Exchanging Stilettos for Gumboots

During the December holidays I grew increasingly panicked at the thought of going back to a job I didn’t enjoy in the new year. Don’t get me wrong – I loved my colleagues and my bosses and my working conditions were really good, I had just been in an industry that held no meaning for me for too long. Sixteen years too long. I often worked late and also often under a lot of pressure. Though I had wanted out for a long time, I didn’t see an alternative.

As fate would have it, my son was booked for major surgery in early May. As I had already postponed by a year, I didn’t feel I could postpone again though I dreaded the operation more than anything. This particular surgery would mean a week in hospital and four to six months recovery time with full body casts. Without any family in Cape Town to help care for Damian during that time, and not wanting to leave him in anyone else’s care anyway during such a critical time, the only solution I could see was to resign from my job in faith, which I did. My boss offered me an independent contract to fulfil certain job functions from home, which was a blessing.

What a journey of faith it has been. With every fibre of my being I didn’t want Damian to have the surgery, yet I feared that making such a decision may have been a bad move on my part. Someone said to me: “If it’s not meant to be, God wouldn’t allow it to proceed, so just trust that you are doing the right thing and that all will be well.” Well, I cried every day in that two weeks leading up to it. I so badly wanted to cancel, but wondered if I’d be a bad parent if I did. The surgery was booked for Friday, and on Tuesday I got a call from the hospital to say that the surgery was being cancelled because there was a bed shortage due to a large number of accidents over the weekend. My heart soared!

Once I was over that relief, I laughed at what it had taken to get me to resign from a job I didn’t want in my future. I decided that now we had been given a reprieve, I was going to use the time to enjoy our new found freedom. This took the form of a road trip. I planned to take a few weeks to travel to East London and the Midlands to see my family. Well, the universe in all her conniving had other ideas. Just before I left East London for the Midlands, I hit a raised, unmarked speedbump in the dark and the underside of my car was damaged. I only realised the extent en route to the Midlands with the oil leak that had developed.

DSCF1184An intended one week stay turned into three weeks as we recouped and enjoyed being spoiled by my big brother. When we arrived back in East London, I could no longer start my car – the car could not read the ignition card. It was towed and went in for repairs – this whole process took around a month to resolve completely. In this time I examined all of our possibilities going forward. I was not earning enough with the contract work, and my freelance writing work was slow coming in. Also, the travel bug had bitten badly and I wanted to continue traveling. With Ireland being my long-term bucket list destination I started looking at work opportunities and stumbled upon a volunteer abroad organisation and started making enquiries. I then discovered there was a branch in  South Africa, and thought it would be a good idea to test the waters on home soil before jetsetting with Damian. The first hosts I made enquiries with were happy to have me and Damian volunteer for two weeks, and so we arrived on 11 October and have found ourselves in a completely new situation. When the two weeks was up and I had to go back to Cape Town to write exams, we were asked to come back for a couple more months. Our hosts are the most amazing people and I respect and care for them and am touched at how we have been welcomed into their home and lives.

Also, while in Cape Town I met with my bosses about my contract which was coming to an end. A couple of weeks before I had been two potential job opportunities and a great salary – but when I sat before my now ex-boss he said “I can see you have already made a decision – you’re never going to work in an office again, are you?” And so, I have exchanged my stilettos for gumboots, my hair straightening iron for a peak cap and nail polish for gardening gloves and I am engaging in a little back-breaking manual labour which is having a profound impact in my life. I’m yo-yo’ing some days between the divine paradoxes: those conflicting needs that direct our choices – freedom vs security; glamour vs authenticity; solitude vs companionship; career vs passion; city life vs farm life – and so many more conflicting desires. I’m learning to be conscious in the choices I make and to know why and what I am choosing and what I am sacrificing and gaining. It’s a big lesson in humility.

DSCF3326The attraction for me was the horses. I have lost my heart completely and without question to a special boy with trust issues. I have been spending time with him, giving him love and hoping to gain his trust. He is improving, he eats his entire portion of hay out of my hands twice a day, and once, just once, I had him following me around the arena. I finally got to ride him last week and he made me work every minute I was on him until my legs couldn’t take anymore. The four of them have such unique personalities and I spend many a day giggling at their antics.  While I do spend a lot of time grooming and feeding them as well as getting to ride and learn about carriage driving, there are other aspects to my work here. For one, in order for the grass to grow as sufficient grazing for the horses, paddocks need to be weeded.

TNiqua 10I have decided I hate weeding, and when I have my own home again one day, I can assure you that gardening will not feature as one of my loved pastimes. I tried to understand today what the attraction is for gardeners, and I conceded that there is a vast difference between removing weeds from your flower patch, to removing weeds from an enormous paddock. I sit daily in the sun, feeling like a weapon of mass destruction as I rip up plants, apologising to them for ending their lives so brutally, and to the ladybugs, praying mantises, caterpillars, frogs and earthworms for destroying their homes. I’ve created a sinister version of a children’s nursery rhyme: “Ladybird, ladybird fly away free, your house is being ripped up by heartless Dee”.  What I have come to love about weeding paddocks though is the lack of concentration needed. It has been challenging to learn to ‘not do’ if that makes sense when I clearly am doing – and doing hard. Out of habit I feel myself resisting not being on my computer. But I have time to think, and time to just be. Some days I take the iPad with me and listen to audiobooks – ironically something I didn’t have the concentration skills to be able to do before. I have been listening to Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Zahir’, and the combination of my life choices, the message in this story, and the meditative possibilities of my ‘chore space’ have been opening my heart and mind.

And so, while I do know that at some point I do want to slip into my diamante stilettos, put on my little black dress, paint my lips and grace theatres and such with my presence again, right now I’m learning to just be comfortable with me at soul level.

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