Category Archives: Extraordinary Voices

Sunshine Reflected

What follows is one of the hardest things I’ve been nudged to write and share so far.

These are some of the lyrics from a song in the Disney movie Mulan – the 2020 live action version:

I am now
In a world where I
Have to hide my heart
And what I believe in
But somehow
I will show the world
What’s inside my heart
And be loved for who I am
Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection
Someone I don’t know?
Must I pretend that I’m
Someone else for all time?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

Matthew Wilder | David Joel Zippel

Heard this song again recently and these words floored me. Cathartic* tears flowed. With these tears a wave of freedom and relief washed over me. An absolute realisation that I am making progress on my life’s journey. I have never really had any sense of this growth before.

I think I am finally beginning to see my reflection showing who I am inside.

I know I strive for evolution, for development, for forward movement in my personal growth. I know I set big expectations for myself and the kind of person I want to Be. But it always seems an endless road, a winding, twisty track through seemingly impassable mountains and in a thick mist so I can never tell if I’m making headway (or heart-way, in my case).

So I repeat… I think I am finally beginning to see my reflection showing who I am inside.

The ‘who I am inside’ is this Beautiful Soul.
She is Sunshine personified.
She is deeply connected to Nature, its rhythms and cycles.
She is highly intuitive.
She is a Creative.
She is neither ‘too much’ nor ‘not enough’.
She is kind, courageous and compassionate.
One of her gifts is creating a nurturing, empathic space where Loved Ones find safety and find soul solace.
Her Heart is Wild.
She comes alive in Mama Africa’s wild spaces where her Spirit wanders free but is never lost.
She is tenacious, feisty and fun to be with.
She is the Little Miss Sunshine her mother called her as a child.
She loves fiercely but lightly – a complete paradox.

Her shadow side is sensitive and struggles with equanimity. She has absorbed false messages over the years of “too much emotionally”, “emotional rollercoaster” “too smart”, “high maintenance”, “too independent”, “too needy” and “unlovable drama queen”. At the same time she has also received the message of “not enough” in many ways. In her fear of rejection she will cling on for dear life, singular in her focus to prove she is worthy of love and acceptance. She will twist and contort herself to be who she thinks she should be based on the perceived expectations of others. So counter-productive, this leads to overwhelm for both her as well as the object of her love.

My growth journey is seeking balance. To take the best parts of the paradox of loving fiercely while also learning to love lightly. This can only happen in authenticity. In giving myself permission to be the ‘who I am inside’.

So how has this realisation of progress on this journey come about?

A year ago I set out on an adventure to return to my homeland. For a short time or more permanently, I had no idea. I just knew it was time to come home. On the plane journey back to South Africa, I made a deal with the Universe that I would remain open to any and all possibility. That I would Trust in the Universe to guide this homecoming. That I would allow ‘who I am inside’ to show up and connect me to this next chapter.

I have already shared in previous blog posts from 2022 what eventuated from this year of Trust as I showed up openly and authentically in this time of homecoming. In the course of the year, I made so many incredible connections. Beautiful Souls who I have been privileged to meet and spend time with – my anam ċara (soul-friends). In showing up as ‘who I am inside’, I have had this Sunshine side of myself reflected back at me in countless human encounters. These encounters may have been mere moments or the start of lifelong friendship, even reconnection from past life. My heart is so full of gratitude for these genuine connections, especially my besties who have really challenged me in recent weeks to lean into some of my imbalances with kindness and compassion. Thankful for the pure space opened up in the Spirit of Ubuntu. And now also grateful for how I have been able to see myself reflected in this pure space of genuine connection.

‘Who I am inside’ has been quietly showing up along the way even when I thought I had locked her away safe behind the walls of ego. She shows up in my writing more often than my ego would like, I think 😊 In building up the courage to write this piece, I went back and read through previous posts. A few stand out to me now as being quite inspired considering when they were originally written. Linking to them here to add a little more context to this very raw and honest post about the ‘who I am inside’.

Candy-striped Sneakers

Period Poverty

The Conservationist

Wild October

My Charmed Life

2023 is my year of Light and Love, the next steps on my growth journey. To find balance in how I love, but also to embrace the ‘who I am inside’ and finally allow her to Be Loved Just As She Is.

Finding the courage to write and share this has been such an act of vulnerability as well as a renewed commitment to that deal with the Universe – remaining open to any and all possibility.

Do I think I have found my way through the mist to the top of the mountain? No way! But I do know with absolutely certainty that I am on the right track and I will stay true to my path.

I am putting this part of my Story out there in the hope it finds its intended audience. I truly believe my growth journey of trying to make sense of my place in the world is not unique. It is part of the human experience. We are all on our own quest for love and belonging. I sincerely hope these words come across your path if you need them. Please share this post with anyone you sense may need to read these words.

May you find hope, encouragement, inspiration and a peace of spirit for your own journey. May you realise that your ‘who I am inside’ is precious and beautiful and if you let that version of you see the light of day, ‘who I am inside’ will be reflected back at you in all their glory. Pure Love. Just Love.

