Experience – Gratitude

 photo Basjan01.jpg For those of you who’ve been here a while, you’ll remember that I’m quite into horses and purchased a gelding a few years ago named Basjan (short for Sebastian). Originally the idea had been to purchase a horse that I could utilise for endurance and competitions but meeting Basjan changed that. He wasn’t young, he wasn’t necessarily in peak condition at the time of purchase and he was too small for me. He wasn’t even really a horse, falling just short of the 15hh cut off line.

But, from the first day I saw him I knew that he was mine. Circumstances had brought us together and throughout the past few years, he’s been an anchor in my life. I’m not terribly good with people, though I’ve become very good at pretending to be. Horses have always been my kind of folk, the kind I understand and actually want to be around. Being with them is freeing and Basjan especially has proven to be an exceptional companion simply because he is mine. We understand a universal truth about each other and that is that almost everybody else in the world is simply background noise. Basjan fears that noise, shying from anybody but myself when they interact with him. I understand that fear because it used to be mine. I’ve never pressured him to be more than he is. A mount, a ride. A pleasure pony and happy hack. I don’t expect him to compete and I certainly don’t expect of him to change.

He’s is simply mine.

Yet, that nearly changed this year. One day in February I noticed that my horse was somewhat lame when arriving on the farm. He walked with the others, but it was certainly not easy. By the end of that afternoon he could hardly move. The farm workers told me that he had slipped and fell in some mud, but he had gotten up quite quickly and sped off regardless. I had figured that he was simply stiffening up from the ordeal and didn’t really think about it again, deciding to give him rest for another week before riding him again. The next day however, he couldn’t stand. That Sunday proved to be a very long day in my life. We gone to the farm and watched as he painfully tried to make his way around. Every attempt to get up was clearly excruciatingly painful and when he did manage to rise, he tried not to put any weight on two of his legs, particularly his front right. I watched him most of the day and knew that something was very wrong. I tried to contact the local vet but to this day he has not yet returned that call. The other vet in the area killed one of our horses a few years back in a gross misjudgement of treatment so HE was out and the other most reliable vet was in the Kruger National park castrating elephants. This combination of circumstances and perhaps my own mounting sense of dread, forced me to wait a day or two.

The world moved to darkness in those few days. The horse did not get any better but all attempts to keep him quiet were met with the full force of his human fear. Struggling with my own work at that time, I couldn’t stay at the farm to make sure that he was quiet so we let him struggle along with the others while I waited for the vet. It was painful to watch because he spend most of the day lying in the grass or struggling to get up or run on three legs, his front always raised off of the ground. The professional one ended up coming one afternoon, bleary eyed and travel weary from his trip back from the Kruger Park from which he had just returned.

His prognosis wasn’t good though not confirmed by an x-ray. Basjan had a possible broken leg. He had most certainly torn one of his muscles and ligaments because most of his leg was swollen at that time. He told me that I had very few options. We could arrange for him to be x-rayed and have the diagnosis confirmed (and then make a call as to whether or not to put him down) or we could try and medicate him with some pain medication and anti-inflammatories and see how he responds. It was going to take time, the vet said. A lot of time, money and patience.

I didn’t have a lot of money at that time but when it came to Basjan, I’ve always had a lot of patience.

And, I had time.

I could give Basjan time to heal.

I didn’t even bother going for the x-ray because my decision would’ve been the same. I wouldn’t be able to put him down unless I’ve exhausted all options. I didn’t care whether it took weeks, months or even years. I’d have waited. And I did, though it was hard in the beginning. Because of his inactivity, Basjan lost a lot of condition. Despite his original owner selling him to me as a 10 year old, he had been closer to 18. I had known that I was being lied to when buying him but I hadn’t cared. I had always known that this was the animal that I had to take responsibility for.  And that responsibility is something I take very seriously.

