Lessons in Love

Love It has been a long time since I’ve written anything here. And a long time since I’ve felt like I  had anything I needed to say. But now, at the beginning of a brand new year, I need to write  down, more for myself than anyone else, some of the things I have learnt about love in the  last year.

Love is NOT supposed to be an emotional roller coaster. Yes, we all know that first flush of  love, and the excitement, and the butterflies. And we also know that it calms eventually and  real love is what endures after that. But love that is real does not hold you to ransom. It  shouldn’t make you fear changing situations and moods. If you are sitting with a stomach  twisted in knots when you think of the person you “love”, that is not love – that is fear. When  you are with someone that makes you feel calm and centred, yet strangely energised, that is the one you should be spending time with. Real love is a place of peace.

It is most important to be with someone who makes you laugh. Maybe we are all led into false hope by too many romance novels that words will always be tender and sweet, that the sex will always be mind-blowing, and that no one ever looks less than their best, but the true romance is that love remains in spite of, and sometimes because of, all the things that you don’t like in yourself. So when the butterflies have calmed to a mild flutter every now and again, make sure you have chosen the person who makes you giggle, and makes you see the ridiculous in yourself. Real love has a sense of humour.

All of us want some kind of fairytale romance, and too many great relationships are thrown away because there’s some small thing that doesn’t quite match the picture in your head. The truth is, we have to write our own fairytale. Every person’s story will be different – some people need the knight in shining armour, and the white horse and the sunset and all the trimmings, but even in those stories, there is a wicked witch somewhere. The fairytale for the 21st century is the person who drives you home and puts you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink, who comes to your rescue when you do stupid things like run out of petrol, and who makes you tea in the morning. Sometimes the true excitement in love is how comfortable and how “you” the other person makes you feel. Hold on to that. Real love is safe.

Real love is not needy and does not set out to hurt or wound. It has taken me this long to learn that when you have an argument or disagree, it doesn’t mean that you don’t love each other. Just because you enjoy different things, or have different friends, or need time on your own also doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less true. I don’t know why we feel that romantic relationships should be any different from the relationships you have with your family. And in most normal families, siblings fight with each other and with parents and none of it means that they are loved any less. Real love is unchanging.

It is a very sobering thought that I’ve had to wait until I was 30 to learn these lessons. So this is written with deep gratitude to the person who has taught me… Here’s to real love for everyone in 2014!

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

SS Armadale Castle

This is a picture of the Union Castle steamer Armadale Castle, which is the ship that my grandmother sailed on in 1921.  Her family emigrated from Scotland to South Africa when she was 5.  I still have the Bible she was given for the journey.  I can’t imagine how scary that must have been, to leave everything you know and love, and be faced with nothing but a wide open sea for months, and to have no idea what it is that you are going to.  Were people then more courageous than they are now?  The thought of general leisure travel fills me with dread.  I can’t even comprehend the idea of emigrating…

ARMADALE_CASTLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life Like the Sims

The Sims Social

The Sims Social (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a confession. I am one of those annoying people who post game requests on their Facebook feed and expect our friends to click on them. It gives us a sense of achievement when we can say that we have achieved a goal, or completed a quest, or unlocked new scenes, or reached a new level in whatever Facebook game we happen to be addicted to at the time.

I am not a gamer in any sense of the word. I don’t play for the sake of playing. This means that I choose my games carefully, and to date there are only three that I have any kind of attachment to. The first, Scrabble, I am attached to because it is my life-long ambition to beat my grandmother hollow. She taught me to play when I was little, and mostly beat me, and then she moved back to England and there were no regular games. Now using Scrabble on Facebook, we have five or six games going at a time, and our skills are fairly evenly matched. We tend to win an even sort of a number, though I think I am creeping ahead a little… The second, Hidden Chronicles, I stumbled upon by accident and because I always think of myself as having lived in a large English country house a la Downton Abbey in a past life, the concept of building an estate with caretaker’s cottages and secluded pavilions appeals to me. But the first one that I played, that I play still, is the Sims Social.

I love the Sims because that is what I want my life to be like. I don’t know what the real Sims game is like – I’ve only ever played the social one on Facebook – but the Sims earn their money through literature, art, music and cookery. Of course I can’t claim to be proficient at all of these and it is highly unlikely that I will ever earn anything by cooking and all the art skills were appropriated by other members of my family, but I like to think I’m fairly proficient at the other two. Music is already how I earn my living – through teaching, as opposed to performance or composition, and it is my ambition to one day earn some money from writing. Or at least from reading – I rock at reading! The fantastic thing about the Sims is that it all seems so effortless. You earn enough coins to buy the next skill item and suddenly you are sculpting, or dress making, or singing karaoke or playing a magnificent grand piano. And when you’re done with that one, something new comes up. Oh that the creative life were really so effortless.