This is what our sad world needs so desperately – Pure Love. Just Love. 🖤

*I love the word ‘cathartic’. It has the same Ancient Greek origin as my given name – Cathryn – relating to ‘pure’ and ‘clean’. I also love how the meaning in our modern use is connected to emotional release. As a Cancerian (sun, moon and rising sign!) and an Enneagram Type Four I am extremely emotionally driven. This part of my character continues to prove my greatest strength but also my biggest weakness (and growth area). Love 💖& Light ✨

Extraordinary Voices: Shan Living Life

My recent posts speak a lot to adventure, dreams come true and living my dream life. During the pandemic I wrote quite a bit about grief, loss, resilience and hope. Life’s ebbs and flows for the able, healthy, incredibly blessed human that is me.

But what if you get dealt the kind of blow that turns your world upside down and inside out? The kind of tragic situation that is completely out of your control. That makes no sense. The kind of blow that breaks your body and has the potential to break your mind and spirit too. How do you come back from that kind of tragedy? What’s more, how do you come back from that kind of tragedy with graceful strength, determined courage and peace of spirit?

I have had the incredible privilege of meeting someone who can answer these questions. This is Shan 💜

Instagram @shan.livinglife

Facebook @shanlivingherlife

I first heard Shan’s story from her brother.

Graham came into my life unexpectedly, shortly after I arrived back in South Africa adventure-bound. He and I are a couple of old souls now getting a chance to spend some of this life together. We share a similar connection to Nature and the same passion for wildlife conservation here in magical Mzansi. We also share the same love of adventure and have already had opportunity to travel together. A road trip with a kindred spirit can be the perfect way to genuinely connect and share story openly.

To take in Shan’s story shared through her loving brother’s voice was deeply moving. To then hear Shan’s story via her online presence was extraordinary. Shan and Gray have both graciously allowed me to share this story here.

My life’s journey has become entangled with the journeys of these two beautiful humans with extraordinary voices. One of these extraordinary voices speaks the same soul language as mine. The other extraordinary voice floors and inspires me with her beauty, grace and courage.

So, there are the big picture, philosophical aspects of Shan’s story. The aspects that speak to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of such challenge. It’s these aspects that make up the focus of that famous quote from Viktor Frankl:

At the start of this post I pondered how do you come back from a circumstance like this? How do you survive becoming a quadruple amputee after sepsis sets in from a mongoose bite? I wonder if the answer is that you don’t. You don’t come back. I think Shan will tell you she didn’t come back. In her suffering and pain she was burned, purified, honed into a different version of herself. There is another great quote from Viktor Frankl that comes to mind here:

Shan does give light. In the short time I have known her, she has illuminated my life. I have been offered a different perspective on life from Shan’s light. I can also see the light she gives into her brother’s life. I see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice when he talks about her. And I am sure the inspiring content she posts online gives light to many.

But philosophical thinking aside, the day to day challenges of life need to be faced. There are the realities of living as a quad amputee and enduring the ongoing symptoms of post sepsis syndrome. Medical costs continue. Family and household costs continue.

As I write, Shan is undergoing yet another procedure. The next part of the lengthy process that will ultimately allow her to walk again. This procedure is happening across the country from where she lives. Her support system, in the form of her husband Ant, goes with her. There is time away from work necessary. There is time needed for recovery.

Put yourself in this position for a moment. How would you deal? Yet with all Shan faces over the next couple of weeks, she returns my messages with requests for detail to pen this story with dignity, kindness and grace.

For those of you reading who do not live in South Africa, I need to try and convey that there is very limited government support in a situation like this. Social services are pretty much non-existent here. Shan’s wellbeing and quality of life is largely determined by financial support she can gain through the generosity of others.

How to help? Honestly, the most practical support we can offer is monetary. So this is my request for donations. Please help ease the financial burden if you can. Every little bit counts and your support is very much appreciated.

Another way to help is to pass this story forward. Let’s continue to share this awesome story of Shan Living Life. This story of one incredibly determined woman who still has a lot of light to give in her beautiful and courageous way. I am honoured to share her story with you….

Details of how to donate…..

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/support-for-shan-living-life

The Shaninlea Visser Special Disability Trust 💜
FNB Broadacres
Acc Type : Trust
Acc: 62712541863
Branch : 250655
Swift Code; FIRNZAJJ
Please note this Trust is audited annually. If you require a donation certificate, one can be arranged.

Support Shan so she can keep Living Life and Giving Light 💜

A Future For Us All

Take 15 minutes of your life to watch the video – A Future For Us All. Then reflect on how you can add to this all-important conversation in your sphere of influence.

Sir Ken Robinson’s work continues to shape and inspire my teaching practice as well as my personal journey to Finding My Element.

For a bit more about this giant whose shoulders we stand on, you can read my blog post from a couple of years ago at the sad time of his passing.

It is so great to see Sir Ken’s daughter, Kate, taking care of his legacy and continuing this great work.

I hope you find as much encouragement as I do from hearing Sir Ken articulate his inspired thinking around personal growth as well as his call for humanity to Unite and make the world a better place.

