Going Grey (I prefer silver) gracefully…

FeaturedGoing Grey (I prefer silver) gracefully…

This is my second attempt at growing out my grey hair, the first being January 2016 when I got my husband to shave my head! I must say, I kinda liked that look! The growing out of that look, not so much. It was slow, gruelling, with months and months and days and hours and weeks of looking awkward and having bad hair days.

My friend suggested I write a list of reasons why I was doing this, because I ‘ve started down this road before and gave up. It was too hard to be different. It was too hard to have stupid comments thrown my way. My self esteem suffered. But what’s worse is now having to do it all again.

I could kick myself!

Because that was 15 months of going through so much, wearing hats and scarves and hair gel and waking up with a mohawk….. and then I caved, and I coloured it.

Which felt great….awesome…for about 2 weeks….when those greys started to reappear.

Then I went for blonde highlights. In the hope that I wouldn’t have to cover the grey so much. Which was also great for a while, except I went more and more blonde every time I went back, and the greys still showed if I didn’t go back. As time went by,  the more blonde I went, the more it didn’t suit my rosy complexion, and my hair became so dry.

I proceeded to dye my hair, darker this time. The colour would fade very quickly to an orange colour due to the highlights under the dye. I went darker. Which looked nice for a while, but the greys showed very predominantly. Also, due to having a lot of grey now, if I didn’t get to all the grey at the roots, especially at the sides of my head, those would show through when I tied my hair back or the wind blew my hair in the wrong direction! And the colour looked so false in the sun.

I had also been researching xenoestrogens and the link between chemicals (including the darker hair dyes) and our hormones as well as some possible cancer links. Especially for those who have to dye their hair so often (more than 10 times a year). So.……me. If I had to keep up with covering the grey, that would be twice a month for 12 months, so 24 times a year!

I realised that I needed to put my health above my vanity. And also realised that I was not fooling anyone. Your face, neck, hands all betray your age anyway, so why not just embrace the age and stage you’re in and be your real self?

Here are some of my reasons in list form:

  1. Xenoestrogens and chemicals in hair dye are bad for you!
  2. Root touch ups every 2 weeks is a pain and often can’t get to all the roots….missing spots…and that looks…..weird.
  3. Saves money!
  4. Hair is healthy and soft with  natural highlights.
  5. Blonde did not suit my complexion and also very drying for hair.
  6. I need to do what I like and not what other people like.
  7. I am happy with my age and don’t need to try and look younger.
  8. I choose health and natural hair over vanity and dried out hair.
  9. I choose to be different and to rock it!

I also accept that I may not get admiring glances from other men…..that guys aren’t going to look at me. And that’s ok. Because I have my guy who looks at me and thinks I’m beautiful. The rest is vanity and insecurity.

This time around, I do feel peace about this decision and am quite certain that I will never go back. Occasionally I may need to re read these notes and re-affirm my decision, reminding myself of all the good reasons and try a new style ( or scarf, headband or hat)!

Not everybody has to like or agree with my decision, probably nobody really cares anyway! But to anyone else out there contemplating this route and the freedom of ditching the dye and being yourself, you need to allow people to have their own opinions and not be upset if they don’t agree with you. This is your life, your hair, your health, and you need to be at peace with that.

I think the first time around I cared too much how others saw me. It was such a big jump from always colouring my hair to shaving it and going grey overnight. I am glad I went back to colouring though, because it reminded me why I wanted to stop in the first place, and helped cement my decision the second time round.

I am now, looking forward to a new pathway to natural health and goodness. Both in body and spirit, health and wellness.  There is so much to thank God for, to be grateful for,  that I have lived this long and have the “silvers” to prove it!

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It’s my Birthday…maybe?

Today is my Birthday.

I woke up early this Morning, and as I lay in bed I felt God whispering to me, Happy Birthday, daughter. I can’t phrase absolutely correctly what I felt God showing me, but I will try to describe it as best as I can. The essence of what He said I hope I can represent well. He reminded me of this…

” Before you were in your mother’s womb, I created you, chose you. Set you apart for Me.”

I had this picture, going back further, that actually my real birthday was at conception, 9 months before my birthdate, around Jul then.

I saw God sending this little spirit into the womb of my mother at that time. I then went even further back, even before the world began, as He had reminded me of this scripture ,  Jeremiah 1:5-

” Before i formed you in the womb I knew you,

And before you were born                I consecrated you…”.