And then, instead of spending their hard-earned coins on frippery things like food and rent and bills, the Sims buy newer and nicer items for their homes. In the Sims, I have my dream home (well, sort of), where the garden is always immaculate, I never have to do laundry and I can spend all day at home! Having said that, I already spend all day at home – I have a teaching studio in my house so all my pupils come to me. Surely that’s an ideal world? We spend so much time and money making the kind of home we want to live in, and most of us spend all day in an office, earning enough money to live in the home we want. This is my second year of working from home, and I can’t imagine wanting to do it any other way.

So my sisters may think I’m wasting my time with the Sims, and my friends may get irritated by the stream of requests on my timeline, but I have learned valuable lessons from the Sims. Firstly, that good money can be earned from creative pursuits if you take the time and follow the steps, and secondly, when you don’t take the time and follow the steps, you can always have a Sim who earns that way. Lastly, and most importantly for the creative person, there are always new and improved ways to procrastinate!

New Cure for Flu!

Bed made with white bed linen. Four fluffy pil...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who’s ever had a long and hard day at work knows the joy of collapsing at the end of it, sinking into the feeling of fresh, cool sheets against your skin. But there is something even more satisfying when the bed linen is brand new.

We’re going to have loads of visitors over Easter, and the challenge of finding places to sleep for nine extra people gave me an excuse to finally go and buy a new duvet and things for our bed. We’ve had a queen size bed for the longest time, but always a duvet designed for a double bed, which in this climate is usually quite sensible. For five months of the year, it’s just too damn hot to have even a sheet over you. But for the following five months, you wish you lived in a place where you could buy thermal underwear and reindeer skins to sleep under. Amazing that a place with no winter rainfall and no snow – EVER – could get this cold. But that is what happens in the desert. So cold that even the cats want to get under the duvet, and the dogs need tucking in under layers and layers of blankets each night. That’s not for their survival, by the way. That’s just because our fox terrier will whine at our door all night if she isn’t.

As luck would have it, I bought our new duvet just in time. The day I changed from the old to the new, the evening temperatures suddenly dropped and we were glad for the extra warmth of the new 8 tog, medium weight duvet. Added to that was the fact that I came down with the flu the same day. When you’re feeling absolutely rotten and stuffy-nosed and headachy, and your ears feel blocked and your whole body feels like it’s been hit by a bus, new bed linen does so much to ease the discomfort. So I’ve decided now that every time I feel like I’m coming down with something, I will buy new sheets and pillow cases, have a hot bath and curl up in my new bedclothes in my favourite pyjamas. I am a genius – I have discovered a new cure for flu!

A Blogging Sort of Saturday

This has been the perfect sort of Saturday.  We have spent the day lying on the bed with laptops, D. beginning a new blog and me updating my 21 Days of Abundance page.  The more I blog, the more I enjoy it, especially since it seems now to be becoming a household activity!  The kitten has added her usual two cents, mostly by nipping at toes and playing with power cables in an effort to distract us and make us pay attention to her.  But focus and commitment to writing have prevailed!

In short, it really has been the perfect day.  We have been blessed with a full day of electricity (long may it last!) and now the wind has picked up and the storm is beginning.  There is nothing quite like the smell of impending rain in Botswana, and the immense feeling of relief as the first drops hit the dust.  I have made healthy eating choices today in accordance with my long list of affirmations about health and weight, and consequently I feel wide awake and ready to keep writing.  I have had so many new ideas (most of which I haven’t written down, so don’t let your expectations exceed my achievements), some of which I have put into practice and some of which will have to wait for another day.  All in all, however, I am feeling intensely creative at the moment.  If you need to feel intensely creative, go and find The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander.  Written by a creative person for creative people, it will be the most motivating and rewarding book you ever read.  Seriously…  I read voraciously, books of all kinds on all topics, but I don’t recommend easily.  So from a Leo who always knows what’s best for the people around her, take the advice!  Or if you’re feeling a little lazier, try Sark’s Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed.  It truly will do that.  As Andy Hamilton, one of the writers of Outnumbered said when asked about getting up, ‘I’m a writer, so getting up isn’t really part of the picture’.

In addition, my sister has introduced me to Shelfari on Amazon where you can connect with other book-lovers and share recommendations and discuss topics of interest.  I am nowhere near finished putting up my ‘bookcase’ as it were, but I have made a good start.  Apparently there is a way to put it on your blog, so it shall appear here when this technologically-challenged individual figures out how it is done.

