Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Celebrity divorce

When I heard that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are going to divorce, or consciously uncouple, if they must call it that, the wave of divorce sadness hit me again. Does everyone get divorced? And particularly, why do almost all famous people end up getting divorced?

I actually feel sorry for famous people. It seems that there is this modern myth that we can have everything, awesome career, good relationship and happy kids, and famous people always seem to be the epitome of this expectation. Poor things. They have so much money, it is almost their duty to be happier and more successful in all of the things than we are. I think celebrities are victims of very unrealistic expectations, but to some degree, we all are.

But it is a lie and it is a lie for all of us. You cannot have everything, there has to be compromise. You CAN have a compromised version of everything, yes.

Famous people generally get famous by having an awesome career. Long after they have made more money than they will ever need, they still pursue their careers, I assume because it fulfills them, at least I hope that is the reason. But in order to have a good relationship, you have to sacrifice some career stuff. You have to give your partner time. Lots of it. If your career takes up too much time you have to say no to stuff. You cannot keep pursuing that career and not expect it to have consequences in other aspects of life. It doesn't mean quitting, necessarily. Just cutting down.

So I guess we all have to really decide what is important to us and then compromise. Extra money really does not buy you out of this equation.

I know for sure that my relationship is more important than any job I could have. I have never been a career-oriented person. I tried to be one for a while, or thought I should be. But my relationship will always come first in my life. I suppose that makes it easier for me because it does not feel like there is any sacrifice I need to make in terms of work life at all.

Freaking divorce! You are everywhere. Stay away.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Random life stuffs.

G and I bought a flat in Cape Town! Well, G did. As a student I cannot really make any contribution to a bond. It seems awfully grown up and scary, but then, he is 38. Everyone has to grow up sometime, right? Actually, no, owning  a place is not necessary for grownup life at all, much as we are conned into thinking that. And I even question the financial sense of why everyone does this now that I know how much freaking money you spend in the process, and how little you make as profit when you sell? There must be a reason...

On that subject we also bought our first ever couch. Hilarious. They are expensive too. People keep asking how we survived without a couch but the truth is, we are not very sociable and when we had people round in our tiny granny flat in England people sat on the floor or a chair or the bed. 

When I say we bought a flat, it is not actually ours yet. We agreed to buy in September. And the lawyers have still not come through with the final paperwork! A friend of ours signed to buy in December and had his place by the end of Jan. How is it possible that we are still waiting? We are renting the place that is supposed to be ours. Most useless lawyers ever.

Real estate is heartbreakingly expensive in Cape Town. I sometimes browse the property pages for other cities to make myself sad.  I am not sure we could ever afford to buy  a house in this city, at least not in the central areas. 

I am hating every minute of every day of my Masters. It is sad to admit, but I dream every day of quitting. I have major homesickness for my previous work place. I have tried for months to convince myself that I am overreacting, but I am just unhappy with so many aspects of the supervision that I have that I can't move past my dissatisfaction. I wonder if I will be able to hang in and finish it? I spend all night dreaming about how I will quit with minimum drama and accusation, but at the same time make my issues heard. I feel like a quitter these days. Do I quit everything? At the same time, misery is not healthy and I would be much better off without this level of unhappiness and stress. Who knows what will happen. Every day I try to hang on a little longer, mostly because I am completely averse to drama and unpleasantness.

I have been in Johannesburg for two months, living on an active building site with jackhammering and drilling day and night, and missing my G like crazy. The only way for me to finish the work my supervisors want me to do is to work day and night without cooking breaks. G has started to decorate our flat without me. I feel like I am nearing the end of a long prison sentence and I cannot wait to go home. No offence to Johannesburg. I am sure you are a lovely city. I, however, will never get to see you because I am chained to a lab day and night. I did not realise you rained so much. It's a bit extreme. 

I blame the ANC.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Being back in South Africa is much harder than I thought.

I am finding living back in South Africa SO much harder than I ever expected. I feel that I need to communicate that, but I am scared of trying to go into the why's of it. I have a feeling that articulating it would piss a lot of people off and I have no desire for that. Not that anyone reads this blog, hello I have had a wordpress blog for years. I think the reason I have come back to blogger is because I want that anonymity again.

