Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Xmas Party - Lisbon 2004

Sitting on top of my bed in my white and pink pyjamas with my hair up and surrounded by the clothes that I needed to pack into my suitcase, all that I felt like doing was sighing. That moment that I was enjoying all by myself with my music and my candles was the bittersweet breathe before the plunge, that moment when the rollercoaster stops on the highest peak just before it thrusts down in high-speed.
Here I was packing for the grand Christmas party in Lisbon, the one that I’d been waiting all year for. This year looked promising, all my favourite people would be there and I’d finally found the ideal outfit after intensive searching with my best friend.
I knew without a doubt that it would be a weekend with very little sleep, intense emotions and a hell of a lot of fun. Anxiety kept me up long after my bags had been packed and the final touches had been added to the rest of the house. Closing my eyes I smiled in anticipation.

Regardless of the Christmas party, my colleagues and I had still been required to work the morning before catching our flight in the afternoon in time to arrive for the party in the evening. Everything was rushed in fast forward. All the last minute situations and clients were taken care of and thanks to the mad rush; I managed to twist my ankle whilst running down the stairs. I couldn’t believe it! What bad luck just before the event of the year! How was I going to dance? Biting my lip more in frustration than actual pain, I promised myself that I would dance regardless of this little incident and cursed the high-thin-heeled shoes I’d chosen to wear with my outfit. My feet were in for a beating… however, no pain – no gain and I wasn’t going to let my misfortune keep me from doing what I love to do best… moving on the dance floor!

Walking into the massive salon, I felt like Barbie in a sea of plastic. I’d walked into the salon with the head administrator of the company and being surrounded by strange faces drowned my self-assurance. Closing my eyes, I reminded myself of the fun I was going to have and just as I got a boost of confidence, it hit me full force with the vision of one of my closest friends in Lisbon. As always, she looked absolutely stunning and wore an amazing smile that has become her trademark. I immediately plunged into a heartfelt hug leaving my other local colleagues slightly intimidated. Grabbing my hand, I was taken across the room and introduced to a spectrum of new faces, praying that my memory wouldn’t fail me on remembering names and faces; I grabbed a Martini with the other hand hoping it would help shake the weak feeling in my knees.
Taking a quiet moment to myself, I looked around the massive salon, to the ocean of faces, the expensive suits and well dressed ladies and allowed myself to feel the spirit in the room… team spirit. Whether or not the people around me realized it, we all depended on one another. Each of us represents a significant piece no matter how small, to a complex engine, without it TMN would never run as car. For those moments, I relished in the pride of belonging.

Dinner was divine, the jokes told between us were hilarious and the atmosphere was the kind that made you feel like you wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Wine and Food were plentiful, each person had their fill and we were treated to a show by the Fingertips who sang one of my favourite songs of the moment: “Melancholic Ballad”. Everything about the evening was perfect… except maybe for the speech. I came the conclusion that my head administrator seriously needed a couple of lessons on how to write a brilliant speech. That or his secretary was one of those blonde ornament kind who doesn’t know how to put two sentences together but probably gets paid pretty well to work the Monica Lewinsky profile. Once the speech and show was over… the fun began!

Shy or perhaps intimidated by my most prudent and stuck of colleagues, my two contemporaries decided not to join me on the dance floor, however this did not sway me from letting the music invade my senses and allowing my body to respond to the beat. Being joined by some of TMN´s top party animals, I found myself letting loose… cutting off… feeling free. If there’s one sport that I love most in life, it’s dancing! It’s one of the best ways of letting go. Ignoring the pain in my feet, I allowed myself to be swung around the room; I danced with a million faces, faces that no longer felt strange or intimidating. Ranks fell away as so did numbers and statistics, the only thing that mattered on the dance floor is how well you shook your bon bon!

I danced with marketing, technical assistance, IT, Communications, Big Business, people from Porto, People from Açores, heads of departments, managers, administrators… my boss! I danced with them all.
I danced with anyone and everyone who called me to dance with them and then went out and got the non-dancers to join in the fun as well.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the office queen pouting. The others wanted to leave; she had barely danced and had barely crossed eyes with the people surrounding her. I felt sorry for her, being Miss Perfect has it’s disadvantages, the biggest being not being able to make friends when other people didn’t come up to her. Deciding that it was Christmas and to do my good deed for the year, I went and grabbed her hand leading her to the group of people dancing and having fun. She politely refused to dance as partner to every guy that tried, yet I’d like to think she still managed to enjoy herself quite a bit before retreating to the hotel with the others. I was pretty sure that my thanks would come in criticism, most probably for dancing with every Tom, Dick and Harry but I frankly couldn’t give two shits for her opinion.
What people don’t often notice, are the buzzing of self-doubt and insecure thoughts being thrown around in my mind. I hate feeling like I’m being inspected, dissected and evaluated which is how I feel when involved in a huge crowd of people. However I’m grateful to God (and Oprah!) for the inner -strength that I have, able to drown those thoughts in the music and allowing me to have a lot of fun with the other people around me. I guess I’m also always lucky to have amazing people around me.

