It’s that time of year again when I step from one hemisphere to another – from the place of my birth here in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to my other home in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
I leave a fairly reclusive, work-absorbed life here to quite a social one in Victoria – where I have plenty of dear and cherished friendships nurtured over 25 years, and many Ukulapha supporters.
It’s fortunate that I’m able to adapt emotionally, and for that I feel grateful.
I’ve been back in the land of my birth for nearly 10 years. I never imagined ever returning, and yet the pull was so strong and the stars were aligned, so back I came. Sold, packed up and shipped out!
So much has changed here in South Africa. I first departed in 1984, with the country in massive and painful, violent turmoil – to return to a different kind of turmoil with so many growing pains. So much, if not all of Mandela’s dreams shattered.
But this is not about politics. This is about how I experience myself at now 65 years
Am I ‘getting it right’, and am I doing justice ‘to the call’?
There has never been a 1 year or a 5 year plan. Part of me has delighted in that, having spent a structured and disciplined 25 years in North America.
I returned to Africa where I heeded the call to ‘go with the flow’, be organic, stop ‘looking over my shoulder’. Mistakes are learning experiences, and I had a lot to learn, and am still learning.
I needed a way to measure my life. Most all of my friends have children and grandchildren, which are hearty and significant life achievements as well as generous contributions to this world.
For some reason, known to my soul, as I drifted further into my 50’s, my existential angst grew more intense. Although I’m a secular soul, a nagging question requiring a response was: ‘when you’re an old gal, rocking in your favourite chair, how will you answer this question – What was your life all about?
Did it have a purpose?
What have you left behind?’
I spun my wheels with that one!
At 48 years, I’d gone off to graduate school to study for an MA in Counselling Psychology to graduate at 50 – another itch that needed serious scratching, and necessitated my ‘jumping off the cliff,’ not knowing if I might fly. My wings were fresh and new and needed to spread, dry out and find their compass.
And it took a while…..
I have followed, as I call it, the voice of my soul. It’s been a loyal mentor, as long as I remember to be still enough to heed its voice.
It took some adjusting to being back in sunny and hot South Africa! Aside from the heat,(summer days can reach 42°C with plenty of humidity) it is a complex and restless country, yet exquisitely beautiful. It took me a while to adjust to its beat and its rhythm and I know I still have a way to go.
Although I’m born and raised in South Africa, I feel like a stranger, a foreigner, and, in many ways, I am. I hadn’t been here for the struggle, the times of violence, the birthing process – which is painful and messy. The transitions that have bonded people, not always in a positive way, but in ways that people seem to have needed, to take care of their sense of survival.
I came to realize I'm 'Canadianized' – my attitude and approach are really quite different to the Carolyn who departed for the north at 32 years of age. I am at peace being ‘Canadianized’. I am deeply grateful for the individuated, strong, gentle and confident women I crossed paths with, many of them solid and superb friends despite the oceans and years separating us. They have had such a strong and lasting influence since I woke up to a different ‘way of being’ in the world.
Victoria is a place where I can relax, let go, unwind and recharge. I can walk the streets, feel free and breathe fresh, sweet air.
It’s a place where I feel deeply grateful and appreciative of all the generous souls who facilitate ‘my soul's work’. Most donors are from Victoria and beyond, and without them I wouldn’t be able to make a difference in the Slangspruit Township community. It’s a collaboration between donors and me; team work. I thank you all from the bottom of my soul.
I have had many, many learning experiences and therefore plenty of introspective moments, when I’ve needed to step back, reevaluate and change course. This has all led to endless personal growth opportunities, since, of course, my 'internal stuff’ has inevitably been tempted and become entangled in the choices I’ve been ‘driven’ to make. It’s been and is a fascinating process, and, without my fabulous and outstanding therapist and mentor, I think I might be a puddle this day!!
I’d say my biggest lesson and challenge is to observe, be in solidarity with, walk alongside, ‘let’ folks have their own lives and experiences – it’s not mine to fix or change. I've finally embraced the notion of ‘teach a man to fish’. Given my personal scratches, dents and loose bolts, this has been the toughest challenge! It appears that ‘recovering perfectionism’ takes maybe more than a lifetime!
Hooray, the lesson is crystalizing, even at 65 years old!
Yes, an old dog can…..
And so I have to say, with deep gratitude to my soul and wiser self, that, if I fast forward to that rocking chair, I can answer the question: Yes! Ukulapha is humming as it’s followed its organic path with many new and exciting projects and initiatives happening and unfolding, as you see from the newsletters.
Most sincerely I thank the superb Ukulapha board, amazing folks at Videa, dear friends and collaborators, and the ongoing commitment and involvement of some of the Videa interns – its TEAM WORK ~