difference

I went to watch Blue Man Group this week and thought that it was absolutely bloody brilliant. An explosion of the senses. It was a smart, funny, and wildly entertaining show combining various genres of music and art.

A friend of mine went last night and walked out after only 20 minutes…

Paraphrased, ‘It was noise and banging and not funny at all.’

There was a conversation I had this week with another friend. ‘Does prayer work if the person you are praying for doesn’t believe what you do?’

My friends and I share many common interests and compatible perceptions. We can engage on different levels. Yet, we vastly disagree on certain things.

Has this created a wedge in our friendship? Has difference created an elephant? Something that we cannot ever talk about?

On the contrary. I’d rather engage with somebody who has differing views than those who all think the same way and like the same things. Yes, of course the commonality is fabulous and fun, and sharing is caring after all.

But my thinking will never be challenged if I remain within the confines of my tribe. I cannot broaden my view on various interests and topics. I will struggle to grow and evolve into the person I wish to become. The Richard in five years from now.

I am the first to admit that I can be sensitive at times when some of my ideologies are tested and challenged, defensive even. It isn’t something that I’m proud of.  I grew up needing to be right, the undesirable product of deep seated insecurities.

It made me critical, judgmental, and focused on the offensive. It made me dogmatic and stubborn.

For a number of years, I have been consciously working at changing that, expanding my interactions to include those who differ vastly from me on pretty much everything, and have been trying hard to listen more. It is a process.

Additionally, I have made many big mistakes over the past ten years that have exposed weaknesses within. Facing the ramifications of these mistakes has forced me to deal with the concept of being human, fallible, and downright flawed. A wonderful foundation upon which to explore and build a new sense of self…

One that accepts, celebrates, and marvels at differences.

Seek out those who are different to you, for they will become your teacher if only you will let them.

Proviso; if you ask to be challenged or convinced around an idea or concept, but remain dogmatic, it doesn’t count.

This is my worst quality, but one of my best too… 

​My worst quality and greatest fault…I am…intense. Positioned on my tattooed right forearm, next to ‘grateful’ and ‘fallible’…and the word my eight year old daughter chose and wrote for me – But more about that in another post. 

‘Intense’ is awful, it means that it’s easy to live in your head. 

It means that you over analyse, you’re hyper sensitive, and that you see things many others don’t.  It means you are often too self aware, too self critical, and too intuitively conscious of other people. It means that you feel deeply, experience fully, and are prone to anxiety. 

You’re incredibly hard on yourself. 

You think too deeply when others see things and situations at face value. It means that you often have unrealistic expectations of others. 

Intense means that you don’t laugh at yourself enough, because you’re too busy berating your own faults. 

It means that criticism from others is a very tough thing to internalize. 

BUT….intense is also one of my greatest attributes…paradoxically for many of the reasons stated above, and for other reasons too… it means that I can understand others, feel and relate to their emotions. 

It means that I am a deep thinker and question life, I’m creative, that I can write, and paint, and express. 

It means that I can understand and speak of deep and vulnerable things that others can relate to but that not everyone can speak about to their closest circle, let alone to strangers.

It means that I am both my own worst enemy and my own best friend all rolled up into one. 

It is something my friends admire and love about me, but at the same time frequently despair about me. 

Some days I hate the gift…some days I am extremely grateful for the gift.

It is part of my human condition. It is a quality I need to temper and control so that it doesn’t control me. I know that as I continue to develop my sense of self worth I will feel the negative impacts less, as much of the behaviour lies in deep personal insecurities. 

It’s a constant and very real struggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

It is who I am. 

On giving and receiving.

I love spoiling people, but don’t ask me what I would like for xmas…

I have a problem asking for help, but yet I’m so good at giving it…

Receiving is genuinely hard for me, even allowing somebody to make me a cup of coffee and bring it to me in bed is hard. That’s my job, and you’ll get your favourite beverage, in your favourite mug, made just the way you like it.  Every single morning.

I know the root of the problem, it exists in the ego. A deep insecurity, actually a fear, and somehow having to ask for help makes me feel insecure about myself. Giving empowers me and makes me feel fabulous inside.

My occupation allows me to pour myself out and give everything of me, a big reason I love what I do so much. I arrive home exhausted and depleted, but deeply happy.