End of the night, sitting down on the nearest stool, I decided that a crane was going to be needed to lift me up! I didn’t even dare taking off my shoes, knowing very well that once off, I’d never be able to put them back on. I had succeeded in dancing all my favourite songs, dancing with all my favourite colleagues, including a perfect meringue with TMN´s best Latin dancer. He managed every move perfectly even though he’d had one too many drinks. The only think I love about alcohol excess is some of the honesty you get with it. In-between the amazing meringue I was let know on how much my friendship meant to my colleague and was humbled at the words we always assume other people know so we never say out loud. I wanted to end the perfect evening with the perfect smile, however I was sentenced to one… (or a few) last dances with a cowboy. So ignoring the feet that were threatening to fall off, I once again took the floor and gave the best that my weary body could give. I get such a high from the dance floor. It’s one of the few times in life when you can let go completely and let the music and/or someone else take over. If I worked in the recruitment office, you could bet that I’d make sure every person in our company was a dancer! I thanked my two favourite colleagues for an amazing evening and made my way towards the car.
Next year I’d be sure to take a pair of sneakers with me!
Although exhausted, my colleague still treated me to a tour around the city before leaving me at my hotel. I was charmed by all that Lisbon had to offer, won over by its cultural essence. Looking to my left, I remembered to thank my lucky stars for meeting amazing people. I know that memories such as these are priceless and something no one will ever be able to take from me.

You know the party is truly over when you remove your make up, wash your face and get back into your pink and white pyjamas. Treating your feet to a mini-message you thank God for another year, another Christmas party and smile with that awesome feeling, that this year’s party had been the best so far!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Blast From The Past

Whilst trying to clean out my e-mail, I found a forward from SA-Reunited. A Site dedicated to reuniting old school friends: the South African version of And out of sheer curiosity, I decided to take a peek and update my profile.

Searching for new names, I was surprised to find that there was a teacher registered with the site. Normally teachers don’t like to add themselves to these sites (which is understandable considering that there are some hooligans, you’d rather not hear from again… ever again!) Curiosity instantly took over me and I scrolled to see who the brave teacher was! With my luck… it was probably someone before my time, someone I’d probably never even heard of.
Imagine my surprise on recognising the name as the famous art teacher! Oh yeah! There’s definitely no forgetting our art teacher. An outspoken lady with plenty of imagination! I recall us commenting on her daring outfits and our shock at her creativity. No matter whether you took classes with her or not, you were well aware of her presence and contribution to the school. Every student that went into her class… walked out an artist one way or another. She knew how to make people bring out the best in their work: this was her big talent.
Back when choosing my subjects, art was something placed on the backburner. Besides the fact that I couldn’t draw to save my life and that my stick mannetjies looked more like scribbles than actual people, I had decided to invest in Business Economics and Typing as my two supplementary subjects. I don’t regret taking typing, for thanks to those annoying sticks and the constant “keep those fingers on the home row!” reminder… I can know out-type anybody in my office and in a world where time is money; fast typing skills can become your biggest asset.
Business Economics however was one of the most tedious subjects I ever took, along with mathematics… I learnt formulas I’ll never again use and learnt theories that are far from the actual methods practised in businesses today.

I dropped both these subjects in Grade 10.

The reason I hadn’t considered art back then was because I thought that it couldn’t contribute to my future. I thought business economics and typing were subjects I could invest in a future career and that art did nothing for that growth. I wish I knew then what I knew now… I’d definitely made a few different choices.
Art and Music are subjects that can contribute to your future as much as other subjects. If they don’t contribute to your professional skills, they will contribute to your personal ones, either way; they leave some kind of seed for development, if you let them of course.

Even though I hadn’t taken art with that specific teacher, I decided to send her an e-mail in any case. Back then I was someone barely noticed, however I wanted to let her know about the difference she made in my life. Perhaps directly, she contributed very little but she belongs to a family in my past that helped develop the person I am today. I needed to thank her, give her the appreciation that I’m sure her salary, as a teacher never gave. Perhaps even remind her, of the true contribution of her profession.

Clicking the send button on the e-mail, I allowed myself to travel back memory lane. You never know, just how deep your footsteps are left when you walk into someone’s life. I wish I had the opportunity to give my column to my English teachers to read. I’m sure they’d probably have a great time correcting my grammar and sentence construction. On the other hand I hope they’d be pleased that I was inspired enough by the language they taught me, to keep writing. They taught me how to express myself and although English is no longer my first language, it will always be my preference. Did I remember to thank them on my last day of school?

