When you remove yourself from a problem, it gives you the chance to start seeing things differently. While you are in an unpleasant situation, you tend to get a limited perspective (“you can’t see the wood for the trees” sort of thing) and you start to become part of the problem yourself. But take yourself out of it and slowly but surely you start to see a better picture. Before I left to go away, I was feeling so totally shocked that someone I been had friends with for such a long time could turn out to be so duplicitous. Even though we were no longer friends, I never imagined that she was capable of being so deceitful. Then I felt really pissed off with myself for not having realised sooner just what kind of person she was capable of being. I moved from being angry with her to being angry with myself. How stupid was I to have trusted her all those years? I began to doubt everything about our friendship and it rattled me. I started to see everything as a lie. And then of course, there was the issue of my new partner. He was surely going to ruin my country idyll and make my life a living hell. I had visions of a Jean de Florette scenario developing. By the time I left, I had developed such a negative response to the problem that I was happy to turn my back on the farm and walk away from it for awhile. In the words of Charlie Brown: “No problem is too big that you can’t run away from it”. He was quite right!
Gradually, as I put distance between myself and the problem, it became less daunting. As it became less daunting, positive solutions began to emerge and I was more open to considering them. It was helpful to discuss the issue with the kids as they came up with a number of creative suggestions, including immigrating to the Cape, an option that they were really punting. Shortly after returning to Durban, Peter, Kiera, James and I went to Cape Town and Stellenbosch for a week, primarily to visit Alex at uni and for him to show Kiera and James around his stamping ground, but also for us to case the joint with a view to possibly moving to the Cape. I have always loved the Cape and Cape Town is my favourite South African city. We took lovely long drives out into the countryside as well as to the coast, visited some estate agents and even viewed some properties.
Martha Beck, in her book Steering by Starlight, talks about fear responses, framed as lack (“There’s not enough for me.”) or attack (“Something bad is going to happen to me.”). She writes that:”….when we’re scared, we’re scary.” Once I realised that my negative responses were related to this “fear of attack” and that this was simply a story I was telling myself, I decided it was time to start a new chapter. It made a huge difference knowing that I had options, moving to the Cape being one of them. I understood that whatever Essa had done, it was according to her own story and I stopped making it personal. I found this quote by don Miguel Ruiz:
Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…If you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell.
I like that! I am no longer angry, what is done is done and in fact I can now see that I am actually better off than I was before.
After the Cape trip, I finally signed the papers. Back at home we cracked open a bottle of bubbly (bought on our wine tasting trip through Franschhoek) and toasted new beginnings. I then returned to the farm with Kiera, James and Edna. One day, I looked out over at the snow-covered ‘Berg and realised I was not ready to leave here any time soon.
Peter has always been a proponent of conflict theory; out of conflict comes change and if the conflict is managed strategically, you get positive change. I feel that, at last, I’m managing the conflict and moving forward. I’ve met my new partner and we have extended the olive branch to each other. I think it’s going to be fine! We’ve shelved the plans to move to the Cape; I’m back on track with my 20 year plan for the farm and am really looking forward to the future. So, the moral of this story is that when you have a problem, turn your back on it, it works.