My problem with people and their pets sometimes is that they don’t take having an animal seriously. Whether this is a dog, a cat, a fish or a horse, people tend to dismiss how much responsibility it is. Buying a dog, gives you an animal that can live for 13 years. Buying a cat, one that can live for 16 and a horse one that can live up to 36 to 40 years if you take good care of them. It’s a long time commitment through thick and thin. I’ll elaborate a little more on this in later posts but the message is essentially – if you own it, you’re responsible for it. Animal cannot take care of themselves, so it is your responsibility to meet all their needs above your own because you can fend for yourself. They can’t and shouldn’t have to.  photo 9d728029-af86-441a-94f1-234c547ff5c5.jpg

My patience paid off in the end. Nearly nine months after his accident, Basjan was completely healed again. I didn’t ride him for most of the year. Although he became soundish after about two months of rest, he was still very lame and I didn’t want to push him. Because I had given him time and didn’t want to mess it up. And, I had my own problems to deal with, so I figured that we both needed  a bit of a break. I’ve also since moved him to a stable yard where he can be better taken care of. On the farm he was hardly handled by the hands, only fed once a day. Now he’s at a place where someone can give him joint supplements on a daily basis and I know he’s being given three meals a day. He’s not a young horse anymore, but he’s good and, with luck, he’ll be good for a few years more.

This experience, however traumatic for me at the time, taught me to be grateful and it was one of many lessons on this topic I was to learn in the next year. Basjan’s miraculous recovery and the hope that it gave me proved to be the first in a series of events that would sometimes knock me to my knees but which always gave me a moment to bow my head, fold my hands and simply be grateful because inevitably, everything worked out.

Advertisements

Experience – A New Beginning…

With 2013 being a bit of a blur and haze, with nothing happening in my mind but background noise and the maniac edge of survival, I thought to enter 2015 with the thoughts of 2014. Several months (years) have passed since my last blog post and the reasons for this are painfully simple.

I struggled. It’s been a tough few years.

To reflect on a year that doesn’t really exist in my memory, 2013 was simply about getting to the next one. Life moved from the mundane to the terrible. My work was demanding, my depression nearly out of control and life was frozen in place, the months marked only by my colleagues from work leaving for other jobs and leaving me behind to be the soul employee working in the field at start of 2014.

Which was to be a memorable year and now that we are standing at its end’s edge, I feel the need to talk about it.

I treat this as… a new beginning. I have read some of my previous posts and I’ve come to the realisation that I have grown up since then. Oh, don’t think I’ve stopped gaming. No, that won’t ever stop. But, something has changed. I would like to say that its innocence, but it’s not quite that. I’ve hardly been ignorant of the world and of its trials. But I’ve become somewhat cynical. It’s always been there – like the mysterious beginning of a weed amidst the cracks of perfect pavement. In the beginning of the year, with my last colleague leaving me to the wrath of my CEO and our failing company, I learned to stop hoping that things will change. I learned to accept the dull and dreary. I pushed on, survived in my unhappiness. It wasn’t life but it was all I had and I felt that being unhappy about it wouldn’t change anything.

I figured that nothing would change – so I didn’t try to do anything.

And I was proven wrong, which for once in my life was a pleasant experience.

You see, 2014 has been a continuous explosion of surprises and miracles. It was tough, yes. But, it taught me to be grateful. For friends, for family and for an Other Half who’s been with me for over half a decade.

The part of me in 2013 that withered in the mundane, flourished under a wave of new experiences. Not all pleasant, I’ll grant you that. But spectacular in the way they changed my life. I realised that these experiences kept me alive, awake. Interested. I am here because I am a writer, because I not only want to experience the physical world but because I am gathering up experiences to translate over to my writing. Any experience was logged in detail into the Stephen King Dreamcatcher like archive in my mind. I grew up, I matured.

And in that, I learned to have childlike joy.

With my track record, I cannot promise to write often or regularly. I am, if nothing else, very busy at the moment. But I plan to write a series of blogs

Writing? Why?

I think I’ve discussed this topic on the blog before somewhere, but I know it’s been a quiet year (so chances are you’ll read it for the first time) and it’s been weighing on my mind a lot these days. Since November when I participated in NaNoWriMo, I’ve once again become more in touch with other aspiring writers (and remained in touch with them which is a first for me). It’s been an education, to see people’s passions, to see their drives and hear about their plans for the future. I’ve heard all the theories behind publishing; I’ve learned how difficult it has become and how important the words ‘popular genre’ has become. Publishing is about money, about finding a means to do what you love and making a living out of it.

