Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Just how long is your 24 hours...just how full is your time?

I'm ashamed. It has been well over 12 (twelve??) months since I posted my last blog and I'm baffled as to where that time has gone. Recently, I was thinking back to when I first wanted to start blogging and back then I said to myself that I would try and post at least 2 blogs a week. Ha! Yeah ok Denise... The fact that I was thinking that way is a mystery, because it seems that for me, trying to find the time to write a blog once every year seems to be a push!

I am notorious at making excuses, especially when it comes to time and having (or not having) enough of it. I continuously convince myself that I simply do not have the time, however when I actually stop to think about it, I feel embarrassed at the time opportunities I do have in my day. It hasn't always been like this. At a stage, toward the end of last year and also into the beginning of this year, I was advised medically and eventually personally realised that I was simply taking on too much. My health took a knock which influenced every other aspect of my life and it took me having to see a doctor 4 times this year alone (it's only April) to accept that I needed to slow down. Again, I'm never quite content am I, because here I sit now moaning that I do actually have more time but haven't made the time to write. As my fiancè would say, shaking his head with the slightest but ever so sarcastic smile 'NEVER happy Taylor.'

Anyway, this is one story I wanted to share with you and my hope is that it isn't just another thing you read and say 'ok ok enough with the time is a gift crap,' but rather something that plays on your thoughts and allows you to give it some consideration.

To recap on the past few months, I have now been living in Zimbabwe for over a year. In fact, it has just gone a year and 6 months since I left what I always referred to as 'home'. For my readers who haven't read my previous posts, I moved to Zim from Johannesburg in October 2014. It seems unbelievable considering it feels like only 3 months or so ago since I arrived with my whole house packed into one car and my cats arriving on a plane. It's like time has been on a one-way speed mission, stopping for nothing, tearing up the edges (or more likely the roads of Harare), and simply conquering month upon month like they hardly even individually exist. This has been a tough thing to try and process and get a grip on as a yoga teacher because I am constantly trying to teach my students about 'slowing down and finding that peace within'... Realistically, how do you find peace when you can't even fathom what day it is?!

Someone once told me that the older you get, the faster time goes. They put it into a very reasonable explanation for which I owe them credit. I cannot however, remember who told me this, so for that I apologise and please feel free tell me it was indeed you. This person told me that as a baby, your day is a bigger percentage of your whole life than it is when you are say 20 years old. Think about it, 24 hours in the life of a 1 year old is huge! It's a long time for a 1 year old because technically, at 1 year of age, they are only 8,760 hours old. A day is 0.3% of their whole life. A 20 year old individual is roughly 175,200 hours old. A day for this person is only about 0.014% of their whole life. You can see why, the older you get, the faster the days, weeks and months feel. Logical enough explanation right?

But then I started thinking. What about those people who are 50 years old, yet live it up, and act and behave as if they are 30? Surely these people have control over how long 24 hours can feel to them if they are living in the moment, staying young at heart and making things count? And surely then, so can we all? We always see those quotes on Facebook and hear them in the movies and songs about how each day is a gift (even now you're thinking 'yeah yeah - here we go again).' But how many of us actually acknowledge that fact? When you really think about it, each new day is a full 24 hours which is given to you to do with what you like. And those 24 hours are not always guaranteed, which should actually make every minute, every second even, that much more rewarding. How often do you see it that way though? I rarely do, until I truly, really think about it.

For me personally, living in Joburg was like constantly being whipped around in a whirlwind. The invariable 'go go go' of it all was almost addictive. Your body and mind become so attuned to speeding, not only in your car or getting from one place to the next, but also in your thought process and reaction time. Even trying to fall asleep was a challenge. When I first came to Zim, I almost felt lost because of how slow everything seemed to be. Maximum speed limits of 80km/h on the roads are like a tease to a Joburger. I used to do 80km/h driving into and out of my driveway, and once on the highway, should you be going less than 120 km/h (in the slow lane,) you have every other driver and their dog throwing finger signals telling you what an idiot you are. So initially yes, Zim seemed strangely subdued, stress-free and chilled - just what a newbie yoga teacher needs, right? 

Hmmm, not for long, no Denise. Before I knew it, I was back to my old ways - taking on far too much, trying to please way too many people and actually forgetting that I am a human being as well who needs help and self-care every now and again. I was rushing from one yoga class or client to the next, constantly in my car, constantly on those roads and boy did I start to push the 80km/h limit at times. Don't get me wrong, I am so blessed with how my yoga teaching took off. I had private clients daily, beautiful public classes sometimes twice a day. I felt that I was exactly where I was meant to be. Until such time I started saying and believing that I didn't have the time.

'I don't have the time to eat breakfast.' 'I don't have the time to take my vitamins.' 'I don't have the time to do my own yoga practise.' 'I don't have the time to meet a good friend for coffee.' 'I don't have the time to relax.' 'I can't sleep.' 'I feel sick.' 'I am sick.' 'I'm just not getting better.' 

