Depression is on the Increase

We are surrounded by uncertainty these days, and much of it is a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, which came out of nowhere and turned our lives upside down in a matter of weeks of its first appearance in China, towards the end of 2019.

According to a recent international survey, South Africans are rated as some of the least happy people on the planet, and for good reason. We are currently being bombarded with negative reports and disturbing news items. With a failed economy, a corrupt ruling party, crime which is rampant, a failed power supplier, potholes everywhere, unemployment (the list goes on and on) it is not surprising that many of us feel despondent and helpless. These negative emotions can manifest themselves in a state of severe depression which may be overlooked by one’s nearest and dearest until the sufferer may need medical intervention.

It is a sad state of affairs that we still have a negative connotation regarding mental illness. If you have a leg in a cast, or a huge bandage around an injury, the reaction from others is more often than not one of concern and sympathy. However, if you are sad and feeling down, and battling to find anything positive or amusing in your life, you may find yourself ostracised to a certain extent as being too miserable to be around. It is often uncomfortable to spend time or energy trying to cheer up a person who is negative and having an internal battle with themselves and their feelings. When the situation becomes desperate, and even possibly results in a suicide attempt, then those closest to the sufferer may feel guilty at not having seen the signs, or having avoided getting involved because it caused them too must discomfort.

Isn’t it strange that we shun the words “mental health” yet we as humans, provided we are mentally intact ourselves, function as a result of our feelings and emotions most of the time. Unless we have succumbed to a frontal lobotomy we are normally bombarded throughout our waking hours with sights, sounds and various other forms of stimulation which result in our having a mixed bag of emotions. Being able to shrug off anything which causes us to feel down and sad, is usually achievable, within reason. However, if you are suffering from severe depression even the slightest trigger can be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. A failed attempted suicide may be the result, and this then creates a situation where the depressive may be given a limited amount of freedom and is watched constantly in case the next attempt is successful. A challenging situation for everyone involved.

I have known several families throughout my life who have had a family member who committed suicide and this has resulted in painful memories prevailing for many years after the event . There are always feelings of guilt from the surviving relatives or spouse and questions asked of how this could have been avoided.  Were there signs that this was going to occur? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? If a suicide note is left it probably helps to alleviate many of the unanswered questions. Without a note, is it possible that the act was never meant to be successful but more a cry for help?

There appears to be a massive move afoot in Western society to accept that mental health deserves as much attention as physical health. Telling people to pull themselves together and to cheer up is not an answer to serious depression. Even giving drug therapy often just treats the symptoms and not the underlying cause. It is a difficult balancing act on the part of professionals and is not as simple as mending a broken bone or removing a malfunctioning body part. A holistic approach is probably the most successful treatment which would be likely to include exercise, diet, counselling as well as the possible intervention of certain medication whether alternative or complementary or resorting to anti- depressants, if all else fails.

We all have times when the trials and tribulations of life threaten to be overbearing, but thankfully these interludes do tend to pass without too much trauma. However, if doom and gloom become the order of the day, it is definitely advisable to seek help so that the condition can be nipped in the bud before all the beauty around us fades into oblivion and is replaced by darkness and negativity with life itself having no meaning at all. Together we can all try to make a difference in the lives of others if we just observe, take notice of disturbing signs in those around us and bother to get involved.  Easier said than done as those afflicted may be resistant to others trying to help them, but help we must in order to try to prevent a possibly disastrous outcome.

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Having studied clinical psychology at an Honours BA level, and later qualifying as a Lifeline counsellor following the Carl Rogers approach, I do believe that many of us are capable of helping our friends and family members just by being a good listener. We all tend to run around like headless chickens being busy with our lives and we often resent having to give up some of our precious time for others. However, those who are emotionally hurting need to be heard. Talking to another human being and unloading one’s worries and distresses can be extremely cathartic. By simply identifying the other person’s feelings and emotions and feeding them back to them can sometimes help them to identify their own way forward. Telling a depressed person what they should be doing to get their lives back on track is totally counter- productive. We all (well, most of us at least) have two ears and one mouth. Let the words we are hearing from the one who is battling depression be received consciously by both our ears and let us be very careful what we utter in response.

