Monday, March 29, 2004

Look, he’s talking… (Part one)

Men are just as big gossipers as women…

This weekend I was challenged to prove the above theory. Gossip has been known without the years to be female habit and that men are usually disinterested in such a practice… Hogwash!!!

Men like to know what’s going on just as much as women do and believe it or not, they make it their business to know the latest. Isn’t it strange how your boyfriend already knew about the big break up between Tom and Jane? Unlike you, he probably already knows exactly what was said between the two. Perhaps you just haven’t sat down and actually listened to your work colleague replay the weekend’s gossip… oddly enough, he always seems to know what is happening in the office… and now that we mention office talk… how is it that the boss always seems to know exactly what’s going on with each of his employees.

Gossip is conversing about subjects that don’t concern you. And whilst women are accused of gossiping, it’s funny that men can only be accused of talking or sharing ideas. They will never admit to gossiping… Yet they know what’s happening in everybody’s lives.

Called upon the challenge to prove my theory about men gossiping just as much as women. I took it upon myself to investigate this subject and in less that twenty-four hours I heard more male “chatter” than I needed to know. I changed the names to protect the innocent (and the guilty…)

Conversation between two work colleagues:
Gavin: Her car was parked outside the parking lot with steamy windows
Frank: I was told that she was having fun with Jeremy again
Gavin: Isn’t that the guy that was engaged to Angela?
Frank: That was before she caught him in his brother’s apartment with the vampire.
Gavin: That vampire is the town bicycle; everyone’s had a ride.

Conversation of the boy behind the counter of a bookstand:
Customer (referring to someone in the social page of the newspaper): Isn’t this Rita?
Counter boy: Yes it is, she’s been seen a lot in the company of Dr. Gerald lately
Customer: Is that so? But isn’t he married?
Counter boy: His wife is in charge of many of those theatrical events, she knows the rumours but pretends she doesn’t hear them. Two weeks ago the two women had a catfight near the post office, her chauffeur had to break them up.
Customer: Yes I heard about that, wasn’t Dr Linda there as well?
Counter boy: Apparently so, she’s a good friend of Rita’s, she usually comes in here every month to buy the Cosmopolitan.

Tom: She’s from South Africa, heard she arrived here by herself. Left just as she finished high school and came looking for a better opportunity here.
Harry: Things in South Africa are pretty bad and education keeps getting more and more expensive! Doesn’t she stay with family?
Tom: I’m not sure, but I know she’s getting her own apartment soon, somewhere in Madalenas. Heard she’ll be living on her own as well.
Harry: That’s impressive for someone that young and that has only been working in TMN for two years, surprised she doesn’t have many guys knocking at her door.
Tom: She seems shy and extremely dedicated in her work, they say she doesn’t care much for the locals though.

The last conversation was between two clients of mine who whilst waiting for me to finish with the client I was with, decided to “comment” a little about my life. What perhaps shocked me the most (or not) is the fact that they were comfortably commenting about me even though I was footsteps away. Until today I’d only spoken to one of them over the phone once and this was my first meeting. How did they know so much about me? I can guess, but my suspicions don’t really matter here except for the fact that any of my given suspects are male.

Why do men get off the hook better than us women? Maybe because they’re better at it than us women! My theory is that either than have a more intelligent strategy of doing it or they’re just good at being cowards. (My guess being the latter). Men hate being left in the dark and if they can’t pry the information out their girlfriends they hang around in groups, switch on their antennae’s and act disinterested whilst their radars pick up all the juicy pieces of gossip. When they want to steer the conversation to the intended piece of gossip they might start the conversation with “Hey, what’s the story with Little Red Riding Hood?”… if this doesn’t work they’ll try “I thought I heard something about the Big Bad wolf chasing her?” and if the going gets rough they might resort to “A good source of mine told me that the cookies she was baking was for Grandma…”

Clever aren’t they?… or perhaps just a big bunch of cowards! Everyone knows that men hate owning up to things. They’ll do anything to avoid confrontations so whilst a woman will say “Shelly told me that…” a man will say “I heard that…”. A man will never rat on his buddies. When confronted with the truth a man will always shrug his shoulders and say “It’s just a rumour I heard…” no one ever knows who said it or how it got a start… but you can bet that every man around the block will know something about it!