On April the 15th this year I took an Uber to go for a lumbar puncture, and after discovering that my tumor was in fact a carcinoma, I was immediately admitted to hospital for a brain operation. I took an Uber home too, despite offers of help.

It was an extremely traumatic time for me.

The closest people to me were angry and horrified.  Deeply disappointed that I had robbed them of an opportunity to love me. That’s just one example of what I did at that time, determined that I wasn’t going to put anybody out.

In my defense, as a single person, one learns to be independent, but perhaps there is a limit.

My mother has always called me fiercely independent. Somehow, I have loved that term.

At times during the subsequent recovery, and the seven weeks and 35 sessions of radiation, close friends delivered things to my house by contacting my housekeeper on the days she was at home. It was the only way that they could give me what they wanted to.

I didn’t want to feel pathetic, a victim, needy, or worse…dependant.  I don’t believe that anybody fighting cancer does.

I went to every session and appointment alone, despite the many offers of help.

I was showered with love and support, care, concern and more food than I could possibly eat. I was sent supplements and health products from somebody I hardly know.

Eight months later, and I have learnt some good lessons. Due to a very recent armed robbery wherein I lost a massive number of my belongings, and having made a call in May, between household insurance or paying off medical debts, I chose the debt.

It was a good call at that time when the prognosis was negative. There was an urgency to settle affairs.

But it left me financially unable to replace clothes, shoes, and even some basic belongings necessary to go to work. I lost so much, and am still discovering things that are gone. In the photo above, every single item I had on me besides the waistcoat was stolen.

Without my knowledge a special friend rallied support from another friend and together they started a crowdfunding project. I was perplexed to discover this splashed all over social media, it was incredibly hard to read the kind words and the plea for help. To sit back and allow this to unfold.

And worse still….it was shared over and over again. In the face of colleagues, family, distant friends, and people I have never met.

My colleagues started initiatives of their own, even sharing my bank account details obtained from the HR department..

I have been the recipient of an outpouring of love and giving I could never have imagined possible. It has been quite staggering. I’ve had to deal with my ego, put my pride in my pocket, and handle the fear of facing the people who have reached out in so many remarkable ways.

“how can I now stand in front of these people and deliver, inspire and motivate. Teach, and impart knowledge?”

I asked myself that question over and over.  It seemed deeply uncomfortable to me.

But yet I have discovered that it isn’t at all.  In my vulnerability I realise I have merely become more human.

Many many of the beautiful people whom have reached out have said how fortunate they feel to be able to give something back to me.  How grateful they are to have been enriched by me at some point.

And then I realised how selfish I have been at times to prohibit people from experiencing the delightful feeling that giving brings. That feeling that I adore, the one that motivates me to do what I do.

I am so humbled, and so hugely grateful to each and every person who has given in any way to me over the past eight months. From the messages, the calls, the visits and the gifts…to the amazing help I have received.

Thank you for teaching me to receive, and thank you for all that you’ve given to me!

From Richard the receiver… xxx

The deadly pre-dawn attack

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.

How to race 70.3 SouthAfrica (Buffalo City)

20x30-IBES0039 Just like any other major triathlon, Buffalo City 70.3 with its 3000 entrants will always make even the most seasoned triathlete weak at the knees early on race day. What follows is a take on how to approach the race to ensure not only your fastest possible time on the day, but also a race that will hopefully be one of the most enjoyable days you could experience.

So, race day dawns, you’ve swallowed down a breakfast two hours before the start of your wave, you’re well hydrated, and you make your way down to the beach. Everyone is worried about the weather, and you have been following hourly updates for the past 3 days. What you now realize is that there was absolutely no point in that exercise. All it did was get you uptight, and for what?  Here it is…whatever ‘it’ is…same for all, and not a thing you can do about it!

Don’t forget to apply anti-chafe on the places under your wetsuit where you tend to chafe, have a gel 20 mins before the start, and I always like to put my goggles on under my swim cap.  Losing your goggles in the bunfight that signals the start of the race is no fun at all.

I always start on the outside of the wave, and make sure that I am on the right (as I breathe predominately to the left, and like to look over the swimmers, which helps me to sight and swim straight). Starting in the middle of the pack is always going to be stressful and either athletes will be swimming over you, or you will be swimming over other athletes. Regular sighting to the front will make sure that you swim the straightest line possible.  East London seems to deliver cold water on race day (I have no idea why) but I always find that the less I think about it, and instead concentrate on my stroke, breathing and swimming on the feet of a slightly stronger swimmer who is swimming straight, the less I feel it.  It’s normally only cold for the first 200m anyway.

