I had a really crap job as a dog’s body at an insurance company in Rosebank many years ago. It was right upstairs from Fournos — a fast-food-style deli and bakery.
One of my jobs was to archive old claim files. From my spot on the dirty grey carpet, the faces of the happy people who had just bought their takeaway coffee and croissants were not really visible, but I saw the way they walked and that’s what I wanted! Freedom.
I remembered this chapter of my life this morning while sitting at the very Fournos. I’d say it’s about 18 years later. I can still picture the unsure girl that used to hate her job and the grey carpet.
My dream was to move into my own office at the insurance company but life took me in another direction. One morning, I took the risk of meeting a recruiter at Fournos. She offered me a temp position at a new IT firm for triple the salary. The only catch was that it was not permanent. I would stand in for someone going on maternity leave.
My instinct is always to say YES. So, I did.
The next thing I had to do was talk to my boss. I was sure I could catch him before his “secret” (not so secret since she told everyone) lover closed the door for their daily meeting.
“Can I be honest with you?”, he said. Ah, those famous words I hate so much; usually a pre-cursor to some bullshit.
“Sure,” I replied.
“I would not hire you. You are too young and…well, you are not good enough.”
I prepared a resignation letter the next day and asked HR to let me use my leave in lieu of notice.
“That won’t be necessary,” HR told me. “Here are the calculations for your retrenchment package.”
I did not know it was coming.
I used the cash to buy a new car and drove into my new job like a mother-bleep.
I always feel like laughing (I don’t!) when someone tells me I “inspire” them. It happened just yesterday.
Are you off your f$ing rocker? You really need to raise your standards, I always think. Here I am, with my overgrown under-arms, a dent in my car (shhhh, don’t tell the hubs – it literally just came back from the shop when I scratched it again) and a mountain of unopened bills. I haven’t had the time to clean out my daughter’s school bag this week and yes – you guessed it – the smell this morning led me straight to rotten pear. Yip, it was…you know….just hanging there in a little corner underneath the reading card.
We celebrated our anniversary recently, and I posted a sexy pic of us kids on a night out. “Inspired” were you? Well, I had my head buried in editing work the week leading up to that lovely picture and barely said boo to the man. So, I thought I’d surprise him with a lovely gift. When it didn’t arrive, I called to complain (in my best “Karen” voice). The tech guy’s slow “Uh…m’am” told me he knew I was grey. ‘turns out I forgot to click “check-out” and PAY! Who does that?
Someone blamed it on Mercury Retrograde. I blame it on life!
That said, I did remember to brush my teeth and to say THANK YOU this week:
Thank you for the gift of good health
Thank you that my son ate all the garnishes (read veggies) on his burger
thank you for the laughs over brekkie, the hummus, the WhatsApps of love, gossip and friendship
And most importantly, thank you because I feel loved, supported and accepted by those I share my life with.
So, I’ve decided: I’ll take the compliment the next time someone says that they are “inspired”. That’s how I will know that it’s okay to just be (messy) ME.
Perhaps you’ll do the same? I, for one, will be soooooo inspired!
P.S. My book is now available on Amazon Kindle. See the link below for more info:
It’s school award season and I’ve been watching something with interest.
On the one hand, you have the proud parents posing with their children and the congratulatory comments from happy friends. Then there’s the ugly flip-side as the parents whose children did not win the big awards, turn to their friend’s Inboxes to whisper their conspiracies.
Yip, the Green-eyed monster is alive and well!
I have not engaged: Neither to post about my children’s achievements, nor to throw shade where invited.
Well, it’s easy for me: I have a little symbol to whack me back into line.
The Evil-Eye is traditionally a symbol to guard against jealousy but I use it as a note to self.
The one I wear on my arm is my daily reminder:
Don’t boast – Nobody likes a show-off
Don’t draw unnecessary attention to your home/relationship/material bounty – Envy is a biatch
Run your race and let other people run theirs – It’s a win-win
Count your own blessings and there will be no time to focus on other people’s – Gratitude 101
I’ve also learned from watching with interest how my muslim friends respond to a compliment (whether it be about their looks or the talents of their children) with the response, Masha’Allah, that is, “God has willed it”. Don’t you love that show of humility?
