It’s NOT About YOU!

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! The first time my husband said these four words to me, my world shattered! What do you mean it’s not about me? As far as I could remember, our vows went something like  ‘In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, blah blah blah it will ALWAYS be about you’ … at least that’s what I remember hearing.

In the early stages of our marriage, if my husband went quiet and drifted away from me emotionally, I would immediately start re-tracing my steps and trying to figure out what I had done wrong, I would go over earlier conversations in my mind and try and assume at which point I did something to send him into this somber state. I would go round and round in circles mentally, play out scenarios in my head, and make unwarranted assumptions.  By the end of it all, in my make-believe world, we were filing for divorce and going through a custody battle for our children.

Eventually, I would be so emotionally exhausted and frustrated from my imaginations, ( I mean we just got make-believe divorced for heaven’s sake!) that I wouldn’t even have the energy to find out what was wrong with the poor man in the first place. The end result of this emotional comrades marathon would be me being emotionally withdrawn and lost in my own head, whilst husbae would be exactly where I left him, subdued and in a somber state. When I finally came round, I would come out guns blazing and ready for war, pointing out how unappreciated he made me feel when he became emotionally withdrawn and unavailable. I would reiterate how hurt I was and how I deserved an apology. And it would be at this exact moment that I would be told: “But Amanda, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU!

This would of course then send my emotions spiraling out of control and lead to further misunderstanding and confusion.

What I know now, and what I didn’t understand back then, was that my husband being subdued or emotionally withdrawn, more often than not had nothing to do with me; he would either be lost in his own emotions or dealing with some issues outside of us, and instead of availing him the space to go through it, or finding out what he needed from me to help him go through it, I was instead having mini divorce parties in my head.

After having several similar altercations, I decided to try a different approach and decided to make myself emotionally available instead of reciprocating the withdrawal. I would find out if he needed me, and if he didn’t, I would step back and let him be. This would allow him to withdraw guilt free and would give him the security of knowing that he is in a partnership that allows him to take an emotional vacation if and when necessary.

I have found that this same approach works with other relationships in life. There are times when a work colleague, a friend or even the teller at the grocery store could just be having a bad day, but because we don’t receive the type of attention we think we deserve, we often take great offense and allow their mood to rub off on us, as opposed to just acknowledging that they could just be having a bad day, a bad week or even a bad life! But the fact of the matter is, most of the time, it’s not about us anyway, and that’s okay.

Marriage has taught me that sometimes it’s okay to let the people around us retreat into their shells without us thinking that we are the cause of the retreat and to instead give them the security of knowing that its okay to withdraw from time to time and that it won’t be held against them. And so these days, when husbae retreats into what I like to call his ‘nothing box‘, I give him a gentle kiss and ask him what he needs from me, and I let him know that I will be right here when he returns, because he and I both know that I ain’t going nowhere, not now, not ever.

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba

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Who Is In Your Inner Circle?

Growing up, I was always surrounded by friends… I was a social butterfly, I was never short of people to play with as a kid or to hang out with as a teenager. Moreover, human beings have always fascinated me; I was friends with the odd ones out, the cool kids, the rebellious kids as well as the noble kids … my friendship criteria has never been limited…this could possibly explain how I turned out as an individual, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Fast forward to my thirties and I’ve realized that friends are hard to come by, real genuine honest people who are happy to see you shine who are not marinated in jealousy, envy, and pretense and who are genuinely not afraid to call you out on your shit. But this post isn’t about my friends, it’s about my inner circle, it’s about the pillars that keep my building standing, it’s about the people that I look up to, that I aspire to be like and that fuel my spirit.

Iv met people who surround themselves with people that they consider to be less than them, so as to make themselves appear bigger, I think that type of behavior must stem from some sort of messed up insecurity, but I’m not a psychologist and that’s just my uneducated guess from the school of life. I, on the other hand, want to be around people who have something to teach me, with qualities I admire and that I aspire towards, or to just be around the type of energy that vibrates at a frequency I aspire to reach. I want to be around people that inspire me to be a better version of myself.

My ultimate best friend is husbae, yes cliche I know! But he is the one person who calls me out when I am behaving less than all I have been created to be. He is the most sturdy, disciplined and diplomatic person that I know. He also always looks for the good in people, a trait I admire and aspire towards. My diplomacy skills are lacking, to say the least, and unlike husbae, I rarely phrase things in an appropriate manner, especially when my emotions are involved- a skill I am slowly working towards.