Not a Blue Monday

A few Mondays back I found a very young baby pigeon shivering in shock and pain beside the wall of our carport. At first I thought it was dead, but on picking up the little creature it became obvious that something had harmed it and pulled out all the feathers on its tiny back. It looked so sore, and it was heart-breaking to hear its tiny feeble squeak. Anyway, I found a cardboard box, lined it with a soft towel and brought the little creature inside. I stroked it gently and tried to transfer some love and feelings of caring while talking to it quietly.

Many years ago, there had been a situation where another even smaller pigeon had been abandoned by its mother (maybe she had been killed and had not deserted her offspring) and was in a swallow’s nest under our patio roof. I had asked around and been told that the best thing was to get hold of a bird cage and to feed the baby bird with a very weak mixture of Pronutro porridge and boiled water and to administer it with a medicine dropper. This worked well, was pretty time consuming but resulted in a fully grown, healthy bird. Unfortunately, I felt that I had to find an alternative to keeping this bird in a cage. Someone I was told about had a large aviary and, with a very heavy heart, my baby bird was given up for adoption.

Circumstances are different these days and I could not see myself being able to devote the same amount of time and attention to this new foundling. After contacting my local vet, I was given the name of a woman called Georgie who runs a rehabilitation centre for wildlife just a few kilometers away from where I live. Once I had managed to get hold of her, she arrived within minutes to pick up the baby bird. She had a look at it and said that she was convinced that the bird had been attacked by a cat. Although neither my husband nor I have seen a single cat in our garden in the 14 years in which we have lived in this house, she said that it was possibly a cat which hunted at night.

The outcome of this incident has been so heart-warming that I felt the necessity to write about it. Georgie not only took the little creature home with her but has been in constant contact with me ever since sending pictures of his newly grown feathers as well as up to date information regarding the development of the baby. Today I heard that he is now feeding himself, growing up fast and apparently is quite a little character. What might have been a real Blue Monday turned out to be one of the best Mondays in a long time.

A few weeks have passed and yesterday when I arrived home, I was taken aback to see a stranger in the garden, leaning up against a flowerpot and warming its tummy in the sun’s rays. The stranger was a very pretty little white and light grey cat! That is the first feline that has been spotted in our garden in the many years in which we have lived here. Beautiful or not, this little potential bird killer is not welcome here and I shooed it away immediately. It rushed up a nearby tree and went over the wall into our neighbour’s house. With a bit of luck it won’t be back again in a hurry. Hopefully, when Kelly, our German Shepherd, gets a whiff of a strange cat, her barking will be enough to deter the intruder. I really do hope so!

Bird Watching. – 2021 May No. 2

I know many people who seem to have an insatiable desire to constantly be on the move. Spending any free time in their own homes seems to be alien to them, and they probably miss out on so many simple pleasures which are often right there in front of them, just waiting to be spotted. This ramble is most certainly not a case of sour grapes, but rather gratitude for those little things in life which, when the odds seem to be against us, and life feels bleak, can be so heart-warming and a total delight.

Just the other day, my better half (I’d better describe him as such, instead of just “other half” as I need him as my designated editor!) called me to come into his office, which is situated on the other side of the house to my own office. We are fortunate to have indigenous trees in both areas of our garden, which attract a reasonable variety of bird life and both areas have bird feeders and baths. Anyway, on that particular occasion we were witness to a mass gathering of sparrows having a swimming party in the bird bath. There must have been at least 15 of them splashing around and having a whale of a time. It was a delight to observe and, only because any movement on our part would have disrupted the party, we did not photograph or, better still, video the episode. A pity, as it might be a once in a lifetime event, but still something which will be stored away as a beautiful memory.

Some of you are probably thinking, is that all she is going to say today? No, but even the common little sparrow deserves to be treasured for the pleasure it can bring. On a slightly more sophisticated level, we have the occasional grey lourie popping by to see if there are any pieces of fruit waiting for them to enjoy, as well as a pair of crested barbets who also like the fruit. These beautiful, colourful little characters apparently have a penchant for Hungarian peppers! Good to finally find out who it is who takes bites out of the ripening vegetables. They had a very cocky attitude when caught in the act yesterday and were not in the least bit embarrassed! Just strutted away and then flew up into the trees. Gorgeous little birds who have to be forgiven, as they obviously have excellent taste in their choice of fresh produce.