Why conclude the obvious? We all want to be a pleasant memory in someone’s heart. This makes us special; it is this that makes us immortal. Some people spend their whole lives trying to find their mission in life. I’ve always known what mine is and it is my mission is life that I leave you with:
Life your life so that everyone that remembers you, does so with a smile.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Forgive and Forget?

Sunny Piccie

Never say never… especially when it comes to forgiveness. To hold something against someone is to carry excess weight on your back. However… it isn’t always easy to forgive… or maybe it’s the forgetting that requires the most effort. I was once told that not forgetting is a clear sign that not all is forgiven… I beg to differ.

After repeating the mistake of forgiving and forgetting repeatedly with the same person, I decided that there should be placed limits. How else was I going to avoid the repeated heartbreaks and disappointment? It was then that I decided to live my life like a baseball game: after two strikes you’re out on the third botch up. However, life proves that you cannot dish out the same set of rules to every person. Some people should’ve been given up on after their first major error, whilst others that made constant little mistakes proved to be very weak specimens of friends.

This made me realise that I had to start weighing the misdemeanours and chief errors when contemplating whether or not I should forgive. It was my father that gave me the perfect scale: I was told that it isn’t one’s words or actions that carry all the weight, but the intention in which they were carried out. Forgiving then became much easier once I discovered the true intentions behind the wrongdoing. In fact, I found that in most cases, almost all could be forgiven. Most of what hurts us, wasn’t intended to do so in the first place.

Does this mean I can forget all that was done?

Absolutely not! I’m all in favour of letting go of past mistakes; they only weigh on your shoulders. But to forget is the same as allowing an open road to be run over by the same word or action. This isn’t to say that people don’t learn from their mistakes (I should hope they do!), but it is to eliminate the chance of them disappointing you again. The beauty of time and true friendship is that it stands the test of time, and trust can be built just as it’s broken down. A true friend will fight for you and your trust and make it easier to move on. One of my true friends slept with my boyfriend. However, she ignored the comments and fought all barriers until she once again regained my trust. I have never regretted giving her a second chance… but I might not leave any of my future boyfriends alone with her again. The first mistake is your fault, the second mistake is mine.

I don’t believe in forgetting… your memory is a big part of who you are. But I do believe that once a person is forgiven you need to put the mistake and hurt behind you, to give time and life a chance to recover and grow whatever connection you hold with that person.

Pride is guilty for shadowing forgiveness. When two people are hardheaded and will not compromise, friendship simply cannot survive. You cannot force an “I forgive you” from the heart. Lips may move but they cannot fool what the soul is feeling. However, when the friendship is true, pride is a small price to pay for a priceless friendship. Those too stubborn to see that, miss out on the best things in life.

In my hysterical cloud of glee, I was caught off guard by the question she swung my way and before I knew what I was doing, I found myself answering her questions about the Christmas outfit I chose to wear this year. The minute I realised that my enthusiasm had carried me away, I tried directing my conversation to the other people around me and cut her opportunity short.
It’s been about six months since we’ve spoken about anything that isn’t work related. Our friendship ended with silence and all that’s left is professionalism. What happened? Well, when they say that love is blind they forget to add that friendship is too. I forgave many little mistakes that if they’d been analysed well enough, wouldn’t have passed through due to the intention behind them. I discovered that although this person is an amazing woman, she doesn’t know how to be a friend. Selfishness is her survival technique… perhaps due to not forgiving in her past. However, friendship comes with some sacrifices and compromise. Friendship is only true when you hold your friend’s interests on the same level as your own; the failure to do so is to risk losing a friend. You give a little, you take a little… you don’t take measurements or weigh what’s coming or going, but inside you know that your attentions are appreciated and that the person you care about, cares about you.
She thinks that it was the last straw that put the end to our friendship… what she doesn’t realise is that the last straw is the only the cherry on top of a cake; the last drop on a full glass of water and the reason for not forgiving the last of an accumulation of hurts. I could’ve told her, I could’ve explained my reasons for taking back my loyalty. But she didn’t care for my reasons, so I didn’t care to give her answers. Instead, she speculates about my motives for no longer depositing my trust in her. She wonders why I no longer laugh at her jokes or converse to her about any daily events. With the same consideration that she’d hurt me, I took everything that friendship stands for and left our relationship to pure professionalism.
For those brief minutes where my enthusiasm had run away with me, I’d relived a moment of what our friendship used to be like. Did I miss it? In a way… but the memory of the price of her friendship didn’t give me time enough to even consider carrying on the conversation. This is the importance of memory… it keeps you from repeating mistakes and reminds you of the consequences of your actions.