There comes a stage in your life where giving yourself as a whole to everyone and everything results in you only actually becoming a fraction of who you really are. It doesn't matter what profession you're in either - the minute it begins to feel like a slog of a job, is the minute you start losing the passion you have for it. Realising this was tough for me. I love yoga - how can yoga become purely a 'job'. What about my personal love for my own yoga, my own abilities outside of teaching? But I truly believed I could: I could teach 3 private clients a day and then a public class at night and give my all. I could still exercise on an empty tummy and no water from the day because I did not have (make) the time to eat or drink. But what did I have left? A sick empty body, exhausted and depleted from my own ill-doing. And when I stopped to think about it, I wasn't doing my clients and students right by letting them believe I was the healthy yoga teacher they were asking for - how could I be when I personally wasn't of a full and healthy state. I was beginning to not enjoy my 'job.'

So my 24 hours started changing. I personally had to make those changes and with concerted effort, stick to them. I also had to let a few people down, which trust me I hated doing but if I did not take those steps for myself, I would probably still be sick and energy-less, begrudging each task in each day. It was a few small alterations to my own 24 hours which, when I got down to it, were so simple. 

When doctors, therapists, personal trainers, yoga teachers and the like tell you to make time for yourself - they aren't spinning you a falsehood. Time for yourself can be the greatest gift you give to number one every single day. In your given 24 hours, what's say 20 minutes? Taking that time for yoga, exercise, reading, writing, socialising, walking, playing with your pets, making and drinking a brilliant cup of tea - whatever it might be - can literally change your life. You just need do it with effort every day. For someone who would never dream of believing this a few months back, taking that time to actually nourish yourself starts to feel like part of your routine - it gets easier and easier. Learning to say 'no' when you need to and not feeling guilty. Learning to say 'yes' when you want to and not changing your mind because it was a half-hearted yes in the first place. 

These are your given 24 hours but by no means promised to you. How are you going to fill your time?

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dream. Aspire. Live.

I cannot believe it is nearly April - 3 whole months into 2015. Say what?! I know time tends to move a lot faster the older you get, especially when you are enjoying life, but still - I never imagined that weeks would speed on by as fast as they have done recently. Literally, every Friday for the past 2 months, I have said 'I cannot believe it's Friday again.' 

I guess I'm a bit concerned because this year I turn the big 'THREE OH'. Where...WHERE did my twenties go? I always remember my mom and dad telling my brother and me when we were little, to never wish our lives away and now I truly see what they were talking about. I think back on my twenties - my 21st birthdays (because I had about 4 parties) seem like just yesterday. Then I think back to me graduating from varsity and being petrified of the real world. The elation that came with my first ever job offer after my first ever interview and the nervousness I felt when I received a new job offer after that one and had to resign from the first one. At the time, these moments seemed so scary and daunting, however looking back now - I wish I could go back and savour each moment a bit more - truly live each experience, no matter which part of that rollercoaster of events I was on.

I'll be honest, turning 30 is somewhat scary for me, not because I am afraid of getting old or anything like that, but because I have gone through thirty years of my life already - so quickly. I have always been a firm believer that only those who believe they are old actually feel old, after all - 'age only counts if you are a cheese or a wine.' I have always felt and quite honestly believed that I am a few years younger than what I have always been. When I turned 25, I said I was 22. Turning 28 I only felt around 23-ish, and now that I am turning 30, I really only feel about 24. Yes, there have been times where I have felt a lot older than what I am - those times of stress and disarray, and I can see how and why stress can make you look and feel older, how it depleats you of your youth and vibrance. The answer here? Stop being stressed and start being awesome. Easier said than done - yes. But what have you got to lose in actually just living in your moment? This is something I am taking with me into my thirties, and to be frank - it's about time.

The past 5 months have been an amazing journey for me; moving to a new and sometimes rather backward country, starting a completely new profession, learning my way around new roads and suburbs, dealing with electricity and water issues, making new friends, missing old friends, missing family more than I ever thought possible, raising 2 bunnies, continuing my studies (ok I still haven't started that yet but hey I have the material), teaching amazing students, teaching some really difficult students, teaching beautiful, young, vibrant children and generally just getting on with LIFE. It hasn't been easy, no. But has it been worth it? Abso-f-ing-lutely. For the first time in a very long time (i'm not going to say 'ever' because I'm sure as a kid I was extremely care-free), I feel like I am actually living. I look forward to new days, I actually look forward to the next challenge, and I savour in the good moments more than I have ever done. There is SO much beauty in the smallest of things, and I have had the privilege of experiencing some of those moments for myself ever since I moved here. What has it taken? Me simply allowing it to happen. Letting go of the constant need for control. Letting go of the 'what if's' and the 'buts'. Going into my thirties, I feel like I actually know who I am. And therefore, I welcome that with open arms. 

It's amazing how worked up we (and by that I mean I) tend to get about something that hasn't even happened yet. We spring to conclusions about an outcome that isn't even guaranteed and therefore we act in a certain way until the experience actually happens. I have done a lot of reading and I have had several people in my life share information with me about how we tend to approach situations and act in one of two ways - either out of fear or out of love. This initial manner can literally drive the whole course in one direction. I personally have had many experiences where I immediately fear the outcome before it has even happened. This gets me into a stressed out frenzy, and each action and interaction up until the final stages of the whole event are affected this way - often faced with negativity and fear. And yet more often than not, the whole outcome turns out to be a lot less frightening or daunting than what I initially thought it would be. 

It's not easy to act out of love all the time and I think that is because we have grown up in a world where it's survival of the strongest - do or let others do to you as they wish. We immediately have our guards up - from the get-go we are acting out of fear. I was listening to my brother who was on an online radio show called 'The Good Stuff'. This particular show broadcasts news about really good things going on in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. My brother and the host, Brent mentioned how common it is to hear such negative news and that when people hear good news, or positive stories, they almost question what is going on. We cannot just accept good things happening, without questioning the motive and this is so true in a lot of things in our own personal lives. We immediately think about the negative outcome as opposed to the positive one - why?

