Better To Have Loved And Lost

There’s a funny thing about death.

You know what your life was when someone you loved was still alive, and you know what it became once they died. It became a colder, darker, lonelier place and you find yourself torn between holding onto those you have left ever more tightly or distancing yourself from them for fear of going through that pain again.

Losing my father was my worst fear. Surviving that meant I could survive anything. I dreaded the loss of my mother more than I feared it, but that didn’t make it any less painful when it did happen.

I find myself thinking, at odd moments, of what it will be like when the other people I love die, or what it will be like for them if I go first.

Everyone dies. I know this. But the knowledge that I will one day lose my sister, my brother, my friends cuts at me and I have to either send my mind far away from that train of thought or start screaming and never stop. And worse, the fact that my nephew will one day lose his parents, and me, and go through the same heartache, fills me with sadness.

The pain doesn’t stop. You just get used to it. And then something else happens, someone else dies and you have to get used to it all over again.

We don’t mourn for the dead, we mourn for ourselves, and what we have lost and it’s totally selfish. But we can’t help it.

The thing is, we can’t stop loving, stop caring, because the world is brighter and happier with those we love and the price is so, so worth it. So I will cling to those who make my life so bright and cherish the remaining days, weeks, years I have with them.

The fear of death is no reason to stop living. The fear of an ending is no reason not to start.

Wordless Wednesday: A Kitten In The Hand…

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Back In The Swing Of Things

We started work again on Monday. So quickly the holidays have come and gone and now we wait another eleven months until our next long break.

Though I am still at the school I’ve been working at for the past three years, I am no longer with my Ladybirds. At my request, my boss moved me to the toddler group (The Ducklings). It wasn’t because I no longer loved teaching 3-4 year olds; I just really needed a change. The oddest thing is how people look at me and assume I’ve been “demoted” or am being “punished” or that I can’t “cope” with the bigger kids any more.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

No age group is any more or any less challenging than another group. The pace is slower with the toddlers, but their independence level is far lower. I can still do the same amount of creative work, but it’s even more of a challenge to think of stuff that is stimulating for this age group, and is stuff that they can do themselves without too much help. A totally different outlook, mindset and skills set is required.

It’s something new. Something different. And I NEED this.

So far, only four of my children have arrived. Two will only be starting in February when they get back from holiday, and two are still in the baby centre as they can’t walk yet, having only turned one in December. Others may still enrol.

The four I have are all boys.

Neo (pronounced Neh-woh, not Nee-oh, though my boss has already nicknamed him “Matrix”) is the oldest, and the smallest. He’s never been to school before so it’s a huge adjustment for him. He’s at his happiest sitting in your lap while he plays with your mouth with his fingers. On day one, he cried constantly. Now, on day three, he’s confident enough to play with and talk to his class mates, and move more than a meter away from me. He still cries when I leave the room, however.

Langa has been at the school since he was a few months old. He’s turning two in February. He’s naughty as anything and loves to see how long he can ignore me before I will actually start chasing him. He’s got a brilliant sense of humour and is very clever. He can sing the whole of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jingle Bells”, as well as count all the way to ten (He will only do this if you’re not looking at him – if you try to ask him to count for you, he just giggles).

Tawfeeq is a sweet and gentle little boy with a butterfly obsession. Seriously. The kid goes NUTS for butterflies. I gave him a free-drawing task yesterday and he looked at his scribble and excitedly squealed, “It a buttah-fie!!!” He’s not as rough as my other boys but he enjoys playing with them. He loves coming for cuddles. Not too keen on eating though.

Stephan is my current youngest. Absolutely adorable and he knows it. It’s very hard to be cross with him because all he has to do is smile and hold out his arms and my heart melts (Note to self – get a stronger heart…). He is a typical boy – loves cars and trucks and is constantly raiding the shelves with the big trucks – no matter how many times you tell him no. Insofar as kids this age form bonds with each other, Langa is his best friend. He, along with Langa and Tawfeeq, form our class’s Three Musketeers. All for one – unless you get caught, then it’s every kid for himself!

