Every single day we hear or read about someone dying. They become a number in the statistics and leave a hole in the hearts of people who loved them. Every single day when we hear of someone losing their lives; whether to Covid-19 or something else, our hearts break a little more. You don’t need to know the person who has died. You simply need to have a sense of humanity and compassion to know that somewhere in the world, someone is left reeling from the death of a loved one.
The entire world is sad. We feel it all around us and see it on the news, we hear it from strangers. We see it in the tear-filled eyes of our friends. Some of us live it daily. It doesn’t seem to end.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my kids’ bedroom, on the floor and the picture of my late mother is right in front of me. I moved it to their bedroom a couple of nights ago because my 6-year-old daughter wascrying in her bed. After all, she was missing her Ouma. She too, is sad, having lost her grandmother just over a year ago.
The sadness seeps into our lives, our work, creativity, our ability or lack thereof to be in social settings. It’s in our bodies and minds as we lay on the couch, watching yet another episode of a Netflix series that ends up adding to the melancholy. You might think this post is so depressing but, the truth is, we are all living in a perpetual state of sadness. Denying that will do no good to anyone. It’s okay to be sad, don’t dismiss anyone’s feelings simply because it doesn’t fit into the narrative of the day.
But just because we are sad doesn’t mean we can’t have hope.
Earlier today: It’s Saturday afternoon, the house is quiet, the wind is howling outside, keeping the sun company. It seems like a good time to reflect on the last year.
I’m braiding my hair and thinking about this time of year. Last year (2020) we lost our mother. It was a Friday and she died in a car on her way to the clinic, my then boyfriend (now husband) right next to her. A shift happened then and a shift is happening now. My husband, sick with Covid-19 and myself, also sick but I haven’t tested for Covid-19 at the time of this post but we’re treating the situation as if I am sick with Covid too. Though I feel strong enough to clean the house and make sure we have something to eat, I still don’t really feel like myself.
All these health issues have done a very good job of distracting me from what day it is. The day my mother died. I’m not feeling incredibly sad or melancholic when I think about it; I feel a sense of peace, maybe even gratitude, that we as a family have been able to make it through the last 12 months in one piece and then some. We had an addition to the family with my niece, we had a wedding and we had the birth of our company. Those are quite huge life milestones. It just goes to show that life really does go on after the death of a loved one, at least if you let it.
Still in the quiet of the house, I wonder to myself, why is it that these shifts or life-changing events seemed to have happened around the same time for the past 2 years and I can’t help but wonder will something else happen next year around this time? I also don’t really want to question why these things are happening and happening in the way they are and around the time they are. I understand that no one truly knows the inner workings of time so I simply want to breath and say, “Thank you Lord” .
Something that has really stood out for me during this time of isolation over the past several days, is the kindness of people; everyone we care about checking in on us and bringing us food. That especially has reminded me of the week when my mother died; everyone brought us food and groceries so that we didn’t still have to worry about that. I’m really grateful to all the people who have come through for us during this time.
With that said, I’d like to share 12 things I’ve learned in the last 12 months since my mother died.
It’s okay not to feel in control.
You can cry whenever and wherever you need to.
Change will always come, don’t fight it.
Nothing ever goes the way we expect or plan, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared.
It’s okay to feel the ‘bad’ feelings; fear, sadness, anger, frustration ect.
You won’t always succeed at everything you take on and that’s okay.
You are allowed to want to be alone.
Grief throws you into an unending spiral of self-confrontation.
Cooking or baking is therapeutic.
Love is all there is. It will get you through your darkest nights and brightest days.
Don’t waste the time you have. You won’t get a refund.
There comes a moment in a woman’s life, it comes quietly and without even knowing it is the time or her time she will remember her voice. She will reclaim her voice and she will banish all societal, cultural, and perhaps even self-inflicted shackles, which bound and gag her into living a life half lived and burying her truth, to make the world around her more comfortable with the woman she is.
My moment, my time, it came. it took more than a decade, but it came. The truth and pain and the absolute undoing of who and what I was, bided its time in the deepest parts of me, seemingly gone, seemingly forgotten, it even had me fooled and lulled into believing I was living my most authentic self. That I had erased that young girl, everything her body and soul and brain endured. I convinced myself it was a thing of the past. Plus, I reasoned, what would be the point! It’s over and done. I am okay and alive and thriving. I am living as I have never lived before. I lived so large that I dwarfed the girl and the victim that resided within me into virtual nothingness. Or so I thought.