I recently listened to a speech by Jim Carey and it completely moved me to the point that I was determined to listen to this speech every morning to start my day. Ok ok - so that didn't happen - I didn't listen to it every day, but his words have stuck with me and I try and use them as often as I can. 'So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.' 'If you can fail at what you don't want, you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.' 

In the past I have always thought - well that's easy for someone like Jim Carey to say - he's famous, has so much money and no wonder he dares to take chances - what has he got to lose. But then one day it just so happened that I personally took that very chance. Me. Denise Laura Taylor. I made the decision to change my life, and every action I took from that day led me to where I am now - most often than not without me even being aware of it. And every action I have taken since I started my new life in Zim, has led me to even more beautiful experiences and interactions. Am I on the right path? I most certainly think so, and if I'm not, well for now it's pretty darn sweet. You're probably reading this thinking, 'Really? Has it all really been so smooth and amazing? Is it really all peaches and cream?' No it hasn't been easy and no it's not a fluffy dessert all the time. Often I have had to really force myself to be positive about something, sometimes not even getting to being positive. But then, like I mentioned, when the event comes to fruition and all is not a train-smash, I kick myself, thinking why the hell did I act like that? So I'm really trying to approach new things in a different manor now going forward, not only to 'think positively' but mostly to avoid the stress and irritation that comes with immediately thinking that it's just going to be a bad ending.

Just last night I taught a class at a ladies gym. I have about 5 or 6 regular ladies who attend practice each week and it is the most rewarding experience every single time. I decided to push them a little bit this week, and started guiding them into a few arm balances. One of them said to me 'Denise - I just feel like I'm going to fall.' I thought back to when I first tried a similar posture and I too felt that way. My body just did not seem to be doing what the instructor was saying it should do and I could just picture my face crashing down into the ground. What was my teacher's response at the time? 'So then fall. What is the worst that could happen? You may take a tumble, but you're right next to the ground and I doubt you are going to hurt yourself.' I remember thinking about this, plucking up the courage and just going for it. Yes I fell, I fell a few times that same class and a few classes after that. But one day it just happened. My body just lifted and I felt amazing. So last night, I encouraged this paticular lady to try again and even though she didn't quite get all the way up, you could see that she was at least willing to try. All of those ladies were, and that's what makes my job amazing. From that moment, it was like all of them just felt so comfortable to open up to me, asking lots of questions about postures and 'how to's' etc. It was wonderful! Instead of acting out of fear and just going ahead with whatever I told them to do, they started acting out of love. Sometimes you might think your questions are so stupid but let's be honest here - how are you ever going to know if you never ask? We had such a fun class and I know that next time, these ladies will feel even more confident going into postures they haven't tried before. As Jim Carey also said, 'Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.

The past couple of weeks have been absolutely eye-opening for me. I have tried things I never thought I would, been through ups and downs and experiences which are completely out of my control, and I have questioned so many things along the way. At the time, some of these experiences seemed so frustrating, so down-right unfair, so exhausting and completely depleated me of my energy - some still do! But at the same time so many things have given me so much energy, restored my faith in people, and challenged me only so far that I actually come out ok - sometimes even on top. I have had to make decisions which haven't been a walk in the park, but once made, it's like a huge weight lifted from me. And I am so lucky that I have absolutely the right people with me all the way. This is an attestation to me TAKING that chance, choosing to stop fearing the result and just living in my moment.

I am not famous, I don't have a lot of money, I am simply a 29 (nearly 30) year old South African female, living in Harare, trying to make the most out of whatever situation. So take it from me - dare to live; to take the chances you think will never work, because yes you may come out second best, but at least you've tried at that thing that you love, that thing that drives your inner fire, instead of just accepting what is. Ask the questions you have been dying to ask. Make a fool out of yourself. If you don't - how will you ever know? So many people choose to stay in a place of comfort. Or rather - of discomfort if they actually think about it. So this is the time to ask - why? Yup that ground may come crashing into your face when you fall. But the ground is still there for you to plant your feet back onto and get straight back up. That same ground that may hurt you when you fall down, will be the support you need when you rise again. 

Go into new situations with love, not fear. Instead of immediately fearing the worst, just try for even a small second to imagine that everything will be okay. It may be a bumpy ride yes, but ultimately you need to dream big, aspire for the best in YOU, and 100% LIVE in your moment.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?” 
― Erin Hanson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SaZiYogi: Three months in Zimbabwe…what I have loathed, what...

SaZiYogi: Three months in Zimbabwe…what I have loathed, what...: First of all, Happy New Year to all my beautiful followers. I truly believe that this year has a multitude of potential for the person with...

Three months in Zimbabwe…what I have loathed, what I have learnt, and what I have loved…

First of all, Happy New Year to all my beautiful followers. I truly believe that this year has a multitude of potential for the person with the right attitude and that there is so much good to come from 2015. May you all find peace, happiness, prosperity and love this year and may your hearts be filled with compassion and humility. I really wish the world could truly become a restored and nonviolent place, where life is celebrated and freedom comes effortlessly. Only time will tell…

It’s taken me a while to get back into the swing of things after the festive break. Even though we were only ‘on holiday’ for just over 2 weeks, it honestly feels like it has been months since I felt like I was in some sort of routine. I am however, slowly but surely getting back into it and finding the normality in my crazy life once more.