Will we ever patch things up? I’d like to think that there is nothing to patch up. After all, she doesn’t seem to need for any explanations I could give and quite frankly, a friend that doesn’t care enough about me to consider my feelings, isn’t able to swallow some pride and fight for a friendship isn’t a friend worth having in any case. I suppose if I thought about her, it would bother me but except on the days that she purposely cheeses me off… I confess that I don’t think about her much. This is my definition of forgive and forget… I forgave, I forgot to the point where I don’t think about it, but I set the limits so it doesn’t happen again.

Would I consider patching up our friendship? Perhaps… Why Not? If she cared enough to try and patch things up, what kind of a person would I be if I turned my back? Everyone deserves a second chance… However, it would only be under the condition that her intentions were true and for that to happen, she’d have to start caring about someone as much as she cares about herself.

We cannot select the fate that life hold for us… but we can select our friends.
Are you a friend worth keeping?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Shopping Blues and Bells

Being one of the rare women who hate to shop... looking for the perfect outfit for the Christmas party that I’d been waiting for all year… is nothing short of torture! Not to mention that I’d only managed one present out of a whole list of loved ones to by for.
Needing some professional help, I recruited the help of the two best shoppers I know… my mother and my best friend. Organising to meet after work, I needed five minutes in the bathroom in front of the mirror with the shopping survival mantra:
I will not criticise or ill-treat my body.
I will try the garment on before rejecting it.
I will not leave the mall until finding the right item of clothing.

Two hours, four stores and swollen feet later… I still hadn’t found anything that looked remotely presentable for the evening gala I’d be attending. The only garment I had found that had any kind of possibility was so tight that it squeezed every ounce of what the good Lord had given me. Should I be required to bend by any chance, no doubt would everyone guess my cup size thanks to the grand opening in front, and the two straps kept threatening to slip off thanks to the low cut back. My best friend thought it was sexy, my mother thought it was scandalous and I thought that it just wasn’t me…

As always… it was in the last store, just as I’d given up and resorted to recycling something from previous years that suddenly… there it was! Not one… not two… but three gorgeous tops that would look fabulous with any skirt or pair of trousers that I owned. By that stage my two shop-o-holics had given up on me. My mother was on the phone to Norway and my best friend was on a foot-massage machine mission somewhere on the other side of the mall. I began to whimper as I realised that I might just have to choose the three tops on my own and be held fully accountable for the decision! Grabbing my cellphone I sent out an S.O.S and had my two partners in shopping next to me in a matter of minutes. I don’t recommend shopping with two assistants. One will like the red top better, the other will like the Chinese top better and meanwhile you find that you like the one with the long sleeves most. The result? Well… let’s just say that I won’t be needing any party clothes for the next couple of parties.

Have you ever heard the sound of plastic squealing? Well mine screamed as it was passed through the machine. I tried not to look at it as it accused me of tightening it’s budget on three tops when I only needed one. I refused to no longer listen to it when I made it go through another two times for a new skirt and a black bra and decided that I’d only take a glance at my bank balance, AFTER the party, to avoid pro-shop-depression.

Half the mission was completed… I had the clothes… now I just had to figure out exactly what it was that I’m going to wear. Still in uniform at almost midnight, I distractingly boarded the wrong bus whilst trying to picture the up and coming events. It was when the bus took the wrong turn that I suddenly realised that it was going to be a long walk home! Trying not to cry, I wondered if it was too late to send a letter to Santa asking him for a car and a driver’s licence… and a great sound system now that he was at it. Hopes suddenly spiralled as I saw another bus coming from the distance but almost immediately my spirits sank as I realised it was off duty. Luckily angels are never off duty and the considerate bus driver became my knight in shining armour getting me back into town just in time to catch the last bus home. Approaching home sweet home… I decided not to go shopping any time in the next millennium! (Oh… except maybe the for the Christmas presents that I still hadn’t bought!)

Surrounded by clothes and still unsure what to wear… I began wondering why humans had invented fashion in the first place. Things would’ve been a whole lot easier (and honest) if everyone just walked around in their birthday suit. At least you wouldn’t be tortured by sizes and textures… everything would fit and look good… well… almost… did I forget to mention that the worst part about shopping is when you mates leave you alone in the dressing room with the full body mirror and you’re left to the awful torment of self-body-analyses! On second thought… maybe we should all walk about in potatoes sacks… one size fits all, no measurement fixes required.

Inspecting my outfit from every angle in the bathroom mirror, I came to the conclusion that what I had on, definitely portrayed a good picture of me. It wasn’t too tight or revealing, yet it fit well enough to hold both elegance and promise. I suppose clothes do tell a lot about a person and I can’t have my jeans and t-shirt do all the talking for me. There’s a lot more to me than my daily uniform and pink teddy pyjamas. I guess that revelations lies in the eye of the beholder and how deep they’re willing to look.

The fact that I could eliminate the need to impress made my decision much easier and this year I’m dressing up with the intention of dancing and having fun. They say clothes make the woman?

Hell No… I believe it’s the woman that gives her clothes worth.