Perhaps this will inspire you the next time you find yourself edging towards the territory of the Green-eyed one again? It’s always good to remember that blowing out someone else’s candles never makes ours shine any brighter,
**If you’d like to learn more about The Evil Eye, I found this Wikipedia entry quite interesting:
I completed a mammoth task this week! I’ve had my head down for months on this project, which I will tell you about soon enough. (I’m sure you can guess what it is *wink *wink).
And, just as I was about to breatheeeeeeee, put my feet up and relax, my next challenge arrived. What struck me that my assignments seem to be getting harder each time.
Take speaking for example. For some years now, I’ve been asked to speak at events about my work on Gratitude and I’ve embraced these opportunities wholeheartedly. But what always happens next is that people want more. A little more personal, a little more vulnerable, more of YOU please.That’s usually the point when I run!
But I’m working on it.
I’m easing into sharing a more vulnerable side, not about my personal life (that’s all dull and boring) but about the things that shape, crack, break, mould, transform and inspire me. I can write about them, sure. But, when it comes to TALKING about them…well, that’s a different ballgame entirely.
But I’m working on it.
And, just as I said !YES!, this massive world class speaking event called my name, asking me to put my money where my mouth is.
Because that’s the way the Laws of the Universe work and I could not be more grateful to be in the flow.
My mom’s sister who died quite suddenly. It was the first week of lockdown in South Africa when she passed.
We got news of her death around 9am and all we wanted to do was rush to the family home to be with her children and her 80 something year old husband, from who she really was inseperable. They were married for 60 years or so.
I was so sad but I could park that. All I really wanted was to see my loved ones and offer support. I remember when my own mom passed, those people who just turned up on the day and DID were a Godsend. I felt I could be that kind of person in this instance.
Being the absolute nerd that I am, I managed to convince my husband that we should pop into our local police station to ask them what we needed in terms of permission in order to make our way to the family home on the otherrrrrrr side of the world. We had seen visuals on TV and social media of the army, of cyclists being arrested and I must be honest, the general air of fear and tension was palpable.
“Good Morning” I said through my mask to the two policemen at the door. They were tense too, but they listened to my story and immediately decided that yes, I should definitely jump on the highway and make my way to the bereaved. “Family” the one guy said “Family”.
“So, I dont need a permit or anything to go there for a prayer service or for the funeral?…” I tried to add, knowing that my Catholic family would want to get started on the prayer asap, particularly for a woman like my aunty who loved her faith.
Screeeeeching from the other side of a room I did not even see someone flying towards us.
“Back home!” she spat. “What do you think this is? A party? Do you know what lockdown means? There is no travelling! No partying. No walking around and shopping….”
Everyone was stunned by the absurdity of the statements.
The two policemen looked down. I thought I was dreaming.
“Umm, no mam, I have just lost my aunt…literally a few hours ago and I am her next of kin, so I was asking about what I needed to…”
“I don’t care!” she said “No means no”
“L O C K D O W NNNNNNNN she said mockingly. “It means you go noooooooowhere, my dear”.
Now my tears were beginning to come. The floodgates really opened when I made eye contact with the two policeman. They were looking down and shaking their heads. I only realised then that they reported to her. She was their boss and they were not going to be able to do anything for me.
I was sobbing. I could not believe that another human being was speaking to me like that. In a room full of other people. When I had just been shot in the heart with grief.
My husband, who had said nothing up to this point had the look. I know it well. Gentle Giant was giving her the who the fck do you think you are talking to look, narrowing his eyes and tilting his head slightly. That look only comes out once every like 12 years.
“Umm, tell me something…” he said, towering at least 100m above her head. “Did you hear the part where my wife said she had just lost her mother?” (In his culture, my aunt WAS my mother. No lies there).
“I don’t care what story she has” the woman said.
“Ummm sorry, mam? We are just here to …”
“Wait, love” he said. It was a firm and gentle, but gosh it was full of conviction.
My husband looked at the two men. Heads bowed in shame. He looked at me. Put his hands on his hips.
There was a long silence.
“Are you feeling okay?” My husband said, looking the woman directly in the eye.
Two more officers arrived. The air changed from an emotional one to something that my intuition told me could easily escalate into something ugly, where we were perhaps thrown in a holding cell and handcuffed, or worse.
