WEDDING BELLS?: PRAY IT’S THE CORRECT PERSON

 

These past few weeks I have had the pleasure of attending my sister’s childhood friends’ wedding. It was in many ways a dream come true for her and somewhat of a fairy-tale wedding since she ended up marrying her childhood sweetheart. The couple had dated for a spell in High school and my mother still has a copy of a picture of the two of them taken when they were a couple as teenagers. After ten long years of life apart they met and she said, she saw him in a different light. They talked and two years later sealed their love in marriage, in a beautiful traditional ceremony in their hometown.

Weddings and Funerals have a way of forcing one to re-evaluate ones choices and decisions. Where one is and where one wants or hopes to go. What’s important and what is not. The truth for me was undeniable.

I’ve always wanted to get married. I have always desired married life.  If I had my own way I would have been married years ago, that is, if I had met someone I thought I could commit to. Someone who was also willing to commit to me. I started to think about how it all went wrong. Why it was that I was 35 and still very much a single lady still secretly hoping that someone will like “it” enough to put a ring on it.

Getting married is not a measure of success or is it?

I mean there are enough divorces and dysfunctional relationships and marriages in the world to make even the most optimistic of romantics to shy away at the prospect of ever after. But let’s face it, when marriage works or a union between two committed people, when it works, it really is beautiful, it is something to behold. Despite being considered the most vociferous of feminists in my family, I am also a hopeless (meaning can’t resist love) romantic at heart. I love seeing couples in love, I love romance. I enjoy loving and being loved. And being single has deprived me of one of my greatest joys.  I guess I have just become jaded over time because despite my numerous efforts at finding romantic love with another I have failed to secure a real and genuine proposal I can’t refuse.

In My Sister’s Shadow

My sister’s friends’ wedding took me back in time to five years ago, when my youngest sister got married. She asked my older sister and I to be flower ladies at her wedding – replacing the ubiquitous little flower girls who walk in front of the bride throwing rose petals as a symbol of good luck, fertility and prosperity for the couple. At first I didn’t think too much about it. But there was a part of me that wondered if my older sister and I weren’t “babies” in the game of love, children who had  a long way to go still. Her request conjured up images of a scene in the movie Father of the Bride when the father while listening to his 22 year old daughter announcing her engagement only saw her as a three year old baby girl. Except my sister and I were three year old flower girls in this scenario.  In the end though I was honoured to be there for her. Ye despite having enjoyed some success professionally: doing work that I love and travelling around the world, to my parents I had not yet matured. “Your man will find you once you’ve grown up” my mom would say to me  when the subject of marriage comes up.

As a result of her marriage and subsequent birth of her two children and through no effort of her own my sister now enjoys the role of ‘big’ sister in our household, someone my parents defer to for advice in any discussions of important family matters, because as my father likes to say “she has graduated” into a different office. She is a wife and mother, a mature woman. My sister and I not so much. Yet.

Damaged.

At times I can’t help but feel damaged. That perhaps my experiences in life, love, my line of work including my own choices  have damaged my future prospects of being in a healthy relationship with another. It’s been said that men /women play with women and when they are ready to get married they go for innocent young virgins, who have been prepared for the office of wifehood, people who know how to be wives and mothers. A wise old journalist (male) who had done the exact same thing told me once over wine that the only men I’m good for, are white old men. They, he said emphatically, are the only ones confident enough to deal with and commit to an opinionated black woman who ‘knows” too much.  They are the only ones who wouldn’t be threatened or challenged by your independent mind he concluded. I like my wife because I can teach her so much and she’s like a sponge, she takes it all in. She respects me as her husband and the head of the family.  She needs me and my support. He said taking a last sip of his vin-rouge.

Lessons from the Dark Side of Love

Now that I think about it, despite leaving me still single, a little lonely and slightly jaded byt romantic love, all my failed relationships have taught me two important lessons. One: It matters who you’re in a relationship with, who you end up marrying matters. It matters more to some extent than your career choices and the work you decide to do with your life.  Because who you date or marry has the power to drastically change your life, for better or worse. They can derail your progress in life or  propel it forward.  The emotional, psychological and spiritual trauma from abusive or just plain bad or toxic relationships can take a lifetime to repair, heal and recover from. We all know relationships are important -despite what people say – and everyone including those people who say  things, want to be in a good one.