But you see trauma, both physical and emotional is something that can never be forgotten or erased. It is ingrained in the very pores of your skin; every fibre of your being. In your every cell, the memory of trauma not just lingers, it festers, it rots, it poisons, and it kills. And you won’t even know it. Those feelings of helplessness, of utter and complete hopelessness, the tears that ebb and flow with the slightest provocation, the physical pain that you feel in your chest, the waking up to face a new day with such rage inside your heart, then dissolving into a dark abyss that beckons for you to come to lay there and never leave. The voice that cajoles inside your head, that to stop breathing, to stop living would be the ultimate high, the only way to end this inexplicable thing that you are feeling.
And it was inexplicable to me for a long time. I had a great job. As one of a few Indian female television news reporters on a national television station at the time between 2005 and 2012, (ETVnow ENCA) my face was a recognisable one, my name a respected one (at least that’s the feedback I got) I drove a beautiful car, I lived a good life, I had my pick of intelligent, successful, beautiful men. I partied hard, I worked even harder. Man, my life was good. Better than good. I made sure I was seen and heard. I made sure I was felt. I made sure I was in control.
I knew just how to vanquish and remain willfully vulnerable to keep men and women around me comfortable in my presence. Knowing how to dominate and yet remain docile enough to ensure men and women around me would never know who and what I was, was something I did well. So clever and so in control; so why would someone like me feel I was constantly being held in a stranglehold by emotions and feelings of complete and utter worthlessness and desolateness?
LIVING WITH TRAUMA AND PAIN
Trauma travels. Pain sits patiently. These things cannot and should not ever be denied. Not to oneself and not to others and certainly not to the person or people who have inflicted it. Trauma waits. Pain travels. Through time, through all the spaces and roles you live and fulfill, these things cannot and will not be denied or doused. Because anything suppressed must and will erupt. It is in nature as it is inside our bodies.
My name is Vanessa, I am forty-four years old. I am a mother of three and an author; I am a journalist (even though I quit mainstream journalism in 2012 anyone in this profession knows you can leave journalism, but it never leaves you). I am so many things to so many people and have been so many things to so many people. And for the greater part of my little more than four decades on this earth, I have been nothing to myself. A fake and a fraud, living and lying to keep the façade of the woman I convinced myself, the world would rather see and know. And I excelled. Man, I was damn good. So, I thought.
But the cracks were showing and soon it would rip open, and it would be both a profoundly powerful release and the most debilitating thing, that would compel me to finally acknowledge and see myself in all my nakedness, every fading scar both on my skin and the ones that remained stubbornly in my brain. It was December 1999, I was 22 years old when one word; YES, would come to kill that young, naïve, and dare I say wonderfully wild-spirited girl I was.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
I was a rookie radio news reporter at the SABC based in Durban. I was damn lucky to have gotten into one of the biggest broadcasting companies in the country, fresh out of Technikon, a diploma to my name and big dreams in my head. That is where I met my boyfriend. He was a DJ on Lotus FM (a radio station owned by the SABC that catered to a predominantly Indian audience). He would become my first intimate partner. He would become my first boyfriend. He would become my worst nightmare. It was barely a month into our relationship when he first struck me. I was sitting in the front seat of his car, he was ranting and shouting like a madman, saliva flying out of his mouth. This was new to me. I had no reason to feel that I was in any danger when his arm with a fist formed at the end reached out and punched me in the chest.
I am not sure if that hurt or whether it was the fact that he had just punched me that hurt more. Time is clever that way, it can make you forget the physical pain, but it will never let you forget every minute painful detail. Of course, I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. Perhaps more shocking was that this person who portrayed himself as such a charming, affable, affluent man, this DJ who never missed an opportunity to talk about his fame or the women that would throw themselves at him, had just done something that surely menof this caliber and stature didn’t do!
He cried, he apologised. He even said that he wouldn’t blame me if I left him. So, I did what every good girl is subversively conditioned to do; I apologised, comforted him, and promised that I would not leave him, because you see shortly after delivering that punch, he also declared that he loved me. Two big, monumental firsts within minutes of each other. My first punch from my boyfriend and the first I love you from the same man. By accepting both, I had made a pact with a human being so profoundly evil that it would become impossible to leave, to walk away. For a little more than five years, this became symptomatic of our turbulent and deeply troubled relationship.
