those in your corner of the world? What is in your hand?

No Turning Back – ASIJIKI

 

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To The Novices

As novices, the Comrades Marathon is something you are yet to embrace,

And I’m sure you have learned a lot about nutrition, tapering and pace.

It is an experience you’ll never forget and will require you to give your all.

The determination and commitment you show will leave your family in awe.

I’m about to run my 6th Comrades but felt like a novice with the previous five.

It never loses its unique appeal and is a race that makes me feel alive!

Running became my outlet, to help overcome personal heartache and despair,

And it is healing to be able to run every week, with people who truly care

I used to know only a handful of athletes running this Ultimate Human Race,

Now at every turn and up every hill, I’m able to recognize a familiar face.

You too will make many new friends and even strangers will cheer as you run by,

Trust me, at times you will wave and smile and then suddenly just want to cry!

By now you have conquered a marathon or two and done the club long run,

Hopefully you remember the lessons this taught you but also had some fun.

In January you didn’t know how you’d do it, but it has worked out well,

Juggling work, family and training, despite the struggle, it all seemed to gel.

Remember these last few days must involve lots of recovery and rest,

To ensure that come Sunday, 10 June, you can do your very best.

Soon you will be entering Moses Mabida Stadium, to cross that finish line.

And believe me, you will be back next year, to do it a second time!

How To Help A Hurting Friend

This month I celebrated with a friend who gave birth to her first child and a few days later grieved with another friend, who lost her baby through miscarriage. I went from happy to sad, having to work my way through the dark despair I felt for her and fight the pain and flash-backs of my own journey. I thought it was worth re-posting this blog I wrote a year ago, as the question about how to support a friend who is hurting, popped up again and it is important to keep the conversation going.

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I was asked by someone today to please give them advice on how to support a family member who is struggling with infertility. As always, I am honoured that others still come to me for help and yet every time I panic. What do I say? Every situation is different and I remember my journey was incredibly hard in the beginning and nobody could say the right thing.

This question comes up often and I have explored it over the years but I thought it was worth writing about again, immediately, not only for this family who are feeling desperate but perhaps in between the lines you can find chunks of helpful information to comfort someone you know who is also hurting, regardless of the circumstances.

Struggling with infertility is not easy because everywhere you turn, you are reminded of the hole in your heart. You are surrounded by babies, prams and pregnant bellies in the shops, at work, at church and it hurts. It makes you want to withdraw from society and at the same time, this makes it hard for your loved ones to know what to do.

As I said in the beginning, every person is different, so it is impossible to give a blanket answer here. Being a good friend to an infertile is not easy. The situation may change from one day to the next and you have to be prepared for that. Sometimes no matter what you try, you will never get it right but a huge first step is to let them know that you acknowledge how hard it is for them.

A good friend never judges. Show them empathy.

Also educate yourself about their situation (this will help avoid offering pointless advice) and don’t try cheer them up by minimizing their pain (“Want kids? You can borrow mine for the weekend!”)

NEVER SAY ‘JUST RELAX.’ (Would you tell someone who can’t see to just relax? No!) Relaxing will not change the medical diagnosis causing infertility.

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I’m a hardcore vet at this now and have gone through the intense pain of the dark years and while it is unbelievably hard, it is no longer all-consuming. However, everyone moves through stages at their own pace. It can vary from a friend who is at the early stages and is still full of hope and optimism, to the one that is heavily involved in treatment and is carrying great pain (although may not show it). When your loved one is in the dark stage and everything has the power to hurt them it is often best to offer friendship and support from a distance.

It usually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the situation they find themselves in, as they struggle to cope with their reality. Let them know that you are here for them if they want to talk or cry or scream! But also let them know that if they don’t want to do any of those things, it is okay. You will wait and be there when they are ready. That’s the best advice I can give. If in doubt, ask them. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that and don’t push.

I hope this helps someone who needs to hear it today.

Thank you to all my friends who have stuck it out with me.

 

Everyone Needs Compassion (And A Crunchie)

Everywhere you look these days people are hurting. They have broken dreams, are discouraged and feel their lives are a mess. I often write about the need for compassion in the world, instead of criticism, because I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of both. After a particularly emotional week, I have been feeling a little sorry for myself and wondering why do I have to tackle yet another challenge? Why do I have to always fight so hard?

In the middle of my pity party, my prayers were answered, but not in a way I was expecting. My problem wasn’t solved but I was faced with the opportunity to show compassion to two brothers I met unexpectedly and felt something inside me that said they needed someone to listen, someone to talk to. At first, I hesitated, as I was so overwhelmed with my own problems but I followed my instinct and decided to focus on them instead.

Over the last three days, with the help of homemade crunchies, I have earned their trust and listened to their story. It is one filled with pain and hurt but they have triumphed over it and are making the most of a difficult situation. They didn’t need me to give them advice, they simply needed my ears to listen.

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If you feel that pull to show love and compassion to someone, don’t ignore it. Keep your heart open and be on the lookout for people you can bless. Even if it means being inconvenienced once in a while. Don’t be too busy with your own plans that you miss an opening to show someone you care.  You never know what impact one word of encouragement might have. You may think you are doing it for their benefit but from what I have experienced this week, often that compassion in your heart for another person, is as much for our own benefit as for others.

Find Your Strong

I was surprised recently by receiving news that my Reader’s Letter had been published in Women’s Health magazine and it was the winning letter for the month too! I have copied it below:

“I’ve been battling with infertility for several years and have tried everything, from complementary therapies to in-vitro fertilization. This was a huge financial and physical sacrifice for us and involved enduring drugs, injections and surgery. We have had multiple miscarriages and suffered extreme heartache with despair, disappointment and bitterness being constant companions, but in the process discovered hope, faith and courage like never before. After remaining silent initially, I now share openly and use my experiences to help other women who find themselves in a similar situation.

I enjoy reading your magazines and usually keep them to refer back to, often years down the line. I was recently paging through a 2016 issue, which highlighted miscarriages and it reminded me that I am not alone and how important it is to address subjects like this, which are often considered ‘taboo’. Your magazine certainly does this. Thank you!

It is a roller coaster ride of emotions and at first I felt like I’d failed as a woman when I wasn’t able to conceive and this was only highlighted when friends fell pregnant with ease. I was completely focused on the one thing I couldn’t have, a baby of my own. It has been a long, hard process but I’m doing my best to maintain a good attitude and enjoy my life, while waiting and remaining hopeful. From a place of pain and despair I found a love for sport, which started with running and I have now completed five Comrades Marathons.

When I am running or training in the gym, I feel strong and empowered. I want to encourage women to love themselves enough to live a healthy lifestyle and use their story as a platform to inspire others.”

 

No matter how many years go by, it is always an honour to have my story reach others and remind women that they are stronger than they think and if things don’t go as planned, embrace new opportunities and keep moving forward.

 

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