Two: When in doubt don’t do it. Be single-minded.  The right one for you is very much worth the wait.  Hopefully  it won’t be a 60 year old white male! Either way you’ll be the better for it.

To life, love and Happiness. Le’chaim!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE ACROSS THE BORDER: CAN YOU AFFORD TO FALL IN LOVE?

If food is the way to a man’s heart, 33-year-old *Thembi Nkosi seemed to have the exact Global Positioning System (GPS) co-ordinates to *Soren Adamsen’s.  The couple met ten years ago at a mutual friends’ Johannesburg home for dinner which Nkosi an invited guest and professional chef, ended up cooking from start to finish. It was shortly after taking bites of  Nkosi’s lemon chicken dish that Adamsen, a Danish national was permanently hooked on her. “Two months or so later after our first meeting he invited me to Denmark and introduced me to his family and friends” says Nkosi a South African citizen. “I guess he is only human” she says, explaining why Adamsen found her so irresistible.  After ten years of travelling between South Africa and Denmark the couple finally decided to take the plunge and build a life together in 2013.  This meant that Thembi Nkosi  and her three-year old daughter  had to  move from South Africa and join Soren Adamsen in Denmark using the family re-unification visa for entry. First the couple had to prove that they had lived together for two years consecutively in order to qualify for a visa,  an issue which presented a huge challenge for the couple.“The family unification process is a laborious one” says Adamsen, who works as a journalist for a leading investigative television program in Copenhagen.  “We had to fill out at least 100 pages of documents justifying why we wanted to be re-united or why we wanted to live together.”  He says adding that “Our initial application was rejected” Adamsen and Nkosi like many other couples who’ve had to apply for family re-unification visa’s found the process punitive and sometimes unfair. While the family re-unification laws in most EU countries require applicants to apply from their country of residence, those who do, do so at their own risk as they are more likely to be rejected from the outset. “We paid a big price for being honest, and trying to do things the right way” says Adamsen, adding that from his perspective the laws seem to favour those who are dishonest or cheat the process. The process however was even more frustrating for Nkosi as the paper work and all forms were written in Danish and she was ostensibly  excluded from the entire visa application process. Yet in the end it was not the paper-work nor the bureaucracy that would finally open the doors to a life together for the couple.  Money was the key without which it would have been impossible for them to be re-united even if they met all the other required criteria. “Soren had to get a bank guarantee loan of 50 thousand Kroner, equivalent to 100,000 ZAR  as an insurance” Says Nkosi.  Fortunately for the couple, Adamsen who is financially solvent and had not been on state-welfare in the past two to five years  qualified for a  bank guarantee  and the family was able to be re-united  six months after the initial application process.“I think it’s just another way for government to make it difficult to families to be together” says Adamsen. “For other people it may be difficult (to acquire the funds)  but for us the money issue was irrelevant. We just wanted to be together and I did everything in my power to make sure that, that happens, but it is still upsetting to know that government can have the last word on a private issue such as who you decide to spend your life with.” New family re-unification laws in the United Kingdom came under the spotlight last year  after a couple in Cornwall was denied a family re-unification visa due to insufficient funds. In 2013 the UK issued new regulations which stipulate that UK residents wanting to sponsor a loved one from a non- European Economic Area ( EEA)  should earn a minimum of 18 thousand Pounds or 311, 973 Rands a year  or about 25 thousand rands a month. The amount increases with each child a couple has.  The  British Home office staunchly defended its policy  in court  justifying the financial requirement as being part of an effort to help immigrants to integrate. When asked by a judge if the home office was suggesting that an affluent person would integrate more easily than a poor person, the response was “yes”.  London, the capital city of the United Kingdom is currently the billionaire capital of the world with a recorded 104 Billionaires  living in the city. UK officials say the new visa regulations introduced in 2012 are working as intended and estimated that the new policy would reduce family visa applications by 17,800 a year.   Under the EU directive on the right to family reunification non-EU nationals can bring their spouse, under-age children and the children of their spouse to the EU State in which they are residing. After a maximum of five years of residence, family members may apply for autonomous status if the family links still exist. The Directive only however only applies to 25 member states excluding the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland which determine their own criteria for family reunification. The UK is currently canvassing for new EU reforms which will ensure even tougher or stricter  legislation on benefits for migrants. While South African immigration law does not use money as the main criteria ( there is no financial threshold only proof of affordability) for family re-unification visa’s or family relative visas. The visa application process can be extremely tedious (littered with bureaucratic misunderstandings)  for relatives applying through the South African Home Affairs offices. *Lamya Luall, a Sudanese-American writer, married to a South African says US visa policies make it comparatively easier for families to be together. “My husband is eligible for permanent residence or green card as soon as we are married, his residence papers once issued are first on a conditional basis, to ensure people are still married but after two years the conditions are lifted and a full green card is issued which is good for 15 years.” She said.   However South Africa does not have a residency or work permit option for spouses once married. ” There’s a relatives permit, which needs to be renewed every two years pending police Clearance, a TB test, doctors clearance and a host of other requirements.” She adds “You have to hire lawyers (who don’t come cheap) to help because most people at home affairs aren’t familiar with these rules.” She said concluding “I can only be eligible for permanent residence in South Africa after 5 years of proving a marriage and/or life partner relationship. I could only apply for citizenship after 10 years”.  Lamya says marriage to a South African  does not make the process any easier. She says she will be applying for a separate special skills visa  which does not have a two-year renewal requirement.   Even though the process of applying for a family re-unification visa in Denmark would have been made  much easier had  Thembi Nkosi and Soren Adamsen decided to tie the knot Nkosi says she didn’t want to get married for a visa, she wants to marry for love. “I’m a catholic girl after all, I still want the official proposal. I want fire works!” She concluded.   *original names changed to protect identity