The next person in my inner circle is my mom. I mean everyone loves their mama right? But for me, my mom is the wisest person I know. She has a strong sixth sense coupled with the gift of intuition. She is practical and calculated,  strong and spiritual, she is a ferocious lion but still has the gentleness of a mother. I admire her ability to navigate through life and to overcome challenges. She is my heroin and a soldier that stands in the forefront of the battles of life, protecting her family with her whole heart. Because of her, I believe I am superwoman, because let’s face it, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree right?

The third pillar in my life is my girlfriends, though less than a handful, these are ladies whose qualities range from extreme ambition, OCD type perfectionism, spiritual enlightenment, and family orientated. Each of them possesses qualities that I value, and they continuously drive me to do better and to be better.  These are a group of people who don’t need me to dim my light in order for them to feel better, we celebrate each other and believe in each other.

The fourth pillar in my life is my siblings. They know me inside out, flaws and all, and they accept me just as I am. They allow me to play the role of the bossy, sometimes older, sometimes younger sister and are the first people to celebrate with me whenever it is my moment to shine. My siblings are the sum total of who I am. We win together and we lose together.

When I look at my inner circle, I see a group of people that all possess qualities that I admire and this is why they keep me standing. The combination of these people in my life makes me the woman that I am. Because of them, the sky is not the limit for me. From them, I have learned to see no boundaries and to keep pushing, even when the world tells me I can’t push any further. My inner circle reminds me to always put my trust in a higher power, to always remember that family comes first no matter what, but more than anything else, my inner circle reminds me that I am Black girl magic, because I only rub shoulders with Kings and Queens.

I challenge you to look around and see if the people in your inner circle are rooting for you, check if they are helping you grow into a better version of yourself, take stock of whether they celebrate with you and more especially if they hold your hand when life becomes messy, because Lord knows we all need some genuine cheerleaders in this thing called life.

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba

The Ugly Inner Truth

My favourite time of the day is first thing in the morning when I wake up, the house is so still, and it feels like I am completely alone. This is the time I get to arrange my thoughts, plan my day, pray to my creator and to be honest, the only time I am in my own house with no one demanding something from me.

On this one particular day though, Number one walked in on my me-time to ‘give me company‘ as she likes to put it, and she caught me while I was putting on my face for the day- she politely asked me why I wear make up? I stopped dead in my tracks, becuase I thought to myslef, my response to my 5 year old’s question could very well be a defining moment in her little life. So I thought about it for a second, and the best thing that came out of my mouth in that moment was- ‘because I am a grown up’!  I know, not my wisest mom-moment. The good thing is, she accepted my answer without questioning it!

Later in the day, I couldn’t shake my short conversation about make-up with No. 1, and I kept going over all the answers I could have and should have given her. And I started thinking about the amount of attention we as humans pay to our exterior appearance. I mean just a simple scroll through social media and the majority of information is about make up tutorials, fashion, hairdos, the latest cars & how to get the best summer body. I mean if you want a fast track to depression, just stay on instagram for a couple of hours, the little demon of comparison and envy will soon have you wanting to slit your wrists.

Its amazing how society has placed so much emphasis on outward appearance and aquiring material wealth, and very little attention is actually given to what we look like on the inside. I sometimes wonder  what people would look like if we could see them based on the condition of their hearts. I imagine the distortion of jealousy, the disfigurement of hatered. I wonder what your BMI would be if it could be calculated based on greed, and how many kg’s you would weigh if weight were the equivilant of unforgiveness? How luscious would your hair be if every hair on your head symbolized your love for others? And how smooth would your skin be if you had a blemish for every time you gossiped about the next person?

Imagine if we lived in a world where our outward appearance reflected our innermost being? What is even more disheartening is how religion, (modern day christianity in particular) which is supposed to cure us from this obsession of external gratification, has now become a means to an end, people go to church to get money, houses, husbands and cars. And in a sense, religion has now become the spiritual lottery for material fulfilment.

I realised that just as much as our physical bodies need a detox from time to time,  we also need  to give ourselves an emotional detox. we need to let go of the past, to heal old wounds, to forgive even the unforgivable and to empty out all forms of negativity. I realised that I need to give just as much attention to my emotional state of being as I do to ‘fixing my face’ every morning. Because what is the use of looking like a snatch on the outside, if the person on the inside is ugly?

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So in hindsight, my response to No. 1 wasnt wrong after all, I choose to wear make up because I am a grown up, and doing whatever the heck you want is one of the benefts of being a grown up, but just because I choose to cover up  my blemishes and make an effort to look good on the outside, doesnt mean that I should ignore whats going on with my  state of mind on the inside. So I have made it a point to check on my emotions  from time to time, to make sure I am not harbouring bitterness, anger or resentment, and that I am not holding onto past hurts, and negative emotions. And I always make it a point to remind myself that despite the cirucumstances, kindess should prevail and love should win.