Don’t get me wrong for one second, there were good times and great times during our years together. We drank. We partied. We laughed. We talked. There would always be extravagant gifts, soft-spoken beguiling words gently handed over after the manic, violent barrage of slaps, punches, kicks, and vile insults. He was always sorry. You see he loved me so much that when he felt he couldn’t get through to me, it would drive him to these violent displays of his love and passion.
Deep inside me, the anger and hatred grew. Insidiously snaking its way, poisoning me, suffocating me…… killing me. Slowly I began to shift and continuously shape myself, making myself smaller, lowering my voice, quietening my thoughts and opinions, stifling my spirit. Together we worked to all but destroy me. Him with his violence. Me with my desire to please and keep the peace.
I am starting to feel sad now, angry again, remembering this. Every time I do this I purge myself a little more. But where I once tried to suppress pain and emotions, where I once convinced myself silence and forgetting is the bitter salve to soothe the shredded soul, I now know, this myth that women are force-fed is not to serve them, not to help them, but to protect not just their abusers but the toxic system that enables men to perpetuate their evil with carefree abandon and their gatekeepers (some of whom are women).
You see even after releasing my memoir Beaten but Not Broken, I thought there would be some miraculous healing. Like all the bad emotions and the tears and the feelings of wanting to end my life would be over. Boy was I wrong. Remembering and writing not only resurrected every horrible thing that was done to me during my violent love affair with the radio jock, but it also forced me to face myself. To finally embrace all the trauma and pain and to mourn and grieve. And it was a catastrophic revelation and cataclysmic release.
The body and brain demand of us not to deny and deprive but to hold space for ourselves. Healing is not meant to be a seamless and clean process. It is messy, it is crippling, and it is monumentally debilitating. But in all of that you remember you, you remember yourself, who you were before someone tried to break and bind you, kill and quell you. From ashes, beautiful things can be built and beautiful things can emerge. A little spent, a little bent, but hey what can be more powerful and more breath-taking than being able to live with absolute truth and honesty. To not be held hostage or blackmailed by fear and trauma.
But I omitted to tell you one minor detail in all of this. For all my bravado. For all the courage I was praised for having to write this book and speak my truth. I was still being dishonest. And dishonesty my friend does not have to be a blatant lie. Dishonesty is also the withholding of information. I wrote about losing my virginity in the back seat of his car (bearing in mind I come from a very conservative community where sex before marriage is seen as a disgrace for young women) I shared intimate details of everything. But one thing. And without even knowing this withholding that one thing still kept me enslaved to my fears to the system that demanded I shut up. That I go quietly.
And when eventually I would say the name of my abuser during an online web discussion, that was when I had finally been able to stand up and say I have spoken my truth. It was only then I felt this sudden and overwhelming release. I could breathe again; I could taste the air and inside a quiet stillness settled. I had taken back my power. I had finally remembered who and what I was.
Oh, saying his name did come with some drama. He threatened to sue. He issued a statement claiming I had a vendetta and was obsessed with him. Hell, he even got his wife to speak on his behalf to a local newspaper in which she claimed she did not know me, and I was making a public spectacle of myself. A woman who proclaimed to be an advocate for women’s rights and against gender violence, publically condemning another woman for daring to break the silence. I was not quite sure if I should find it funny or fundamentally tragic.
You see I did the very same thing for him back when we were together. When my own family would ask about the bruises and scars that often adorned my face and body. I lied. When I was confronted with questions if he was abusing me, I lied. I said he couldn’t do that. That he would never do that. So, I feel for this woman. I was once her. I want to judge her and be angry with her. But I am looking at her through the eyes of the woman I have become and not the girl I used to be. And that is not a fair thing to do. She has not done anything I didn’t once do for this man.
But there are far too many people claiming to be gender activists or againstGBVbut when faced with assertions of the crime against men they may know, who are family, friends, or even current partners are quick to shun survivors. If we are to accept rape and gender violence exists and it does because the mangled bodies, some burnt, some strung from trees, some tossed in rubbish heaps like garbage, some that are never even found, tell us it exists, our own experiences prove it exists, then we must also accept that men we know are guilty of this. Yes, we know it’s not all men but seeing as we don’t know which men, we will assume all men for the sake of our safety. Women are not raping and killing themselves. Women are not beating themselves up.
NO MORE SILENCE!