THE DAY YOU “JUST KNOW”:  ADVISE FROM MY FATHER

Wedding season is fast approaching for those in  the Northern Hemisphere and since my head is often in the clouds I have been thinking about the subject of romantic love and the related concept of “just knowing’.   I am always interested in love narratives, why people decide to get married and to their partners, how they met, why it worked out or didn’t work out once they’re divorced. I find even the most clinical arrangements interesting and when there is no one to probe or if couples are cagey about details, I look to my own string of failed attempts at relationships and try to be objective about the reasons why they didn’t work out. Especially when most of them are now beginning to fill my Facebook timeline with pictures of their married and paired up lives in what seems like loving and healthy relationships.  In my digging and probing, I am actually searching for that illusive “I just know” moment.

All the couples I have asked about how they knew that their partner was the one they were willing to commit a sizable portion of their lives to, the answer has always been and without exception “we just knew”. This answer has been nagging me for years, how do you “just know” something like that?  I have had many instances in my life when I could have said  “I just knew” but since I am single,   I must have clearly missed something really important.  My mother and I laughed till our bellies were sore and the potjie on the stove almost turned into coals this weekend when we watched Ugandan comedienne Kansiime Annes’ skit, in which she took matters into her own hands and proposed that her partner of five years upgrade her to the status of fiance right there and then on a night out at a restaurant. She brought the ring, wine glasses and a bottle of wine for the décor and a happy smile with giggles to complete the mood while her partner remained perplexed. The clip was a follow-up to another skit where she had to literally position herself at the door for the man of her dreams to notice her and even then he had to be thoroughly persuaded.

Later in the evening I showed my father the proposal video which made him laugh and after we were tired from laughing I asked my father how he knew.  He replied and said you guessed it: “you just know”.

There it is again, none of the couples seem able to offer an explanation or elaborate  further on just how they “know” exactly. To put salt to the wound they say these words “just know” with such a mysterious  sense of self-satisfaction, it makes me feel as  if I’ve been left out of the world’s biggest secrete. How do all these people “just know” something so important and I don’t?