In the meantime, the storm is getting louder and closer, and I am getting hungrier and hungrier, so time for dinner and House MD reruns, methinks!  Hope you’ve had a perfect Saturday too!

Exercise for the incapable

I love the simplicity of this form of exercise…

dowhatIsaynotwhatIdo

Maybe incapable is unfair. What I’m getting at would be the equivalent of “exerciser-ly challenged”, which doesn’t really read that well or exist as a word or phrase. Actually, I’m not really talking about exercise either, as you’ll see.

So I was in the pool the other day, and was building myself up to doing 10 lengths, to get the heart beating slightly harder than the prescribed 68 bpm or so, or the actual 78 bpm or so, as I had done the day before. As one does, I prepared the pool, moving lilos and balls and stuff aside, and started thinking, with the mind of one committed to exercise,  that I hadn’t really tried out the noodle. So I put it under my arms and found it really works for buoyancy; funnily enough. Thing is though, to keep your head comfortably above the water you need to lift your legs, which is…

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The Resolution Monster Strikes Again

And so begins 2012.  I have been a little slow off the mark this year, but now all the necessary Lynjag new year rituals are complete!  Well, complete enough for me to take a break and write something at least!

Normally I spend the 1st of January setting out my new diary and filling in important dates for the year. This year, however, New Year‘s Day was a Sunday, and we spent it with friends braaing round the pool.  It was a fantastic day, but delayed my readiness for 2012. I made a resolution to make no more resolutions, but all the years of vowing to be more organised and on top of things caught up with me and I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling of not getting stuff done. To whose schedule I was supposed to be operating, I’m still not sure, but the Resolution Monster caught me!

Sunbathing

The toys enjoying the sun after their New Year bath

The next few days were spent in the traditional new year fashion of spring cleaning.  We have cleared out cupboards and cleaned and scrubbed and rearranged.  Somehow these activities seemed to pacify the Resolution Monster for a while, but my office has taken more tidying and sorting out than all the rest of the rooms combined. I have cleared all the piles of paper that have waited for a year to be sorted, I have thrown away two huge bin bags of paper I should no longer be attached to, the desk is sparkling (though already starting to fill up) and the instruments and music have all been put away where they belong. Having no electricity for five hours did help progress somewhat, but it would have been even faster had there been an air con!

So this post is a celebration!  I have finally got to the point where I have opened my brand new 2012 diary, filled in the important information that belongs at the front, made to-do lists for Monday, and made note of all the important birthdays I have to remember.  I’m writing this outside, taking advantage of the cool breeze that has finally arrived, and enjoying the weird light quality that is particular to Botswana on a stinkingly hot day, witha dark grey sky. The thunder is rumbling and I can see a rainbow. I’ll take it as a sign that this is the year I find my pot of gold!

Happy New Year!

Oh well…

Another one bites the dust.  NaNoWriMo has come to an end, and despite my rush of enthusiasm at the beginning, and my best intentions throughout the month of November, I did not finish my 50 000 words.  Instead I got taken up with music exams, choir practice and obsessively playing the Sims on Facebook in order to avoid having to think of something to write.

My animals have also been extremely helpful this month in encouraging me to not reach my goal.  The cat, Madala (‘old man’ in Setswana) has adopted my desk as his favourite place to sleep and chill out during the day.  This has made me feel that I can’t even get started until I have cleaned the layer of cat fur and cat-imported dust smattering off my desk.  But there are times, many times…most times, in fact… when I have lost the will to disturb him after I have been repeatedly mewed at to feed him, or pay him some kind of attention, mostly at 5am.  Not the time of day when I am most inclined to clean up after him.  Or get started with work.

Then there is the dog.  Nala, our delinquent Boerboel/goat sleeps on the paving outside my office window.  Every time there is a slight movement outside the gate, she barks suddenly, and I accidentally hit backspace and lose the last three sentences.  Or put down a word that I don’t want to in Scrabble.  Scrabble becomes a wonderful distraction.  I can justify playing Scrabble because it’s a word game and therefore it is working…sort of.  It’s the same with Word Chaos.  I tell myself that I am exercising my brain and my vocabulary by thinking of as many words as possible in 30 seconds, or making up new combinations of letters in Scrabble in an endless quest to defeat my grandmother once and for all, and then entering them in the Scrabble dictionary and discovering that my interesting combination is actually a real word with a totally obscure meaning.

So you see, there are real reasons that I didn’t finish my novel.  None that would make sense to to anyone else, or be meaningful in anything other than an ‘I just didn’t get round to it’ sense, but at least there are ways to justify it to myself.  And there is always next year.  So, oh well… And on to the next project – Christmas….

The Madness of Clarinetists

The construction of a clarinet. Edited from th...

