Looking back at 2012 I feel compelled to share some of the challenges, discoveries and lessons that have come my way in this my Year of the Head. A year where my focus changed, and often blurred, where I was reminded of the things that matter most, like health and love and well-being and where my desire to save every living creature was directly linked to my undeniable desire to save myself.
It was a year for family as we celebrated my Dad’s 80th and I began to hold on to my parents words and hugs just a little longer than before. For making and cherishing friends, for self-reflection, for determination to do more with my life than the obvious, to go back into the travel business, to play as big a role in conservation as possible, to grow, to be, to become.
A year where I built a bond with Cape Town, a city I’m forever more in love with, and was lucky enough to live the enviable best of both worlds city and farm life. A year in which I was overwhelmed by an abundance of generosity of spirit and kindness, a year where complete strangers came to love me, and some of those closest to me realized that they didn’t like me at all.
It was a year where I loved more than I knew I could, learnt the meaning of true pleasure and joy, but also of sadness and lost hope. It was raw and it was honest.
A year where pieces of many puzzles fell randomly among my two trains of thought, and which I have tried with great difficulty – and sometimes complete natural ease – to make sense of.
It was my Year of the Head.
Travel highlights were my trip to New York and Florida in March to join a cruise in the Caribbean stopping at Honduras and Mexico in celebration of a friends 50th Birthday. Time spent in Northern KwaZulu Natal at White Elephant Safari Lodge in June, where I could enjoy this magical place and its people, whilst learning more about the Ubombo Children’s Care Village and its daily struggle for the little ones. Facilitating the funds I’d helped secure for them through an American client’s Foundation.
There were two trips to Namibia’s Swakopmund area, one with my dearest friend Marie, another on my own, each with the soul purpose of Beach Master for The Seals of Nam, to capture much needed footage of the Cape Cross Seal Colony, to interview locals and to learn more about Namibia’s annual seal massacre. Something that I have vowed to put energy and time into creating awareness of, in the hope that we will one day see it stopped. Its heart wrenching. I made Friends in Seals and received hate mail for my efforts. Something I’m told indicates that I am making some impact afterall, hurt as it did.
On the home front, 2012 was the first year in six that there were no students. There I was in that unimaginable place where all of the children in the family were employed and paving interesting, beautiful and independent lives for themselves, two in the UK, three in Cape Town. With a great sense of wonderment I watch them heading face and determination first into this world and wish them all the best it has to offer. You will always be my babies, but the young adults that you have become make me shiver with pride.
In-between my full working days I attended Jail No Bail hearings against Rhino Poachers, talks and Parliamentary hearings. Stood proudly with fellow Anti-Fracking Protestors outside Parliament in a bid to Save our Karoo. Attended the launch of Eugene Cussons’s Saving Chimpanzees, where I learnt more about the plight of the Chimpanzee. I made mood boards for dream homes, attended blogging and travel conferences, Ted talks, watched movies on Peace and Alternate Energy, great concerts and theatre, had fabulous dinners, lunches and treat events and regularly counted my very many blessings. I listened and I watched and I learnt.
I took up Fencing with the Cape Fencing Academy and now proudly wield my Epee and display my bruises. Continued my love of Yoga and daily walks. I sailed in an all Ladies Regatta, was given an amazing adrenaline fix by Ford SA’s rally drivers in their Ford Focus ST. Took part in the World Wide Photo Walk, flew over Cape Town in a helicopter, stroked a Pelican, toured Greanpeace Africa’s Rainbow Warrior and flew up to Johannesburg to attend the Spero Villioti graduation Fashion Show. I watched my amazing friend Jen Goy take from concept to completion her idea of THRIVE magazine and was fortunate enough to contribute with food photography.
I have written and shared many of these experiences, pinching myself often at how truly lucky I am to be me. This blog and the people I have met though it and my adventures and outings are a gift I value.
Tuscan Storm continues to be best friend and companion and I took on another rescue Pitbull with PETS in October, removed from an environment where she was to be put into Dog Fighting. Dakota has joined Tuscan Storm on my bed and warms my heart and face with puppy licks. I love them both more than I knew possible. All was not happy in the world of Pups though, and I said good-bye to sweet 8yrs old German Shepherd Cea in March and to my ever loyal and beloved 13yrs Honey last week.
All that said, this post is reading like “a year in the life of …”, yet the point of it is that it was not all lightness, ease and joy as throughout 2012 I have struggled badly with my health and what I have come to call my Head Thing.
Triggered in January when I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead in Stellenbosch and picked up the mutant bug MRSA which put me quite literally out of action for about 6+ weeks, during which I fought for the ability to stand or sit whilst struggling to find words for basic conversation. Numerous doctors, specialists, blood tests and consultations later, I was put on Epilepsy Meds for the Petit Mal epilepsy for which I had been treated years before; this to regulate my brain as best possible and allow me some semblance of normality and focus.