Yeah I know He is speaking to Jeremiah. But I felt Him speaking this to me. A few days ago, I had wanted to paint something new, but my eye kept going back to an older painting, that I felt drawn to. I started sketching a bit in white conte pencil over the painting, and suddenly “saw” what I needed to add. A baby in the womb. But not a mothers womb, more the womb of God’s creation, before even being in my mother’s womb.

In looking up the scripture and some bible commentary, I found that the words ” I knew you are written “with the force which the word often has in Hebrew, as implying, not foreknowledge only, but choice, and approval.”( Elliots commentary).

As well as ” consecrated”, which means – ” set you apart as hallowed for this special use.”

I had this picture of You, Father God, creating and forming me, even before the creation of the world. I saw you creating me, this spirit, choosing my temperament, my giftings and talents, my nature, personality traits. I saw You decide to give me gifts of creativity, not insanely gifted in any one area, but a gift of dancing, a gift of art, a gift of music, of writing. Not exceptionally talented, but all round creative. I expressly felt You making me a creative being, one who would love your creation as I would see YOU in it all, and that’s how You would draw me to Yourself. That I would experience You through the wonder of Your creative works, and that I would want to create like my Father. I would hear you speak to me through creating and expressing my love for You this way. Which is why I love to draw a single flower, as in it I see how wonderful You are, how intricate are Your ways. I love to be out in nature, delight in the roughness of a bark under my fingers as I lean against a tree, and the squishy dewy feel of the soft grass between my toes. I breathe in the expanse of the ocean and Sandy beaches that go on for miles, and I see how powerful and tremendous You are. I worship you through making up songs and dancing and expressing all that’s in my heart. By writing thoughts, psalms and poetry.

I see You, taking these things, choosing attributes, and forming them in me, like little dollops of substance and light. And all this, even before You created the world. You knew me, chose me, approved of me. You smiled as You formed me.

I had this picture of all these spirits  like little seeds, in little heavenly incubators, waiting for just the right time when God would choose them and send them. As a seed, full of all the potential and purposes of God, sent just at the moment of conception in the mother’s womb.

That we were created and thought about, with love, wisdom and divine purpose, before God even made the world. So my birthday in God’s eyes was eons ago! The sending and joining together of the spirit and the physical at conception, in Gods timing and purpose. Nine months before my physical birth date which brought it all to fruition. Now to grow up into all that He has purposed me to be by His inspiration and creativity.

I sensed You saying…

“I’m going to wire her, this way, to be drawn this way to Me, where she’ll experience Me in a unique way through My creation and through her creativity. ”

You made me like this.

I am struggling to put into words, the images I saw and the essence of what You were saying. But today, I say thank You Father, for choosing to make me.

Thank You for giving me life.

For breathing into me.

For my actual birthday which was eons ago!

 

 

Success! Or not….?

I honestly do feel as if I’m going through some midlife crisis or something, but actually, it’s a good thing. Instead of it being full of negative connotations and experiences, it’s rather making me think about what is important. It’s a time of reflection, which I am able to do as I find myself retired from teaching ballet, and the mother of two adult children. Zac and Jed, 20 and 18 years respectively.

I don’t know if it’s the combination of not having a job, my age, and adult kids who are now embarking on their career journey’s and academics, that have me looking back and re- thinking my own choices.

I cringe when I haul out my old Senior Certificate and look at my marks. I do know that I didn’t really study much, as just wanted school over and done with, just wanted to get out of the system! We had just moved back to Cape Town from Durban, after my Mom’s divorce from my step dad ( which we were both more than happy to leave), and I started standard 9 (Grade 11) at Ellerslie High School which then amalgamated with Sea Point High in Matric. Those were not the best circumstances, and to be fair, I was not in a good place myself due to the abusive family situation we had just left. Maybe I’ll tell THAT story one day! I was also going out with a guy, my first boyfriend (at 17) and he was 25, and knowing that I should break up with him. I don’t think he was really a Christian, but I met him at youth (why was he at youth at that age?) and we started going out. And I just knew it was wrong, it wasn’t what God wanted for me. So I was conflicted. And distracted. Actually, in hind sight, I’m surprised I passed at all!

I then took a gap year to focus on my ballet, as this was my dream. To go to UCT school of dance, and dance all day! However, I had started ballet late, was far behind, and had a lot of catching up to do. My teacher in Sea Point, Adelaide Kessler, was amazing. Encouraging me and allowing me to come to as many classes as I could, during school hours and after, as this was during my gap year. I also attended classes at UCT school of dance. However,  I did not realise I would need a matric exemption to attend UCT ( I know, duh, right?) as I did not have any guidance. And there was no Google back then!

