On green grass..

 

I met Doreen at a birthday party recently. We had not spoken in a long time so I chose to walk with her when she decided to leave. She had updated me on the progress she was making over time and I was impressed. Not only was she rising up to senior management at her day job, she was also running a successful side business. Doreen and her brother were in the process of building their mom a house, a development I had only learnt of that night.

When we got to her car, I expressed my admiration for her as an ‘independent woman.’ I told her I could only imagine how difficult it was for her to get to where she was even if I wasn’t privy to the back story.

The turn this conversation took left me flabbergasted, to say the least. “How can you pretend that you applaud my work yet you are the one who is successful? I see you in the papers at work, on facebook when I log onto my computer and then again on t.v when I get home.”
It took me about 10 seconds to pick my jaw up from the ground and another 30 to compose myself. She had blurted out this unexpected response without so much as minimal acknowledgment of the compliment(s) she had received.

In that moment, I wanted to say a quick good night and return to the party. At the same time, I needed to explain a few things about life to this woman. I chose the latter.

I shall use two of the relevant dictionary definitions for success that I found; “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
“The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.”
I believe each of us consciously or sub consciously has an idea of what success means to them.

I urge you to take a minute to think  about what your definition of success is.

Now, if that is done;imagine a world in which there was no society to ‘tell you’ what to do, peers to ‘compete’ with or people to impress. If you had to only make yourself ‘happy,’ would that still be your definition or would you alter it a bit?

As I write this, I am reminded of Mrs. Bucket(pronounced Bouquet) and her antics in the sitcom “Keeping up appearances.” While it was funny, it is sad that many of us spend our lives like this woman who did everything to ooze class and wealth despite the reality of her less than royal lifestyle.

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As if our spines were not already fickle enough, the emergence of social media has made it that much more difficult for (especially) young people to water their grass diligently. You need not look too far to find the ‘greener grass’ that shall keep you up at night if you so choose. Photo of a new car on Instagram followed by a long mushy post complete with the picture of a huge diamond ring on perfectly manicured nails when you cross over to Facebook. You think you have had enough so you run to whatsapp  for the silly jokes. Alas, everyone in your group chat is congratulating your friend upon her first class Master’s degree, in engineering no less. Will you ever catch a break?

The answer is no. For as long as you don’t learn to appreciate what you have and be happy for others, yours shall be a long life of dissatisfaction.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings, undergoing human experiences.

Joan got married to a ‘successful’ man whom her father approved of and their marriage lasted all of 2 years. She is a divorced single mother at 26.Mark and Becky have been in a relationship for 10 years. It is now a long standing joke that they should not get married lest they ‘mess it up.’

Julius works for a multinational company, great salary, big car with a chauffeur, allowances you can only dream of; but he tells me he has never felt so useless in his life. Basically his job is being done by him and 5 others. Joe, on the other hand has a start up that essentially provides rent, food, transport and the occasional drink. He boasts that he has found meaning in his life but if in 3 years things stay the same, he’ll flee.

Lisa’s son, Max is a product of a one night stand. After a life of having everything handed to her on a silver platter, he was her first real reality check. Her parents disowned her and she has no contact with her son’s father. Nonetheless, she quickly learnt to ‘hustle’ and discovered talents she did not even know she had. She is now an interior designer and almost-full-time mom who manages her own time and schedule. This little boy was once described as a mistake but he gave her a new lease on life. In fact, he saved her.

The list goes on and on. I am sure you and many people you know are living a life completely different from the one they or their parents had for them. That’s just how it is.

Imagine your life and its complexities, from the day you were born. Now, what makes you think that person who is ‘better than you’ has no challenges? They do, you may just never see them; just like not everyone who ‘knows’ you has heard the story of how you went hungry and slept on the floor when you hit rock bottom.

I think it is healthy to look over the fence once in a while and say hello to the neighbour, even help him carry his groceries. As long as when you get home, your conversation isn’t “I wonder whom Jack had to rob to build such a house” but rather “Honey, we are blessed to have such a good life and we should keep working hard to make it even better for the kids,”

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On being thankful…

On being thankful

The year is stealthily coming to an end! It feels like every month was shorter than the last.
September was different for me though. I made a conscious decision to enjoy it. Most of my feelings were intentional. I let happy moments linger and ensured that negative energy took a back seat, way back! I am happy to report, it worked!