Continue to rest in peace, Sir Ken…. thank you for giving those left behind direction in this journey towards a future for All 🖤

Heritage

I have been reflecting on Heritage a lot this month. Heritage can be defined as something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor, something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth or simply, tradition.

As yet another Covid-19 lockdown forces me and mine into this weird isolation and I think about how to fill my time, I have baked and cooked and begun traditional prep of Christmas a lot earlier than I normally would. This is me falling back on family heritage, tapping into inherited ritual and tradition to help me feel anchored at this time of ongoing uncertainty.

Granny Sybil’s famous Christmas Mince.

I have been teaching online for the past 6 weeks or so. When I think about the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic and its affect on this generation I worry about what they’ve inherited. Is it okay to spend this much time “online” to learn, to work, to socialise? While I can see how under these current circumstances it is better to have the technology than not, I do wonder what the long term outcomes of this will be on the emotional wellbeing of this generation.

Probably the biggest regret I have is that I am part of a generation who has left future generations a weary and depleted planet. Not completely broken, I hope, but thinking about heritage in this way keeps me highly motivated to make a change for sustainability in whatever ways I can.

24 September is an annual celebration of South African heritage. As a South African I have been profoundly influenced by my country’s natural and cultural heritage, for good and growth.

In a hopeful step, short term and long term, I have begun preparations to return to South Africa in 2022. I am thrilled to be joining the Rise of the Matriarch Expedition – an all-female adventure across South Africa to raise awareness and funds for the plight of Mama Africa’s wildlife. The ROTM crew will engage with local communities especially children on the human-wildlife issue and distribute Wonderful Wildlife Booklets (that I developed content for). We will connect with anti-poaching groups, visit conservation groups and schools, and meet with incredible women who are doing remarkable things at a grassroots level to assist in conservation efforts.

Ecowarrior and founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust, Carla Geyser, is the expedition leader of the 2022 Rise of the Matriarch Expedition .

In 2016, she led South Africa’s first all-female conservation expedition from Southern Africa to Kenya. They drove 15 787km over 100 days through 10 countries to help stem the tide of poaching. The crew of 13 “she-roes” raised nearly R300 000 for various conservation projects, drew widespread continental attention to elephant poaching crisis, distributed 20 000 conservation educational booklets to children and provided support to 37 wildlife organisations along the way.

In September 2018 she headed out again and lead another all-female crew. This time  across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to raise awareness about the contentious human-wildlife conflict. Another very successful Rise of the Matriarch expedition.

I joined Carla on a Journey with Purpose expedition in 2019 for a boots-on-the-ground experience with Elephants Alive. I can’t wait to get back on the road with Carla in her Landy, Dora, next year. #LadyinaLandy

And so, I introduce Pelo Tales. – my Heart Art fundraiser for this expedition.

“Pelo” is heart in Setswana.

My art is an expression of the deeply creative connection I have to pure spaces, to beauty and most especially to Nature. Each painting represents a Heart Moment and so a little Pelo Tale to accompany it.

This is a series of canvases I painted during Covid-19 related lockdowns in 2020. Having to make do with what I had to hand and in the spirit of sustainability, each canvas has been recycled. Perfect in their imperfections and certainly one of a kind.

All the proceeds from the sale of my Heart Art goes towards the Rise of the Matriarch expeditions 2022. More details on the fundraising side of things coming soon.

In the meantime, I will be sharing some Pelo Tales here over the coming weeks in anticipation of wonderful adventures to come and in the spirit of sharing the heritage I am so inexpressibly grateful for 🖤

Sir Ken

A small tribute to a great man whose heroic voice has had a profound impact on me personally and professionally.

I was first introduced to Sir Ken Robinson by chance quite a few years ago now. Stumbling across his book Out of Our Minds: the power of being creative. The concepts he introduced me to in this book were game changing.

Then there was the TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? Nothing more to say here.  If you have not watched it yet, do.

I had the privilege of hearing him present as the keynote speaker at the Future Schools conference a few years ago. I have such a lasting impression of him not just presenting us with what was wrong in education but emphasising what we could all be doing to make it better. He was profoundly sincere in his advocacy for change at the same time as being incredibly witty – a killer combination!

His book Creative Schools completely transformed my teaching practice. The principles he lays out in this particular book continue to inform the dream projects I am working on in conservation and environmental education.  Most particularly where he says that “education is deeply personal”.

And from a personal perspective, his books with Lou Arnica, The Element: how finding your passion changes everything and Finding Your Element: how to discover your talents and passions and transform your life, have, as it says in the title, been life-changing… helping me tap into my creativity, passion and purpose.

His passing is a huge loss to the world. I am deeply grateful to have heard his message. My hope is that I can carry this message for bringing creativity forward and advocating for education reform with me on my journey. If others who were impacted as profoundly by his voice as I was do the same, what a legacy he leaves!

While it seems too soon to lose such a wonderful human being, I am glad he passed peacefully and surrounded by family. I hope they find peace in their grief.

Thank you, Sir Ken. Rest in Peace 🖤