Men are just into gossip as women are; they just cover each other’s asses better.

I could’ve used many examples to prove my theory but I’ve decided to keep this in general to give men the chance to defy my reasoning. So go ahead boys: I dare you to disagree with me:

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Things can only get better…

Below the veranda cars and motorbikes zoomed between the buses, the sea was calm and the sun’s rays were warm. I felt the wind gently kiss my cheek, smelled the saltiness in the air, saw the crystal display on the oceans surface and heard the bustle of a city that was alive beneath me. Taking a deep breath, I thanked God I was alive.

How often do I thank him for simply breathing? It seems that on most times I speak to him, I’m either apologising for something I did wrong, asking for help or praying on someone else’s behalf. Today I wanted to say something to him, something important and all I could think of was to thank him for the moment that I could spend there by myself, and watch the world go by.

I believe that every soul born onto this planet should be on self-improvement mission. We make mistakes, we learn and we do better… it is the process of evolution. However many people seem to be under the impression that evolution is the material gains that one acquires throughout the years. A new car, a new house, a new job, maybe even a new girlfriend… it seems that there is always room for something bigger and better than what we already have. I am no one to argue against this but I believe that the bigger challenge is to actually want what you already have.

Happiness is such a short lived moment that at times like these when my soul is in total peace, I’m afraid to say it aloud hence should something come and ruin it. This doesn’t mean I don’t have problems… Some might even go insane with the things I still have to do and resolve but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the good things in my life. Why can’t we feel good about life even when things aren’t all going right? How frustrating it would be if there all were… we would end off with nothing to do or improve! I’ve never met anyone whose life was exactly the way they wanted it. It seems there is always room for change or improvement. I try to learn from the people who can whistle and smile despite the bumpy road they’re walking. I believe it takes a whole lot more courage to sing in the rain than to sing in on stage.

These amazing people who can see the advantage of having a flat tyre during a journey, are the ones who teach us to count our blessings. They believe that not always getting what you want can be a stroke of good luck, that you have everything you need to be happy and that if God doesn’t lighten your load, he will strengthen your back.

The whole day through, I hear people whine. They complain that they’re underpaid and not valued. Some lament about how other people don’t behave they way they want them to and many feel that their talents are going to waste. It’s hard to find a positive connotation in any of the conversations I hear throughout the day and if you don’t watch yourself, you eventually find yourself lamenting along with them.

I too am underpaid and unappreciated but I’m thankful I have a job and that I have the capacity to fight for my dreams. I plead guilty for often also wishing circumstances were different but looking back I realise that some of the best times of my live were times in which I didn’t even realise I was that happy. This encourages me make the most of what I’m living now so that in future I don’t regret the time I spent sad or worried. Worrying is one of the most fruitless and time consuming things a human being can do.

“How can you always be smiling all of the damn time?!”…

Well… if you don’t get if after everything I just wrote, I feel sorry for the people who have to live in the shadow of your self-pity. If I choose to be happy, motivated and positive, it’s because I think choosing a negative emotion is a waste of time and that I deserve better. No one is going to rescue you and give you all that you want. You can be sure that getting a bigger and better car will not make you any happier for longer than seconds if you don’t appreciate the one you already have. It’s okay to sit on your pity pot every now and then… just remember to flush when you’re done.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Altered State of Mind... (part 2)

After much deliberation, I decided on leaving the last entry. Although it’s not one of my best pieces of work, I amusingly discovered something about myself and this is what I want to share with you:

Definition of alcohol?

It’s mind-altering substance that feels like silk going down your throat, and poison once it reaches your stomach. It then disperses into your every vein, rising on a non-stop trip to your brain with the sole mission to take control. And then it happens… you let go! No fears, no inhibitions and the courage to speak your mind… alcohol is the virus that infiltrates the brain, preventing thoughts on being scanned before being released by the tongue. And although it is responsible for the destruction of brain cells… I’d say alcohol could have its positive influence too…

The last entry ended with my apologies for not learning or teaching anything but after rereading my column… I discovered a little something about myself.