Lastly, my favourite garden guest has to be the Hadeda Ibis and it is such a pleasure to watch them, after rain, pushing their long, thin beaks into the soft grass to find the delicacies deep down in the soil.  I must admit to calling back to them when a group, sitting on the roof of the house, screech out their familiar ha-ha-ha-dah-da. It’s very funny to actually see them listening when I pretend to be one of them, and to have them shout out in reply. Oh well, as some of you may have come to realise if you have read any of my previous postings, that in my case little things definitely do please little minds! I just love watching the avian carryings on from the window of my office, whilst I work!

Coffee and a Chat

There are always so many moments in life which create memories, feelings and often a sense of nostalgia as well as a desire to share them with other people. That is why I have decided to create this new section within my blog. I sincerely hope that there will be writings which you find fun or thought provoking, depending upon my mood at the time. Some of these will be short and others not so short, but hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Update and Comments – January, 2021

Well, here we find ourselves facing a year in which anything is possible, and nothing is likely to surprise any of us any more! After 2020, for those of us who have managed to survive relatively unscathed, what is there ahead which can shock or disappoint us any more than the events of the past year. If anyone had told us on 1 January 2020, that we were facing a pandemic of previously unseen proportions, we would have asked them what they had been smoking or snorting! However, somehow, most of us have survived this year and if it hasn’t totally destroyed our mental well being, perhaps it has made us a little stronger than we were at the end of 2019.

It is impossible to be flippant about the past year as it has brought untold trials and tribulations for so many people. Financially, there are few of us who can honestly say that we know of no-one who has either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced to a level where mere survival is the name of the game. Some people may never ever be employed again and for others it will take years of hard slog and perseverance to creep back to some semblance of normality with the accompaniment of financial stability. When the past year has seen the loss of loved ones, no financial recompense is going to alleviate the loneliness and heartache which this has caused.

It is difficult to be positive when we are still being bombarded with statistics relating to the Covid 19 pandemic, and we are not alone. Most countries in the world are now in some or other form of lockdown yet again. The only areas which appear to be relatively “normal” right now seem to be in Asia. Where a ruling party demands respect and obedience, it seems that the population at large listen to the call to follow preventative protocols. Asian countries tend to be ruled in a disciplinarian manner whether communistic or not. The resultant low numbers of affected people are proof enough that it all boils down to doing what you are told to do by the government. Sadly, if the ruling party comprises a corrupt bunch of uneducated thieves then the public at large is hardly likely to take any instructions dished out by them as meaningful. Hence, no adherence to rules regarding the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing, and refraining from mingling with crowds of people is resulting in the numbers of sick and dying people growing day by day.

The vaccines which are already being rolled out in many first world countries should eventually result in the pandemic being brought under control. However, in less privileged societies, who knows just how long the fear of being infected will continue. Only time will tell.

Meantime, wherever you find yourself in the world, may 2021 bring you good health, happiness and prosperity as well as safety for your family members!

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud!
– Maya Angelou (American Author).

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and comment – 1 November 2020

It is a chilly, overcast day, here in Johannesburg, with more rain predicted for the next few days, and how welcome last night’s heavy rain has proved to be. Gardens were becoming parched and tempers frayed.  Weeks of extremely hot sunshine without even a drop of rain has made many of us very tired – not easy going about one’s day to day business in that kind of weather. Not everyone has the luxury of floating around on an inflatable pool lounger, drinking cocktails during the day and dreaming about life after Covid! Most of us have to face whatever it is that the day brings and try as hard as we can to be optimistic about the future and continue to try to make a living.

Being able to keep in touch with friends and family members during this challenging year has proved to be a very necessary lifeline. It is so easy to wallow in self pity and become bogged down with worries and concerns, many of which are fuelled by listening to news reports or reading articles loaded with doom and gloom and resonating from the mouths of dodgy politicians or so-called experts in every conceivable area of life. So, a phone call to a friend, a joke shared on WhatsApp, or just a quick catch-up with a relative can give you enough mental energy to carry on regardless.