So I decided to change the question a little since I was not making progress with the how question. I asked my father “when do you know or more specifically when do men know?” I must admit I didn’t expect the answer to this question. “The first day you meet the girl” he replied. The first day? I was incredulous, I thought that maybe one would know after three months or so but on the first day? How do you know anything on the first day? I was shocked to say the least. “Yes” my father replied calmly hiding a smile. ” You know on the first day and the rest of the time you’re just confirming what you know or making preparations or arrangements to get married” he said moving the food on his plate methodically.” Really?” I repeated just to be sure I heard right, now all my failed relationships made sense, everything made sense in a new and fresh way, a new feeling swept over me… complete relief. “If a guy hasn’t proposed or talked about marriage within a few weeks or three to six months of meeting you, then they’re still not sure” He said diplomatically. But I knew what he meant.“when they know they have met the one they want to marry, they don’t waste time” he said.

So this is most probably the most useful piece of information on love and romance I have ever received in my life. I wondered to myself why I didn’t ask him sooner. I lamented all the wasted time with people who knew from day one that I was not what they wanted. At the same time I thought this is wonderful news, finally I have confirmation. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  If a person knows that they want you “forever” on the first day read: day one that they meet you there’s very little you can do about it, except to say yes or no once they ask.   Of course I have observed that men  especially and women for that matter can and will do and say just about anything to get what they want. So if he’s decided you’re his wife ( because that’s already decided the first day you meet) he won’t let anything or anyone stop him except of course, you.

So while this is enlightening it still doesn’t answer my all-important how question. How do you know if someone is the right one for you? All my  13 years of “dating research” corroborate my father’s statement. He’s right. I have seen people I’ve liked make a bee line for my friends as if I didn’t’ exist. Or seem to show interest in me one day and then introduce me to their fiancé’s the next.   This has led me to one conclusion.

You arrive at a place of “just knowing” when you know yourself, when you fully accept all about you good and bad. Once you know who you are, what you want and where you want to go in life then you’ll “just know” when you meet someone who is right for you.  And the odds are you’ll probably be, as I am now, the last one to know about it.

IN THE HEADLINES: WHY IS HAPPINESS OFFENSIVE?

A Happy moment between sisters.

A Happy moment between sisters.

I’ve been delaying writing my next piece due to the orgasmic nature of my last instalment “The Girl Who believed in fairy-tales”. Who knew that life could be so, so, so, delicious… amid such evil in the world. Sometimes I struggle to balance the two with the help of others who find “happiness” as a concept problematic. Some people find it offensive to see you being so happy and smiling when the headlines paint such a grim picture of our world and our fellow human beings. How can you continue to laugh and smile while others are suffering? How can you be happy in a world like this?

TRICKY SUBJECT?

This question reminds me of a time I spent in the third floor of an apartment building on the hills of Yeoville, Johannesburg. It was my second time living there. Trinity House. I had such an awesome time in that flat: guests called it the love house! With the inspiration of my brother peace, we decided to call the study – where I kept all my books and where I planned to write; the love factory. We decided to name it this because we wanted anything that took place in the house to be about, for and to love. We wanted work to become love.

We referred to the space as the lovetry, in short, which later started to sound a lot like love-a-tree. It was a creative environment, where souls mixed together, shared stories, music, movies, quiet time and prayer. We had enough coffee to last for days, vanilla chai tea was always brewing in the kitchen, the living room wafted with amazing sounds curated by peace. On the stove, fresh vegetables steamed, mealie-meal bubbled, basmati rice purred, the fruit basket was always full of vegetables, the cookie jars were filled with oat crunchies, chocolate crunch cookies, and sweets. It  was just  beautiful to be home. I welcomed many in my humble abode. It was summer in winter when you walked in.

