Weekly Gratitude

This week I am grateful for…

Creating moments of calm in the midst of all the busy, busy, busy-ness!

Favourite films that never get old.

Ticking a satisfying number of urgent work emails off my to-do list.

Fun projects with my wonderful kids.

Meeting one of my favourite people’s gorgeous little daughter, and remember quite how captivating and cute newborns can be.

Loving my work, even on the most difficult days.

Comforting arms and soothing words from my husband when I needed them most.

Learning and growing each and every day.

Deep, deep sleep at last after restless weeks spent tossing and turning.

Hope, and cautious optimism.

 

Gratitude Remembered

Exactly one month ago I was on an aeroplane on the way the Valencia, Spain, for the World Forum on Access to Land 2016. I was eager and excited about what lay ahead, not knowing that the weeks to come would bring enormous professional challenges. I recently stumbled across a gratitude list I wrote that night, and it made me feel both nostalgic for how much more straightforward things seemed then and, simultaneously, grateful for all that I’ve learnt since.

30/03/2016

Today I am grateful for…

Flying to new places with a heart open to the experiences ahead – without specific hopes or expectations, just a trust in and excitement about what will unfold.

Glancing out the aeroplane window at 00:30 to feel my heart suddenly stirred by the glowing half-moon, illuminating the sea of soft clouds below us.

Noticing the way beauty can stir in me a mixture of heart-lifting joy and tears – a welling up of intensity that feels as sharp as a knife; a pain that isn’t quite sorrow. It feels as if my heart just isn’t big enough to hold or understand the magic of being.

Seeing the day dawn in a country to which I have never previously travelled.

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Transit at dawn, Istanbul

Listening to the flow of many languages I will never understand, and being reminded that there are millions of lives vastly different to my own being lived out across our incredibly diverse world.

Day-dreaming, and the way in which my body can re-experience pleasure and joy simply in the imagining of it.

Feeling how every moment – even just hours spent waiting in an airport – can be rich if we choose to bring ourselves to it fully and gratefully, and not focus our attention on where we are going but where we are.

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Valencia

Articulating Grief

Brene Brown, in her brilliant book “Rising Strong”, writes about what she calls the process of “Rumbling with Grief.” What she describes is probably the closest description of some of the things I have most struggled with in grieving, but found very hard to grasp or articulate. I was moved to share some quotes from her book, as I am sure it will resonate with many others too.

“As someone who has spent close to fifteen years studying the emotional landscape of the human experience, I can tell you that grief is perhaps the emotion we fear the most. As individuals, we’re afraid of the darkness grief brings. As a society, we have pathologized it and turned it into something to cure or get over. Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief.

…What I want to share here is what I’ve learned about grief from the research. Specifically, the three most foundational elements of grief that emerged from my studies: loss, longing, and feeling lost.

Loss – While death and separation are tangible losses associated with grief, some of the participants described losses that are more difficult to identify or describe. These included the loss of normality, the loss of what could be, the loss of what we thought we knew or understood about something or someone.

Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness – we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone. Continue reading

Daily Gratitude

Today I am grateful for…

Lovely friends embarking on new adventures.

Being back on the mighty Umkomaas River yesterday, even though it was in a Canoe Polo boat not a river boat! In between fishing out swimming school children and abandoned boats and paddles at the inter-schools Slalom, there was plenty of time to play in the waves and soak up the majesty of the water, mountains, forest, and countless brightly-coloured butterflies.

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Solid, deep, healing, recuperative and uninterrupted sleep.

The release of capturing some of what I’m going for in my life by spreading paint joyfully across paper.

Family laughter and shared enjoyment.

Choosing to put work stresses to one side for one weekend, and focus on rebuilding my energy reserves to tackle the week ahead with courage and focus.

Feeling stretched in my growth each and every day, and feeling ready and willing to keep stepping forward and embracing the challenges.

Feeling enriched from having returned to Brené Brown’s ‘Rising Strong’: “Owning our stories means reckoning with our feelings and rumbling with our dark emotions – our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative – denying our stories and disengaging from emotions – means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark.”

The excitement of the many planned adventures ahead this month, and knowing unplanned ones will materialise too!

Beyond Parity: Securing Women’s Rights to Land

First published on the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) website. 

As International Women’s Day 2016 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the power of global solidarity, and the sense of instant connection and shared purpose that social media provides. There was an excited energy in the office as our team at the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) gathered to make our #PledgeForParity, and share these on Facebook and Twitter, even as my own awareness that parity is not nearly a complex or meaningful enough goal to be striving for pricked my conscience.

AFRA Team #PledgeForParity 2016

“We pledge to create inclusive cultures which challenge conscious and unconscious bias”

As Michelle Festus, Action Aid South Africa’s Women’s Rights Coordinator put it today, “We need to move away from this idea of gender parity, which advocates for men and women to be in collective spaces in equal numbers. What we should rather focus on, is the empowerment, safety and dignity of women to challenge ‪‎inequality‬. Our struggle is not about equal numbers, but about changing the systems that reproduce inequality.” Continue reading

Gratitude

Today I am grateful for…

Seeing the possibilities of joyful new ways of being with and loving the man I have already loved for nearly half my life, and knowing with utter certainty that there is no end to shared learning and growth if we continue to open ourselves to it.

The uniqueness of each dawn, each breath, each moment.

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Being held lovingly and safely from many sides as I grapple with fear, pain and self-doubt.

Growing trust in my body’s capacity to heal, and commitment to nurturing and supporting it to be able to do so.

Excited anticipation of time with friends and family I don’t see as often as I would like.

The contrasting textures of three very different layers of clouds, each beautiful alone but breathtaking together.

Cloud layers

The joy of new and growing friendships and deep connections.

Making ever-increasing peace with the processes of letting go.

Looking forward to a day of listening, learning, sharing and find new pathways in our work, with renewed energy.

Labour Tenants Rising Strong

First published on the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) website

As we watched and recorded over 90 Labour Tenants and supporters march to the Land Claims Court in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Friday 29th January, I found myself awash in a whirl of emotions. Hope, elation and anxiety all swirled along with the familiar songs and chants, memories of struggles past of which I had only read, the loud blaring of the police sirens, and the sun already high and holding the promise of the heat of the long day ahead.

As an advocacy-focused land rights non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) works to empower communities to  understand and be able to express their rights, and to voice their stories directly. There remain, however, spaces within which we inevitably find ourselves writing and speaking on their behalf, particularly when it comes to complex legal arguments and Court processes.

It was therefore especially significant to have as many Labour Tenants as we could afford to mobilise come to the Court itself on this day, despite the great distances, high costs, and the need for them to travel through the night without any sleep in order to attend.

Sakhe Mchunu, from the Ravensworth Community in uMshwathi, KwaZulu Natal, comes from a Labour Tenant community that has worked with AFRA at various times over the last two decades as they have searched for solutions to a wide array of challenges. He has attended countless meetings with landowners, Government Departments and AFRA itself to try and negotiate reasonable settlement options, and while he has shared with me his frustrations at the many years of what has sometimes felt like hopeless struggle, he has yet to give up. Speaking to the media outside the Court on Friday he expressed his wish: “Being as we are here, we hope that the Court can assist us to pressurise the Government to bring back the land to the farm dwellers.”

Continue reading