I was advised several years ago by a well- meaning sister-in-law to buy one of those highly recommended colouring-in books in order to forget my worries and relax. Well, after all this time I decided to get out the crayons and chill! It just isn’t for me at all! I know that I am an A-type personality and, yes, I do have some vestige of creativity within me, but colouring in? Not a chance! I was so irritable whilst trying to get good quality crayons to actually give me a dark enough hue (maybe they have just been lying in the box for so many years that their pigment has died a death!) to actually show up on the abstract design I was attempting to enhance that I got more and more agitated, and less and less relaxed. So, after about 15 minutes, I gave it up (probably for every) and have decided that painting a wall, or doing some necessary home touch-ups is definitely more my style than trying to find inner peace with a crayon in my hand! What do they say about different strokes for different folks?

Whilst writing this little epistle, the sun has come out and I might just endeavour to go into the garage and get out the green paint which is used for the garden walls and put my creativity to a practical use! Here goes, and I hope that the rain holds out just long enough to allow the pva to dry!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and comment – 30 July 2020

Many of us in the Southern Hemisphere are probably finding it pretty difficult right now to be full of the joys of Spring (well, it is in fact a very chilly winter’s day today, which doesn’t help matters), when all around we are being reminded of the Covid 19 pandemic. Even if we try very hard to concentrate on the positives in our lives, looking over our shoulder is that nasty little creature called reality reminding us that things are not the same as they used to be.

If one has children, and maybe even grandchildren, trying to put one’s worries and concerns about their health on the back burner, is an impossible task. If only we could put a blanket of safety over them all and keep them away from any risk of being infected, until the all clear is given by the powers that be. A pipe dream, but what an amazing thing it would be if that dream could become our new reality.

Then, in the midst of all this mayhem, something always seems to arrive to rock the proverbial boat. Why does the toilet decide to spring a leak, and a cupboard door collapse on its hinge? Is this a wake-up call from the universe to remind us that life still happens, despite the risk of attack by a vicious virus? Coping with these everyday household calamities just seems to be so much harder than in the days when our vocabulary was not dominated by words such as “cough”, “fever”, “mask”, “sanitizer” etc.

One of the worst occurrences though, at this challenging time was hearing that a family member had to face surgery with an overnight stay in hospital – when the pandemic is becoming worse by the day. No visitors are allowed, so that exacerbated the fear and stress concerning the operation. It has always been the norm for one to come around from any anaesthetic and find a partner or other relative at your bedside waiting for you to wake up. Thankfully, despite the surgery taking almost 3 hours, all went well and is now a thing of the past.

All that one can do is to try to be positive in these trying times and offer to be there to help in any way that is required when people have a need. Now, more than ever, human contact and emotional support (even if remote) is more important than it has ever been. In South Africa, the government has failed miserably to assist people who are desperate, not only to work and earn a living, but to be able to put food on the table for their family. Sadly, the bulk of those citizens who are desperate for food would still vote for the ANC despite the corruption, the lies and the lack of commitment to taking care of the poor.

So, the toilet will have to be fixed, as well as the cupboard door, and undertaking these mundane, irritating diy tasks will temporarily eliminate any thoughts of viruses and sanitizers. Without the necessary concentration and a steady hand, we will be faced with the expense of having to call in a professional handyman. Not an option at this time, so let’s get cracking and get the jobs done!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Midlife Crises

All of a sudden you realise just how fast the years can pass you by without you barely noticing. One day you are writing final school exams and planning your future and, before you blink, you are wondering just where the time has gone. Looking back can be a positive thing to do, but more often than not it brings with it a feeling of loss and sometimes deep despair and disappointment.

Every stage of life has its good points and its bad ones. We all remember times during our childhood and teenage years when we may have had unhappy events which possibly contributed towards the way in which we subsequently handled our adulthood. Parents divorcing or perhaps even having died are always catastrophic things for children to handle, and the resultant sadness can manifest itself in long-term personality issues. Feeling that you may have somehow contributed to this traumatic situation can sometimes result in feelings of guilt and lack of self-worth. Nowadays, it is customary for victims of any kind of trauma to be offered counselling, but this wasn’t the norm in the past.