One day in October of that year, a great friend from Swaziland paid us a visit. She said “I’m coming to Johannesburg and I am coming to your house!” It was such an honour to hear her say that!  Out of all the options she had for accommodation in Johannesburg, she chose me to host her, so of course it was a special occasion and we always celebrate special occasions. One night during her stay we shared music, stories, dreams, drinks and chit-chats. As the day light turned to dusk; my brother peace played a song none of us had heard before anywhere. It was a symphony of sounds gleaned from natures’ vibrations, of drum beats moving sand from all over the world. It was a clarion call from the source which sent us all up on our feet in rhythmic chords dancing and digging into ground with our souls. It was simply electric.  Soon enough we all heard a drumming that was not in harmony with the ones we were dancing to. At the door, the neighbour had come to complain. I still feared the wrath of human beings and sent my brother to speak to him. The neighbour was not happy,” could we put the music down and stop dancing?”. “Hhawu?” was the collective response of surprise, we all hummed in unison. Folding our hands, shaking heads from side to side, and pacing up and down the minute dance floor. “What is to be done now? Why should we stop dancing? After he returned to his flat below ours we tried our very best to contain the fire that was burning inside all of us. How do you contain such joy? It was not enough for him. Later he came back and what he said the second time caught my attention on the living room floor where I sat cross-legged attempting to speak in hushed tones and loud whispers. Clearly they were not low enough. “What is wrong with you people huh? Just because you are happy does not mean everyone else is. Show some respect!” He bellowed, promising to report us to the body corporate and our landlord and have “him” evict us because he had, had “enough” of this.

I was shocked at his reaction because as far as I was concerned this particular “happy” situation had never happened before at our flat. Seriously. Though we listened to music everyday – we had never danced like that before! And we wanted more. Now we had to stop before we even started.

Eish! Can you imagine! I started to feel a sadness growing inside of me. How could I be this happy? What was this man going through that was so bad, that I had to stop being and feeling happy with my friends and family right at this very minute? I never knew that my own happiness could harm another, and fill another person with such rage! How can such a good and beautiful feeling be the cause of such excruciating pain in another. It didn’t make sense to me.  I was curious to find out why. I admonished my brothers and sisters to try to keep it down because somewhere in my heart I knew our neighbour meant every word he said.  Soon enough I received an email from my landlord informing me that she would be moving back into her the flat in a month, I should prepare to leave at month’s end. I was not surprised.  I thanked her. My brother and I shared such a wonderful time bonding together at Trinity hall I will never forget that place.

SO WHAT’s WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Nothing. His sadness is as legitimate as my happiness. Which leads back to my initial question.  Why does my happiness and the way I choose to express it, offend people? Is there a way of being happy that will not cause others pain?  Where does the pain come from? I remembered that I was once in pain, in fact truth be told I am in pain every day. So many things make me sad sometimes, then I think… what can I do about it? The only way to ease another’s pain is show them that even in pain there’s joy, somehow you find yourself laughing even when tears of sorrow are streaming down your face. Sometimes one is stronger than the other…at other times one leads to another – both serve the same purpose, to heal.  A great friend of mine summed it up nicely this weekend. She said being sad, angry frustrated depressed is easy, it’s comfortable to just stay there. The challenge is to wake up every day and find a reason to be happy. A reason to celebrate to appreciate, to dance, to smile, to laugh to explore, to learn to try again, to inspire others.  To dance for those who can’t dance, to sing for those who can’t sing, and to write for those can’t see, to read for those who can’t hear. To make music for those who can’t play. To laugh for those who can’t until you’re the reason for their laughter.

That’s the challenge of life. To be joyful. Grateful, thankful for all those times shared with those we love and cherish. For the times we get to do what we love. For the times when living is easy.  It is not an easy challenge. But it is fortunately the only way to change anything negative.  To remind others that sadness and pain are not the only emotions or feelings that exist. And all of them come from within. All of them depend on you. You have to be happy first before you can receive happy things.  It takes courage, strength and resilience to continue being happy even as the world seems to be falling apart.   Because by loving, being happy, you are  creating the world you want to live in. Happiness is the antidote to sadness.  We can all be sad, but we need happiness, joy in order to feel better.

So it makes sense that we should all try to be as happy as possible. This does not at all mean that  bad things don’t happen, it’s about finding opportunities to love where it seems hard or impossible.

Because with love (joy happiness) everything is possible.  Ultimately, happiness and joy are a choice you make every day. It is like deciding  what to eat, what to wear, where to go. You always have a choice.  You choose.

Choosing to be happy every day  – is  -the real challenge. There’s enough sadness in the world to last our lifetimes.

Choosing Joy, Love, Gratefulness, has been the  greatest challenge my life. It was hard at first, because I never believed that I could happy in the face of sadness. But I don’t t regret choosing joy! Because each day I wake happier than the last. If that’s even possible.

I hope you will join me! I won’t let you go.

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