The 7th January marked three months for me in Zimbabwe since I moved here from SA. When I realized that, I actually couldn't believe it. To think that I have been living in Harare and teaching Yoga for a quarter of a year seems so unrealistic. I guess it is true that time flies when you are having fun hey?

So I had a good think about the last three months for me in this beautiful yet unforgiving place and realized how much I have actually learnt in that time. Moving to a new country is never easy, however moving here hasn't been all that bad, and I do feel like I am beginning to genuinely find my feet. Yes, I have had my ups and downs and sometimes the downs seem like they’re never going to go back up. And there definitely are certain traits of Zim which I would prefer to not have to live through, but I guess that’s life and you can only grow from experiencing the good as well as the bad.

The first thing which springs to mind is the power cuts. I find this rather amusing because recently South Africa has been going through load-shedding and just reading the comments on Facebook and hearing about the general feeling of people towards these outages, makes me giggle. In Zim, you’re happy if you have a power cut that lasts the ‘normal’ period of time of about 6 – 8 hours. That’s a ‘good’ power cut and you generally make do with candles or an inverter or if needs be, a generator. In South Africa, I hear people complaining about a 3 hour power cut. Not only complaining but also updating violently aggressive statuses and HATING Eskom passionately. Don’t get me wrong, I know how they feel - I was there. However being in Zim, you learn to live with it like it’s part of your normal week. If you don’t have a power cut at least once a week, something must be wrong. You get home from work and breathe a sigh of relief when you see a few lights on in the neighbour’s house, knowing you can cook and eat and watch tv in peace without the hum of a few generators. And when you do have a power cut which happens to last more than 8 hours, well you literally can’t do much about it. You cannot complain to anyone about it. No one answers phones, no one responds to emails. Unless you have a human connection on the inside who can give you some information (for an under-handed fee of course,) you’re pretty much at the mercy of Zesa’s schedule, no matter how irregular, unpredictable or erratic it is.

Another thing that took me a while to figure out was the road system here. I thought it would be pretty much the same as where I am from, being still in Africa and all. In SA you drive on the left-hand side of the road, give way at a ‘Give Way’ intersection, stop at a ‘Stop’ sign; it’s a case of give way to the right or to whomever was first at a traffic circle, and if lights are out, you treat the intersection as a four-way stop. So when driving on the left-hand side of the road here in H-Town, I thought ‘ah this is a breeze and I've got this nailed.’ The only concern I had was finding my way around. Boy have I never been so wrong! ‘Give Ways’ are intersections where if you do not come to a DEAD stop – you will likely be fined the standard fine of $20. Why not put up a ‘Stop’ sign then?? At traffic circles or ‘roundabouts’ as we Saffa’s like to call them, it’s a case of what I see as, whomever is going fastest – has right of way. Apparently in Zim you have intersections where you should know which road out of the 2 or 3 intersecting, is the ‘main road’. Should you be on this apparent main road – well hey, you are free to go. Should you be on the other roads, you have to wait. Say again?? How is one supposed to know which is the main road?? And what if the traffic on the main road never ceases?? That is something I am still figuring out. The same with traffic lights that are out because of our trusty power cuts. You can sit for sometimes 5 to 10 minutes waiting for fellow travelers on the ‘main road’ to power on through. Only once clear, can you and the other minions on the non-main road carry on your journey. It’s mind-boggling but an adventure nonetheless. One blessing is that traffic here is absolutely nothing compared to what I was used to, so go figure they can actually make up their own rules as they go. And another blessing is that I pretty much know my way around now – great feeling!

Life here is amazingly relaxing. Yes, I often stress that me teaching yoga isn't bringing enough money to help pay the household expenses, but for now it is enough to get by and live, and I think for me, that has been the hardest thing to come to terms with. No longer is my life revolved around money – car payments, rent, medical aid, cats bills, food expenses, saving for your future and making it to the end of the month with literally R5 in your bank-account. It may sound strange but I have found it extremely difficult to actually completely relax here in a lot of ways. To take a breath and let life happen around me; to enjoy what we have and to actually live in the moment. Before, I was planning my life around the day of the month – pay day. Now, I don’t even have a bank account, I get paid so sporadically and different amounts depending on the number of students who attend my class – yet, we make it work. No more miss independent over here. I thankfully have a partner in life and we tackle things together and even though it has taken me a while to accept that, I count it as a true blessing. I am so passionate about what I do now, that I actually look forward to Mondays, don’t loathe Sundays, and the week days feel just as good as the weekends because you are treasuring every moment as opposed to stressing about tomorrow. Of course you are still planning ahead and of course money is factored into that plan. We are busy saving for a trip to Australia to go and see my Dad and we are constantly trying to save where we can because you just never know what might happen. However what I have learnt is that life should be lived, you should enjoy the money you do make, however little it may be. To do things which make your heart happy, things that take away the pressures of another day in the future which is not even guaranteed – that’s called ‘living your life’.