So, most of us just muddle along as we grow up and try to cope with those day to day challenges which life tends to throw at us, despite any childhood problems with which we may have had to deal. Then, suddenly as the years go by, life tilts a bit more than usual and we have to face the fact that our offspring are now grown up and often living far away and our own surviving parents are elderly and frail and may need help. As we recognise the longevity of so many of our family members and acquaintances, it can cause us to start to panic regarding our own future and how we are going to survive financially.Midlife Crises 2 350x227

We know for a fact that, in the western world specifically, the estimated life span of both men and women has increased dramatically over the past century. It is not uncommon these days for people to celebrate their 100th birthday whereas it used to be a wonderful achievement to be hale and hearty at 80! Insurance companies and investment specialists have jumped on the bandwagon and are hammering away at the fact that young adults need to start facing the possibility of having many retirement years for which they need to make timeous adequate provision.  At the same time there is world-wide unemployment and retrenchment, so this is not always viable. More and more people are becoming their own boss and no longer is there the enforced contribution to a pension or annuity fund. If you are battling to survive in your own business, putting money away for old age may be something which is sadly neglected.

2020 with all the challenges that Covid 19 has forced us to face hasn’t made it any easier to cope with all the above factors, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in many cases. There is absolutely no reason to retire totally from doing what you enjoy doing as long as you are still capable and relatively healthy. Many people have achieved or continued to achieve greatness in their latter years. To name just a few, the first to come to mind is the world renowned Sir David Attenborough who, at 93, has recently completed a very intense documentary pertaining to the damage that we humans have caused to our planet. The British actress, Dame Maggie Smith is still being cast in acting roles despite her advanced years as are others such as Dame Judi Dench. Let us never forget the music industry with the likes of Cliff Richard, Elton John and the ageless Mick Jagger and the Rolling stones. A critical factor is to try to remain positive, despite the changes which are inevitable as one ages.

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It is a tragedy to allow all the knowledge that is gleaned throughout life to be wasted. Becoming a mentor to younger people, either through actually giving talks or lectures face to face or online (more so now due to the Covid crisis), or writing a book or articles to assist students could be a way to avoid feeling redundant. It’s never too late to start a new career either. One just needs to take that brave step and give it a go. You may surprise yourself to find that a hobby you hardly had time for in the past, is now capable of becoming a vibrant and profitable business. Try to avoid the potential mistake of asking others for advice, as they will probably thwart your dreams before you even start – people often enjoy the prospect of you failing, as it makes their lives appear so much better and they probably lack your courage to do something different.  Just go out and do it, and you may amaze yourself (as well as them) with your success!

Good Luck and enjoy the journey!

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we often
might win, by fearing to attempt” – William Shakespeare.

Just a few things I’d love to change

Wouldn’t life be amazing if, when you found a hairdresser who styled your hair absolutely perfectly, perhaps for the very first time in your life, you could push a pause button and keep every hair at just that length and looking exactly the same for as long as you wanted? However, what happens? The very next time you wash your hair and attempt to reproduce the previous effect it just doesn’t work out. No matter how you concentrate on blow-waving in the same way as the stylist, the result is always different.

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Now, fast forward just a few weeks and what has happened? The style is changing day by day because the hair is constantly growing, and it probably hardly resembles the way it looked when it was cut and styled the last time. That’s just the name of the game. Sad to say.

The same problem exists when you take your beloved pooch to the doggy parlour. Out he or she struts, often with a bow tied onto either the ears or in the middle of the forehead, looking so very pleased with life. So, the bows fall out within hours and then, before you can blink, the wretched hair starts growing again at an alarming pace. Oh, please can someone invent that pause button which would most certainly make you millions in no time at all!

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Maybe the pause button could have a few variations such as stopping the grass from growing too quickly, and more importantly, keeping a home totally dust free. There are just so many chores that become so very tedious and mindless which really could be banished for ever, or at the very least, reduced to a once every six months or once a year ritual. It is just such a total waste of valuable time to have to constantly re-do cleaning, mowing the lawn, getting one’s hair cut and styled and the list goes on and on ad infinitum! Please, if you are reading this and see yourself as an inventor, could you take heed of my pain and invent that pause button? Thank you so much in advance!

