The deadly pre-dawn attack

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I woke in a sweat, not sure why. Peering blurrily through one eye I checked the time on my phone, 02:34. As I rolled over, hoping to quickly fall asleep again, I heard the intruder.

The high pitched whine could mean only one thing, I was under attack by the world’s most deadly predator.

I pulled the duvet up over my body until only my head remained exposed to the danger. Lying motionless on my side, my breathing slowed and I listened intently.  A bead of sweat ran from my armpit and over my chest as I waited for the impending assault – nervousness, or the heat of duvet in the muggy Joburg night, I wasn’t sure which.

I was well aware that the intruder that had dared to encroach the sanctity of my bedroom is responsible for over 725 000 human deaths every year, Bill Gates said so.  A massive 724 990 deaths more than the monstrous great white shark. They kill more people in four minutes than sharks kill in a year.

Had four minutes gone by?
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The whine grew louder as the creature flew stealthily closer and closer towards the side of my face. Diving in for an exploratory foray of my naked, juicy, blood filled flesh.

The noise from the female beast stopped. A dreadful silence. I felt a feather light touch on my cheek.

With lightning speed my hand whipped out from under the duvet, delivering a blinding slap to my face. I ignored the stinging pain and a twitching eye as I slid my hand over my cheek, desperately hoping to feel a tiny flattened body and an accompanying slimy trail of blood.

An end to the dramatic encounter.

But alas, I felt nothing.

By now I was wide awake, all my senses fully alert, a finely tuned 46 year old insect killer with a throbbing face. Blood coursing through my body, the blood she was after.

I knew that it was only a matter of time before the merciless predator regrouped for another violent attack.

But I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next. Craning my head away from the pillow to make quite sure, I clearly heard two whining sounds. The little monster had called for backup. Women always stick together.

Abandoning all thought of sleep I realised that I was going to have to take the attack to the enemy.

I switched on the bedside light, and reached for my thick, black rimmed glasses, I was prepared to fight one mosquito whilst half blind, but not two.

20161107_164955_1Standing on the bed I reached for my weapon; a polyester, hollow fiber blend pillow.

Gripping the pillow with both hands I stood poised for action in my watermelon sleep shorts.

By now I stood alone, deserted by my cowardly cats. The same cats who had engaged in a ‘sharp claw on aging skin’ contest for duvet supremacy earlier that night. They had won, as usual.

But now they had slunk off into a dark corner of the bedroom, meowing with fear or laughter, I’m not certain which.

As the tiny but deadly predators circled I watched, my eyes attuned to the slightest movement,waiting for one of them to land on a surface. Any surface would do. Except the bedside lamp. Previous battle disasters had taught me that.

Two whines became one. I searched the walls, the cornices, and finally saw nature’s most deadly animal self-confidently poised for attack, upside-down on the ceiling.

Without hesitation I swung the pillow with all the speed and force I could muster. Only to watch as the ensuing wind from my seemingly deadly blow brushed the cunning insect away.

Minutes passed. Silence. And then a more distant drone. Silence again.

The prick to my calf came without warning.mosquito

I whirled around, slapping simultaneously at my leg, one silky smooth, beautiful human movement. I was convinced I had been successful.  Practically celebrating.

As the blood oozed out of my leg at approximately one litre per 236 days, I searched the duvet frantically for a corpse.  I couldn’t find one.

Failure is not my middle name.

It was time to step up the intensity of my attack. I strode purposely down the dark passage to the kitchen, groping in the dark for the light switch.

As my toes felt beneath them a cold, soft object on the floor, I jumped sideways, letting out an inadvertent shout as my spine shuddered.

Curse the damn cats!

A dead, tail-less, lizard-gift lay on the tiles. Thoughtfully left there by either Bart or Bella for me to find as proof of their hunting prowess.  Suffering severe sense of humour failure, and growling through gritted teeth I marched back to the bedroom battle scene, armed with weapons of mass insect destruction to end my own hunt.

I was no longer to be trifled with.

I laid out my arsenal of vastly superior firepower on the bedside table.

Then I plugged the Raid insect repellent into the socket beside my bed. Sprayed every millimetre of my exposed skin with Peaceful Sleep, and standing on the bed again, I covered the room in a thick cloud of Doom.