Besides the fact that I can’t find the spell-check button while I’m drunk… I found that whilst under the influence of mind-altering chemicals, I’m still as direct and sincere as I am when I’m dead sober. Maybe a little too sincere… definitely a little too direct but without a shadow of a doubt, still the same spirit! Anyone who looked me in the eyes would see the same soul they find on any given day of the week.

A while ago I had lunch with a good friend of mine who plotted to get her loved one drunk in order to extract voiced emotions that he was unable to communicate with her whilst sober. It’s scary to think that nowadays you either have to get someone drunk or torture them in order to get some sentimental truth.

After careful analyses, I wasn’t sure whether to be proud of myself or to start stressing that I still wear my heart too visible on my sleeve. Nowadays it’s dangerous to share your thoughts and opinions without having them mutilated into someone else’s politic issues… I am aware that silence is a safe and intelligent option for the current times but after reading my columns I realise that my position as a typical Arian is too stand in front of the crowd and loudly voice my opinion.

Arrogant? Self-centred? No… I don’t consider that to be the case. I believe that everyone is on a mission of self-improvement and if I can help someone learn from my mistakes then my intentions are justified… communication is the only means of immortality, so yes… I voice my opinions for those who wish to hear them (or in read in this case)

Once again, I have nothing new to teach… but perhaps you can learn something from what I said… just as I did. I hope never have to rely on alcohol to help me express my feelings. I pride myself on being sincere person and being able to be counted on for a direct and honest opinion. I just hope that the people around me know that it doesn’t take a shot of Tequila to get me to talk… all you have to do is ask.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Altered State of Mind…

I am writing to all of you at 4:15 in the morning and very heavily under the influence of alcohol. I didn´t have a lot to drink but whatever I drank was enough to send me to cloud nine and back. The last time I got this drunk was when my grandfather died, I can´t say that I had any specific reason to get drunk tonight... let´s just say that antibiotics and alcohol don´t mix well.

I went out with a group of friends in search of a good time. I went to a place where I love to dance, a place that holds many good memories... a place that was missing my pregnant friend and her cousin, along side the lead singer that obviously left a huge void in the band. Kept company by really great people, I thanked God for my youth and the oportunity to make the best of it.

I felt a little self conscience and tried to concentrate on translating from english to portuguese and vice versa. I began really enjoying myself once we got on the dancefloor and then the alcohol started kicking in... I didn´t mean to drink more then I could handle. I didn´t mean to loose to control... I just needed release... release from stress and routine... the kind of release that only music, alcohol or sex can give...

Tomorrow morning, both sides of my family will know what I was wearing and what I had to drink... walking past a cousin ensured me of that... but she didn´t see any more or less of me... she simply saw another side.

Before I knew it, I had my uncle´s best friend flirting with me and as usual, even in my altered state of mind, I ended up turning things around so that he played the vulnerable victim and I played his psychologist. Men are all the same, they think all women need to be rescued, and when one women lifts up the mirror, they realise that they´re the ones in need of rescueing. I guess that´s what I´m good at... giving out good advice...

By the end of the night, I could hardly see my feet. I tried to concentrate on the music and the people around me but the music stopped making sense and when I took a good look, I was already surrounded by trouble. I was left responsible for showing an outsider a good time but even though I tried to warn her against temptation, she had her arms around him faster than I can say “don´t”...

Out of place, out of beat... alcohol has a way of making everything seem right... and then everything seem so wrong... I felt surrounded by trouble and decided to make an exit before something happened beyond my control. I searched for the only responsible face in the crowd and asked him to keep an eye out for the newcomer... His face was the only face recognisable, the look in his eyes was the only thing that made sense and my strongest desire was to put my arms around him and say “please get me out of here”... something I would´ve done if the future girlfriend wasn´t around.