When my abuser’s lawyers’ letter did come some months later asking for an apology and retraction, I told my lawyer he could “f-off and die” of course she found a more eloquent way of putting it in our responding letter. We also urged my abuser to pursue the legal action he threatened both on social media and in the newspapers, as it would allow all the facts and my assertions to be aired and vented in a court of law. We also requested an address to which we could serve an application of our own.
That letter was sent in late last year. It’s now nearly June 2021 and we have yet to receive a response. You see abusers never stop. Just look at how many so-called influential men have been outed. Social media had provided a powerful platform for survivors to break the silence.
No, we are not looking for attention! We just no longer want to keep the secrets of our abusers and rapists. It’s not our job to protect these miscreants. NO, it is not a trend for women to speak out! We just get courage every time one of us breaks the silence, we realise justice cannot always be found in a court of law and that the system is not designed to help women get justice but rather to make it intrinsically difficult for them.
NO, we don’t want to destroy our abusers and rapists or their happy families. We believe they did that themselves the moment they decided to physically or sexually hurt us. And the moment they raped, abused, or killed; they lost every single right to carry on their lives as if nothing happened while women are forced to carry the cross of trauma every single second they breathe.
No, we are not looking for pity! We have shed our tears, sometimes some of us have even tried to permanently forget by trying to end our lives. We don’t need pity. We need the good guys, the good people, those around us to act!
My abuser despite also having had charges brought against him by another woman and for revenge porn and assault and which was later dropped, despite the written indictment of my experience, was still employed by a local community radio station. NO, we don’t need the bullshit rhetoric that’s spewed out during every 16 days of activism or women’s month. Yes, the radio station called on women to break the silence yet chose to ignore women when they spoke out against their newly acquired DJ.
Some may say what is the point then of breaking the silence. Some may say move on. Some may say get over it. Some may say tone it down. Some may say mind your language. Some may say forget about it. Some may even try to gaslight you “you have a good life now. You have everything now. Why bring up the past.” I am here to give you some well-earned advice; Screw them!
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREAT WOMEN
Anyone who has your interest would never try to silence you. It serves no one, least of all you, to remain silent. I may never see it in my lifetime. A world where women can walk safely, can go out at night without fear of being raped, wear what she wants without being blamed for any violence meted out against her. A world where even our babies won’t be violated. A world where men who rape and beat up women, who sexually harass, and harangue women are shamed and shunned and become an extinct species.
I will not see that world before I die. But I am going to do all I can to make it easier for even just one other woman to reclaim her power, remember her voice and break the barricades they have been building around us for centuries to keep us suppressed and subjugated.
I will always be in fear of my abuser. Men like that never change. I am no martyr, but I am a mother. And I am obligated because of that to speak and never stop because I am you, young lady reading this. The shame is not yours. It never was. The fear, yes totally understandable and very necessary. Because without fear we cannot act to save ourselves and those around us. That which you have feared, who you have feared, must now live in fear of you. The truth does indeed set you free. I no longer live with the threat of someone outing me. I did that myself. And it’s the most damn powerful thing I have done.
There comes a time in a woman’s life when she must and will abandon propriety for ownership of herself and her life. The voices of survivors are shifting this world on its very axis…. but it requires more and more, and we know there are so many more out there, fighting back tears, keeping up the façade of their lives disintegrating because that’s just not what GOOD GIRLS DO! Don’t be a good girl. Be a damn GREAT WOMAN …. And speak, take your time, breathe, remember, mourn, grieve, speak…. We are all here waiting to take your hand and hold you. Heal yourself and save another. It is not weakness to weep, it is to show yourself the ultimate self-respect.
So, speak. Others have gone before you, they are your shields. We have taken the barrage of criticism, of denials, of threats, of disbelief, we have dodged the venom of judgment and we are still standing. They are afraid of the voice of your truth of what you have survived of what you embody. Our very existence is a damning indictment of the ordeals we have endured and the people who have inflicted them on us.
Do you know whilst you tremble in fear, it is you who are being feared? Slay the monster, defeat the devil, use your words, use your voice, it is far more powerful than any fist raised against you. Your tears are never in vain, they will stain more than the blood drawn from you. They can violate your body, desecrate your soul but you always hold the power, because you are a walking living testimony to the genocide you have survived. The genocide on women of this country and world. Nothing can erase that truth. Nothing can diminish that power. And therein lies the salvation of every single survivor.