I didn’t have the excitement towards the end of the holidays that I usually do. But it’s just set in late. I am so excited to be with this group. So excited for the new challenges. I’m loving it.

(Ask me again in a few months and I’ll be begging for the holidays).

Ripples

Cast a stone into a pond and watch the ripples spread. 

I cast mine in 2008 (though I didn’t know it at the time) when I joined a little message board for South African Pagans called Way of the Rede. I practically lived there in my spare time. I loved having a group of like-minded local people to chat to, relate to and celebrate with, even though at the time I was a solitary practitioner.

Every once in a while, a bunch of us from WOTR would get together. We called this the meeting of the “Pointy Hatters”. It was at one of these meetings, midway through 2008, that I met Jane. Jane ran a course called “Paganism 101”, the likes of which I had always wanted to attend but could never find one near enough to where I lived.

Through Jane, I met what would become my coven. Through Jane, I gained a far more solid working and understanding of the faith I had been following since 2002. I attended rituals. I gained a confidence in my own abilities within the Craft. I nurtured a bond with the Gods who had been calling to me for six years. I was happy.

Through Jane, I met Symi (in the hopes that we would form a relationship – we didn’t). When Symi was handfasted to Ava, I was present. It was the first time I had ever seen two people so in love. That day restored my belief in love, restored my belief that everyone has a soulmate out there; that one person who is meant to share your life. That was the day I met Ava.

Ava taught me how to dance. Between her and Symi, I grew in confidence, I became more comfortable with my body and how I look . I reconnected with myself and made peace with the shadows in my past. And even though I have lost my parents, those two women have become my guardians, my mothers. They have “adopted” me, opened their home to me and woven me into the fabric of their lives. Without them, I don’t know if I could have survived the past two years.

Ultimately it leads to a gathering like the one I just got home from –  Symi and Ava, Ava’s mom and dad, my “adoptive” sister Montse and me… one big happy family sitting round a table sharing a meal. A feeling more like home than I’ve felt in a while. As much as I adore my biological family, I never realised the bond I could share with friends so close they have become my family also.

The ripples don’t end there, though. Going back to Jane, I met her daughter Sandy who is a teacher like me. In 2009, my boss was making my life a living hell (it mostly started after she found out I like other women as opposed to men). After one spectacular incident when I collapsed on the playground with a massive fever, and then got royally shat upon when I had to leave work to go to the doctor, I asked Sandy if she knew any schools with open positions.

Through Sandy I met Lindy, who hired me even though she knew from the start that I’m gay, even though I rocked up to the interview straight from work in a dusty tracksuit and close-cropped hair, looking (as she said) more like a “Bernard” than a “Kirsten”.

I have been working at that school ever since. I have met so many wonderful children, and parents, who have touched my heart and changed my life. I have amazing colleagues who I would go to the ends of the earth for, and who would do the same for me.

And it doesn’t even end there.

Because through this school, I met Calvin. And through Calvin’s mom, I have a new home to move into, to begin my new life.

I am so, so blessed.

I am so, so happy.

All because I cast a tiny, insignificant stone into a pond by joining a message board.

Be aware of your actions. Take note of the little things. You never know when it will change your life.

The Obligatory New Years Resolution Post

Everyone makes them, not everyone keeps them. I like to make New Years resolutions because it gives me goals, things to strive for, stuff to keep in mind. They’re useful and even if I don’t stick to them, I’m glad I make them.

1. Lose Weight And Get Fit (I’m sure this is on most people’s lists!)

2. Stop Being Afraid. I spend so much time worrying about the repercussions of my actions that I often fail to act at all.

3. Spend time doing stuff I WANT to do.

4. Meditate at least 15 minutes per day.

5. Save money and go to Bali next summer!

6. Finish writing one of my books.

7. Paint more, draw more.

8. Kiss a girl.

9. Make my new home beautiful.

10. Love more, laugh more, and enjoy life.

 

Those who read this: What are your resolutions for this year?

Unknown

I am standing on a precipice.