What I´ve learnt from all of this?.... Nothing... absolutely nothing!

I already knew that mixing drinks would cause this chemical reaction in my body, dodging wise asses also wasn´t new and avoiding the “nice” guy that just wanted to walk you safely home, was peanuts...

I wish I could leave you with something positive... something worth reading about but I can´t really think of anything. Sometimes a girl just needs to let go... to force time to stop and let her soul and heart take control of her body... It´s 4:30am... and I have no regrets... every now and then, we need to let go.

Friday, March 12, 2004

I love you to bits… as a Friend

“Until today, I thought that hearing “We have to talk…” from a woman was the most awful thing she could say, but now I’ve discovered that worst of all phrases is “I love you too… as a friend”.

Jerry Seinfeld wrote a funny story about being the “friend” and although I laughed at his comic way of putting this across, I couldn’t help but sigh at the tragic truth of a tragedy that I’ve gone through myself… more than once.

Jerry whined that once again he has taken the role of the dedicated friend who can always be counted on for good advice and support. However, although he sits with hopes that his female friend will once reciprocate his hidden love for her, she tells him that she loves him just as a friend. So while she probably dates a million of Mr. Wrong’s, Jerry stands by her and suffers every time she gets hurt, hoping that one-day she’ll give him a chance…

What an idiot? I suppose so… but how many people reading this blog are remembering of a time when they too played the role of the “friend”. It’s a tragedy when we meet someone who touches our hearts and souls and then tells you that they don’t feel the same way. By the time you find out this reality, it is usually too late to save your heart and you find yourself desperately trying to hang on to the friendship. You convince yourself that the friendship is what you truly value and that there aren’t any hidden hopes… yet you anguish each time the person tells you about the great times they spend with their partner. You wince when they ask you what you would get for that special someone and try not to cry when they tell you that the other person loved that perfect gift that you would’ve chosen for yourself. Trying to be a real friend, you give your support and encouragement and tell yourself that someday, that extra bit of feeling will be gone…

While you give the best of yourself, your friend gives his best to his girlfriend/boyfriend… and you as the good “friend”, get the leftovers.

Even William Shakespeare couldn’t avoid the “love triangle”. In fact, being the romantic he is, he was so hurt after being a victim to love and its disappointments that he only managed to write two optimistic plays. If you take a look at the rest of his work, you will find his bitter resentment towards love and its consequences… Romeo and Juliet being his most obvious piece of work, but Hamlet and Macbeth not falling too far behind.

“Love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor be hidden where it does…”

It isn’t your friend’s fault if their heart does not beat like yours. And most people are being truly sincere when they look in your eyes and tell you “I love you… as a friend”. However, anyone that has ever been through this situation will tell you that the most horrible feeling in the world is to love and not be loved in return. It’s a no win situation because no matter what alternative you choose to take to resolve this issue, you will suffer.

By now most of you have already made up your minds about how you would react in these circumstances. There are many options to consider. You may want to substitute the person for someone else or end the friendship. Or you might want to fight to preserve the friendship, keep hoping that one day you’ll feel differently. Some people never face the reality of this tragedy and will sit in hopes that one day their friend will realise that they love you too. The more obsessive and mentally weak people might even plot and manipulate to win the relationship, regardless if the person loves them or not.

I’m a moralist and a firm believer in preserving all that is good. I value to my friendships and work very hard at keeping them. The last thing I’d want it to loose a friend or to let someone go without finding out what kind of a friend they can be.
However, the right decision isn’t always the right decision and after many similar experiences, I am inclined to think differently. A heart can only take so much punishment; a soul can only survive so many of these tragedies before dying.

If it’s too late to save your heart, if you know that your heart is won and that you’ve given away your soul… then I advise you to go to that person and ask for sincerity. Let them look you in the eyes and tell you all the things you already know and don’t want to hear. Only when you hear the painful truth in their words, can you truly believe it and move on with your life. Moving on is giving up on a friendship that only keeps the candle of hope burning. But if there’s still time to save yourself…


Run as fast as you can, as far as you can from someone who will steal your heart but has no intention of loving it. Time is too precious to be wasted loving someone who doesn’t plan on loving you in return. Before your heart gets tangled, before your soul is tied… RUN!

