Thursday, December 7, 2017

Death In The Family

This is an excerpt and overview of my book Girl from Zazu, which explores my story of deep family tragedy at age 13 to creating a life worth living in the last 17 years. The piece below explores some themes I touch on the book such as faith, my father, justice shame and coping with grief as a millennial.
My intention is for this book to help put into words the feelings of many when they lose a loved one, go through a trauma. As common as grief is, its hard to articulate; its as unique as it is universal. Its also my intention to infuse humour into this heavy topic, as a way to stir gratitude for the gift of life
We want to know “Why” and “Why me”. Those were my questions for a long time, but now my questions is “what now” and “what’s next”. In this book I share some of my journey of how I moved from the former to the latter questions, finding joy and purpose the way.

                                                               “Death in the Family”
My name is Tiyani and when I was 13, my mom died. But that’s not all. So did my 1 little brother and my other little brother, as well as our nanny who became like an aunt.
See folks there was a death in the family.

I stood there over the four gaping holes in the insatiable and greedy belly of the earth that were about to be closed for the obese earth to swallow up and digest.
With pain in my chest, I peered over and waved “bye mom”, “bye baby brother number 1”, “bye baby brother number 2” and “bye aunty”. I walked over to my dad and held his hand, looked over at the hundreds of people who had come to mourn with us, because see folks; there was a death in the family.

We all know, the devil is a hater. He loves (ironically) to keep us ashamed, convicted and rejected. See although it wasn’t me who bludgeoned, strangled and stabbed them to death, though I wasn’t responsible for the bloodshed- guilt and shame gushed out of my heart.
When other kids asked me “where’s your mom?” I would wish I could explain it like the story of Jesus. But that instead of a virgin birth, my dad had given birth to me- without a womb: to the miracle that is me!

See my existence led to questions about her presence and it was up to me to explain her absence. So I had to explain, see folks; there was A death in the family. Having a single child, is normal.  However a child who was solo for 6 years and had brothers for 7 years and again is back at one. That’s abnormal. Even Facebook would find that complicated.

I had to call 333 and ask my Saviour what to do, because see folks; there was a death in the family. The enemy’s voice in my head telling me to quit dialing Jeremiah 3:33- Hes never going to tell you why. God would never me why there was so much death in the family. In my family and in your family.

The other day I YouTubed a video called “sexual abuse on the 13th floor”, about a girl who was sexually abused by 2 family members before the age of 10. She constantly felt guilty about something she couldn’t control. She too wanted Him to answer questions that needed urgent attention. “Why would you let something like this happen to an innocent girl?”

In my case I was only 13. “Why would you watch my two helpless brothers open the gate to help someone who ultimately helped himself to the four sweetest servings of love my soul had ever known?” I thought you were the God that helped.

See folks, there was a death in the family, caused by one in the family. My brothers were little but they were smart. They opened the gate to a familiar face, not knowing he had a strange intention. He had murder on his mind. Excuse the pun.

And for this he suffered the most cruel punishment. When I was 21, he was hung. He was my uncle. He who grew up with my mother, but his jealousy tore her body apart. His life was a lie, telling pretty young things everything she had was his, and when she kicked him out- he covered her body with a dish let her die in a sandpit. Folks, see there was a death in the family.

When I read the paper and told my dad, “Jerry has been hung”’. Another body for the belly of the earth: you fat pig! When will it be enough?

I had my justice. The fullest extent of the arm of the law had reached out for my uncle and done to him what he did to others. Yet I still had my hang ups. It had come full circle and I received what millions in the world would never know – to see the perpetrator become the victim. But where was my victory? Because see folks, there was again a death in the family.

Growing up, dad didn’t always know what to do so he bought stuff. I had the normal things other kids has, but family structure not so much. Just the two of us. He was amazing, I won’t lie. With what he had, dealing with his own grief, he gave his best try.

I grew to like nice things, closet bursting with shoes I can barely afford- wanting more I can hardly pronounce. I didn’t want to fight the feeling, I wanted to forget it altogether. Rocking Jordans, shopping till my bank balance drops, Moet popping, screaming YOLO in my Polo, while really knowing it isn’t because I believe in eternal life. Doing all I can to make best friends with faces of dead presidents, trying to numb the fact that, see folks, there has been a death in the family.

What I need money can’t buy, the pain I feel, no long drop earrings can go down that far.

There is a cross though, the wooden pole deep enough to withstand the fury in my heart and His arms stretched across my heart to comfort me. He subtracts my anger and adds peace- simple maths!
Better yet; that cross means one day, when we are in eternity, there will be no more news  about a death in the family.  