God’s love is sacrifice. The most obvious and clear example of that sacrificial love is God giving His only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus was God’s ultimate sacrifice, and still today Jesus continues to be a sacrifice for us because He continues to take our sins upon himself. That is how much Jesus loves us. He thinks of us first before he considers himself.
In Philippians 2 vs 3 Paul says the following:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”
I love this verse because it makes things clear; don’t do anything out of selfish desires and humble yourself by thinking of others more important or significant than yourself.
Think of others first. Put others first. Don’t be selfish or do anything out of selfish motives.
That is how God loves us, and that is how we should love one another.
Marriage and love is putting another person’s needs before your own.
“One reason so many couples turn in their rings (get divorced) is because they view marriage as a contract. A contract is a conditional agreement between two or more persons signifying that all parties will do something. Contracts get made for limited periods of time and are based on “if, then” statements. “If they do this, then I’ll do that” People enter into contracts because of what they’ll get out of them.”
MARRIAGE IS A COVENANT
What I’ve learned over the past 2 months of being married is that marriage is not a contract. It is a covenant. The same covenant you enter into when you choose God as your Lord and saviour is the same covenant you enter into when you choose your partner for life. We say vows when we get married and we say them before God.
The author of the plan says:
“A covenant is a divinely created bond meaning it is permanent. It has rules, responsibilities and benefits. Covenants are intimate relationships initiated for the benefit of the other person. In it, the good of the relationship takes precedence over the needs of the individual. This is why covenants make unconditional promises. Basically, it’s where God makes something official in the spiritual realm to be lived out in the physical world. After all, the wedding vows are made “before God” and therefore with God as well as the spouse. To break the covenant with your spouse is to break it with God. “
When you and your spouse are both going into the marriage with the mindset of “I will put you first” both of you will benefit. Marriage cannot and should not be a selfish act.
I love my husband, knowing and understanding that he is God’s child. I love him in a way that’s not suffocating but that gives him the freedom to grow as a man, husband, and father, in all areas of his life. Wanting him to succeed is one of the many reasons I pray for him all the time, more than I do for myself. I truly want to make him happy. I know he wants the same for me. The reason I know this is because we talk about it all the time. Both of us want to make the other happy and that makes us happy and brings us joy. I know when Jared is happy, I feel happy, and I know it’s the same for him.
Jared’s love for me is sacrificial because he always puts my needs before his own, but as his wife, I also need to understand when I have to give more than I take, and that can make all the difference in a marriage.
GOD IS LOVE.
To close, I want to remind you that love is from God. God is love. Loving God means loving people. Loving and accepting your spouse means loving and accepting Jesus.
Let God’s love be the anchor which holds your marriage down.
How do you say goodbye to the person who changed your life forever? I have been forced to find an answer to that question- unprepared and unequipped- on Sunday afternoon upon hearing the news that my publisher and friend, Nadia Goetham, has passed away. Even as I write this tribute, I am still grasping at straws, lost and unable to give you an answer.
NADIA; MORE THAN A FRIEND
Nadia was a journalist, a production manager, a publishing powerhouse, a friend, a sister and a mentor. If I had to use one word to describe Nadia; it would be “beloved”. She crept into your heart and stayed there. Nadia was loved by almost everyone she met. Her charisma and kindness always shone through with every interaction you would have with her.She gave of herself freely expecting nothing in return.
Nadia was also the catalyst behind many dreams coming true. I would know this because there would be no Terry-Ann Adams without Nadia Goetham. My first interaction with Nadia was a life changing email sent very early on a Saturday morning. “We loved your manuscript and I would like to have a chat about it.” I couldn’t believe what I had read. I had given up on my manuscript after rejection and imposter syndrome kicked my ass. When I met with Nadia, we spoke about everything: growing up coloured, living in Joburg, my pregnancy and my manuscript. From that meeting on, we were not just author and publisher but friends- mentor and mentee.
TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM
The rest is history. My life was changed forever when the world was introduced to Those Who Lived In Cages. Nadia was my biggest cheerleader. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself. She vouched for me, for my work. And the amazing thing is that she did that with all her authors. When she believed in you, she would ride for you like four flat tires.
The literary landscape has lost one of its most valuable members. I weep for the authors that she was yet to discover and for those who loved her. I weep because I don’t know how I will write another story knowing that Nadia will never read it.
She recently tweeted “Tell them you love them, Tell them you love them today.”
My heart goes out to her family, friends and fellow members of the South African literary industry.
I often think of the days that I use to perch on your lap And grab you around your neck And kiss your aging cheeks.