Running doesn’t make you a coward; it’s the intelligent maturity that helps you cut your losses before suffering is no longer an option. If it’s meant to be, then you won’t be able to run in any case, true love will always come back to you… There are things in our lives we can’t escape from, things that we must live… If things go wrong once, you can blame it on fate, but if it happens again the fault is yours. Being the strong hero isn’t sticking by a friendship that does you harm… true courage is letting go of a potentially great friendship, to save your soul.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Talk to me.

Imagine a world where you cannot speak. No one around you can comprehend your hurts, your fears or your desires because you are unable to communicate them. Wouldn’t it be frustrating if you saw someone crying but they weren’t able to tell you what caused their tears? Even more frustrating is trying to understand a person’s behaviour if they don’t explain their intentions. Perhaps that’s why babies cry so much, unable to fend for themselves, worse is being unable to communicate their needs.

The innocence in children causes them to speak their mind whenever an idea crosses it. Of course this can cause embarrassment at times when they loudly announce that aunt Hilda smells funny… but at least you always know what they’re thinking. The gift of speech is a form of communication, our tool for survival and although a person can be told what to say, only he has the decisive power to repeat or respond as he sees fit.

Some see speech as an art. They mould it into poetry, into stories and even columns such as this one. Individuality gives each and every person the right to their own opinion, which can be expressed in their own choice of words. The purpose to your conversation depends on your motives and just as there are those who use speech (and in this case writing, for sharing purposes) there are those who use it to gossip, slander and destroy. There is power in words and with age, you learn that you are responsible for the thoughts that you voice.

Those who say everything they want, are subjected to hear everything they don’t.

However the power of words cannot be measured by it’s spelling in the dictionary, or the language that’s it is spoken in. The strength of words is given by the human soul, which relies on these words to express its ideas, feelings and emotions. A good example is the sentence “I love you”. Internationally spoken, this sentence can only carry as much meaning at the heart that speaks it. And lack of the same sentence, can leave a void in the soul of he who feels it and does not express it, and in the soul of who needs to hear it. There are hateful words that we sometimes think but need to suppress so not to hurt the recipient and maturity teaches us what we should and shouldn’t say. Experience perfects speech, but it is that which comes sincerely that is always more potently spoken.

A stubborn Arian such as myself, doesn’t normally have problems in saying exactly what’s on their mind. In fact, although I’ve been taught to think quickly and speak slowly, I confess that one of my character flaws/qualities is that I’m straightforward with what I’m thinking. I have an opinion and I’m not afraid to express it. Sunshine’s column was created as a self-therapeutic diary but I share it because I believe that life is too short to make all the mistakes by yourself. If I can reach out to one person, even if it’s just to say “I understand” then my intentions are fulfilled. Words of advice and comfort are known to be ever ready on the tip of my tongue, however, on contraire to popular belief…

Even I don’t always have the right words.

There are times when the words just don’t come out. Either the brain is overridden with thoughts that it can’t produce a coherent sentence, or it goes into such a state that no matter how much you try to extract any kind of thought from your head, you find it completely empty. Even when you know exactly what to say, there always those moments where the words stay strangled in your throat, choking your self-endurance.

It isn’t the fear of the words that keeps us silent… it is the consequences we avoid. Maturity teaches us that at times silence is the best response but it fails to preserve the soul that is slowly destroyed when not cleansed of unsaid words. God gave most of us the gift of speech to communicate our needs, our fears… our dreams. What do you do when you can’t get them across? When frustration substitutes your need to shout and scream your desires, do you succumb?

The soul and spirit are a fragile element of our bodies. It needs to manifest its thoughts and feelings for survival just as the body sweats and excretes excess wastes. Stress can be relieved by running, working out, or taking on a hobby but it only relieves your body, the “feel good” sensation that the above might leave only tranquilizes your soul but does not heal it . T. Elliot wrote: “We are all sentenced to life imprisonment within our own skins”… what he forgot to write, is that communication is our weapon against this tragedy.