And, there’s nothing wrong with that but… I’ve realized that in a way, it’s wrong for me.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that earning a living as a writer is a bad thing, but I think that the world today has forced a lot of writers to give up their integrity, to write for the general audience and focus on what’s more popular rather than what’s right. I’ve been told countless times how important it is to be on ‘Twitter’ before you publish, to have a popular blog and interact with fans on Facebook. The task of advertising your book doesn’t fall to the publisher anymore but rather to the author themselves. They have to discuss their pages, make fan notes, have interviews and declare whether their books are suited for ‘Young Adults’. I look at all of it and I’ve come to realize that in a way, I don’t want to become a part of it. I don’t want to live my life in such a way that forces me to justify my work and to sell what I want for money.

The thing is that, I don’t write because I want to, I don’t write because I like it. I write because I have to, because it is the only way that I can allow my thoughts to control me without destroying me, the only way to move forward in a life that I’m becoming more and more cynical about. You see, I’ve never written for anybody. I started writing stories when I was eleven, when the dreams that I had in my mind become so much too bare that I had to let them out on paper. I’d would spend days hauled up in my room, scribbling near intelligible words down on paper purely because I needed them to come out. Even now, when I don’t write, my mind becomes cluttered, filled with nonsense and emotions of characters that have no call to be in my head. I have never written to please people, I have been writing to survive and the only time I ever struggled to do so was when I decided to humour other people’s idea of a story.

I’ve begun to feel like a fraud, like an alien claiming the title of writer because I wasn’t like the others, that nobody seemed to have the desperation that I had within me to make my words known. Yet, today – I spoke to an author, a published author, who had not given in to popular genres, who had not given in to other people’s wishes, who had gone and written a book, not because he wanted to publish it, but because it had to be written. And, he made it.

I think it’s why I find myself feeling the way that I do today, that I’m strangely at peace and excited because I had been given hope again. Or rather, justification to be the way that I am. That, just because I refuse to please people’s idea of fiction, I’m not committing myself to a life of senseless mumblings.

You see, writing is a way of life. It’s my way of life. I use my characters and plots to deal with issues within my own mind. I have used writing to get over the death of a close friend, I used it to get over the loss of my first horse. I’ve used it to help me through the solitary months I spend abroad and I used it to express joy and humour that I can’t always use in real life, or the true feelings that I have become so used to hiding. I use it to escape, to have control and to learn what it is to see a world from multiple perspectives. I’ve pulled that into my own life and have learned to see people as characters in a story they have no control over. Writing has taught me to live, allowed me to live.

And, that’s why I believe I’ll never get published, because I’ll never sell that idea, or change that story, or accept that direction that other people want. I don’t need it, I don’t need approval. I need to stay true to who I am, to write because it’s a part of me rather than something I want to make a part of everything else. It doesn’t make what I do futile…

It makes it mine.

Catch me if you can…

I’ll confess, I’ve been busy – which is the reason this blog has been standing quite stagnant for a while now. Work has been… Work. I try not to get too philosophical about it because then I’d just get depressed and do something drastic like become a Desperate Housewives fan or something. I’ve also played Mass Effect 3 – the game that dominated most of my post for the past couple of months. Whereas the major bulk of the game was everything I anticipated and more, the end of it left a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth. (In a lot of people’s mouths actually – it’s been one of the most heated debated topics in the gaming community for the past month). When I have worked things out in my mind, I’ll post about it but for now, that topic’s sitting on the back burner.

I have been quite prolific with writing I have to say, though a lot of it is internet articles. Here’s a list of what I’ve been up to:

For the web magazine Contains Moderate Peril I’ve been doing a series of posts about my experiences as I played Mass Effect 3. You can see all the articles here.

The most exciting thing that I’ve done is that I’ve managed to get my hands on an ARC of a book that was to be published in the UK on the 13th of March (or 16th? Heck – this is my blog, I don’t have to be accurate, haha). The website I’m actively posting for (Nerd Trek – I post there at least once a week) asked me to read it and review it. The publishers send the book to me and with my luck, it arrived a day before Mass Effect 3. Needless to say, I hardly slept the past month, jumping between saving the galaxy from the reapers and saving the Titanic from its fate. The book’s name is The Company of the Dead by debut author David Kowalski and I have to say, I enjoyed it. It’s a thick bugger, clocking in at 730 pages in a REALLY tiny script (I need new reading glasses…), but it was well worth the read. You can check out my review here and the author’s webpage here.