Anyway, I didn’t get in, even though my teacher asked if they saw me dance, and I said no. She said they should see me dance, and do I want her to phone them. I said no. They just looked at my Senior Certificate and laughed. Nice. I think the exact words were, ” How did you think you would ever get in here?” I walked out of there, all I’d worked for in tatters, and this boulder sized lump in my throat. I felt sick. As I walked past the Music building I bumped into a missionary from my church, Mary, who attended classes there ( I think?) as she played the sax or something. Anyway, I remember telling her what had happened, and she said something along the lines of , “God’s will might not be what we want,” something like that. It was small comfort at the time, but true nonetheless. And I always remember her words and the fact that she was right there, at that time. Definitely a God set up.

My back up plan  then, was to pursue art. I attended Cape Town Technical college, got my N6 Certificate in art, and long story short, ended up back in Ballet. Got married to my one and only true love. Trained further, a few more exams under my belt, teacher training, got pregnant, stopped my teacher training, had Zac, 2  years later had Jed, bought a flat, moved, bought a house, moved from Tamboerskloof to Bothasig, started dreaming again, went back to teacher training, qualified, opened my own studio, worked hard, was a success. Succeeded!

Having retired now, my musings have been, I wonder if I was ever meant to teach ballet at all? Maybe I just forced it, and should have just followed my art leanings and natural capability? However, I think that I am not really that good at art either.  It is very difficult to make a career out of Art . For me, I feel that I am not offering anything different. I am not your typical creative artist that thinks outside the box. I like order. I like paintings with order. I appreciate other artworks of expressionism etc. I love it. But I can’t think like that. I like painting flowers, and little landscapes and seascapes. And ballet dancers. Realistic with a touch of passion or inspiration! It’s not very interesting or eye catching or different or even very good.

And that’s okay. Because God has been talking to me, over and over, and over, about my value, and not having to be good at something. He has also been talking to me over and over, that it is not my place to provide. He does not want me working, and feeling that I need to make money. It’s been hard to lay that feeling of responsibility down, especially as we have been going through hard times financially. I also hate feeling helpless. But I am learning to trust in God, and not in my own plans. I always like to have a plan!

I had a thought the other day, that for so long I have felt that it must either be art, or ballet. That I have been locked into these two mind sets and that maybe it was neither? Maybe there is something else there that I haven’t seen or been open to? Which opens up another whole rainbow of possibilities! I looked at going back to study, I always enjoyed English and Literature, and so I started researching courses I could study. A few years ago I looked at Theology as well, but it wasn’t the right time. But only a few weeks ago, I got to the place of  being content with where I am at. Of being a housewife, and not having to succeed at something else now. You know, you’re finished with the ballet, now you must do well, be good at, something else. When actually, no I don’t. I don’t have to. I don’t have to prove my worth, my value, by being successful at something. God has been showing me that just being alive, just breathing, is good enough. Gives me value and worth in His eyes. Only by being taken out of my career, did I realise how much of my identity, and self worth, was tied up in what I do. How well I do. God has been rebuilding foundations in me, that were cracked somewhere along the lines of growing up. Foundations of worth, value, being loved by Him. I have tried to build upon cracked foundations to prove to myself, and to myself, that I am enough. He has had to take away all that I have built , which was crumbling and faltering anyway, to get to the foundation, and start laying line upon line, and precept upon precept, of truth. I have just remembered a scripture God gave me, must be sixteen years ago? During a serious bout of depression:

Isaiah 54:11

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,

behold, I will set your stones in antimony,

and lay your foundations with sapphires.”

I thought He had been doing that all along, but I am realising that He’s really doing that now. Yes there has been a lot of work on my “foundations” over the  years. However, there seems to be a crack or two in my foundations of who I am, that He is now working on.

I woke up this morning remembering something I read last night in a book, which caught my attention:

“There are different definitions of success.”

To backtrack a bit, I have just this last week been looking into studying, getting a certificate in Christian Counselling. Not for work potential, but because it may be something God is calling me to, and because I have a desire to help people. However, I have had to have a hard look at myself, prayerfully, and ask these questions…

Am I just looking for something else to be good at? To succeed at?

Am I looking for a new identity?

Am I trying to prove something to myself, that I am smart?

Am I doing this because I feel useless?

Can God use me to help others, without a counselling certificate?

Do I need gifts, talents, and to be “good” at something, to have value?

No. Looking outside at the rain falling gently, I know I have worth just by breathing.

I am enough.

The other thought I had was,

“If you don’t know what direction to go in, don’t move. “

Just wait.