No matter the wheezing chest, burning eyes, and prevailing stench, I felt deeply satisfied albeit slightly poisoned.

This was not my time. I was no longer under threat to become a statistic, number 725 001.

I had waged a bedroom war against the planet’s most deadly predator. Not one, but two…and had emerged victorious.

03:12 and all is well.

Well not for the 52.4 people that had died somewhere on the planet in those 38 minutes.

Death to mosquitoes.

All or nothing – a blessing or a curse?

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I’m sure that you’ve met them, those single minded freaks who seem consumed by one passion or another. Hell-bent on being the world’s best at whatever it is that they do.

Slow down buddy, take a chill pill. You’ll burn out before you hit 40.

Can you relate? Know one? Or maybe, just maybe it’s you.d3910-11244616_841332609284410_860039340_n

Hi, my name is Richard and I’m an all or nothing guy. It’s been 45 years now.

There’s no in-between for me, it’s either full speed ahead, or no speed. There are times when I wish I had an in-between switch, an idle mode; it can be frustrating when the turbos aren’t all charged and the engine is not racing full throttle.  But then I remember that every person who achieved a significant milestone in this world did it because that one thing consumed them to the core.

We are taught at an early age to try our best at everything, and to improve on the things that we are poor at. Ultimately, that way of thinking produces people that are just average at everything. I’d far rather espouse the idea of focusing all our time and energy on the things that we’re already good at, thereby making us brilliant at them.

And yes, I do understand that we only know what we are good at once we have tried many things. But if you try, and it’s not for you, stop! Just don’t ever stop trying new things.

Passionate people have an ability to trust their intuition, to follow their internal GPS. They understand that logic isn’t always superior. They are growth oriented, and continually strive to become better. Everything happens at high speed. They are not afraid to take risks, and let’s face it, nothing comes without a risk.

So there is the blessing, and it truly is. Embrace your passions and become obsessed. Obsession is a powerful thing, and all too often seen as a negative trait. Yes, there is a negative component to the word, so be careful what you obsess about. There is a fine line between blissful ignorance and being positively realistic.

all-or-nothingThe wonderful thing about people who are naturally obsessive, is that the same passionate energy spills over into everything else, including their relationships. I know that it’s possible to be obsessive in relation to my two girls – to the point that I become reclusive as a single dad when I get time with them – and to be obsessive about my work and also my sport. All at once.

We do what excites us.
It’s about being in that moment, that at that very moment the only thing that matters in your world is that singular thing. I can stand up in front of a crowd of people with many other things on my mind, I could be sick, I could be taking strain in other areas of my life, but for that moment, the obsession consumes me, and the people in front of me get ALL of me. I don’t think about it, it just happens.  And the excitement boils over, it becomes contagious.

There is another side to the gift of passion though.

Knowing when to let go is extremely hard for those who give everything that they have to every situation. We are so used to making things work. Being tenacious and enduring discomfort are all part and parcel of the trait. We don’t know when to give up or when the obsession becomes detrimental, or when it has merely become time to move on.

We are all too aware that giving up might mean the difference between becoming extraordinary or just plain normal. What if Thomas Edison given up on his 999th try at the light bulb?  Although I’d like to believe that he knew that he was close enough at that point.

A great example of the healthy obsession. I’ll bet there were many people telling him to give up.

f3259b3ebd9f1e4d9ed01a471bdabe93We are courageous and determined and therefore we tend to see giving up or walking away as failure, when in truth there are times when our actual failure is the inability to stop or channel our energies elsewhere. It’s a fine line.

All or nothing people can sometimes become self-destructive too. I know that if I have an athletic goal that I’m working towards, and I am training full speed ahead, the world is rosy and life is good. The minute that I have a hiccup and am unable to train for a couple of days, I find it hard to pick up and finish the week. My week was a failure, full stop.

And so I end up doing nothing for that week.  We tend to be particularly self-critical. It is unfortunately self-defeatist, but all too real. We are idealists.

It is hard for us to understand that not everybody is internally wired the way that we are. Please don’t expect us to be patient.

Passionate people give all of themselves to the people who matter to them, and don’t cope well when they get less in return. We commit, boots and all, and would like your boots to be committed too.