That’s when one of the two officers became human again and said to my husband “I think it’s better if you guys go, my brother…”
He didn’t mean that we should GO to the highway and GO to the funeral home and GO be with our loved ones (which is just what we did, masks and all). He was firing a warning shot to us, to say that if we did not get out of there, there would be trouble. I took my husband by the hand and pulled hard.
Heartbroken, disgusted and defeated we arrived at the funeral home. That’s when something magical happened. As I entered, I felt this incredible Light. I walked into the funeral home filled with a Spirit of compassion, love, strength, empathy and support.
That strength did not come from ME, and that’s really what this long story is about.
Friends tell me that strength is The Peace that Passes All Understanding. In my culture, the Holy Spirit. In yours, your Higher Self/God, perhaps?
Trust me it will come when you need it leaving you, the spiritual being here on earth to have a human experience, in awe. And, in my case filled with so much GRATITUDE.
These are the moments, friends. These are the moments!
I want to tell you a quick story about my book, Musings – Reflections of Gratitude.
When I wrote it, I thought I had accomplished my mission. I thought it would go into bookstores and I could sit my bottom down to rest and write again. But, life had other plans for me.
For a good year and a half now, I have been signing copies of this book. I kid you not. It has gone to print over 6 times and not a week goes by without a stream of corporate gifts walking out of my front door. Each person who bought it, seemed to think of many other people (moms, friends, grannies, colleagues) to whom they wanted to gift the book.
There are many nights when I find myself sitting at my dining room table, surrounded by hundreds of pink gift bags, pink ribbon, pink tissue paper with my little people packing the personalised books signed Mary, Sophie, Lebo, Maria, Fatima et al.
You see, what I have come to realise about this book, is that my job was not simply to write it, my job was to LIVE it. That is, the lesson about giving and receiving. About being truly grateful.
It has truly been a labour of LOVE, one which I have truly been rewarded for over and over again.
I ordered two young girls. No, not in a strip club. I called an agency that dealt with students.
I was organising a large trade show and two of the regular staff members had called-in sick. I needed backup promo girls.
The brief was simple. They needed to use their good looks and charm. Not to get anyone into trouble with their wives. No, just to welcome dignitaries to the event, usher them to their seats and drive alongside them in golf carts twice a day. Simple right?
The first couple of days went well! The girls were well groomed. They were professional and I got the feeling that they really understood the integrity of our brand.
That evening, I saw the girls drinking. They were off duty, but still at the function. They were drinking tequila with the important people, and laughing a bit too much for my liking.
As I drove home, I considered that perhaps I was just hormonal. I had, after all, just spent 15 minutes expressing milk out of my breasts during each lunch break.
The following morning, they were back on the job. Using their good looks and charm once more.
I heard one of the girls say “We have the best job here. All we have to do is look hot and make the men melt”. The feminist in me cringed slightly, but I guess they were right. That was the brief. Well, I would have settled for something that left out the “melt” bit, but ja, I guessthose mama hormones were pretty damn powerful.
The next morning, one of the girls was in tears! She was insulted by a text message. It was from an important client telling her that she was“fat and ugly”.
The HR gurus in our team took over quickly. They processed the facts and paid due attention to the sensitive young girl.
I was angry. Angry and sad.
That’s when the other girl appeared in my office. She said “She’s lying”. She was talking about her colleague. She claimed that the girl fabricated the text message because“none of the guys like her”.
I realised there was trouble. My anger dissipated. I was just sad.
I decided to butt out and let the professionals handle the rest of the drama.
But, it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
I didn’t need to know who was right, who lied, who the victim was and who had actually made the girl cry.
The fact is, she was crying. And, it was about SOMETHING.
So, friends, that got me thinking aboutthe lengths we go to in order to execute “the brief”. And the position we put other people in when we describe “the brief”. Because, let’s face it, this story isn’t about whether the girls should have been given a better grounding, whether the men who rule the business world need to change or why sex sells, it really is about boundaries and self-worth.
May every situation you are called to engage in this week, have clear guidelines, crisp boundaries and may your personal mandate always serve the best, and highest version of you.
Aluta continua, as they say. The road is still long (for me).