Not my strong point! I have been known to be impulsive at times!

Do what I DO know to do, right now. Which is write. Blog.  Spend time, waste time, with Jesus, building friendship with Him. Spend time, waste time, with Jed, who is at home with me doing his GED. I have looked back with regret, to when the boys were young, and seeing on specifically Jed’s report card that he needed extra attention. Which was the plan when he was 3. We moved to Bothasig, he was going to stay home with me, but he ended up going to play school after a couple of months. And I started teacher training. And I regret not being there more. I feel I may have been selfish. But to be fair I was battling depression, and I honestly did my best, even though I was broken myself. I know I shouldn’t look back with regret. The past is over and I can’t do anything about it.  I did do a lot of good things too. I think I got some things right.

But I don’t want to be selfish now. I want to be here for Jed, and build into his life, and give him the attention he needs. Not out of guilt, no, I must be careful of beating myself up. But rather out of a sense that, this is the time. The right time. Embrace, enjoy the space and time, to love, to build relationship. To be. We don’t have the money for me to study right now, and we need to pay for Zac’s studies, and then Jed’s. It is their time now.

What is my definition of success?

A family that live, and breathe, and love Jesus, each other, and others.

What does the future hold?

I don’t know.

But for now, this I know.

Stop. Wait. Breathe. Enjoy. Love. Write. Paint.

Embrace the season I’m grateful to be in.

 

Comparisons….

“I will be who You made me to be…

I will dance the dance that You gave me to dance….

I will sing the song that You gave me to sing…

I will do the things You gave me to do….

I will dream the dream You gave me to dream….”

One of a kind…one of a kind…not like anyone else…” Beautiful and true words from a song by Julie True.

In my profession, as a Ballet Teacher,who by the very nature of the work and environment I work in is competitive and can be result driven, there are bound to be comparisons and expectations. This comes in so many forms, whether it is external, like Examinations, Eisteddfods, competitions and concerts, or internal expectations within myself! I’m not sure which is the harder taskmaster, but after some navel gazing I think I can safely confess that I have been the one that has been driving me.

This is something the Lord has been talking to me about in my thoughts and musings while walking my dog or listening to worship music while I do my yoga stretches on my bedroom floor. What precipitated all these thoughts was comparing myself to a teacher friend of mine. We were both tutored by the same teacher, entered exams together, trained for our teacher certificate together, and were best friends. Since then she has moved back to PE and I started my studio here in Cape Town after a break of a few years when my children were young. The thing is, she is supremely talented! Her choreography has always been great, interesting and beautiful, whereas mine has been, I feel, a struggle in the past. Having said that, well, let me come back to this point later.

No matter who I bump into, colleagues, friends etc, when I mention Troy ( there we go Troy LeGeyt/Coffey if you’re reading this) they always say how amazing her work is, absolutely stunning, without fail. And as much as I am proud of her and happy for her, I couldn’t help feeling as I’m driving away, wish I could be more like that. What is wrong with me? Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all, maybe it was a mistake? All those ugly insecurities raising their knobbly little heads! But at the time I’m not even aware of these thoughts that are trying to take root, they are just floating there somewhere in my subconscious, creating discontent and anxiety.

When I take part in Eisteddfods, it is so easy to compare myself to other  teachers, their work, their choreography , their style. When I enter girls for exams, I have the exam criteria to uphold and measure against. When I watch other concerts or attend a Ballet Performance, I compare the work, the dancers, the lighting and sound, choreography, sets and the costumes.

Allowing those words to soak in however- “I will be who You made me to be, I will dance the dance that You gave me to dance…” turned the spotlight on an area in my heart that was not what God wanted for me. This area of comparison was driving me, causing a discontent and anxiety, and a performance mentality that was not healthy. I will dance the dance that He gave me to dance. I have been so set free by those words, that as I linger over those words and let them soak into my heart, that this has translated into such a freedom in being me. And this is even soaking into my attitudes not towards only myself but for my whole studio.

To come back to the choreography aspect, now that I feel free to be myself and do what comes naturally to me as a choreographer, the choreography has just been so easy. Maybe it’s not “break out of the box” amazing, maybe its not different or “wow”, but it’s me. And it has flow and an ebb about it that is …well…so me!

How this translates into my Studio, my teaching , and “my girls” as I call them is like this: I want each child, student or adult, to know and value their own worth. I want them to know that they are one of a kind, that everyone is so different and to celebrate their uniqueness. Each one of my dancers has their own beauty, their own strengths and weaknesses, that even as they work to progress and overcome weaknesses, that their strengths are validated and applauded and that they know how truly special they are. There are those who are going to make a career out of this, but the majority dance because they love it. Why do we ever start dancing? What makes us do that first little wiggle? Joy! it’s pure unadulterated joy!