Weighing up the pros and cons, I will take being passionate any day of the week … as if I really have a choice. J

Letting go is the hardest part.

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There is a recurring theme in my life; holding on for one reason or another to things, stuff, and relationships. It’s been difficult to get to the bottom of this tendency because more often than not, emotion clouds good judgement. c1f29933689797316b69e3ccc2a502c2

I have moved home 6 times in the past 8 years, chasing my 2 daughters cross country and trying to keep up with the tumultuous changes that have marked this period of my life. Each time I have carried a large household of possessions and pieces of furniture around with me, notwithstanding the bonsai collection. At times I put my overflow of belongings into storage if the property I lived in was too small.

I tried to manufacture space or find places for things that didn’t necessarily fit. I squeezed it in, and in so doing couldn’t create a space that ultimately made me happy. There was always a feeling that I was split, and that somehow Richard couldn’t be Richard. But I didn’t seem to be able to let go of anything.

Living alone for 6 years, I still have never let go of the idea of sharing a home with a special person in my future.

I held onto the past as a basis for a future that I yearned for. Thus losing the present.

Somehow Richard became defined by the things and the circumstances.

I hung on for varied but all emotive reasons; sentimental value, the scarcity of the belonging – like an antique, the potential use of an item, or poverty consciousness – will I ever be able to replace it. The most important reason however was that I had already lost so much in my life.

It all weighs me down and costs me energy, let alone the financial cost of moving and storage. The ‘stuff’ is better described as a burden and as baggage.964052482435194502gULUvVrc

At times I guess it has been challenging to have to admit that I have become a hoarder. And because of that I have spent much time attempting to understand the emotional and intellectual reasoning for this tendency.

I have come to understand that it is simply this; I have a fear of loss.

A fear that prevents me from moving forward unencumbered. What if I need that one thing that I let go of?  What if I cannot replace it? What if I never find it again?

And so too, I have come to realise that I have that very same tendency with relationships. To the point that I damage myself by hanging on.  And the reasons are identical; a fear of loss and all that that manifests within me.

The certainty of what I have is a lesser evil than the uncertainty of something that I don’t have. And so I hold on.  Loss seems to be an unbearable option.

But if I am not happy, I have nothing anyway.

The emotion that is inextricably linked to the relationship is the greatest problem. Love of that person no matter how my love is returned or isn’t, and the inability to love myself enough to let go once I have recognized the destructive weight of the relationship, all make it extremely hard to let go. Fear controls me.

I am about to move again, hopefully my last in a long time. I intend to get rid of anything that I do not have a use for right now, as well as all those things that serve no positive purpose in my life. No matter how much I might love them.

out of clutter find simplicity from discord find harmony in the middle of difficulty find opportunityHolding on is a destructive energy, and it prevents us from moving forward. It keeps us stuck in the past, and holds us in a limbo that resists freedom.

I am moving forward alone and free. Scared, but free. I choose to make myself a priority by not holding onto the things that negatively impact my life. I choose to let go, and face my fears head on.

Keeping up with the Joneses

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I find it hard enough to keep up with myself, let alone the Joneses or the Molefe’s or even the Gupta’s –  in fact especially the Gupta’s, those guys seem to be everywhere. Just the other day I read a New Age newspaper and there they were again, go figure.. All I have is this WordPress site.

I seem to run from plane to plane and back again, and when I look back, I can’t seem to remember who the Joneses even are, let alone which town they call home.

Thank god I still recognize my kids, but I could swear that they had more teeth the last time I saw them.

Who has time or energy for Mr and Mrs Jones.

Mrs Jones just got the latest Land Rover for her birthday. That’s lovely, but I spend more days in a rental car than my own, and can’t remember on which level I parked at the airport. You tell me which is more important to me.

I do think that Mr Molefe has a gorgeous new home in that estate in Joburg with the sewerage pipe running through it.

I’m just grateful to count the number of nights that my girls share my house with me in a month.

I keep planning for the future. I keep endless mails. The ones I fully intend to revisit, because I need time to digest them, and act on their contents.
I mail myself website pages too, to read later, you know…when I have the time. I make notes on the books I need to read, and have kept more recipes than I have days left on this earth.