Anyway, even saying that I find living in South Africa hard seems wrong to me. No matter how hard it is for me, it is a million times harder for all the people living in poverty, and they don't exactly have a choice about being here or not.

And this is part of the problem. Trying to align my own struggles with those of other people in this country and still feel that I have the right to feel how I feel.

I did not realise how angry people are here. And for good reason! But the anger scares me even though I know it is fully justified. I am one of those people who is not able to block these things out, the emotions of others affects me greatly. I have always had this issue. And this is probably why I am struggling so much.

It breaks my heart that people are so angry. It breaks my heart that for many people, I am a symbol of the cause of that anger. I was naive before. I thought that people got along. And they do. They really do. But it seems to be less common than anyone could wish.

Everyone, of every culture, is very nice to me here. But there are these huge barriers that seem to prevent us from connecting. I am not used to this. England is a melting pot of every culture, and the only way to survive is to connect, instantly. It is easy for me. I have made friends with people from every culture I can imagine.

And yet in South Africa it is completely different. The barriers are there and I can't even put into words how they work. One day they might go away. Maybe? But I will be old or dead. It makes me so sad. Because I like pretty much everyone. I want to connect with people and have that easy friendship that rises above culture. And it is possible. But it is much harder than I thought. We have a lot of misconceptions about each other.

People are friendlier here, much friendlier than in the UK, so it is not all bad. But there is a general wariness that we have around each other. And the anger, it is there, so strong I cannot ignore it.

 The thing is, there is so much good actually! So much. But the bad tends to dominate my psyche. I have always been this way.

My problem is that negative emotions overwhelm me until I cannot see anything else. Other people can see the positive and live positively, but the anger that is bubbling up in this country overwhelms me, and it scares me too. I do believe this country is in for a rough ride some day. When, I do not know. (Well, for many people it is already a very rough ride indeed. Perhaps what I mean is that we could be in for something that affects privileged people badly. Will the people who are struggling now struggle more? Perhaps. I think we need to chat to Zimbabweans about whether they are better off now or before Mugabe went a bit extreme. I bet there are a wide range of opinions on that!).

At the same time, things have always worked a little differently here. We have never followed the traditional African path in terms of history and politics. Not saying this is a good or a bad thing, but South Africa has had a unique path and maybe the current anger will rouse something slightly different from the usual. Who knows?

Of course another thing I struggle with in South Africa is guilt. In Cape Town you can encounter people with difficult and sad stories every time you leave the house, multiple times a day. I know that I am lucky to be the one hearing the story rather than the one living the story. The contrasts in this country are too great. I have never considered myself wealthy. But to a person who earns R1000 a month or less, of course I am wealthy.  Shockingly wealthy. My monthly grocery bill alone comes to a lot more than R1000 I can tell you that.

And so I am both wealthy and not. In some circles I would describe myself as ok, as well-off. Once we were struggling. In other circles we are incredibly wealthy and the thought of describing my past as "struggling" in this context is a joke.

 These things, they require some mental gymnastics that are difficult to negotiate.

I always thought I was made of stronger stuff. But I am learning that my very noble thoughts about my self, others and the world very rarely translate into noble action.

And so I am struggling. And I am disappointed in myself.

Apologies to any South African who may find this offensive in some way. I mean no offence at all. I always seem to struggle with things that other people think are just plain crazy. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Divorce is one hell of a mind-bender to me.

It's funny how I just wrote about commitment in relationships recently, and ever since then I have been thinking a lot about divorce.

A few people I know online or in real life are getting divorced. It terrifies me.

I think divorce does not terrify me if there was a problem with the relationship from the start, or if things become really bitter for whatever reason. For instance I know someone who actually broke up with the guy, found herself pregnant, they got married and had a troubled relationship for many years until they got divorced. In that case divorce seems like a kind of freedom from a bad situation.

But what really freaks me out is that I know people who have been with someone they love (loved?) deeply, for many MANY years - and suddenly after those many years something changed or happened and all of a sudden that life partner person, with whom you have extensive history, is no longer the person you want to be with.