And that is what I hope to ignite in “my girls”. To keep stoking the fires of passion for dance. No comparisons.

Be still…..

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Today I found myself murmuring within my heart, some discontent and disatisfaction due to circumstances beyond my control. And almost immediately I was reminded in my heart of hearts….that God is the only one who can fill me and bring me complete satisfaction. Contentment and wholeness. That I cannot look to people or any person to do what He alone can do. And this is how it should be. Only He will do.

So during my time with Him this morning, I wrote down my thoughts which kind of turned into a poem of sorts.

“If I wonder but a little away,

If thoughts and distractions and life pull me away

If busyness and ambition and strivings take over

I am completely lost!

But when I’m back with You

And my heart is laid bare

All my thoughts and musings and strivings

Laid in the light of Your truth

Then do I know that I am truly known

And I am loved

Anyway

And for always

So today I say, be still

Be still my thoughts

Be still and breathe

Be still and know that He is God

Be still, my heart

He’s got you still

Be still, and hear, and see

Be still and be

Let love pour in

And calm the raging seas.

Psalm 23v 2″…He leads me beside the still waters….”

Thank You God!

Those who can’t do….teach! Argh!

How many times have I heard this absurd statement?  Far too many to count. The fact that some people actually say it to your face is quite confounding to say the least. Would that not be considered, if nothing else, just plain rude? It takes my whole profession and in one fell swoop denigrates it to the floor of worthlessness and inability.

Now, as a ballet teacher….and maybe just to get it off my chest, I would like to set this straight and defend the countless teachers out there who have poured out themselves, their souls and their experience into so many little boys and girls across the world.

Firstly, let me say that many teachers have gone the professional route first, have danced in companies and countless productions. And as the majority know, because of the extreme  nature of the work, there is a shelf life for a professional dancer. Once past that age, some dancers do choose to become teachers. Which is another ball game altogether. Now you are looking from the other side, and trying to bring out the best in the dancers you have in front of you and are coaching. And there is wealth of experience and professionalism that is brought to the table.

Then you have those, like me, who have never danced with a professional company. At this point I feel the need to clear up another misconception. Just because you’re a good dancer and want to make it career, in no way determines that you ever will. For a ballet dancer to finally make it into a company is the hardest road and one that not everyone is equipped for. ..no matter how hard you work at it. There may be that one child…In over ten years of teaching that you will see in your studio..that may possibly make it if she or he has all the physical requirements….the physical look..the ability….the talent..The mental capacity…the brain….The drive..the competitiveness. The artistry  ..The gift, ultimately. And here I am talking very broad strokes, as there is so much more than what I have mentioned above. These dancers you see in companies are literally chosen one out of a thousand.

But, I digress. Needless to say, a ballet dancer is what she is, because of those who taught her. Yes, those teachers who supposedly can’t do.

Let me also explain, that in order for one to become a teacher, one does not just decide to do this because one is not good enough. A teacher is someone who has firstly, danced her entire life. She has passed all the exams that the children she is teaching now, are busy with. She has mastered the vocabulary and does have the physical ability.  That is just her starting ground. This is our foundation, as dancers. After that we move on into understanding, as teachers, why we teach what we teach. We study…yes you do need to study to be a ballet teacher. After some gruelling years of teaching as a student and critique from our mentors…We finally graduate into full blown bona fide teachers in our own right. And then realise we know nothing! Over the years of experience (THE best teacher) we realise how much more goes into teaching than we initially thought. We are always progressing ourselves and keeping up to date with teaching seminars and continuing professional development. In class we are breaking down work and hopefully imaginatively and creatively  expressing thoughts…ideas and concepts to our students….how  does this work….how do we teach this, why do we teach this? How do break this down so a novice can understand it? What are we aiming for and progressing towards? What outcomes are we trying to establish? And and and…so much more! Technique and artistry. …..musicality, projection, performance and communication. All the RAD ballet teachers out there know what I’m talking about!

Yes there is a gift required for dancing. ..AND there is a gift required for teaching. To be able to teach is a gift. One I thank God for giving me.

Having said that…not all who have danced professionally make good teachers or even want to be teachers.  And not all who have only taught and have never danced professionally. .not all make good teachers either. It really is a gift that is given…and that we as teachers have the privilege of nurturing and exploring.