But I already have a pile of books on my bedside table, and a pile of laundry in the wash basket. Quite frankly I reckon it should be more important to read the books than do the laundry. Tell that to my boss when I pitch up at work in front of an auditorium full of people wearing nothing but Cry The Beloved Country.

Yes I still haven’t read that one!

You see it’s all relative, this keeping up thing. I don’t have the time nor energy to care about other things, because I’m busy surviving my own chock-a-block life.

13581236346445762_2pxiLodn_cI get up each morning and marvel that I get paid to do what I do. And actually, that’s more than enough.
I know who my best friends are, and don’t give a hoot where they live nor what they drive. But I do know what it sounds like when they laugh or cry.

I’ll get to read the books one day or maybe not.
But right now I need to get home in time to prepare for the arrival of the tooth fairy tonight, and that’s more important than anything.

Keeping up with the kids.

The Birthday Test, age plays no favorites.

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Many years ago I started an annual personal birthday test. The idea was that if I could get out of bed on the 29th of July in the middle of the South African winter, and run a half marathon on my own, life must be good. Despite any evidence to the contrary.

It gave me a wonderful sense of achievement and dare I say it, a smug satisfaction.

As the saying goes…’whatever floats your boat.”

I guess all things are relative.Copy of IMSA.run

Stupidly one year I stretched out my goal after suffering a splendid brainfart. Why not run the corresponding distance to my age every year…what a stupendous, (in retrospect; childishly idealistic) idea.

And so, after my 30th birthday, the inevitable occurred.The chances of me attaining my yearly goal became as strong as my chances of winning an argument with a woman.

Perhaps I should have aimed at 42km, and then subtracted a kilometer each year after that to work back down.

I’ll have to save that idea for my next lifetime. You know, the one where I return as a gazelle.

And so I failed the test for a number of years. In fact I didn’t even pitch up at the start line.

This year however was different. Being more determined than ever to regain some running fitness, I completed the 21km before work on my birthday.

To some it might not be a significant achievement, but to me it was.

That was until I remembered the ego-obliterating words of a colleague on the eve of my birthday, “I suppose it’s better than some other tests you might have to put yourself through at your age.”A+healthcare+provider+donning+a+pair+of+latex+gloves

On my 44th birthday she might be depressingly correct. So next year I will forgo the half marathon test in favor of the prostate exam… Ouch. Age is a bitch who wears latex gloves.

My terrible little secret.

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I had my Mom in the car with me, and I was itching to do it. It’s my habit, my addiction, my terrible affliction. I knew I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, she’d judge me and chastise me, 

Admonish me like a naughty little boy again. 

Just the other day I looked up from the little screen and had to swerve to avoid driving into the chevrons on the side of the road. My heart pounding as I guiltily tossed the phone onto the passenger seat. A minor lapse I thought. Thank goodness there were no other cars on the road. No one to witness, nobody to see me. I’m probably just tired, it’s late, and I’ve just climbed off a plane.

Besides, I’m a great driver. I can handle a phone and a steering wheel simultaneously. The Multitasking King. I’m better than the rest. It won’t happen again.o-TEXTING-DRIVING-facebook

But that’s how all addictions flourish, that little voice in your head that whispers, “You’re still in control. You can stop any time you choose.”

I’ve even assuaged my guilty conscience by convincing myself that catching up on social media posts is OK. After all, I’m not texting, and isn’t that what all the fuss is about?

Driving robot to robot, waiting for the car to roll to a standstill and then reaching for the phone. Watching the road, constantly waiting for a straight stretch of road, less traffic, perfect conditions to get my fix. 

But it is never OK. 

No matter how good a driver you are, no matter how fleeting the glances at the screen. It is just a matter of time. One text and one update closer to the inevitable. 

Of course my mom would be right; I just don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to admit it either. Don’t want you to know…finally-thumbs-down-things-you-dislike-facebook.1280x600

But it is time. I am lucky that thus far my terrible habit hasn’t cost me. Yes lucky. Not skilled, not clever, not smart. Not better than anybody else who has caused an accident, taken a life, lost a life.

Just plain lucky! 

So now you all know. I admit that I have a terrible habit. My secret is out. 

And so it ends, because from today, I promise that I am done. I’m going cold turkey. 

And I’m asking for help. 