The swim is a great time to try to relax, the first 300m or so will always be an adrenalin frenzy and might take your breath away, so expect that.  Even the pros feel that on race day, it’s perfectly normal.  So the sooner you can consciously deepen your breathing, stretch out on your stroke and find a rhythm, the better.  Unless you are completing for a podium place, the swim is about pacing yourself to ensure you leave the wet stuff behind with plenty of gas in the tank!

I always like to wash my face off under the showers, and get the sand off my feet. Take your time to do so, it’s worth it. The pros will sprint up the steep little hill from the swim exit to the transition.  Resist that urge!  Walk up and catch your breath.  This particular half ironman is all about how fresh you can feel once you’ve completed the bike course.  The race is all about the run.  The more you have held back, and the more disciplined you can be about pacing yourself, the better your run will be, and ultimately, the more athletes you will pass on that last lap of the run.  Trust me on that one!

Because there are so many athletes, and so many waves, it is impossible to gauge how you are doing overall. (As an age grouper completing for the first 3 positions I found this hard, but have always successfully raced this triathlon by focusing on my own race, my own pace, and my own strategy.  It has worked for me.  My best result is 11th overall, finishing as the second age grouper across the line.  I raced myself, nobody else)

Find your bag, and take enough time in the transition to make sure you have everything you need.  I normally use socks for a half IM, favoring comfort over the 20secs I lose by putting them on.  Hopefully you will have practiced your transitions well before race day.  It is very important to use the first 10km on the bike to get your heart rate down.  Settle into a rhythm.  I like to take a bottle of water from the first water point to spray over my trisuit to wash off the salt, and will always carry whatever I need on the bike with me.  However, if your goal is a finish and not a win, make use of the aid stations. Take the time to say thanks, say hi to the athletes that pass you or that you pass.    Little things, but they tend to lift me, and help me to focus on positives.20x30-IBEC0191

Now, here’s the key to Buffalo City…. Set your cycle computer onto the time setting. NO average speed, NO current speed.

If you can set it on Heart rate, even better. It’s no secret that the bike course is hilly. I have seen so many really strong bikers think that they can hammer the bike, and that they will do well as a result. Al, of those athletes (bar none) have found out the hard way that that strategy doesn’t work! As a strong cyclist the aim is to use that strength to complete the course with lots of gas still in the tank. I will say it again…this race is about how good you can feel once you’ve climbed off your bike.  Therefore, I will always set my computer on the heart rate setting and will keep my HR between 150 and 155, my max on the bike is 171. I do this regardless of who passes me, how slow I am going, how much I need to slow down to keep the HR low.  And it always works.  I love to make a mental note of all the athletes that pass me, and there are always many. I cannot tell you how good it feels to pass them all again on the run, or towards the end of the bike.

So sit up on the longer climbs, breathe deeply, spend time in your small blade. Especially on the way out to the turnaround. It will all pay dividends. Spend a moment to savor how cool it is to be cycling on a National Freeway!

If you must, put down the hammer a little on the way back, you have been disciplined so enjoy the downs, but… The last climb back into town is the perfect time to sit up again, back off slightly and let your legs spin a little.  Try to recover a little so that when your legs touch the ground again they don’t want to buckle under you.

Transition 2 is the same as the first one.  Take the time you need without dilly dallying.  Take your time over the first 3-4 km of the run, ease into your running style, walk early if you need to.  Set small goals for yourself like 2min walk, 2 min jog. Your running legs will come back. Give them some time, and don’t stress.

Finishline 70.3

Finishline 70.3

There is only one big climb each lap, mentally prepare yourself to run slowly or walk up the hill.  I find that I always have a better overall run split if I take those hills slowly, and work the flats and downs hard, than if I attack the hills hard.

Before my first endurance race I was given some really awesome advice that I’ve never forgotten, ‘hold back until you see the finish line at the end of the red carpet’.  It’s all about your ability to pace yourself, not get swept up in the emotion of the day, and the competition with the other athletes on the course.  Aim to finish the race with something left.  What I can promise is that there won’t be…but you will look back at a really fantastic race, and you have the best opportunity to finish strong.Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!