I fully credit my life change, my mindset change and my ability to relax and see the positive – to Yoga. I finally have a purpose and that is to teach what I love. The people I have met along this journey of mine are people I can call friends even after a mere lunch or coffee together, because of how they completely and utterly relate to all I am. Yoga has brought me to where I am today and for that I am eternally grateful. In SA while completing my hours, I met so many stunning individuals whom I took so many lessons from. I even managed to get my mom, my brother and my boyfriend to enjoy yoga, even before I had started teaching and I credit that to what yoga offers, not only in a physical way but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally. The yoga community here in Zim is still small but seems to be getting stronger by the day. I am so fortunate to have been given an opportunity to teach here straight out of graduating from my teacher training, and to make my classes my own. It was nerve-wracking to begin with of course but I've been told that that is perfectly normal. The fear of the unknown, the absolute anxiety about teaching a class which people may not enjoy. But you find your feet and once you are there, it’s like you have an ‘ahhh’ moment where everything just seems to fall into place. You have those students who may attend one class and never come back – it’s ok. They may be on a different path to the one you’re on and not everyone is going to like you. You also have those students who keep you coming back for more because their energy is so infectious and so uplifting, you cannot wait to see them again. And then to top it all off, every now and again a student will say something so heart-touching like ‘I cannot wait for your next class’ or ‘that was just what I needed,’ that you literally forget about any anxiety you ever had teaching a yoga class in the beginning and you go home feeling so alive and at peace. Yoga is not for everyone, but for me it was calling me for a while and finally I listened, took that not-so-easy step and look where I am now.

Bottom line, life isn't a walk in the park. It isn't about being handed things on a silver platter and sailing through without a single care in the world. It’s not about harboring resentment for past mistakes, holding on to the negative or even over-stressing about tomorrow. Life is exactly what it is – LIFE. You only have one. You only get one chance to make something of yourself that you feel good about and proud of. Start living; start enjoying; start seeing the moment for what it is and capturing those moments which steal your breath. Then do yoga and find your breath again J

 Look at me…  I live in Zimbabwe… I teach Yoga…and I absolutely, every day - love my life.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Appreciation for life...Sunsets, Silhouettes and the 'rare' Samango Monkey...

My boyfriend is part of a golfer's league, a gentlemen's club as such with men of all ages ranging from around 24 to 84. A few weeks back I went to one of their prize-givings and was once again drawn into an ambit of fascination by how vastly important heritage and tradition is considered to be here in Zimbabwe. Culture is definitely something which is installed among individuals from a young age and as such, boys grow up to be true gentlemen. I am so impressed by the manner in which Zimbabwean guys treat ladies. It’s a rare thing to stumble upon, especially when you come from a place where the men seem to worry more about their appearance and the size of their ‘guns’ than they do in treating a woman with a vague amount of respect. Of course I am generalising here, and of course there are still the odd gems you meet who place you up on a pedestal, and of course you still get your classically arrogant and egotistical men here in Zim as well. In general however, it is truly refreshing to meet a great group of gentlemen who hold high their traditions, their loyalty to their clubs and each other and the love and devotion to their ladies and families. 

So where am I going with this? Well a few months back, my boyfriend won a weekend away for two in a raffle held at one of these golfer’s prize-givings. We therefore decided to use that this last weekend and on the Saturday morning we headed up to Nyanga for a nice relaxing break. We stayed in a rather commercial and somewhat kitsch hotel, which to be fair, is presently being done up and revamped. Not complaining though – a free weekend stay, in one of the most breath-taking areas I have ever been to, including a delicious breakfast daily is always welcomed! The drive there was interesting. In fact not five minutes in - once we had grabbed our Mochacinos from an awesome barrister named Peter at a hardware store – yes a hardware store with a coffee shop(?) - we passed a dead cow on the side of the road, which I of course did not see and begged my boyfriend to turn around so I could have a look. He assured me we would see plenty more and hence, disappointingly did not turn back, much to my discontent. By no means do I have an affinity for dead animals, but I do find it fascinating how road-kill that large can just be left on the side of the road, especially with all the little townships we were passing. Surely this could be someone’s next meal or rather month of meals? Anyway, I soon forgot about our first road-kill casualty and settled down to enjoy the trip.

Eventually the flat farmlands started transforming into stunning mountains which were so mesmerising it was almost like we were driving towards massive photo-shopped pictures. It reminded me so much of the Drakensburg in South Africa, except there is always something unique about anything and everything here in Zim and these mountains were covered from bottom to top in the Msasa tree. This particular tree has leaves which come in different colours, from green to orange to deep red. As you can imagine – thousands of these blanketing a mountain range, would literally take your breath away.

We never passed another dead cow, nor a dead anything – which in a way I was ok with as I am not the type who likes seeing that an animal has been injured or killed. Also, who needed road-kill when you had the view of a thousand rolling hills, with the back-drop of a milky pink and fiery orange sky? Appreciation comes in many forms, however I cannot describe how much appreciation you actually feel when you look at something of such pure beauty. Perhaps it was my pops who installed a deep gratitude in me for the perfect sunset with all the photos he used to and still takes. I tried to capture the sunsets we saw on this trip but no camera would ever be able to portray what we actually experienced. Being the yoga teacher I now am, I insisted on my boyfriend taking some pics of me in different postures to see if we could somehow trick the sunset into thinking we were literally just taking silhouette photos of me, but alas – it knew what we were doing and still did not want to surrender its splendor to being captured on film. I guess that’s why we have memories, and that’s what teaches us to appreciate the moment that much more.