Before me is the Unknown. It’s dark, and the wind blows up at me, pushing and tugging at my clothes and my hair. Come, it whispers. Come. Don’t be afraid. 

Behind me is everything I’ve ever known. My memories, my family, my home. The simple comfort of knowing I belong. My mother and my father, their hands holding onto my small ones, guiding me, loving me, protecting me. It’s light and familiar and comforting. It is the knowledge of who I am, who I have made of myself up until this point. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend.

Behind me is safety. But the wind and the Unknown call to me. Don’t look back, it urges, there’s nothing for you there.

I feel as if I am at once a great adventurer, setting out into the world to discover lost civilisations and dinosaur bones… and a small girl running away from home with nothing but pyjamas, a toothbrush and a can of baked beans (sans can-opener).

My toes dig into the soft earth and I spread my arms like wings, ready to fly. The wind pulls at me and in my heart I know it would carry me as easily as an eagle, free of my bonds.

For in the comfort and familiarity of the Known, I am bound and trapped. Tethered, conforming to what is expected of me. Bowing my head and doing as I’m told, ever the good girl. Settling into the harness and ready to pull.

I am restless.

I am not a child.

But I have not been allowed to be an adult.

I bend, and I untie the ropes and chains fixing me to the ground, to the Known, to what is safe and familiar.

I spread my wings and fling myself into the wind.

That’s it, it agrees, it’s time to learn who you are meant to be. 

Those No Longer Here

It’s 11:25 pm on Christmas Eve.

Presents are wrapped and under the tree.

Mince pies are cooling on top of the oven.

The Christmas pudding is in the freezer.

Father Christmas has been and gone and the Small’s pillowcase (a tradition in my family) is bulging with presents and sweeties. The plate of mince pies has been consumed, the beer has been drunk and the reindeer have left bits of carrot all over the stoep outside (and a little bit inside, just in case the dogs decide they like carrot).

I have done my absolute best to make this a nice Christmas.

My heart is heavy and tears keep coming up unbidden behind my eyes. There is a physical ache deep inside my chest where my parents are supposed to be.

This is my first Christmas without my Mom. This is the first Christmas without her saying (over and over and over again) how nice the tree looks. This is the first Christmas without her giving me strict instructions on how to make the pudding, even thought I’ve made it by myself for the past five years. This is the first Christmas where I haven’t walked the earth trying to find the perfect gift for her. It’s the first Christmas I’m not going to here her saying “Thank you!” and really meaning it even though she has no idea what to do with said “perfect gift”.

This is my third Christmas without my Dad. He used to buy my present all the way back in November and be absolutely unable to wait to give it to me. So I’d get it early, knowing that it meant there’d be nothing from him under the tree. He’d leave something for me under the tree anyway, always “from Santa”.

I was reading through old Christmas cards. Mom hoarded them, seriously. There are some dating back to when she and Dad got married. I read through them when the Small and I were putting up the tree. Christmas is about family and friendship and love, and I was very strongly reminded of that, seeing all the names that, while not forgotten, had not been thought of in a while.

Gran, with your Scottish accent that I’ve never forgotten (And Granddad whom I never met).
Tony, my uncle, I’m sorry I don’t remember enough about you.
Grandmum and Granddad, who spoiled me rotten and always bought me dresses.
Kay, Fiona, Warren who ended their own lives far too soon.
Donny, finally reunited with the love of your life, Art after a decade parted by the Veil.
Muriel, my “surrogate grandmother”. You were taken from us so horribly. Bron and I miss you.
Jerry. Beautiful, kind, passionate Jerry. You were a good friend and an amazing artist.
Christy, my other uncle. I hope you and Mom and Tony are catching up on all those years.

There are too many, and others unmentioned. I love them all. I miss them.

But most of all, I honour my parents by keeping the spirit of Christmas in my home. I know it sounds horribly clichèd, and like something out of a Hollywood movie. But Christmas has always meant a lot to me. It meant so much to them. And I will keep it alive. Even though the memories clutch at me and the tears are so damn hard to chase away.

It’s how I honour those no longer here.

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