Tomorrow I will be doing my Grade 8 Clarinet exam.  But this is not a post about nervousness or preparation or any of those good exam-like things.  It is a post about the madness of musicians, and of music teachers in particular.

You see, exams are things that we traditionally associate with school.  As things that you have to do while you are at school, while you are of school-going age.  We also make the assumption that no one chooses to do exams, that normal people would avoid them like the plague.  Enter the first sign of a music teacher’s madness.  I chose to do this exam.  I chose to put my mouth, my fingers and my ears through this, so I have no one to blame but myself.  Except for my teacher.

We have known each other now for 20 years.  She was my primary school teacher when I was in Standard 4, then she became my clarinet teacher, then my teaching mentor, then my colleague and now my partner in crime.  We coach orchestras and choirs together.  We transformed a music department together.  And now she wants me to do this exam.  Don’t get me wrong – of all the people that have influenced my life, she is one of the greatest.  She is an incredible musician, an incredible teacher and an even more incredible friend.  But she is even madder than I am, which is saying something, considering that we are both music teachers.  And clarinetists.

My reasons for doing the exam are all very admirable, I think.  Firstly, Grade 8 is the highest one, and I went off to university and things before I could finish it off.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  I did my Grade 8 Ballet when I was 23, far too old to be dancing like that, in that clothing that makes curvy women look like elephants, even when they’re not fat (wish I still looked like that though!).  I did my Grade 7 Clarinet when I was 26.  So it’s taken me two years to work up to finishing it off.  I also think that somehow, it sets a good example to all my students, that you are never too old to learn, and that you should never stop learning and developing as a musician, or as anything else.  I also know myself quite well, and I wasn’t going to get any better as a musician just by picking something to play and working at it. I needed a tangible goal, preferably one that was a little scary, to make me do it.  However, now that my fingers are falling off and I can’t sleep because I have the Mozart Clarinet Concerto (I’m playing the 3rd movement tomorrow) in my head, I’m wondering about the wisdom of it all.  Already the butterflies have begun to flutter, and I still have a day of teaching to get through.  At least I am doing mine tomorrow, and all my students are doing theirs on Friday.  I might have a peaceful night and be prepared to make all kinds of mistakes in the accompaniment for my children.  Oh well.  Such is the life of a music teacher.

The madness continues.  My teacher and I are already planning the next exam.  Maybe finish off the piano, or another violin exam?  Or maybe I should now focus on preparing the children I teach for their exams.  One thing I do know, though.  They will all end up as mad as I am.

NaNoWriMo

Welcome to NaNoWriMo!  Or so it says.  I don’t know that ‘welcome’ is how I feel.  Daunted?  Yes.  Intimidated? A bit.  Motivated?  I’m working on it.

The idea is that you write a 50 000 word novel in the month of November.  So I signed up.  My sister is doing it too, so she’s my writing buddy.  Never mind that I’ve never wanted to write a novel particularly.  My leaning is definitely more towards non-fiction than fiction.  But the site asked all kinds of questions about my novel so I chose a genre (Literary Fiction), a working title (Kalahari Rain?) and a name for my main character (Phyllis).  And here we are on Remembrance Day, 11 days into the month, and instead of being my usual self who can happily write 1000 words an hour, I am now stuck on 2066 words in total with no idea where to go next.  Suddenly, even accomplishing 150 words a day has become a struggle.  My talent for procrastination, always pronounced, has achieved epic proportions.  The fridge is emptying at a rapid rate.  My desk has never been so clean.  And I have never taken quite so many turns in Scrabble on Facebook.  I find myself joining conversations and commenting on friends’ posts on Facebook when I haven’t seen or spoken to them since primary school.  I check Twitter obsessively.  I feel the urge to call people I haven’t spoken to in months, mostly because we have nothing to speak about, all in the name of avoidance.  And the part that scares me the most is that in pursuing this goal, I have become my mother!

My mother is one of the most creative people I know and an incredibly talented artist, but it takes more work to get her to paint than it does for her to actually finish the painting.  I have always wondered why it was so hard for her to get going, but now I understand.  And I find that I cannot blame her anymore.  Now I know just how bad it is to be disturbed during the day.  When I have laid careful plans and structured my time, the phone rings.  I get an email that’s not urgent or important but suddenly seems that way.  I have drunk more tea in these 11 days than I have for the past 3 months combined.  I am awash with tea.  And my blog has joined the list of possible distractions.  I justify it by saying, ‘well, at least I’m writing something’, but that isn’t really helping me achieve my 50 000 words.

I understand that distraction and procrastination are the constant companions of the creative person, so I’m working hard on being more disciplined.  In the meantime, I think my cupboards need sorting…