Dark times can provoke silence. There are moments when all you might want to do is lock yourself in a dark room and cut off all communication. These times are necessary even if it’s just to hit the end of the barrel… but when you’re ready to climb, and you’re willing to heal. There will always be someone to listen. Life’s disappointments aren’t a good enough reason to allow your soul to die. Pick up the phone, grab your pen or type an e-mail. We regret more the things that we don’t do and say than those that we find the courage to. So whatever your means… get your message across. I just did.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The walk…

It’s amazing how the attitude one chooses in the most insignificant of situations, can reflect one’s attitude in general. I went for a hike this weekend and once again was reminded in a six-hour walk, that in life, all that really counts is your attitude.

Everybody that signed on for this hike arrived full of energy and ready to walk! After roll call, people formed their walking groups, began discussing the route and double-checked their knapsacks for the things they’d need. There were those that travelled light, who didn’t want to carry a lot on their shoulders. Others travelled heavy, carrying with them everything from jackets and torches to tissues and headache tablets. I didn’t travel light, nor did I travel heavy. In my backpack the contents were limited to a bottle of water, a jacket, tissues, my wallet, an apple, an orange, two sandwiches and two bottles of juice… okay… and a chocolate snack bar! I double-checked that I had my cap and sunglasses and got in the bus with everyone else.

Arriving at the beginning of our adventure, the first lucky few that were in front grabbed a hiking stick to help along the way. I decided to forfeit mine as I think a stick only gets in the way after a while. We were given safety instructions and began following the guide. The walk began almost like a race. Every now and then, one person would overtake another. Only after a while we began to slow down and people began relying on their groups for encouragement and support. I found it amazing at how similar the walk resembled society and it’s behaviour, so at our first stop I bit on my apple and sat on a big rock to better observing my fellow walking companions.

There was a group of women catching up on their gossip, on later stops when they no longer had gossip to spread, they took everybody’s measurements and took the opportunity to criticise any aspect that they considered to be wrong in the person. In life, I’ve found that there are many of these groups and they seem to live off bringing everyone else down. They demand perfection in the world surrounding them but are not capable of seeing any faults in the reflection in the mirror.

A group of men sat by the guides discussing the walking route. Each seemed to have a better alternative than the one set out by the guides. I chuckled when I linked their resemblance to a couple of know-it-alls I know, whose sole goal in life is to prove everyone else wrong. Next to them were a couple that seemed to be lunching just about all the food they’d brought with them… I wondered if they wouldn’t feel too heavy to walk or most importantly, wish they’d had some food left over for the next few stops. They reminded me of some people who are able to spend their whole paycheck in the beginning of the week, not saving anything to last them to the end of the month.

Not too far from me were the quitters, they’d barely started and already they were complaining that their feet and backs hurt, that the trip was too long and that perhaps they should’ve stayed at home and come when they felt better. I found it ridiculous that they would set out on an adventure if they weren’t ready for one, however I figured that all their moaning and groaning was just to see if they could get someone to carry their load for them. These are normally those people that think that life owes them a living and that it’s the world duty to make them happy. A sad sigh escaped my lungs while remembering more than one person with that kind of outlook on life… but then my attention was caught by cheerful laughter.
On a nearby rock I saw a whole family picnicking together. To my relief, there were still a group that I could count on to take photo’s, commentate on the scenery, share jokes along with the sandwiches and still have energy to chase one of the younger members around the rock. I smiled as I realised that they were frequent hikers and that they’d be present in more of my future hikes. These are the kind of people that I wanted to be surrounded by.

Whilst in awe of nature’s creativity surrounding me, I began thinking of my own life. I thought about the hours wasted behind a desk and tried calculating how much time I waste worrying about insignificant things. At times I’m so busy with life that I fail to appreciate the beautiful things and the great people around me. If there’s one thing that I came out that trip thinking, is that I’d start things slower and enjoy the ride. I felt at peace with myself and couldn’t help smiling. Allowing my surroundings to overtake my senses, the colours around me seemed brighter, the sky seemed clearer, the air seemed clearer and the sun’s rays felt warmer.