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba

The Space Between Us

Before I got married, I clearly remember one of the most common pieces of advice offered to us was that we should learn to communicate…people said it over and over again, even on our wedding day, this was reiterated numerous times. At the time I thought that everyone was telling me to get good at something I was already brilliant at, after all, communication is one of my strongest personality traits. I used to think I am communication, and communication is me, but what I didn’t realize was that communication in marriage has got nothing to do with the ability to run your mouth with ease or to express your opinion on issues with clarity, and more to do with the ability to know why, when, and how your expressing yourself… and so as it turns out, I would score a big fat F for my communication abilities in the school of marriage.

At the beginning of our marriage journey, our conflict resolution style looked something like a toddler throwing a tantrum in a candy store, in fact, we had no style, it was a mix of shouting, screaming, ignoring, saying things you don’t mean, walking away and walking back in, apologizing and then rewinding and repeating for the next disagreement. In other words, it was a hot mess.

My personal conflict resolution style was to get upset, internalize, and to blow up at a completely inappropriate time with misdirected emotions, all this whilst expecting my husband to read my emotions and fix whatever I felt was broken, I basically expected my very own mind reader!

My husband, on the other hand, would be quite clear about his emotions, but he, unfortunately, made sure to express himself in only one emotion… anger… irrespective of whether he was feeling disappointed, sad, irritated or annoyed; only anger prevailed.

Fast forward five years later, and we have grown leaps and bounds from where we were when we started, and our conflict resolution style has transformed from a childlike tantrum to a boardroom discussion. We have learned that the best thing we can give each other when emotions are spiraling out of control, is space. Space has become one of the most important gifts we give each other in our marriage, space to think, space to breath, space to figure things out, space to have a conversation with self.

I used to interpret a request for space as my husband not wanting to be around me, a form of rejection of sorts, and so I always had negative associations with it, but now I realize that giving each other space allows us to regroup so that when we do resolve issues, we are able to give the best version of ourselves and to have an actual conversation that isn’t riddled with emotion.

Space allows you to calm down and to make sense of things, so that when you do try and dismantle the issues, you don’t speak over each other or allow your ego to take over the conversation and you are able to put yourself in a position to realize that understanding your spouse’s feelings is in fact, more important than explaining your own.

Nowadays, after a deadlock disagreement, one of us will pull the spade card. And so we now give each other the required space, and then set an appropriate time in the day to reconvene. We make sure that the children are in bed, phones are off and that there are no interruptions. The truth is, as clinical as this all sounds, I always question why we schedule meetings for work, book doctors appointments for our health and diarise dates for meetups with friends and family, but when it comes to resolving disputes with our significant others, we often leave it to emotion, ego and the alignment of the moon and stars.

So now my husband and I set appointments with each other to resolve our issues, and we will dismantle issues for as long as it takes, even if this means having a deep meaning conversation until 4am…. (love clearly trumps beauty sleep!) And it turns out that good communication is not only about what is being said, but is also about the moments where nothing is being said, and in as much as we plan and prepare for everything else in this life, its just as important to plan and prepare for resolving disagreements in our marriage.

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba

How I Discovered My Purpose in Life

I walked into a popular cellphone store the other day. My reason for being there was two-fold, firstly, I wanted to ask them to charge my phone, because my battery was almost dead, and as you know, life without your phone is almost not worth living. Secondly, and less importantly, I wanted to ask about one or two promotions they had on offer.

I approached the first consultant that I saw, and with the friendliest face I could put on, I explained to her that I am interested in one of their specials, but first things first, could she please charge my phone?… She looked at me with an almost disgust, like I had just asked her to be a surrogate for my fifth child, she unlocked eye contact and ushered me across the room whilst explaining under her breath that she can’t help me, but perhaps one of her colleagues could, and she immediately carried on doing what she was doing when I approached her… which was absolutely NOTHING!

Aside from complete irritation at her useless attempt at customer service,  the one thing that stood out quite clearly to me was the fact that this lady hated her job, she didn’t care for it and was merely there to get a salary at the end of the month. she couldn’t have been more disinterested in me as a customer, and if anything, my entrance into the store was an irritation to her. I silently criticized her, if she is not passionate about what she is doing, she should get another job.