The one I can’t wait to see, more than my mother, brothers or aunt is Christ! The first born of the grave! Yes folks, there was death in the family but love redeemed us.

See folks, there will be more death in the family, but we have eternity too.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Millenialls Rest: Cultivating a daily culture of rest..

Happy New Year y'all! I am sure that its going much better for you than it did for Mariah Carey..

So, why am I writing to you about taking rest when we just got off a long, much needed break? Aren't I two weeks, or a month too late?

Actually, being on these holidays is what prompted me to make this inquiry. Because absence from work and routine does not guarantee rest. Bustling between relatives, chasing flights, finding the right parties to attend, calling your bank to increase the credit card limit, taking the right angled bikini shot and picking the right filter can all be exhausting, even if you are on holiday. After clinking champagne glasses at midnight- on that very stretched card, poof; you are back at your desk asking "where did the holidays go?" and moaning "I need another holiday".

I recently travelled home to spend my 29th birthday and Christmas with my family, both a first in the absence of my grandmother. I was met at the airport by at least 10 cousins and for the next 7 days I did not have a single moment- apart from bathroom breaks- to myself. I estimate that we had 45 people staying in a 3 bedroom house- we turned the study into a bedroom too, so 4 bedroom house and a one bedroom garden cottage. It was chaotic, but beautiful. I would not change a single thing about it, but I couldn't wait to get back to Joburg- which becomes a silent sanctuary over December.

I came back on the 26th of December and I vowed that I would not start working until the 28th! Then I got a text alerting me for a potential client that wanted to meet on the 27th. I run my own legal consultancy, so its my duty to at least hear a matter out and  I dutifully set up the appointment. While preparing for the meeting, it hit me that I don't know how to rest. While I was at home, I had back to back meet ups with relatives and friends - some of whom I didnt even get to see and now I was back to more of the same.

I spent the next two days in pyjamas and binge watching movies in an attempt to do this 'rest' thing. I then turned to the oracle that is Facebook to get expert opinions on the definition of rest. The responses went from: "rest is the time between when your eyelashes flicker to blink", "whatever reenergises your body and head so you can think and move forward", to "all those things especially sleeping in or watching mindless TV, or even just lying in the sun" and lastly " long walks chats with someone you love talking about  nothing serious."

I dont want to start this new year already eyeing the Easter Holidays! A friend  was already telling me how she will get 20 days off by just taking 6 leave days! If you want to know more on that hack, hit me up below and I will put you in touch. I want to cultivate a culture of rest as part of my daily routine- not only in sleep but in other ways too, it is imperative to my self care.

I love books! I make it a point to ask for books for each birthday and last year I asked  a friend, who is an advocate, for Thrive by Ariana Huffington. After reading some of the book, I stopped because I felt that Ariana was telling people to slow down on work after she had sold her business for $315 million to AOL! I was like "let me do that first and then I will rest!" But this holiday I dusted off my copy of Thrive and reread it to find some daily rituals I can practice going into the year!

Here are my top 5 rest routines I am challenging myself with in 2017.

1) Quality Sleep: 7-8 Hours a night

As an entrepreneur that works from home it is very difficult to unplug and go to sleep, especially towards the end of the month. However according to a study by the Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine "sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher level cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance." Therefore, to be smarter, you have to sleep more; not less! 

The most sleep deprived people are actually women-working moms to be exact. Between handling work and young child they get an average of 5 hours of sleep a night! Did you know that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for captured enemies? and you can die from a lack of sleep! As women, this is the only time I will condone sleeping your way to the top!

Now sleeping isn't getting into bed and going through your social media timefeeds until you fall asleep only to get a rude jolt from your alarm clock a few minutes hours later!You need to completely shut down before you get into the bed and be prepared for sleep.

Here are a few things you can do to cross over into la-la land:
  • Make your bedroom darker (maybe buying lower voltage bulbs, or only using lamps) and keep it cool;
  • Practice deeper breathing before bed (I've tried this, it does work)
  • Banish all LCD screens from the bedroom at night (cellphone- charge it in the lounge and buy an alarm clock, laptops, TV, tablet)
  • Get a nice set of pyjamas that will excite you to get into bed.

2) The Power Nap

If you can't quite make the 8 hours of daily sleep, for a good reason; try the next best thing: A power nap!