Other than that, there’s very little for me to add. I think I’m going to give gaming a break for a bit and jump back into things I actually have a hand in (and can control the fate of my characters without leaving them with major plot holes thank you very much Bioware). I’ve started a writer’s group (or really, the group started it, I’m just sort of keeping the strings together) in my home town which is also interesting. And, before I forget – Script Frenzy is around the corner! For those of you who don’t know about it, go check out their website here. It’s a fun, less difficult that NaNoWriMo challenge for April. I’m not sure how much I’ll be participating but I’m definitively coordinating events in South Africa.

If you want to see what I’m up to on a day to day basis, it’s easier finding me on twitter these days. (But then again, most people coming to this blog comes in from twitter, haha.) I know right? It’s hard imagining that I was so against the notion. I think in a way I still am in a way, but I don’t want to dwell on it. Besides, it’s great being funny (or trying to be anyway *whistles*) in 140 letters.

Live long and prosper bunnies. This is not the last you’ll hear from me.

 

Touched by an act of violence.

November, now long past in most of our memories, had been a very interesting month for me. I was busy up to a point of exhaustion at work, I was busy with NaNoWriMo and I had a couple of my own things to sort out. To top it all off, I had managed to acquire an ear infection, one of the first ones I’ve had in years. To say that I had a lot on my mind would’ve been an understatement.

Which is partly why events happened as they did. I didn’t pay attention, I should’ve but I didn’t.

On the 16th of November I found myself coming back from a farmer’s day that I had had to attend in a nearby province. It was a hot day and my ear was in a state. I remember sitting in my car and wishing that it would all just end. It had been a hot month and, for someone who spends more than half of her time in a car with no air-con, it was excruciating. My way of regulating temperature in my car is by opening my window up as wide as I can, shoving my hand out and directing the airflow into the car. When I entered cities, towns or any are that looked a little dangerous to me, I’d close the window, tough out the terrible temperatures and then open the window up again just when I was about to faint. On this particular day though, I wasn’t as alert as I normally was and it turned out to be a mistake especially because I took myself through a really dangerous part of town. My route home on this fateful day took me through a very dangerous part of our city. Now, of course, knowing that it’s dangerous has never stopped me from driving there. I used to look at people and think: Well, they’re just as tired as I am. They just want to get home, as I do. Yes, there are thieves and murderers among them. But, they’ve got no business with me, I have nothing that they want.

I was wrong.

When I stopped at a traffic light (or robot as we like to call them here in South Africa) I didn’t close my window as I usually did. Instead, I looked down at the radio and was fiddling with the dials trying to find a good radio station. My ear was sore and pounding and I only vaguely heard a voice as it suddenly stopped next to my car and said:

“Ma’am, I want money for food.”

Now, this is a phrase we hear quite a lot in our country. With more than 56 million people who are jobless, South Africa has a LOT of beggars. You get used to them, you ignore them and if you’re me, you tend to get quite irritated with them. I’ve had more of my fair share of sob stories, you can’t tell me one that I haven’t heard before. And, of course then there’s the case of this seemingly contagious crooked leg syndrome that they ALL have. You’d see them limping around the stop, then – if you’re not watching, they’ll walk normally or run to catch a lift… I don’t hold with it at all. And, I didn’t hold with the way this man was demanding money from me. I turned, irritated with myself for leaving the window open and immediately out to close it.

It was only then that I realized he had a knife in his hand.