When I thought about the incident later, I actually felt bad for my unreserved judgments. Granted, she could have been a little friendlier, or she could have at least pretended to want to help me, but the truth is, how many people actually like their jobs? I will be the first person to admit that teenage me was so sure that 30-year-old me would have had her act together by now.  I was convinced I would know exactly what I am doing, why I am doing it, and I damn well knew I would be getting paid good money to be doing it, whatever exactly ‘it’ was. Sadly, teenage me would be disappointed to know that 30-year old me still hasn’t figured it all out.

I have met people who love what they do, who wake up every morning feeling excited and creative and ready to give the day the best of what they have to offer, and I kept telling myself that as soon as I land the job that I want, as soon as I am doing what I am passionate about, I too will wake up with excitement, full of energy, whilst serving myself bowls of success for breakfast.  I would be one of those people who would make my job look so easy because it wouldn’t be a job, it would be my life’s purpose and my passion.

I came to the sudden realization that I am not much different from the cellphone lady because all she was doing was waiting for her big break to come, and doing whatever she could to get by. In essence, she was vibrating at the frequency she felt her life was at. Her external attitude was a reflection of her internal conviction. And right there and then I had my AHA moment!….you cannot expect the universe to give you anything different to the energy you are currently emitting.

Give me a billion dollars and call me Oprah, I felt like I had just found the meaning of life!

You see we often whine and complain so much about the things we are not happy about in our life, instead of celebrating and being excited about the things we DO want. We keep paying attention to everything we lack, dislike and resent, and as they say, what you pay attention to magnifies.

And so I started reflecting on all the things I give so much attention to- like how much money I DON’T have, how much traffic I sit in every day, how I have not yet discovered my life’s purpose and how I am not exactly where I want to be. And I thought Geesh, If the universe is giving me what I’m paying attention to… then I’m doomed to a life of broke dissatisfaction.

So I made a conscious decision to change my thought pattern from lack to abundance, from frustration to gratitude and from fear to excitement. Sounds eccentric I know, but I figured if I can’t change my circumstances, I could at least change my attitude towards them. I started a gratitude list, every morning the first thing I do when I sit on my desk at work, is to write three things I am grateful for, and it’s nothing spectacular- my list usually ranges from being grateful for my health to being grateful that my earrings match my top- I’m sure the universe appreciates a good fashion sense!

Secondly, I stopped talking about the things that appeared to be a frustration in my life, and started speaking about the overflowing abundance that I wanted to see around me. I mean even Master J said it… “As a man thinketh, so is he“. This small shift in my mindset has brought me so much peace and joy and so much excitement for the future. I truly believe that the universe will only give you back everything you put into it, it’s a fundamental principle of the ages.

I am grateful for the lady in the cellphone shop, she made me realize that even though I may not have found my purpose, I can grow right where I’m planted, because my purpose is wherever I am in that moment.

#MotheringMe

@A.shivamba

The Reason I Serve My Husband Food On A Tray

My husband is a strong traditional African man, my very own Shangaan warrior, he is an old soul who has traditional values, things are either black or white with him. I on the other hand am a modern, clutch bag holding, lipstick wearing, 5 inch heels type of lady; things can be black, white or frankly, depending on my mood, any color of the rainbow…but as the old saying goes: opposites attract.

Growing up, I always saw my mom making dinner for my dad and serving him on a tray, through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad… the old man found his food on a tray every single night! So I automatically assumed that this was stipulated in chapter one of the marriage convention and it was just standard procedure. When I got married I continued the tradition which was silently handed over to me by my mom, without giving it much thought, after all, it was all I had seen growing up.

At some point, the topic came up in conversations with my other married friends, and this is when I realized that this passed down tradition was in fact not the norm, husbands were actually walking to the kitchen and grabbing their own plate of food, or even crazier, actually serving food for themselves from the pot…I was floored!… In one or two instances I even found that some husbands were doing the cooking!!! You mean… that’s allowed? I was so gobsmacked. This was all so foreign to me that I contemplated calling the marriage police!

Whenever I would get asked why I serve my husband his food on a tray, my normal response was always…’well that’s how I was brought up’, but in hindsight, and in all honesty, I realize now that that’s only half true.

You see, my husband and I have different love languages, his priority love language is acts of service, and so to him, when I bring him his food on a tray after a long day at work, he feels like a king in his kingdom, like the man of the house, but more importantly, he feels like he has a wife who speaks his love language. I, on the other hand, speak the language of quality time, hang out with me all day and my cup runneth over, throw in a few I love you’s randomly here and there and affirm your love for me, and I’m a love struck teenager!