There have been times this year when I felt very well, but there were more times when I didn’t and I knew that “something was not right.” The muddles, the forgetting, the dizziness, the crazy things I do, the heightened emotions, the falling, scuffed knees and breaking of far too many glasses. An inability to concentrate on anything for very long at all. Yet interspersed with this crazy, there have been moments of absolute clarity, sheer determination, inspiration and true focus. The more absorbed I am in the experience, the better I feel.
As gifts befall us when least expected, two month ago a Dr Frans Cronje came to the farm in search of Hyssop, grown as one of the ingredients for our Distillery’s Absinthe, and we got talking. He specialises in the treatment of head problems ie MS, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and when he learnt more about my head struggles, invited me to join the Stellenbosch University Trials.
Checks, tests, chats and a Q-EEG (Quantum EEG) later, together with the added guidance of Gerard Finnemore and Dr Jay Gunkleman in the States, I now for the first time in 15+ years understand who and what and where I am. What that “something wrong is”. The gratitude that I feel for this knowledge and understanding could never be expressed in words, but believe me when I say that to live to our full potential and to love ourselves, we need to know ourselves, and with the help of these three brilliant minds, I now can.
In summary, during my first marriage in the early ‘90’s, for a period of over three years, I suffered domestic violence in the form of regular and very severe punches to my head, neck and back, where it could not be seen. I waited too long to leave and for that the price is always great. When I did it was with numerous concussions and serious damage to my name. Living in the Free State at the time, a Bloemfontein Neurologist treated me for the after affects of these assaults and surmised that the result was Petit Mal Epilepsy from the head traumas. I took meds for a couple of years, moved with my children into a different era in my life and looked forward to managing my lifestyle in the best way to stay healthy.
I mostly achieved this, although I did find myself working my way through Tick Bite Fever, Hepatitis A, Glandular Fever, ME, Ricketsia, Pneumonia, Encephalitis and silly little things like Ring Worm from cuddling orphan babies. Here I am, a girl with a compromised immune system, which is probably why I contracted MRSA in January.
My new team of Medical experts and their Q-EEG have shed light on why it is so. They have discovered that I suffered nasty brain damage to a large area above my right ear. Those blows had been severe, yet as is the wonder of the human body, said area has repaired itself with time. But the “recovered neurons remain isolated from the rest of my brain, constantly sending out low frequency interference that is distracting attention from the central area.” In summary, the two areas of my brain function independently and I am constantly in “two minds”, forever in a state of struggle for focus, which puts extra strain on my system, leads to fatigue, pain, fuzziness and more. I’m a little broken where the red spots are.
Ironically it is the fact that the injured grey matter repaired itself, which is creating the problem. I have no way of comparing my two-minded brain with that of yours, or anothers, but I am told that I have a pantry full of neutrons that I’m not using and I’d love to know what it would feel like to be whole in thought and mind again after all this time. Also, to be able to rely on myself once more.
Why am I telling you this, why am I sharing my story. To be honest, I’m not quite sure, except that I keep thinking of the millions of people affected by brain damage around the world, many MUCH more severely than me, and wonder if my story can offer some insight to them. We all have things, and I need to be open about mine.
Life can be difficult, and my stubborn resilience and determination to always find the beautiful is forever pushing ahead, keeping me going, fighting to overcome my restrictions, wanting and seeking more. Yet I now know that to heal I may need to take it easy for a while. To breath more, sleep longer. Or there may be a more serious system collapse and I don’t want that.
Travel I do and will, but what I’ve learnt in my Year of the Head, is that not all Journeys involve movement. Some call for the still reflection that healing demands, be it from a brain injury, a broken heart, a decision ill made – or simply the demands of being. LIFE is the Journey.
Looking ahead I know that 2013 will be the Year of the Heart. Yes, there may well be travel abroad. Not sure where to yet. Namibia’s seals will call for my return and I aim to find myself in the bush among the big skies and precious animals whenever I can.
But more than that and mostly, I aim to love, be with family, friends and clients cherished, and whether I remain in two minds or can heal myself enough to return to one, I’d like to feel my heart forever warmed by the Journey and Discoveries that living in two-minds has given me. And the people it brings me.
I keep thinking to myself, if I have been able to do and share and experience SO VERY MUCH whilst damaged, life can only be truly amazing once I am more healed. I’m excited about the future.
For now I thank you all for the love, support, friendship, strength and hope that I feel everywhere – all of the time. Here’s to Heads and Hearts and an abundance of Health and Love for all of us. Happy New Year!
Now if only I had been wearing a helmet all along 😉
Read about my previous year end posts here.