We experienced a lot that weekend.  Horse-riding through these mountains; wining and dining at a beautiful, quaint inn where we were treated like royalty; playing bowls (yes bowls) in front of a mirror-like dam which reflected deep dark green pine trees in the background – again something you couldn't quite believe was really in front of you and not a blown-up postcard. We met an artist named 'Modern' who made the most charming sculptures out of marble rock, and whose genuine and friendly welcome made us want to buy everything, but alas we settled for a cool elephant statue which now takes residence in our hallway. We saw what they termed the “rare Samango Monkey” ironically all over the place, a rather arrogant type of primate which never seemed to want to allow me to get a decent pic of its face, which happened to be absolutely adorable. Instead, every time I clicked the button on my camera I got a picture of the back of this monkey’s head or torso (which was also rather cute but not as charming as its koala-type face.)

I cannot pinpoint the highlight of this mini getaway because it was all so breathtaking and rather humbling to say the least. I can say that the trip home was one where we hardly spoke to each other and it felt like that same feeling you got as a kid when you realised it was Boxing Day and Christmas was now a whole year away. We did however both feel like we had been on vacation for a week, utterly relaxed and ready to start a new week.

You learn a lot about yourself, your partner and your relationship on a little trip like this one. Enjoying literally only each other’s company with no other distractions or commercial things to occupy your time really brings you down to earth and draws you a lot closer together. Who would have thought that we would enjoy bowls at our age? That sipping on Irish Coffees, in the attic of an old-fashioned inn, with no tv, no books and nothing other than the company you keep, would take your relationship to another level. Appreciation for the small things…you hear people talk about it all the time, but often take it for granted and sometimes need a little reminder to bring you back to earth. This weekend was that for both of us – a gentle push to appreciate what you have, what you get given and what you experience.

As a result of this weekend, I based my yoga classes the following week around this concept of gratitude and thankfulness. I started something on Facebook for myself called ‘#MonthOfGratitude’ where every single day I acknowledge something in my life for which I am grateful. I started this on the 25th November so that by the time Christmas Day comes around, I will have a month’s worth of random things in my life which I appreciate. I encouraged my friends and my followers to do the same but unfortunately this isn't something which catches on like a Neknomination or simply sharing a horrific picture of a slaughtered animal or a story of a maid abusing a baby.

It’s sometimes scary what people focus on in their lives. I encourage you to think about this in your own life. Try focusing on the positive and the unique little things which you are eternally grateful for. Whether it's the gentlemanly actions from someone you least expect, a sunset which steals your breath faster than you have time to realise, or even just sharing in some fun with your best friend, on a patch of grass made for old people to chuck around a few balls. If you can do this for even 3 days, you are blessed. 

What have you got to lose? More importantly, what have you got to gain..?

In love, light and appreciation for all my readers, till next time.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Taking it as it comes, letting go of what you don't need, and making the most out of your situation.

Things tend to happen in life which can either send you spiralling into a twisted whirlwind of confusion, angst and anger OR you can swing it around for yourself, send that tornado swirling in a different direction, and use what gets hurled at you to propel you forward in a favourable direction. For a lot of people, including myself, this concept sometimes seems so annoying because you know it's true but you just can't fathom how you can turn it around in a certain situation or during a certain time of your life. The thought of changing things so that they work in your favour even when it seems like everything is crumbling around you is just frustrating and impossible at times and even though you may master it in one instance, come the next time and you just feel a hundred times more confused, anxious and angry and simply want to throttle anyone and everyone who has the above mindset of ‘making it work’.

I’ve met a number of really different and unique individuals in my life. Those who see the world through a lens of negativity and unconstructiveness; those who simply cannot wait to wake up in the morning to seize that new moment and make it their own, and then those people who are a combination of the two – no wait – not quite a combination, but simply ‘neutral in life’. It’s so interesting to me to witness these individuals who are one or the other. I’m not coming from a place of judgement at all, merely observation. I personally don’t understand how someone can be happy all the time, neither can I understand and relate to an individual who literally cannot seem to find the positive in absolutely anything, ever. What I have learnt however, is that it is ok to let go of anyone who no longer fulfils you on your journey, whether temporarily or on a more permanent basis.

On this incredible ride I have been on the past year, I have had to acknowledge and deal with circumstances which have not been simple and effortless but rather challenging and quite taxing, a lot of which have involved taking a good hard look at the people in my life. I am the type of person who enjoys being friendly to everyone, sometimes giving a lot more of myself to the relationship than what I get back in return. At one stage, not so long ago, I felt like I had close on 50 ‘good’, close friends whom I would invite to anywhere I was organising something fun. Did they all pitch or even bother to rsvp? Of course not. Did they invite me to wherever they were going – not often no. Did they call me on my birthday or to even just check in and chat out of the blue? Well now the list was seriously starting to diminish. So why was I always giving of myself to these people and constantly seeking their attention? Well, that’s something I am still trying to figure out.

It is however such an eye-opening experience realising that you are ok on your own. Learning to enjoy being by yourself and loving yourself isn’t straight-forward but it’s only when you know who you truly are and what you honestly want from life, that you begin to see how having the right people in your life can truly benefit you. It was tricky for me to simply let the others go, one because I thought they were my friends, but two because I didn’t want to hurt them. Ridiculous right? Friendship is not a numbers game. It’s not a competition to see who has more or who has the most people rock up at a birthday. If you only ever have one true, good, honest friend in your life but who knows you and loves you and develops you, then you are blessed. And I am definitely blessed with the friendships I have today, even though I have relocated to a different country and will probably only see those people three times a year.