After several pillow talk conversations, soul searching and some self realization, hubby and I have learned to understand each others love languages, not just for what they are but more so for how, through them, we are able to validate each others feelings. We realize that even if that particular love language may not make sense to us as individuals, it makes sense to the other person and really, that’s all that matters.

A friend asked me once if I still serve bae on a tray when we’ve had a disagreement, I told her that everything pretty much stays the same because frankly, I can’t speak his love language only when it suits me , because I don’t do it because I think he is deserving, I do it because I want to always communicate to him in a language he understands.

I realized an important lesson somewhere along the years in marriage, which is that you need to see your spouse as an extension of yourself, so when you do things for them, its as good as you doing it for yourself…that way, it can only come from a place of love.

So every night when I serve my husband on a tray, I see his face light up with pride and I see the adoration in his eyes, I feel like the Bonnie to his Clyde and the queen in his kingdom, and with time, I have come to realize that in a sense I do it because it gives me a sense of pride in being his wife and I take pleasure in basking in what we have created.

My mom taught me something so important all those years ago, and Im hoping I’m passing the lesson on to my children too, it’s not the act of serving your spouse on a tray that’s important, the act of speaking your partners love language is the real lesson here, and investing in their happiness is just as good as investing in your own.

And so even when we are old and grey, I’ll be rolling in my wheelchair with Mr Shivamba’s food on a tray… because I want to speak the language of his heart until death do us apart.

P.S. for more info on love languages check out ‘The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, you can thank me later!

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba

A Letter to My Daughter(s)

Dear Daughter,

I want you to know how grateful I am that you chose me to guide you through this life and that I will do my utmost best to help you navigate your ship, but here are just a few words to carry with you on this journey.

You will meet many people along your way, know that each person is a teacher and you have something to learn from them, make sure you don’t miss the lessons, there is always a lesson.

You will make many friends on this journey, not all are meant to stay, be loyal, be committed, and be kind. There will be friends who will hurt you, friends who will disappoint you,but there will also be friends who make you laugh until the tears come streaming down your face, friends who will stand and celebrate with you through your greatest achievements, friends who will lend a shoulder to cry on when sadness knocks on your door , treasure them all my child, friends are the family we get to choose!

Try all sorts of different things my dear, swim in the ocean, twirl on your tippy toes, dance to hip-hop music, try until you find what you are good at, and then, master it. Live your passion and let it be the sound that your heart beats to. Dare to be great, and don’t dim your light for anyone. Stand out of the crowd and shine your light bright girlie, because I know that I gave birth to a superstar. Never stop learning and educating yourself, there is so much knowledge to gain in this lifetime, soak yourself in knowledge sweetheart.

There will be boys, oh yes my darling, all sorts of boys, some will love you, and some will hurt you, either way, don’t let anyone disappoint you so much that you give up on love, and don’t put your guard up so high, that prince charming can’t make his way in. I hope your father and I did our best to show you a glimpse of what true love looks like, and I pray that you will find your person; be patient, don’t rush, love is all around you. Your first heartbreak will be gut-wrenching and you will feel like even oxygen is suffocating you, but you will get through it, the storm will pass. Love can find you many times in this life, and I pray that you eventually find that one true love, who will hold your hand and be your companion as you navigate your way through this beautiful life.

Family is everything, your siblings are your soulmates who, for reasons unbeknown to you, chose the same portal of entry into this life, love them fiercely with no reservation, they may sometimes disappoint you and frustrate you, but they will be your greatest allies, you will also share memories with them like no other, they are your best friends, be there for each other, support each other, hide each other’s shame and celebrate each other’s achievements. The bond you share is unique, treasure it, and don’t take it for granted.

Always trust in a higher power my angel, you just need to look around to see how magnificent your creator is. He is in the moon and the stars, and in everything else in between. Find a way to connect with your creator, in a way that makes the most sense to you. Always ask for guidance, always trust in him, and always give thanks. And most importantly my child, forgive, forgive yourself and forgive those who hurt you, anger and resentment will only destroy your soul.

The storms of life will come my baby, sometimes so hard you might feel they will wipe you out, but you are born of a lineage of soldiers, you will weather any storm, you will come out stronger, you will come out wiser. When in doubt, my darling, be still, the answers will come from within.

This life is Magnificent, and don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, there will always be those ahead of you, and those behind you, this life is not meant to be a race. Be patient, be tenacious and always trust your instincts. And lastly my darling, always take time to stop and smell the roses, to dance in the rain and once in while, go ahead and have that second slice of chocolate cake!

#MotheringMe

@Ashivamba