Grieving Mandela and the Dreams of my Youth

This past Friday’s week’s “word” over at at Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Fridays was: Reflect
and so I am linking up again with this writing ‘flash mob’ to reflect on a great man and the state of my heart!

2013 Mandela

My sobs over Mandela’s passing surprised me….
His death was not unexpected to me or the world.
It must have been a relief to his poor ailing body and the family who loved him.
Even though it is unlikely the world will see such a unique man again, even though I am overwhelmed by his sacrifice and his forgiveness (two traits I’m not able to consistently emulate, even with the indwelling Divine) my choking-moans as I watched the coverage of his death and legacy surprised me…

I remember missing the Southern Cross most desperately when I first moved north across the equator. The constellation had always been a symbol that grounded me: the first thing I looked for in the night sky. It seemed unappreciative to my new culture to mention its absence and the longing in my heart.

We were in the Great White North when Madeba was released from prison and in spite of having been active in the anti-apartheid movement and having anticipated the glorious moment of his freedom I remember a dull quiet ache as I watched my hero leave captivity behind. I contained my disappointment of not being able to share more actively with those I had stood alongside in the struggle and so I watched from afar in my heart.

This December our family will gather in the Caribbean for Madeba’s funeral and watch this iconic man being honoured and buried in part of a faraway country that owns much of our hearts. We live disconnected lives, with fragments remaining everywhere, close relationships scattered globally, loss and pain continually repeated. These official days of mourning will be added to the list of those times where the pain of separation, from a country and people we love, is deeply felt.

27. Grieving Mandela and the Dreams of my Youth - Mandela Statue and H

Personally, his death has exposed me.
I mourn this humble, noble man who achieved great things but it is clear there is more to my loss. I have a sense that I am also be laying to rest some of the longings and dreams I have in relation to this place at the tip of the continent of Africa… the yearning within me for that red soil and those unmistakably African sunsets; the melodic, throaty music and songs of celebration and resistance; the poverty, pollution, smog, dust and wildness of the continent; and the dreams I walked away from….

27. Grieving Mandela and the Dreams of my Youth - Sunset 

Five Minute Friday

Anticipating Christmas….

26. Anticipating Christmas - Stockings

There is always plenty to do in preparation for Christmas. Our family, however, does life this way – not just in December, but through-out the year. Living on different continents to our children and siblings mean that weeks of being apart culminate in times of coming together for intense, fun and food filled days that fly past too quickly.

Not finishing with a sense of disappointment seems a critical component to planning time together. Sadly, I have learnt that being fully prepared with lengthy “to do lists”, pre-cooked meals, planned activities doesn’t always hold off the feeling of regret or dissatisfaction at the end of happy days spent in each other’s company.

26. Anticipating Christmas - Jum

Consequently, as I have gone about preparing for Christmas I have been wondering what might contribute to a sense of discontent at the end of holidays and my thoughts have had me asking the question:

“Maybe holidays lead to disappointment when prefaced by unrealistic expectations; and so perhaps it’s better to anticipate them without a required outcome?”

The Webster definition of the adjective expect is: to think that something will probably or certainly happen or to consider (something) to be reasonable, required, or necessary.
i.e. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

And the definition of anticipate: to think of something that will or might happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to (something) with pleasure.
i.e. a feeling of eagerness.

Whether these two words are enough to convey what I think might be one of the secrets of enjoying holidays and family time I am not certain, but I cannot find better ones that indicate the subtle but critical difference.

I have got to a point in my life where I am happy to be fully prepared for times together, but no longer feel the need to try and control the outcome of every day and activity (ok, not as much). I have precooked meals and plans on offer but I am more open than ever before in waiting to see how things unfold. I now consider time with my loved ones more important than anything else and I am not concerned about what form that takes. I want to spend my energy on being present: watching, listening, as well as participating and not on worrying about where we are or what we are doing. Said another way: I am as happy with the PROCESS of being together (with some of its mess) and less worried about ticking anything off my list or what the actual activity is.

 The joy of ‘being together’ is the reward.

Disappointments will still happen and none of this takes away the chance of pain and mess but it does allow me to receive rather than dictate outcomes; which involves my heart being far less fraught both during and when thinking back over the holiday.

Lisa Jo Baker said it this way in her Tired Mother’s Holiday Creed … “I shall not be intimidated by how the holidays, the turkey, the tree or the memories “should” be celebrated but love the people I’m celebrating with instead”. See: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/11/the-tired-mothers-holiday-creed/

2010 Family on Beach 2