I have heard of parents who have split up when their kids are in their late twenties. That blows my mind. All of that history an shared experience - nixed in an instant.  Did it not mean anything in the end? Or it did mean something but it is possible to move on from? Can you compartmentalise this stuff? You can see how much I am grappling to even understand how this is possible. My world would just not make sense if I did this.

This scares me so much because for me a huge part of bonding with all people is knowing someone a good length of time and shared history. I take a loooong time to warm up to people. It is an introvert thing. My brain needs to process x amount of information about a person before it feels comfortable that it knows the person, and similarly I seem to need to know someone for quite a long time before my brain feels that it is worth putting up the barriers I usually put up. After a longish time my brain says, ok, now it is worth it. This person is not just an aquaintance who will disappear. This person is going to be around and is worth putting all of your affections into. I guess all of my energy will go into that person, so my brain does not want to invest in someone who I just will not be very close to. Once time and history have been shared, I pretty much will love that person for life. No matter who you are, you are in.

I think that is why I always end up loving the people I work with so much. All of them. Because I spend so much time with them, am able to get to know them over a long time, and share a lot of history with them. I am aware how atypical this is because most people are very wary about friendships at work. I love all my colleagues and will forever! Personality clashes are not often an issue for me, as long as I have spent enought time with you!

The G man and I have shared nearly 14 years of history. If for some reason we split up - it would blow my mind. My life makes no sense without him there because we have all of that past stuff - it seems meaningless if we are not together. Does that make sense? I feel like if I lose him I will lose all of that history or at least render it senseless and empty. I can't describe how much it confuses me that people can walk away from such a long shared time and start anew. I think it is just not in my character.

I bond for life, and I mean LIFE. And yet, these divorces happen all the time. They can happen to anyone, even people like me who are convinced the person they are with is their ultimate person for life. And I also know that G is different to me and bonds in a different way - it is not so much about shared history and length of time for him. I feel that for him walking away from so many years of history would not be such a mind-bender. And that does not help my panic much either.

I think this is what they mean when they say relationships take work. Even when yours seems good it is no time to coast along and take things for granted. Ugh.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Commitment - I get it.

It's probably my fault for having a thing about marriage and not wanting to do it, but I am getting quite tired of the questions people ask when they find out that G (whom I have to call my boyfriend for lack of another word) and I have been together for nearly 14 years.

I know that people are not meaning to be mean or tiresome, but I get asked the same thing again and again, and it puzzles me.

"Oh, so why aren't you married? Is it because you don't want the commitment?"

What part of "nearly 14 years" somehow implies a lack of commitment?! What part of waiting for nearly 2 years while he went to Antarctica, during which I never saw him, not even once, and Skype did not exist?
Please explain this to me? What really scares me is that the societal concept seems to be that you have to put your commitment down in a signed document, or it is not the real thing. It just seems so insecure to me that a commitment has to be signed and made law for it to hold.

I realised after about 4 or 5 years into my relationship what commitment really meant and how tough it actually was. It means sticking with the person even through times when they are driving you crazy and you are not feeling any love for them whatsoever. It means working through every problem you have with each other, even when leaving seems like the only option. Commitment is hard.

And it is something that many young people who get married have no idea about at all. I have heard stories of ladies who are now divorced who still say that their wedding day was the best day of their lives. Because it was all about them, because they got to be a princess for a day. Because romance as an ideal was being fulfilled. Not because of the unglamorous commitment part and what it really means.

 I totally understand that I am in a tiny minority of people who actually do not want a wedding and a legal contract (or a religious one) and that is why people get so confused. But our relationship is exactly the same as one with a certificate. Until death or divorce (unofficial in our case) do us part. I am working really hard towards having "death" (hopefully in the very distant future) as that ending. The same as anyone else. Commitment is everything to me.

Why does a contract make such a big difference? Why is it difficult for people to respect my relationship as the real thing? Why does G's family insist on calling me his fiance in public as if I am some embarrassment that they need to hide behind one of the safe labels we use?

My relationship is the real deal.