If you decide to nap, you are actually in good company with the likes of US Presidents  Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and John F Kennedy, inventor Thomas Edison and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 

Churchill said “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

Their naps would vary from 20 minutes to 2 hours and even up to 6 hours! The most bizarre nap I have heard of is that of Salvadore Dali, the artist, who would nap for 1 second! He called it "slumber with a key" where he would sit in a chair, holding a key and place a plate on the floor so that when he fell asleep the key would fall onto the plate and wake him up! Apparently Albert Einsten did the same, so it may be worth a try!
Swans Reflecting Elephants by Dali (maybe he found inspiration during his nap)

Lunch hour is the perfect time to nap because the truth is, no one eats for the whole hour! Lie in your car, or close the door to your office for 20 minutes!

Side note: These are all men, can we take up the challenge of becoming famous women nappers! 

3) Unplugging

We live in a hyper connected world where we probably know more about whats going on around us, than we do whats going on inside us.

I did not think I was addicted so social media until I watched Simon Sinek's talk on Millenials in the Workplace, which you can see here. I warn you, do not watch this video if you aren't ready to make some changes, I was not ready!

I think at some point we each need to go on a social media hiatus for at least 30 days- unless you need to use social media to make money. But don't use it to bring you comfort or relevance. Boredom is good, it teaches you to be creative. 

We use social media to mask so much frustration, depression, loneliness when we need to be connecting with real people. I want to be more vulnerable, present and available to people in my life and stop thinking in hashtags!

I am coming off social media from 8 January to 31 January- I am nervous and excited, but it will be wonderful!

4) Minimalism

This is a concept I came across recently, so I am also learning!

Minimalism is about owning exactly the right things, for you and your needs, and no more than that, so that you then have more time, energy, and resources (including money) to spend on the important stuff. 

Stuff costs money and it takes up alot of space- a lack of both can lead to stress-which does not help to rest. My apartment is crammed full of boxes- its like I am constantly moving- but thats because I dont have enough room for everything.

Living with less is not just about getting rid of junk and making extra cash from selling your horded items. It is about living with passion and purpose and less about living for things. I have read about people living with just 50 items and up to 300 items.

An apartment with 288 items
I am planning on going to grad school soon and I keep stressing about where to leave my belongings for a year! If I can cut everything down to 300 items or less, that will eliminate a lot of stress.

I really need to examine my relationship with things as I think a lot of us do. Would we still want to be rich if there was nothing to buy? I am working on dissociating success with material possessions and minimalism is step 1! I want to own stuff and not be owned by stuff. I will rest easier with less stress about stuff.

Its about frequently asking the question " Do I need this?"as sale season is upon us with stores trying to clear space for the winter collections. 

5) Quiet Time

Meditation or prayer or power hour or stillness.Whatever word you decide to use.

We all need at least 5 minutes or an hour to connect with our source of wisdom and power.I use this time to read my Bible and pray.

I will admit that when I dont get enough sleep I steal from my Quiet Time and days when I miss Quiet Time just turn out very stressful and unproductive. I am out of my flow and out of sync with purpose. 

This year I will not compromise on my Quiet Time, I will be there for it on time like I would a date with Drake!

At the beginning of the holiday I thought rest was binge watching Quantico while eating cheese flavoured chips, trifle and chicken wings. All I feel is lethargic and guilty, and I dont think rest leaves you feeling restless and self loathing. Escapism is not resting or relaxing. I dont think you can take rest if you are not grateful for what you have right now - it may not be much, but be thankful for whatever you have- so my bonus step is expressing daily gratitude for what has happened in the day. It doesn't have to have happened to me personally, but something good that happened to a friend or in the world! Try doing that right before bed- count up to 5 things!

I think implementing these simple steps on a daily basis will allow me to cultivate a culture of self care, where I can take rest daily instead of waiting for the next public holiday. 

What tips do you have?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What Manner of Madness is a Married Christmas?

Over the Christmas holidays I kept coming across this mess:

What the heck is a Married Christmas?

Didn't we agree that marriage is not an achievement?

This not a rhetorical question.
Here is the Huffington Post , with that has over 800 000 likes, to refresh your memories!
If Chimamanda says it, its true!

Is getting married your greatest achievement that you are going to hijack Jesus' birthday for it?

Ok, its cool.. Next year I am sending out Christmas Cards like:

Do they give out these for Marriage?

Me and my Mine wish you a Maserati Christmas

From the Mansion in Aspen..

I am pretty sure if unmarried women did this, people would feel some type of way. We really aren't bothered or bitter  about your wedding, but its not worth stealing the shine from Jesus. You had your wedding, now shhh, go sit in the corner and let us have a Merry Christmas!

If you continue with that mess, we are coming for Valentines Day too..

Ps: If anyone comes at me with "but that career isn't going to keep you warm at night", be ready to catch these clapbacks like:

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