I’ve noticed a tendency, as we get older, to become less adventurous and more set in our ways. When things interfere with our cosy little lives or do not go according to plan, we are inclined to get quite flustered and go about making mountains out of molehills. I read a comment recently that amused me: a woman was asked the secret of her long marriage and her reply was that divorce was not an option because she just couldn’t face the paperwork. Without me realising it, that seems to have become my mantra: I just can’t face the paperwork, literally and figuratively. Instead of seeing something out of the ordinary as a challenge or even an opportunity for a positive experience, I’m inclined to regard it as a bloody nuisance.
Recently we were invited to join some friends whom we haven’t seen for ages at a fundraising dinner and show in the Midlands. We were delighted that they thought of us and readily accepted. It was a cold winter’s night and, as we were preparing to go out, I was thinking how much easier it would be to stay home in front of the fire. I’m so pleased we didn’t because not only was it really good to catch up with old friends but the show was hilarious. And if we had read the write up about them (“politically incorrect and sexist Eastern Cape farmers”) I’m not sure that I would have been that keen to see Boet ‘n Swaer. However, as it turned out, they were most entertaining and we had a really enjoyable evening.
It seems to me that one has the most fun when one least expects it. 12 years ago we took Kiera and Alex on an organised tour of Italy. It really was reminiscent of the movie “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” and the trip was quite a blur. Being in a tour bus meant that we stayed in rather large, impersonal hotels quite far from city centres. It had always been a dream of mine to visit Siena and I had chosen this particular tour because Siena was included in the itinerary. I was disappointed when we arrived at our hotel in the evening to find that it was miles from the city and nestling under gigantic electricity pylons. My heart sank even further when we checked into our dingy room, which not only overlooked an industrial estate but had carpeting on the walls and door, a benchmark for a really terrible establishment.
Because we were in a wasteland and could not walk anywhere for dinner, we were persuaded by our tour guide, Verna, to join her and some of the other people on the tour for dinner at a trattoria run by “mamma e papa” situated in the rolling Tuscan hills. We realised that we had been duped by Verna, yet again, when our bus pulled into a massive parking lot filled with other tour buses. The so-called trattoria was a huge barn-like structure crammed full of tourists all seated at large trestle tables. As my romantic Tuscan dream disintegrated before my eyes, I began to cry, much to the children’s embarrassment and Peter’s dismay.
As I blubbed on about Verna ruining my trip to Siena, Peter decided to make a valiant attempt to rescue the situation. He dragged me and some of the others onto the dance floor where a desultory group of tourists was going through the Macarena motions and proceeded to teach the Americans and Australians in our group how to do a Zulu dance (well, his interpretation anyway – more like a dance that he used to do in Swazi shebeens when he was a student). Pretty soon a Japanese tour group was up on their feet showing us how to break-dance and before long there was a dance-off happening. It was a hoot and that evening went down in the annals of our family history as being one of Peter’s finer moments. What could have been a thoroughly dismal evening became a fun event, just by a change in mindset. It also taught Verna a lesson and we had no more attempts to con the gullible tourists after that, especially since we all refused to leave the joint once our allocated time was up and continued to party well into the night.
Another unexpected pleasure has been our weight-loss and wellness course, which is now coming to an end. At first we groaned when we heard it was a 12 week course and then there was a lot of muttering about it being on a Saturday afternoon. But we have both thoroughly enjoyed attending the workshops in Howick and even look forward to them; not only have our eating habits improved but we’ve also been exposed to some alternative ways of looking at life. And, of course, we have got to know some lovely people that we would not have otherwise met. Who knows, we may even lose some weight!
So I’ve been thinking that stepping outside one’s comfort zone is something that one should strive to do on a regular basis. Just as it is all too easy to slip into routines and ways of doing things, we become complacent in our thinking and our ways of seeing things. And I’m not going to let the “paperwork” put me off anymore, so what if it requires effort on my part. At least if I make the effort, I know that I’m living my one life.