I came out of my mild meditation when the guides called for us to move along again and noticed that from a distance there was a group that was already miles away. I found it amusing that they seemed to be in quite a hurry to get to the end. Why? If the purpose of the hike is the walk itself and not finishing it, where is the need for speed? Hasn’t anyone told them that life is all about the journey and not the destination? What exactly are they enjoying if they’re too busy walking to look around them? I kept pondering on the subject as we kept on track. Going at my regular speed, I tried not walking too fast nor too slow, stopping when I wanted to take a better look at something and moving faster when I needed to catch up with the group.

The uphills were tough, as they implied more determination. When there was climbing to be done, you had to concentrate on your step and grab on to something reliable. Often you could get hit by a stone or pebble from the person above you or by mistake let one fall on top of the person below. But no matter how high the climb, how tough or how many times you stopped to catch your breath, everyone shared the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment once reaching the top!

Downhills seemed to be easier but one false step could send you spiralling down. A good tip is to keep your distance from the next person so that if you slip, you don’t take anybody else down with you. Weak knees are the result of your descend, ironic that it is the same in life with people who get things too easy. There were times that I felt more tired than others but the sights and sounds of the walk rewarded my efforts. The good conversation and jokes I shared with my walking partner kept the both us motivated and entertained… at times, we just walked in silence… and that was good too.

Near the end of the walk, we came to a tunnel that kept us a good fifteen minutes in the dark. Some of us (including me!) had forgotten to bring a flashlight and depended on the light of others. Being behind a person without a flashlight, I relied on my hand that touched the wall beside me to warn me of unexpected rocks in the path. My colleague was right behind me and because she too didn’t have a flashlight, I spoke her through the puddles and sharp corners that I’d felt or gone through so that she wouldn’t have to do the same. That’s what friends are for, they warn each other of the danger ahead. It’s not that there’s something wrong with your own two eyes, but it’s always more reassuring when you’re warned by a friend.

We reached the end of trip, physically exhausted but mentally exhilarated! It’s the sweet feeling of satisfaction that accompanied me in the bus. I mentally ran through the day in my head and after all my comparing the hike with real life, I once again came to the conclusion that it’s all about attitude. A positive attitude, a good walking partner and sticking to a good group of hikers gets you through any kind of walk in life… I guess the only thing I need to remember for next time… is to pack my flashlight!

“Things turn out best for those people who make the best of the way things turn out!”

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Crossroads Pause…

In a few hours from now, I know of a good friend that is going to step on a Jumbo jet for the first time in his life. Not only is it his first time flying, but it’s also the first time he ever crosses the South African “home” border. Excited yet nervous, he asked me for a word of advice.

I gave him a few pointers on how to build his curriculum vitae and to write a killer presentation letter, making him wish he’d paid more attention in Mrs Brown’s Guidance class. I ignored his comment about his only regret was not having me around to help on his C.V and tried to focus on what he needed to remember. I also gave a few suggestions on what he should and shouldn’t pack and some advice and how to go about organising himself in England. All that was left to do was wish him a good flight when he surprised me with a rhetorical question that I expected from anyone but him.

“I’m going to miss my parents aren’t I? I’m going to know their true worth?”

As overconfident as my friend usually is, he also reached his crossroads pause. I realised that he wasn’t asking for advice, he was asking for understanding from someone who’d gone through what he knows, he’s about to face… I could’ve told him about the nights that he’s going to spend wondering why he ever decided on leaving the comforts of his home! I could try to describe the contrasts of the sharp and dull pain of missing the people he cares about. He too will know that missing someone you love is like the pain of a thousand knife wounds to your heart with a blunt blade. The lonely nights, the insecurities and self-doubt will also be newfound friends no matter how successful he becomes.