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This month, I picked up one of my countless notebooks and started a page titled “Thankful September” Here, I jotted down at least one incident that brought me joy on any given day. Some days were more joyful than others but that’s a great thing so the lists could be as long as possible.
Some days brought out the best of mundane moments, others were truly special because people went out of their way to ensure this. Sometimes, I went out of my way to milk that happy ending out.
I am hoping that this can become a habit. I remember Kathy asking me how I was a few weeks back. I replied that I was great and would be the same for the foreseeable future. A few days later she asked again. “Yes, I am still great, just like yesterday and the day before.” “I like you like this,” she remarked. Me too! Me too! I thought…
There is no such thing as a perfect life and of course there are many depressing moments that have come my way. The only difference is I chose to count it all joy because it can always, always be worse!
A good friend of mine has a patient in hospital whose condition has been deteriorating daily. She called me last night and I gasped before I could pick up the phone. I feared the worst! When I heard her tone, I let out a loud sigh of relief. I explained that night calls give me palpitations but this particular one came with an even bigger scare. At this point, I could only cry out to God. I have faith that it will get better and for life, we are thankful. That there’s hope means there’s even more to be thankful for.
I shall pick out one day from my month of thankfulness.

Last week I visited a couple that welcomed a beautiful angel into their family. I had been ‘on my way to visit’ for the longest time and the guilt was ripping me apart. The moment I got a few free hours, I made my way there. It rained heavily that day, as if to mock me. Thankfully, by the time the taxi reached their stage, only drizzles could be seen.
I called my friend, ‘Tim’ so that he could pick me up but he was on a boda boda so he did not hear it. I decided to wait near a supermarket. I noticed a lady, probably in her late 30’s staring at me and figured I just looked like someone she knew. She slowly walked up to me and said “Thank you for all the work you do, we appreciate it.” I shrieked! She walked off before I could start my ‘what, where, when, who…?’ By the time Tim showed up, my cup was already full but the day wasn’t done with me yet.
We got to the house and I finally met the little (now grown) lady and Tim’s business partner. The lady of the house joined us later. Now, I would not say Tim and I are close friends. We went to the same school, and were acquainted then. We have probably met a total of 5 times since (unplanned) but I keep tabs on his work and he does the same with 4040. I have invited him for pretty much all our events but he almost always has work. Nonetheless, he makes that known and applauds our little milestones.
We got to talking about work and life and then something happened during the course of the conversation. He stopped saying “4040 should….” Or “You need to think about….” Instead he was saying “I think WE need to consider a,b,c…” Now, this might not be a big deal to everyone but it was to me and I am not sure I can illustrate why.

See, I stopped seeing 4040 as ‘my thing’ a while ago and try to, (in both word and action) ensure that those who work with us can feel like they have a huge stake in it. That one person’s failure is our failure and any success is ours too. I am the first to admit that it is a lot to ask but, I do it anyway. The few who get sold to this are…enough.
Additionally, there are those days when you feel like you need new blood, new ideas to increase your momentum. You know that you need to innovate but you have been at the frontline of things for so long that you doubt your ability to sit at the side-lines and sincerely critique your very foundation. Do you eve get that feeling?
Well, Tim had some great ideas and seeing as he has a tech background, I was even more intrigued. We had a mini brainstorm and it took everything in me not to pull out a notebook and give timelines. Gosh, this was meant to be a casual visit!

He beckoned his business partner, ‘Ivan’ and asked that they dedicate one of their sessions to some of these ideas. Whhhhaaat?! As if that wasn’t enough, he named them in order of priority and even set his own targets. My little heart did so many backflips, I thought they could see them.

Later that evening, I had a ‘post birthday’ dinner with my uncle and spent my journey home humming with glee.
It’s a few days to our event and I am a nervous wreck, as I often am. There are several hurdles that need to be overcome. Nevertheless, I am thankful because it means I have something that I care about. How incredible is it to love so much that you literally feel the passion on your skin, in your heart and everywhere in between? Yes, there is always something to be thankful for!

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I am hoping I can carry my September challenge on for months to come. Try it?

 
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