People are excited because we’re 70-odd days away from Ramadaan. The early birds have started their preparations, no doubt eager to build up the spiritual momentum so that – once the moon is sighted – they hit the ground running and can take maximum benefit from it. In years gone by, I was one of them. Maybe not starting as early…but still: I would strategise beforehand, analyse things, and plan how I would spend my month.
But that was then. Things are different now.
For the last few years, I don’t even plan, because I don’t want to be disappointed. I’ve learned to not allow myself to have high expectations, because the burdens of adulthood and fatherhood (at least while my kids are still small) are too great. I can’t do what I did before, because the time is gone. The energy is spent on other things. Even mentally, there isn’t the breathing space I once had. I can no longer focus on myself.
I don’t say any of this out of complaint, though, because when I was single, my biggest dream was to be married. And now that I’ve been married for a while, I don’t regret it at all. I don’t rue my decision, or wish things were different. I merely miss elements of my past: the solitude, the freedom…the space (both physical and mental). All of which has been naturally consumed by the more advanced stage of life I find myself at. But perhaps I need to try harder to make more space for myself…because if you really want something, you make a way.
“I don’t have time” is a fallacious excuse. The reality is that you just don’t have the motivation, or energy, to make time for it.
But I’m happy where I am. I understand that we go through stages of life. And the stage I’m at is one where I need to sacrifice myself – my time and energy – for others…specifically, my family.
I look, perhaps a little enviously, at others who can go to classes, toy around with crafts, focus themselves on improving their writing…but I know that’s not for me. Not right now, at least.
This mindset has been my general holding pattern for a few years now, but it’s been exacerbated of late by events in my life.
This year (2017) has been a hurricane. The personal and family dramas have been intense and draining – starting from the very first day of the year. It’s like I can’t even think of thriving or growing. It’s been more a case of simply treading water…trying to survive.
The gains I made last year, in terms of exercise (becoming consistent again) and writing (working on my second book) have been lost. Any thoughts of new year’s resolutions (which I did manage to write out…even though they were just gentle, subtle plans) were forgotten 2 weeks into the new year.
It’s been crazy. And even though things are now more settled, I know this may just be an island of calm before more storms hit.
While this has been a frustrating year, I recognise that none of this has been in vain. All of it is for the best. As reflected in last year’s post (also written during a challenging time), this life is a series of trials, so we have to expect that challenges will come. But we must also know that each trial is designed specifically for us, and we need to do the best we can and take benefit from it. We learn more from the ‘bad’ times than we do from times of ease.
I recognise the benefits from this year already: the change in mindset in certain areas of life which, until now, had just repeated the same unhealthy patterns. The strength to stand up for what’s most important, being bold enough to throw off the chains of cowardice that had followed me from childhood, but were damaging my adult life in ways I didn’t fully understand until now. The commitment to go back to the ideals I always wanted to strive for, but this time, finding ways to live them with the challenges that I face – rather than being disillusioned that I can’t live the fairy tale I thought I would.
I think I might finally have become a grown-up.
Outside my own personal trials, there are other factors which contribute to the general stress of life for us as a nation (I’m South African, in case you didn’t know). Our political situation is rather volatile (our president and ruling party are far from the standards of decent leadership), while the higher education sector looks to be heading for a long-term disaster due to the government’s inability to properly respond to a fee crisis gripping universities in recent years. (The latter affects me directly, since I work at a university.)
But more worryingly, the country is going through a terrible drought – with my region being the worst affected. It’s the worst drought we’ve had in a century, and Cape Town has just been declared a disaster area, with less than 100 days of potable water remaining in our dwindling dams.
Our Summers are usually dry, but the lack of significant rain is startling. The clouds are often around, but the rain just doesn’t fall. In fact, over this recently-ended Summer season, I think we couldn’t have had more than 5 days of rain in total. That crisis comes on the back of a preceding year that was also low in rainfall. Things are bad.
One positive, though, is that this crisis has made us all so much more aware of the value of water, and the need to reduce consumption. Water saving is probably at an all-time high here, with so many people recycling their water (“grey water” is no longer a strange term) and doing all they can to save this precious resource.
It’s really admirable, and personally, it’s helped me to follow through on an intention I made years ago to be much more frugal with my own water usage.
But while water saving is the order of the day, some people just don’t seem to care. They continue to waste, flouting the severe water restrictions in place, not realising that their heedless attitude will help to sink our shared ship faster. In other cases, it’s poor infrastructure maintenance by the authorities that is responsible for huge water losses via leaking pipes.
As all of this goes on, we keep inching closer and closer to the very scary prospect of life without water.
As a nation, we have dealt with electricity crises before. We’re used to missing out on an important utility. But one can survive without electricity. Nobody – nothing – can survive without water.
And while our local authorities seem to be banking on Winter rains to rescue us, with global weather patterns changing these days, I would say that’s a massive gamble. We can only pray that the rains do come. And that in the long term, those in charge cast off their limiting shackles and do whatever is needed to secure more reliable water security – even if that means hugely expensive desalination plants.
So if you’re reading this from a place that isn’t struggling with water shortages, appreciate your abundance while you have it. And do what you can to limit your consumption to what is necessary, while going green and starting to recycle water (for example, catching shower water in a bucket and using it for your toilet cistern, or washing your car).
We don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone, and in our world today, the reality is that future wars may well be fought over natural resources like water and food. So it’s best to simplify, reduce, and become frugal – while you still have a choice. It’ll serve you well in the long-run.
Thank you for reading. I haven’t posted in a long time, and don’t know when I will again, so I hope this was of some benefit to you.
And if you’re a new reader, feel free to browse through the archives or categories. It’ll still be quite a while until that second book (mentioned here) will be ready.