I suppose that after I told him all of this, I could also say: “It’s a little crappy in the beginning but then you’ll get used to it”.
Of course I’d be lying… to anyone who’s far from home or calls himself an immigrant, will know that it doesn’t get easier… you just learn to live with it. Like a pebble in your shoe, you’ll get so used to it that you will hardly notice it’s there, until a Sunday evening when you can no longer ignore the throbbing pain.

But here I was speaking to an intelligent person, and we both knew that I wouldn’t be telling him anything he hadn’t already imagined in these last couple of days, so the only piece of advice I could give him was to savour the moment and enjoy the ride.

He was never one to dwell on emotional drama, yet he seemed to understand when I told him that the last words to the people he cares about should describe how much they mean to him. As he walks through the metal detector, he should wave goodbye, looking back one last time… and then… he must look forward. I told him not to think of the future while he boarded the plane or while being thousands of metres up in the air. I told him to hang on to his crossroads pause as long as he could.

To me, waiting at the airport or being on a plane is a crossroads pause. When feelings shouldn’t be about what you’ve left behind, or what you’re about to face but a simply about the moment you’re living. Anytime that I’m in transit at the airport, a natural tranquiliser settles over me. It is the pause of no judgement. Time seems to stop and you seem to be on freeze frame whilst the world is on fast forward. Just like an athlete observing a game from the bench, you see the positive things and the things you need to improve but you’re not directly playing. I enjoy that opportunity to watch the world around me as if I was invisible. Everybody around you is either going to or returning from a journey, a chapter in their lives and just for that short time period, everything seems crystal clear. The advice I gave my friend, is to savour that rare moment, he would surely remember it later.

I wasn’t sure if I’d made sense but silence followed by a choked Thank-you told me that he knew exactly what I was talking about.

The crossroads pause is what I call the deep breath before plunge. Anyone who’s ever found the courage to make life-defining changes will recognise this rare time period between the decision… and the jump. I call it the jump because it reminds me of my first bungee jump. At first it starts off as a joke, then you realise that it’s something that you could do just before you decide to go for it. Although you know more or less what to expect, you tell yourself that all it takes is the initial burst of courage. You start climbing the ladder fuelled by the energy your friends at the bottom shout at you. Halfway up the ladder, you cease to hear their voices and your knees begin to quiver as you begin to realise the reality of your decision. Listening carefully to instructions, you know what you have to do and take a deep breath. You don’t have to look down to know what you’ll see if you do, you simply don’t look because you know that if you do, you’ll turn back.
That’s you find yourself stuck in the crossroads pause.
It begins when you stop hearing the instructions from person next to you and begin to only hear the loud beating of your heart. Your body stiffs into position and your arms stretch in mercy of the wind that keeps encouraging your fall. Some might say a little prayer, others will swear on the moment that they took on that dare, I remember closing my eyes and simply letting go… And then you fall, for what seems like eternity before landing back on “solid” ground.

No matter how you land, the world will always look different after the jump, the crossroads pause defines your landing.

Time is precious, it’s the one thing everybody needs and no one can buy. At times, when you’re waiting for something, it goes by too slowly. 29 days can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for the key to your brand new apartment! Other times, it flies by so quickly that it seemed like just yesterday your little brother wore diapers and called you Kaya. Time stops for no one… however, then and again you feel as if it’s been placed on pause. During what I call the crossroads pause, you stop and auto-evaluate your life before choosing the road to keep on going forward (or backwards). It is the rare time when suddenly there are no doubts or confusion, and you see your life with crystal clear vision.

The last two days I’ve found myself sitting once again at the crossroads… I don’t have any decisions to make but I know that I have big changes ahead of me. However it’s not the changes that caused me to stop, nor is it the need for self-analyses. It is a rare moment in my life where I feel that destiny has brought me down the right road and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s the sweetest feeling of satisfaction. I have no certainties about my future however somehow I feel that I’m exactly where I should be in my life. This liberates a little more faith in fate and trust in the man with the remote control. Soon the moment will pass and my life will return to its lightening speed of decisions but in the meantime… I’m savouring this moment, while it lasts.