It was the longest, yet shortest second of my life. I looked at the man, at his dark face and eyes, at the blue overall that he was wearing with a white company logo on. I managed to give the window one last turn but I knew, I knew that it was going to be too late. That I had made a terrible, terrible mistake in letting my guard down. Before I could even complete the turn on the window, the man pushed his head and arm through the window, coming at me with the knife as if he intended to cut my throat or stab me in the chest. They always say that the world slows down in times of crisis and they are right because I had the time to think that I had to stop it, that I had to grab the knife regardless of the risk to be cut, the risk of AIDS or the course of action I had to follow afterwards. I reached out immediately and grabbed the knife, pressing it against his arm with both of mine. I half expected pain, but there was none. Then, a second later, I realized that I had him and that I could just drive forward and drag him next to the car. I started to pull away but he put his other arm through the window, pulled my leg off of the petrol and turned off my car. He tried to take the keys out but I kicked his hand up against the steering wheel with my knee and put my knee over my keys so that he wouldn’t try it again. Now my car was off, but I still had a hold on his arm. He was shouting obscenities at me, some in his own language, some that I could understand all too well.

“I’m going to kill you. I’m gonna stab you and kill you. I’m gonna take you out of this car and take you there. I’m going to kill you.”

I’d say that I was shouting back at him, making threats of my own, but the truth was I was just shouting ‘no!’ over and over and over again. He tried to unlock my door but luckily my dear Corsa’s frame had shifted slightly making the lock picky. No more than a minute could’ve passed since he first came into the car.

It was then I think, when he wasn’t able to open the door that he finally realized that he had most probably bitten off a lot more than he could chew. He tried to yank from my grip but I am a strong girl. And, I was starting to think again. When the initial shock left, I realized that I had to do something. Speeding away in the car, dragging the MF behind me was obviously not going to work. So, I had to get him to let go of the knife some other way. I tried to twist his hand back, but at first I think I worked a little against myself. Then, I managed to get my brain kick started, shifted my hand into a better position and used every last ounce of strength that I had to twist his hand. Meanwhile he started scratching at me to let him go and kept trying to go for my face. I like to believe that I felt something shift in his hand when he stopped suddenly, yelled and me and said.

“Okay, okay! I’ll let you go!”

I stopped yelling no and shouted, furious: “LET GO OF THE FUCKING KNIFE!”

He did, pulled out and I could quickly turn on my car and speed away. I was so angry, so shaken that I threw the knife that I now had in my hand, out of the window and sped off. I got about a kilometre when my body started shaking so much I could hardly keep the car in gear. I was suddenly so mad. So very very angry. The thing is that I’m not the kind of person who cries, or moans her fate in life. I’m angry. I do anger like a lot of people does breathing. It flared up inside me like a flare and I vaguely remember typing some sort of angry message to someone who had texted me in that time.

I became aware of the burning scratches on my arms, the throbbing in my leg where I had hit it on the dashboard when I tried to keep him from getting my key. But, I realized suddenly that I wasn’t cut. That my hands were unmarked. It was a miracle. I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know how it was possible, (I believe firmly that it was God who helped me) but I hadn’t cut myself when I grabbed the knife. Maybe it was blunt. Maybe it was a toy knife. But, I still remember its texture and I know that it wasn’t.

I managed to get home safely and spend the evening in a daze.

To be precise, I spend the rest of the month in a daze.

The thing is that, in my country crime isn’t a foreign concept. It’s the norm. People get robbed, raped, torturned, beaten every day. Our news lies about half of the reports that come out but the truth is that we’re in a silent war. And, it’s getting worse. The maliciousness of the crimes are getting worse. Everybody gets touched eventually and this event was just my turn.

It took me a while to get over it. I’m a stubborn, proud person. I didn’t go see a trauma counsellor but when enough time passed and I could tell the story without shaking, I started telling people about it – if only to get it off of my chest. I’d wake up in the evenings with this man standing beside me then realize that it was just a dream. I still take a deep breath every time I get into my car and pray that I’m kept safe. And, I’ve learned my lesson. I keep my windows closed whenever I’m in a residential or city area. I watch all the sides of my car at all times. I’ve stopped listening to ANYBODY who wants to tell me something beside my car.

I won’t be caught again. I’ve learned my lesson.

But the thing is also that – it was wrong. And, it is wrong. We shouldn’t be living like this. We shouldn’t have to fear for our lives every day. There is no improvement in this country of mine. There is no progress. No future. It’s world that’s turning in on itself. Violence, crime, it’s all allowed.

I cannot write a conclusion to this, because there is none. It’s happened to me and it will happen to other people. Other crime, other acts of violence will and has happened to those closest to me.

There is no dream of freedom in this country, not anymore.

There will be no end.