I often wonder if I will ever be able to do that again. The chasm between us seems to have become so relentless That I often wonder if we’ll ever be able to cross it.
Mother, ma as I know you, I sometimes think back to when we use to be Best friends, I was the envy of my siblings As you always had my back. Now I look back and see the strays of memories We have left behind.
I see you, you’re getting older. You have a limp And the 60 years that our Father has granted you Is starting to show.
I remember watching you sit At the window in our small flat Writing down random numbers; Maybe it was the dates of the births of all your children, Even the ones you never saw growing up. Or maybe how many times your heart was broken. Or was it the number of times you cried?
Now you don’t count anymore, You just stare ahead, waiting for the End of each day. Maybe the dates and numbers and opportunities That you never had have all lost their meaning.
You turned into a sad and helpless creature Right before my eyes It made me feel sad and helpless for Not knowing how to reach out.
Dear mother, My arrogance and pride has prevented me From coming to you and telling you That I miss your bear-like embrace. It has put a wall up in the Middle of our home As we pass one another During the day Like strangers at night.
We hardly say a word to another And when we do, its Laced with irritations and criticism.
Mother, I am sorry For being too big for my shoes and Forgetting that you too Are leaving shoes that no one Will ever be able to fill.
As I’m writing this, my husband and myself have only been married for a month and a half. I know many people will probably read this post and think, what does she know but you’d be surprised what you can learn in a short space of time when you pay attention. The following post below is what God has put in my spirit during this month and a half that I’ve been married and has helped me understand what it means to have a kingdom marriage. I hope it speaks to you in some way too.
FIGHTING AND ARGUING IS INEVITABLE IN A MARRIAGE
Arguing, fighting and having disagreements don’t suddenly disappear when you get married. In fact, it might even increase. Something I’ve learned during this short time that I’ve been married is that prayer is powerful. You can pray through your problems, When your marriage is centered around Christ, He can help you through the difficult and uncomfortable times.
When you get married, the dynamics of your relationship changes. You feel it the moment you say your vows. There is a shift and you realise that the level of commitment has changed. You always need to remember the vows you took before God when you got married. I know I always do.
Marriage is from God and when you realise that, you know and understand how important it is.
Something else that is vitally important to the life of your marriage is communication. You cannot disregard your spouse’s feelings in your marriage. You need to talk about it and find out why they are feeling the way they do. Communication is everything. I don’t believe the silent treatment works in a marriage. In fact, it could build up a wall in your home that will eventually be impossible to get over.
Seek God’s wisdom and guidance in your marriage. Refer to scriptures and pray with your spouse.
The world and social media shows us that you can get married and divorced on a whim but imagine if God married and divorced you on a whim? How would you feel if God just left you because He no longer felt like being in this relationship with you? Because that is what we have with God once we accept Him into our lives. We enter into a marriage with Him. A covenant. A relationship.
PURSUING A KINGDOM MARRIAGE
Through discussions, Jared and I realised that we want a Kingdom marriage. A definition shared by Dr. Tony Evans describes a Kingdom marriage as follows:
“a covenantal union between a man and a woman who commit themselves to function in unison under divine authority in order to replicate God’s image and expand His rule in the world through both their individual and joint callings”
So basically, you come together as a couple and you vow to expand God’s kingdom through what He has called you to do. You work on replicating the image of God in and through the world.
You are setting an example and a precedent for your children and all your future generations when you decide to enter into a marriage. It doesn’t matter if you come from a background where marriages didn’t work out, what matters is what you do going forward.
YOUR ROLE AS A WIFE AND MOTHER
As a woman, mother and wife, you have a God-given power to pray your family to prosperity. You have a gift to carry your family through trying and troubling times. As women, we sometimes forget how dear we are to God’s heart.
God made Eve for Adam because He saw that Adam needed someone. God saw that Adam needed strength and help and encouragement that only a woman can provide. You might be asking yourself; but why should I do all the work? Why should I be the one to create a space for my husband and children to grow and succeed?
The reason for that is because God gave you that power. God gave you that responsibility. Your family draws strength from you. Your nurturing spirit and your unlimited love and your ability to comfort. They draw from your determination to always do more and be more and to succeed.
As you draw strength from God, your family draws from you and by doing that, your family draws closer to God because they see how you pray and how you carry yourself and because you make God the centre of all that you love and cherish.