Just realised something – if the pause button on life’s frustrating issues does appear as a new invention, we may be faced with demonstrations due to people losing business. So, all things considered, and not least of all, the income of millions of people, forget the above and let’s accept the inevitable of being humans on this planet of ours. Hair will grow (as long as one is healthy), pooches will need constant grooming (unless you prefer the shaggy, unkempt look), grass will grow (unless you keep a goat or a flock of sheep in the garden) and dust will continue to be the bane of one’s life!

Somethings will simply have to stay the same as they are, sad to say!

“He who asks a question is a fool for a minute, he who does not
remains a fool for ever. – Chinese Proverb.

Motivation and Covid 19

I am beginning to wonder whether the last 5 months of lockdown, are responsible for my struggle with motivation. Is it all the diabolical rules and prohibitions which have been imposed by our wonderful government, who are not famous for their intellectual abilities, or the wearing of cloth masks? Every time I have to put on that mask, I know that my mental faculties are going to be strained to their absolute capacity.

Right at the beginning of lockdown, it was very frustrating having to stay at home and not being able to go about one’s life in the usual way apart from shopping for essential items. However, biscuit baking, sorting out problems around the home, contacting friends and family members as well as sending and receiving copious quantities of jokes via mobile phones were activities which resulted in a pleasant break from the hectic lives to which many of us were accustomed. That was fine for the first few weeks, but things have changed. Fewer biscuits are being baked, jokes have dwindled and have been replaced by political rantings, and motivation seems to have become somewhat of a challenge in many cases.

Self-motivation is not easy to achieve when one is surrounded by negativity, and due to this virus, we are constantly being bombarded from all sides with negative information. The numbers of confirmed Covid cases, the amount of deaths, the possibility of second outbreaks in various parts of the world are all factors which negatively affect us in our battle to feel positive and happy.  I, personally, have heard of way too many stories of people who have committed suicide over the past few weeks which, in my opinion, must be as a direct result of the pandemic and all its rules and restrictions, as well as for many, a feeling of total isolation and loss at not having visits from family members.

As I conclude this ramble, we are now in stage 2 of lockdown here in South Africa, but things are as crazy as ever. The government is now allowing the sale of alcohol only from Monday to Thursday from 9am – 5pm as well as permitting restaurants and shebeens (alcohol outlets found in townships as well as informal settlements) to serve it as long as no-one is out on the roads after 10pm every evening. This in the misguided belief that it will eradicate drunken driving, gender-based violence and hooliganism! Emphasis should rather be put on policing vulnerable areas, having regular roadblocks to find as many unlicensed drivers as possible and to arrest them all and impound their often unroadworthy vehicles. Maybe then there would be an improvement in behaviour as well as a reduction in the number of road accidents and the victims of violence.

Threatening to ban alcohol outright is a pathetic political attempt to turn what is supposed to be a democracy into a police state, whereas the police are failing left right and centre when it comes to controlling the horrendously high crime rates and many are themselves guilty of corruption and criminal activities.

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 The original reasons given by the government for the banning of the sale of alcohol, as well as tobacco products, was supposed to be to reduce health risks which may have caused more Covid 19 deaths. There has been absolutely no proof that this has been the case. What has happened through this stupid banning is that billions of rand in tax revenue has been lost along with the jobs of thousands if not millions of workers. Wine farms have gone bankrupt whilst illegal sales of both alcohol and cigarettes has created very lucrative blackmarket businesses. There is even speculation that certain politicians have themselves benefitted from such activities. A very clever move indeed, but that’s what we have come to expect these days! The virus has certainly been an eye opener if ever there was one!

I know that when I first started to blog, I stated that I did not intend to write anything political, but sometimes one has to vent a little bit of one’s wrath, and today is the day!

One thing is for sure, if one dwells too much on all the negative issues with which we are surrounded then it is almost impossible to be motivated. Therefore, it is time to listen to some meditation music, find a quiet, uninterrupted spot and focus on making sure that September turns into the most positive 2020 month so far!

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start
by lifting stones today. – African Proverb.