It is this which I took with me when I left.  Knowing that I have that support and unconditional and unwavering love from my friends and family was what drove me through the process. Starting out in a new country will also have its challenges – you have to start all over again with new friendships and building new relationships. But luckily this time around, I know who I am and I know what I want from my life. So yes I may meet people along the way whom I will be friendly with, but if there isn’t that bond, and that reciprocation then why give to the relationship more than you should right? Not everyone gets the chance to start life over, to sail with the wind in a completely different direction. Why ruin that chance by making the same choices which led you to a bit of a dead-end before.

There is so much opportunity in Zimbabwe which not a lot of people realise. I’m not talking work-wise or money-wise (even though that is true as well); I am talking about the type of lifestyle you have available to you to experience and the beautiful friendships you have the potential to make. When people get together at family gatherings, dinners, braais or whatever it may be, the conversation isn’t solely about what so-en-so saw so-en-so doing and the gossip from the weekend. It’s about reminiscing on over twenty years of friendship, laughing with each other because you know each other so well and joking about the small things in life. Here, solid friendships aren’t built in nightclubs and social events, work or the gym. They are built because you experience LIFE together and tackle things as a unit. I think Zim going through its rough patches has actually done wonders for families and friends because those who are still here, really want to be here and want to see it work out. They want to start their own families here because they know the type of childhood there is to have and to experience. I was at my boyfriend’s folks place this weekend and was playing with his nephew in the garden. What was so awesome was to hear how this little boy’s dad grew up in the same house, climbed the same tree and nearly drowned in the same pool! How amazing that one house can hold so many memories that generation after generation get to relive some of the experiences and make their own similar memories which will be treasured forever?

Zim truly has stolen my heart. No, it has not been easy adjusting but it’s been a lot easier than I had expected and completely manageable. Small things take a lot of getting used to. For one – the heat. What struck me the most was walking into a grocery store on a scorcher day and seeking out that beautiful cold bottle of water to drink to try and quench your unquenchable thirst. You make your way to the fridges, open the doors and as you grab a bottle, this overwhelming sense of disappointment takes over as you realise how warm the bottles are. In true Denise style, I move all the front bottles to the side and hunt for one at the back, praying it will be cold but no such luck. This place is so hot that even the fridges can’t stay cold! But alas, I love it. Waking up to the sun coming up early and feeling that delicious heat on your skin is unique even for someone who used to live in Durban. Another thing which really does sometimes get to you are the power cuts. Just when you have prepared that beautiful cake to be baked or dinner to be cooked, off goes the power. The most common sound in Zim is that of a generator and to be honest it has become quite soothing! Even with all the power cuts, you make the best out of a somewhat tricky situation. Sitting around a table lit with candles, actually talking to each other instead of watching a movie or that series you’re both addicted to, makes you realise whether or not you are with the right person. My boyfriend and I talk for hours in the dark, laugh and mare each other – bottom line is, we make the most of the time we have together.

I still have so much to experience here and that for me is one of the best things in my life right now. Whether it be driving past the guys playing checkers on a painted tree stump, the man selling airtime on the street corner who dances and sings as you drive by, the incredible lack of road etiquette (you thought SA was bad with the taxis,) the potholes, the boreholes, the generators and invertors, Zim has something to enjoy or to marvel at for everyone. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea – not everyone likes tea anyway! Give it a chance – you just might like it J

In love and light,


Monday, November 10, 2014

The country of colour and a city engulfed in purple.

I have visited Zim a few times over the past year and to be honest with you, after my last visit in July, I wasn't impressed.  The thought of moving here from Northern Johannesburg was, to put it lightly - terrifying.  It was obviously winter in Harare, and unlike winter in Johannesburg where you still saw trees of green and red roses too, in Harare, there was nothing but brown.  The roads seemed even worse than they had before in terms of potholes and mess; the trees bare with nothing but grey, jagged, thirsty branches.  Life from an 'outsider's' point of view just seemed so different.  What was I actually doing?  Was I really thinking of moving here, changing my life completely?

Let me tell you a little about myself so you might be able to relate a little easier.  I was born in Johannesburg, grew up in Howick and Durban, spent close on 4 years in the UK working at a beautiful hotel named Great Fosters, came back to Johannesburg to complete my studies, and this is where I spent a good 8 years exploring my twenties.  I worked at the best nightclub in South Africa while at varsity, made the most amazing friends whom I treasure to this day, and spent my time and money on socialising, eating out, dancing, studying and basically rushing around from one event to the next, whether it be for fun or for necessity.

In Johannesburg you plan your day, no wait - your life around the traffic.  For instance: Tuesday - Doctor's appointment in the morning, quick grocery shopping after work and bikram yoga at 18h30.  Doctor's appointment at 10h00, hmmm ok - that means I need to leave home by 06h30 to get to work early and put in a few hours (that way I will miss the traffic); leave work by 09h00 to get to the doctor's rooms in time (just in case there's traffic;) leave doctor's appointment at 10h45, not too much traffic at that time - should be ok to get back to work by 11h30.  Back to work at 11h50 - there was an accident on the M1.  Ideal afternoon situation - finish work at 17h00 but not going to leave at that time because there is way too much traffic, will leave at 17h30, hit the shops by 17h50, quick dash around the shops, leave by 18h10 to get to yoga to have enough time to change and make it to the class by 18h30.  Reality?  Still stuck in traffic at 18h45, missed yoga, too grumpy to tackle the shops which close at 19h00; go home, watch an episode (or 3) of whichever marathon series you have downloaded and are now addicted to, simultaneously checking your emails, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, all the while consciously thinking about what time you need to leave in the morning to avoid traffic and get to work by 08h00.  Is this really living your life?