You will grow into your role, whatever that may be. You will never be a perfect woman, mother or wife but you can be a good one.
Is it how we conduct ourselves in the presence of women and children, or how we go above and beyond to support and protect our family?
Is it determined by our physical strengths and toughness? Or how much respect we get from our peers?
What is toxic masculinity?
Over the years I started seeing the term“Toxic Masculinity”float around but I didn’t think much of it. I knew it was a negative connotation so maybe that’s why I distanced myself from it. I actually thought it was a derogatory term by feminists against men for no reason other than being born as a man. However, I couldn’t be further from the truth.
Toxic Masculinity is a defined set of attributes, behaviour and roles associated with boys and men. In essence, it’s a profile of males who judge anyone as weak if they don’t abide by their image. They have a culture, albeit a dying one, of living with a “men don’t cry” motto. If you show signs of weakness through emotion then you lose your identity of what it means to be a “real man”. I find the whole concept very damaging and divisive. I don’t need any factual evidence to prove this has a detrimental effect on men’s mental health.
Alpha male is another term I read quite often about nowadays. I place it as a sub-category under the toxic masculinity umbrella. It’s men who have power, money and influence which they gained through mostly intimidation. Alpha men tend to prowess a combination of characteristics that propels them up the social hierarchy. However, I don’t view their values to be any better than mine or men they perceive to be below them. I don’t need to be labelled as any specific type of man – I’m me and that’s enough. You’re not better than me just because of the size of your wallet or how you might have more success in attracting females than I do.
Dealing with insecurities
These types of men maintain a fake image due to their insecurities. The fear of being judged by so-called better men. A competitive internal battle that destroys a man’s soul without him ever admitting his struggles because he refuses to ask for help.
Insecurities can lead to aggressive behaviour such as domestic abuse. It’s dangerous how many men are bottling up their emotions and yet could explode at any moment. True masculinity is leadership, strength, courage and ambition. All vital attributes that can take any man as far as he wants in life if he chooses to use them wisely.
What does it mean to be a man?
Men who prowess these skills think about themselves and the people who matter the most to them such as family. He focuses on his dreams rather than pleasing others.
He doesn’t care about negativity and isn’t afraid to show signs of frailty.
He combines moments of doubt and sadness into positive outcomes through rational decisions and learns from experience.
Eradicating toxic masculinity probably won’t ever happen, however we can limit the damage it causes to vulnerable men and boys. It starts with the education system. Young boys need to learn that it’s okay to feel different to others. No question should be left unanswered and boys should be encouraged to express their emotions without being labelled as weak.
The second is to confront potential harmful behaviour. For example, some guys need to be spoken to regarding their misogynist bullying towards women. We can’t continue to remain silent and let insults slide under the carpet. Intervention is key to any progressive society.
The third, although not the final as there are many avenues, is being the best role model to yourself. All actions have consequences, but they can also be used for a greater cause. Be a man who is known in his local community as someone who respects, love and inspires everyone around him. Be an example for young boys to look up to.
We are all in different seasons of our lives. It might not be the season you want to be in but right now, it is your season.
It’s the one you need.
Winter doesn’t shy away after the warm months have gone when it’s her turn to wrap us in a cold cocoon.
Autumn doesn’t become sad when the leaves turn from green to yellow to brown.
Spring patiently waits her turn to release her cherry blossoms after months of being in hiding.
This is your time to grow, to plant seeds for the next season.
To sow and to harvest.
You cannot skip it or avoid it.
You can’t get to the next season without getting through your current season.
There is a time for everything.
You cannot watch others bloom when it is their time and be upset because the same thing is not happening to you at that very moment.
Nothing in nature works that way; no flower keeps watch over another flower.
It simply blooms.
When its time has come, its petals fall to the ground and it does so with grace and elegance.
Its petals do not force their way back onto the stem.
Bloom when it is your time.
A flower grows where it is planted, where it is born, between weeds or between concrete.
It makes its surroundings beautiful.
Make your surroundings beautiful.
You have a purpose now, right where you are. No matter the season.
Whether your current season is five days, ten weeks, or 15 years, you need to submit and commit yourself to it.
If you believe God placed you here, know that it was with a purpose in mind.
Everything happens for a reason.
The hard part is being patient.
Kimberly is a writer, blogger and poet. She is married to musician Jared Fray and they live in Johannesburg, South Africa with their two children. Kimberly has had several of her poems published in poetry journals and also works as a news producer.