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Joie de vivre: Rediscovering and repositioning joy

I recently read an article that truly changed my life. The most mind and heart-blowing thing the author mentioned was:

“You are joy. You are joy itself. Causeless, reasonless, careless joy”.

 Three years ago, I would have struggled with this phenomenon – is this person saying that joy is a human state of being? What about the need to work hard, endure hardships, make tough decisions and sacrifices – all of which do not involve joy? Today, I can appreciate that joy is a choice I make (or not make) but it is something already in me and not something out there. I am learning that even through the most ‘unjoyful’ life episodes such as grief and loss, joy is always there, waiting patiently for one to live it out.  Let me share my story…

There was a time in my life when I felt that joy was lacking. The strangest thing was that I appeared to be doing fairly well in life. I was on a great career path and turning into a seasoned consultant, earning good money. I had a good romantic relationship, my family and I were healthy and strong. Why then, was I not content nor fulfilled by my life? Why did I feel a sense of dread on Sunday nights when I thought about going to work? Something was not adding up.

As a reflective person, I continued to think about this until it led me to a vision board I developed a few years back. My personal mission statement at the time, which surprisingly I still hold dear was: “to appreciate the nuances that make people great for participating in a productive, divine and joyful life”. Adjacent to that statement was  ‘Obtain PhD before 30, abroad somewhere’. Eureka! That was the missing link. It made complete sense that this was where my joy was! So I put all my trust in this concrete goal to pursue the loftiest task ever, an entire doctorate. Little did I know that it was the process of pursuing this goal that unlocked greater joy overtime rather than the achievement at the end. Fast forward to today, three years later, I have made a paradigm shift. Joy is not the outcome accomplished through achievement, but the approach to life amidst the highs and lows of your journey.

Do not be misled, this is not a linear process. Through this journey, I’ve had to deal with some unmet expectations of living abroad.  I’ve struggled financially, experienced a failed romantic relationship, fell ill at a critical time on the verge of completing my degree and I still deal with a lot of uncertainty. Moving towards joy took hitting myself on a brick wall a couple of times. When I started to see the light, I became grateful for what I had , allowed myself to indulge in simple pleasures and that resulted in creating joy for others which has become my priority.

Joy remains a childlike part of me that wants to live itself out fully. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we do not consciously choose joy. I’ve heard these statements way too often:

“I need to just get to Friday, then I’ll be happy”- could we not approach the week with a more joyful state?

“I need to grind hard for 10 years and then I’ll enjoy life” – could we not allow for some moments of enjoying life in between that?

“I’ll put up with this unsatisfactory relationship because it’s the best I’ve had so far” – could we not live a full life as a single person?

I am in no way, making small the comprehensiveness of life’s experiences. However, as the author Claire Dimond puts it: “ We are joy itself. And when we know this we can grieve, weep and suffer knowing that all of it is there to be experienced. When we don’t have this wisdom, the slightest sadness becomes magnified and intolerable”. This is an approach to life I hope to always remember. I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Do you know that you are pure love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom? That there is nothing, you can do not to be? Or do you believe you are what you think you are? An isolated, separate being, here on earth to find love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom?”

 

About the writer:

Dr Siphokazi is a Durban-bred global psychologist and educator who is passionate about building the future of Africa and her people. She is a scholar-practitioner and life-long learner in the field of leadership on matters that intersect transforming education, African renaissance, organizational behaviour and culture.

My thoughts – “The People vs Patriarchy…”

I finally watched the documentary film titled The People vs Patriarchy’ courtesy of Brownsense. A friend of mine told me about this film and I was convinced I needed to watch it.

It has to be one of the best documentaries in my 2018 radar as it beautifully captures dialogues around patriarchy.

 

Patriarchy is defined as:

ˈpeɪtrɪɑːki/

noun

“A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.”  (www.dictionary.com).

 

I would like to share a few snippets about the documentary without divulging too much because I want to encourage you to go and watch it.

The film is divided into various “frames” or “chapters” seeking to address the following questions/statements:

  • What is patriarchy?
  • Solutions to address patriarchy?
  • The call out movement
  • The mixed feelings around #Menaretrash campaign

The above questions and statements are posed in various focus groups and one on one interviews.

These are my three main reflections post watching the film:

It was hilarious : There were a lot of funny moments, and my friend and I kept nudging each other. There was one particular scene that stood out for me. A guy appeared in the film and was asked the question “what is patriarchy?” and his response, “It’s good to be patriotic” , lol, that was hilarious. Although I understand that it’s not fair to ask someone to share their thoughts on something they don’t know, but it was funny nonetheless J.