If you’re close enough to me to know when I am driving, and you suspect that I am breaking my promise, I’m asking you to challenge me, be hard with me. 

 And I am challenging you to do the same. Give it up. Come clean. Be grateful that you’ve been lucky too. feeling-lucky

Please don’t wait for your luck to run out…

You do it because ‘driving is such dead time…’

There’s something there, don’t you think?

 

 

Being positive is a choice. Truck versus bicycle – 10 lessons.

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Lesson number one; a truck is a formidable opponent.

Human flesh and bone is no match for a truck moving at speed – probably no match regardless of the speed.  For that matter, tar is also a force to be reckoned with. I am an Ironman on paper only, that much is now abundantly clear to me.

My very best ‘tuck and roll’ turned into a ‘tuck and smear’…

Lesson number two; stealth is not to be underestimated.

I didn’t hear it coming. A truck the size of a small building snuck up behind me with the stealth of a hunting leopard, but with 16 times the speed and none of the finesse.

20131208_100049_1Lesson number three; cycling apparel should come with a warning label that reads; “resists wind, but not hard surfaces.”

This lesson is self-explanatory, and my bib-shorts are evidence to the lesson.

Lesson number four; disaster strikes unexpectedly.

21 Years of cycling… Accident free and invincible.

I was happily lost in Sunday cycling dreamland. Putting the hammer down on my imaginary cycling partners. Crashes are for all the other cyclists…

Lesson number five; shock and pain are ugly twin sisters.

I still haven’t figured out which was worse; the shock of the unexpected, lying scribbled on the tarmac squinting into the sun, wondering how I’d gotten there. Or the stabbing pain that seemed to come from everywhere all at once.

Lesson number six; pain doesn’t trump outrage and indignation.

The driver didn’t stop, didn’t even slow down, not even a smidgen. Neither did any motorist mind you… Who cares about the pain… How dare he!?! Here I am laying in an ugly mess on the tar, the result of his negligence, and he disappears into the Joburg smog.

I swore a lot.

I shouted words I didn’t know that I knew.

Lesson number seven; road rules only apply to those who are pedantic enough to follow them.

I was right, he was wrong. The yellow line belongs to the cyclist. A cyclist takes up an entire lane. Vehicles are not permitted to drive on the left of the yellow line. Well, that’s what the rulebook says anyway…

Truck driver rule number 1: the road belongs to the biggest.

Lesson number eight; the fable that “chicks dig scars” is false.

I have seen no measurable increase in female attention since the incident. In fact if the ugly truth be known, I have seen no attention whatsoever. Which of course makes Keryn very happy…

Personally I’m gutted, good scars have been wasted.

Lesson number 9: there is no lesson number 9, it purely appeals to my OCD nature to have ten lessons.

suck-it-up-buttercup.american-apparel-unisex-tank.black.w760h760b3Lesson number ten; setbacks need not actually set you back.

Setbacks and hardships, accidents and incidents, negative life happenings, can either affect your future, or can mean absolutely nothing going forward besides being a good story. You can decide, it’s actually a choice.

Granted, some incidents are far harder to get through than others, but there really are only two distinct groups of people.

There are those who assume the victim role at any opportunity. They will tell everyone whom they meet about all the negative things that have ever happened to them. They live in the past, and gradually do less and less for fear of all the bad things that might happen, due to all of the bad things that have already happened. Always looking for the next excuse to throw a pity party, they are avid followers of bad news. In fact, bad news seems to follow them.

And then there are those who pick themselves up, brush themselves off and move forward in life. Pragmatic and stoic to the core. Life hands out lemons and nobody ever guaranteed you a free ride nor a pain-free ride in life. They wear the scars as a reminder of what they have been through to reach their present disposition.

They choose to learn from the tough times and avoid the victims. That’s a pretty good motto I reckon. You will always find the bad if you look for it, but guess what, you’ll always find the good if you choose to look for it too.

Hardship produces great character if only you’ll allow it to.

So I choose to accept that the risk of cycling is ‘Tarmac-time’. I am grateful for every moment that I get to spend on the freedom that is a bike. I will take all necessary precautions, and ride defensively, but recognize that sometimes no matter what…life happens. And when it does, I need to climb back on as soon as possible.

And besides, the odds remain in my favour.

21 years, only one measly accident.