Yes, if you're the type of person who loves spending time in the car, or perhaps has a reason to always be on the road, then this sort of thing wouldn't bother you.  It did however begin to bother me.  Whenever I would see friends, they would comment at how angry I used to get with the traffic, saying my Facebook updates were nothing but seething all the time.  I started living life through eyes of annoyance and resentment.  I would go to bed angry, wake up angry, and hate the time in between.  Slowly but surely this spiraled into me becoming a very negative and downbeat type of person and the small celebrations of life went out the window.  Of course it wasn't only the traffic getting me down, there were a number of different incidents which happened in slow and steady succession and my life took a sharp turn for the worst where it seemed like there was just not much to live for anymore.  It is not easy being in that frame of mind at all, especially when you are naturally a fun-loving, spirited individual who usually thrives off the small, valuable moments of life.

I was always hesitant when people would say to me 'stay positive, good things are coming'.  It seemed so difficult to accept that things would turn around for the best for me because so much just seemed to be going wrong all the time.  The power of positive thought however, is in fact a very true and wonderful phenomenon.  I never wanted to believe it, but one day I thought to myself 'why not?'  I started to live life differently moment by moment, day by day.  It was a case of changing my mindset and tackling the troublesome times with positive mind.  The moment I did that, life started shifting.  It was a long process, not easy in the slightest, but steadily things started to improve.  I met the man I know I am meant to be with, got offered a new job, moved into a beautiful little cottage and started my yoga teacher training all in the space of 6 months.  From there it was like I was smooth sailing for the first time in a very long time and it felt great.

I threw myself into my yoga, focused on making my job a success and concentrated on making the long-distance relationship with my man a priority, even though I was always one of those cynics who did not think long-distance relationships could work, no matter how hard a couple tried.  I am blessed that I was so wrong about that.  Even through the distance, I felt closer to my boyfriend than I have ever felt with anyone.  I finally knew the meaning of true love and I valued and appreciated the times we would get to spend together, no matter how quickly they went by or how far apart they were.  I had never felt like I had a partner in life, a true best friend who would do anything for me, until now.

People asked me all the time why I decided to move to Zimbabwe of all places, and they still do to this day.  My answer was and is simple - for love.  Life can be taken away from you so quickly and sometimes you need to do something completely out of your comfort zone whether it be for love, health, happiness or work related reasons.  You should never have to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself, because at the end of the day, it's your life and you only get the one.  So yes, I decided to make that move, to resign from my corporate job, sell some of my life's collections and pack up the rest of them, my two cats and myself, and head to Harare, Zimbabwe to be with the man I adore and the person who believed in me and everything I wanted from my life.

I've now been here a month and wow, what a change to my life.  Just over a year ago, dreams coming true was so far-fetched, but mine certainly are starting to become a reality.  Would I have chosen to move to Zim if I had other options?  Probably not.  But I took the leap of courage and I am so happy I did.

Harare literally took my breath away when we arrived a month ago.  I have never seen so many beautiful trees.  The streets are covered in a velvety blanket of purple from the fallen Jacaranda leaves, houses surrounded by Bougainvillia bushes which envelope the walls in deep, dark pink security.  The sheer size of the trees is what is so incredible and you spend of all your time looking up towards the sky, taking it all in that you forget about the potholes and the state of the roads.  There are quaint little nurseries on the sides of the roads and adorable plant shops in nearly every shopping centre - when last did you go to a nursery, let alone buy a plant?  It is actually overwhelming how stunning it is, something I definitely appreciate after seeing it so dull a few months ago.

Life in Harare is not about the latest fashion and the fanciest cars, it's not about the most expensive appliances, the latest diet trends, the who's who of the what what.  It's about LIVING.  Weekends are spent with friends around a braai, drinks on a massive rock which overlooks the city, fishing on one of the lakes or even just chilling at home watching a good movie (if you have power.)  You begin to appreciate things you have always taken for granted, such as time with family and friends, electricity, clean water and a petrol station which stays open past 9pm when you have those sweet cravings or actually need to fill up your car.

Yes it is a struggle with the economy and there are times when you question if life in Zim is sustainable under certain conditions, but for now I am happy to be where I am.  And I know of a lot of people in Harare who feel the same way.  Here it's about making the best of the moment, the current situation, the here and the now.  It's about waking up in the morning, feeling that glorious heat on your skin as you step outside and it's about choosing to be happy.  You pass street vendors every day who make a living creating beautiful artworks or constructing furniture or even just selling airtime, and they are always so happy to see you when you drive up to them.  If they can celebrate life and each new interaction, who am I to not give this place the chance it deserves.

I certainly have been blessed by being given the opportunity to start over and to live the life I want to. Pursuing a dream is scary and daunting and certainly not a walk in the park, but it sure beats living a life according to how busy the highway is going to be and working so hard at making living that you completely forget to make a life.

Till next time...