I felt Angry: I started having recollections of my own life and remembered the unkind subjection to the patriarchal system from an early age. It sought to control me at home and in social institutions such as school and the church. Even today, I have an on-going struggle and I realise that women themselves, perpetuate this patriarchal system. Example, in the documentary, an elderly woman made a comment that, “…it’s okay for women to stay in abusive relationships because that’s God’s will and He would give them the strength to endure.”

I was challenged: I asked myself a question- what role, small or big, am I playing to challenge the patriarchal system?  I don’t want my activism to live on social media, or in boardroom screenings and panel discussions. How can my activism be real and tangible? In the film, there was a gentleman who shared an example of a man beating a woman and an onlooker watched the abuse unfold, not knowing what to do. He then decided to walk up to the man who was beating the woman and ask for a  lighter. In that moment the man stopped beating the woman. The act of asking for a lighter succeeded in  disrupting the abuse. The gentlemen sharing the story concluded by saying,  ‘there are small disruptive actions we can take to oppose patriarchal manifestations.’

We still in August, women’s month and I am saddened that millions of women in South Africa and across the globe suffer at the hands of men who profess to love them. Patriarchy takes various forms, some subtle and some deadly.

My final reflective thoughts on this topic are as follows:

We need to recognize that there is a big difference between solving a problem and managing a tension. Addressing the patriarchal system is not a problem we can solve in the short term, no matter how many campaigns and dialogues we engage in. Why? Because its biggest contributors are culture and religion and those are part and parcel of society.

In the ongoing anti-patriarchy dialogues and social movements, we need wisdom to guide us on appropriate strategies in managing this as a tension.

Please see link for the documentary trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7G_vbW3mXs

What are your thoughts on this anti patriarchy movement? Please comment below.

 

Image courtesy: http://kdaniellesmedia.com/

 

 

See things as they are, not as you are…

In the spirit of women’s month, a few days ago, the women of South Africa took to the streets, partaking in a shutdown march. The march sent a strong message to the nation, that ‘no more violence, enough was enough’. We witnessed various social media tags saying “#MyBodyIsNotYourCrimeScene”

Women rights movements have heightened in recent years, and we applaud the massive progress made, both on a global and national scale. However, I found myself asking the question, ‘if so much awareness and hype is being created around women’s rights, why do we still witness a rise in the violation of these rights?’ As I was reflecting on this question, I saw something in the book I’m currently reading (The purpose driven life – Rick Warren). The author quotes, We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” – Anais Nin

I realise that on an individual level, the work of shifting how women are perceived, is insurmountable and may not be a war we can fully conquer. My conviction on the last statement, was sparked by a discussion I had with a gentleman recently. This gentleman is educated, successful, wealthy and you would think these things would equal open mindedness.  Our discussion got heated because I found his perception of what a woman is and should be to be primitive and oppressive. Post my discussion with him, I engaged different women around challenging primitive and oppressive opinions about us, but I was shocked by the responses.

I thought all my ‘sisters’ will embrace a more ‘liberated’ view. I am no feminist, but I do not believe that a woman’s role is to cook and clean. I feel both genders can actively partake in those tasks for the home to function optimally. I was rebuked by some women, who insisted that is how things should be. They even went on to say that, ‘we’ (‘we’ – are the women who question things) are the problem in our society. Apparently, it is ‘us’ who drive men to abuse and cheat. Wow! Such statements from my fellow sisters made me realise that indeed, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. If you embrace the ideals of kindness, fairness and open-mindedness, you will approach people and life that way. If you embrace the ideals of tradition, patriarchy and maintaining status quo, you will approach people and life that way also.

All along I have been thinking I am pro women’s rights and empowerment, but I have realized that, I must be careful of not wrapping an individual truth as a collective idea. The only collective truth that we should all uphold, is one that does NOT tolerate abuse in all forms imposed on women.

 Yes, women’s roles are shifting and maybe it’s okay for some people to still hold on to what some of us may deem as ‘primitive’. As long as women are not abused and murdered, we need to allow people to live life according to the ideals they uphold without forcing our own on them.

I realised that the gentleman I was having a discussion with, may have valid points and I took my opinion as the gospel truth, but really our opinions can never be used as the ultimate ‘be all and end all’  because they are shaped by how we individually view the world.

We all struggle to see things as they are, it’s a constant battle for those thriving towards progress. However, the more self-aware we become, the more we able to make these small but significant changes.

 

Image courtesy:https://waitbutwhy.com

Hold my hand sister…

My two friends and I often echo the expression “hold my hand sister”.This is like a code only the three of us get. We use it when life surprises us with profound experiences. We use it when we engage in stimulating conversations and one of us drops a nugget of wisdom. We even use it, when one of our crushes (lol yes, at our age we still have crushes 🙂 ) does something out of the ordinary. It has become a fun expression that connects us deeply.

 Though this is ‘our’ thing, I just thought, maybe we ‘can make the circle bigger’ by encouraging other sisters to find like-minded women, who they can connect with.

 August has been deemed women’s month and tomorrow in South Africa, we commemorate this very important public holiday. I can attest that I love the woman I am and becoming. I owe a lot of my progress to the incredible female friendships in my life. Genuine love amongst women is a true master piece to marvel at. If we invest in holding each other’s hands, we can witness great things in our generation.

I’ve always wondered why in certain social gatherings, we encouraged to hold hands. I realise that hand holding is a symbol of unity, oneness, interdependence, connectedness,  safety and love. The human touch is so powerful. To me, hand holding is one of the greatest forms of intimacy and communication.

Hold my hand sister is a philosophy that says, ‘I hold your hand because’:

-I love you just the way you are

-In my presence, you can be free to live your truth

-I will support you to fulfil your purpose

-I will laugh and enjoy this journey of life with you

-I will cry and encourage you during trying times

-I will pray with you and for you so that your life will reflect God’s glory

Sisters, go out there and hold each other’s hands!  Happy Women’s Month! 🙂

 

Image courtesy: http://www.ilanelanzen.com

We the people!

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend an Immigration Seminar (just in case you are wondering- lol, no I don’t want to immigrate- just curiosity got me there!) anyway, I arrived thinking it will be a small seminar room. Boom, I enter, it was one of those massive conference rooms in the hotel, packed to its fullest capacity.

The first thing that shocked me, was the diversity in the room – meaning different races, genders and ages were present. I always assumed, based on passed observations that it was old white people who would want to immigrate and leave the country. This happened a lot in the days prior to 1994 and the early years after 1994. This was due to uncertainty around what the “new democratic South Africa” would bring.

As I listened to the speaker, who was so eloquent in his explanation of the migration process, I was particularly drawn to two interesting statements he made. He said, “I want you to bear in mind that South Africa is like any first world country, the only difference is that there are still some developing world issues. People in this nation leave the country hoping for something better, but there are no guarantees in country X and Y.”

 “Migration is always a compromise, there is always something you will gain and something you lose.”

I sensed a bit of un-comfort in the room when he made those statements, but people soon shared sentiments that, it’s a risk they willing to take. The gentlemen sitting next to me, a black man in his late thirties I assume, said to me “You know sisi, truly speaking I love this country, but recently I got retrenched and have been struggling to find work. I am here because country Y looks very promising.  I started my own business last month and have been seeking funding assistance from the government, if nothing changes in 3 months, sadly I will leave and immigrate to country Y.”

As I sat there listening and hearing the sentiments of why people wanted to leave the country, I was truly overwhelmed. I know there are a lot of things South Africans are unhappy about, to name a few, corruption in government, crime, poverty, unemployment, high cost of living etc. I always hear people complain, in fact I get annoyed when people complain about South Africa. In my mind, I reason that South Africa is not perfect, we acknowledge that. But no country is perfect. In many ways South Africa, has a lot of good things and she has opened her arms to millions of people who are not citizens of the land.

I think being in that room and hearing some of the real struggles that people are going through- got me thinking about whether democracy is not just a “feel good” “sound good” word on a page.

The United States and South African constitution preambles are very similar. The first sentence of the United States constitution reads “We the People” and the first sentence of the South African constitution reads “We, the people of South Africa”. I am highlighting these two constitutions because they have been applauded as the most progressive constitutions in the world. Both nations claim to uphold the highest forms of human rights and democracy. But we know that there seems to be a mismatch between this ideal and the realities of these nations.

The whole premise of “We the people” bestows power to the people of the land. These words advocate that it is the People who govern the land and the laws of the land should favor its people, thereby entrenching Human Rights in all factions of society.

 If this is our constitutional foundation, why are so many people in this nation feeling disgruntled?

How do We,the people of South Africa,ensure that we don’t surrender all power to the Government in bringing about the change we want to witness in the land?

History has taught us that civil rights movements are very effective in bringing about social change. Real difference making doesn’t have to be big and complex, it starts small. Wherever you find yourself able to influence, please do so. If we all embrace the ideology of “We the people”, we, can start slowly but surely reclaiming this nation. You have the power, use it. I am saying to the people of South Africa, let us begin to engage in constructive dialogues on how we can make our country the glorious rainbow nation it was meant to be.

Image courtesy: https://graphitepublications.com

 
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