Cesar running to the new goaties with some leafy greens we picked up on our way to the fields. Unfortunately Cesar’s excitement gave them a bit of a fright and got them running away. Since we’ve been frequenting the chicken coop to drop of our organic waste, which the goaties get excited about just as much as the chickens – they’ve been less weary of us and greet us when we come into their sight.
It’s always a challenge to acclimatise Cesar to new animals. He gets overly excited, they’re skiddish – have to keep reminding myself to be patient and take it one moment, one day at a time. To not let one bad experience determine how all future experiences will go, to keep seeing every new moment and day as new.
After the TLB (tractor-loader-backhoe) was done digging Charlie’s grave, it spent most of the day evening out and digging the dam deeper. When we get one of these machines out for grave digging occasions, they are here for the entire day so we put them to use wherever we can. Cesar and I spent a good hour watching the TLB at work. He loves anything big on wheels, so this was like Christmas for him.
It is quite funny sitting there while the men comment on what the TLB is doing, how their eyes glinster at the sight of such a machine, hear them translate what the TLB is doing into manual labour hours. Spending time outside, working on a farm, with the Earth and physical materials definitely gives you a new perspective on what it takes to create something. From building rooms, fencing, growing food, maintaining trees, structuring and maintaining your water systems. When I lived in Belgium I was only ever faced with end-result products that I could buy and enjoy. I never looked or considered how something was created, what the labour involved must have been like.
On this farm, much we have built and created together, and all the things we can do and enjoy today, is substantiated by the process that was put into it. Where every piece of the farm has a history behind it. It’s not just a home, a place where we live – it’s our creation. I’m grateful to all our current farmsies, to those who have stayed and gone with us throughout the years and all those who haven’t yet come to stay with us but supported us from their own homes, all across the world. Thank you – without all of you this place wouldn’t have been possible, so grateful to be able to raise my son here as a result of many people’s +1s around the globe.
Here, Maite built a structure for Cesar to play with his animals. It’s interesting to see the different ideas people implement with the same building materials. Our previous structure had steps and bridges, this one has a yard and gates. Playing with different people, Cesar comes into contact with different possibilities, different expressions from which he can learn, grow, develop and make his own.
I’ve been walking by a tub of wood cut offs from various projects in the shed for a while now. Each time glancing and wondering if there’s anything we’d be able to use it for with Cesar. The last few days Cesar has been playing a lot with his plastic animals, where they do all kinds of things in a little lego house we have. Seeing the blocks again, I figured it would be nice if we had a more expansive house available for him it to play with the animals. Most of the blocks had the same width or height since we use the same type of wood for most projects, which made them nice candidates to stack and create little structures with.
Here we made a little structure with steps and ‘bridges’ that the animals travel over. Cesar’s giving Wildebeest and Zebra a tour.
I often wonder if Cesar is getting enough ‘stimulation’, if he’s happy with the activities and things available for him to play with and explore. But perhaps that’s just because I am still looking at everything from my own point of view, what I find interesting and fascinating as an adult. Where I often have to push myself and breathe through resistance in playing with him, because what we’re doing doesn’t fall under my category of ‘fun’. Accumulate those moments where I’m the one not having fun and not directing the experience, and soon enough I think he must not be having fun.
It’s in those every day, ordinary moments I realise how much I still need to work on myself, how far I have removed myself from my own innocence as life, how much of my adultism I still need to deconstruct.
Cesar crushing almonds for muffins we were making. When he has got a lot of energy, he can get into hitting things to get the excess energy out. He was getting a bit fed up and so I looked at how we could redirect his focus and energy. He would single out an almond in the bag and slide it across, away from all the other almonds, then hit it into pieces. First he was just hitting lots of almonds at once but then he couldn’t really see what his actions were producing. He ended up crushing all the almonds one by one.
When it comes down to learning and education, there are a lot of different views on what is appropriate and what is not. Children are being taught too many things too early, Children need more play and unstructured time. Children need to be taught earlier, they need more structure.
As a reaction to our overzealous educational system, many parents believe it’s better to ‘let their child be’, ‘not bother with learning to read or math’ and ‘just letting children play’. Where learning, such as reading and math are seen as arduous concepts which we should not depress our children with ‘just yet’. In an attempt to let go of the old and introduce the new – we may leave behind the old structures, but our perceptions are still with us, and taint the ‘new’.
Whenever I introduce something to Cesar which I believe or perceive to be under the banner of ‘educational’ or ‘teaching’ – he is not interested and I am met with great resistance. Say I want to show him a word (that I perceive as being a ‘difficult one’), he will quickly be distracted and want to move away. So I took a step back and asked myself what it is that I am doing different in this situation, than in other situations – where his learning or absorption ability runs smoothly and can integrate new information easily. When I introduce him to someone new and say their name – he gets it. This person, this face = that name. When I show him or introduce him, I just ‘say it as it is’.
I don’t go ‘hmm, this person has quite complex facial features and kind of also looks like that person and their name is quite unusual I wonder if he will ‘get it’’.
Whenever we perceive something as hard and difficult to comprehend, and then try and have someone else take in this information – we create our very experience, as we act out this expectation unconsciously through our choice of words, voice tonality and body language.
In showing him a ‘difficult word’ for example – my sounds would become louder, longer, repeating myself often, and have a sort of ‘belittling’ look on my face.
Cesar loves words, shapes and counting. Not because they are ‘educational’ – but because words, shapes and numbers are everywhere around us. Just like balls, dogs, people, toys,…
Recognizing and reading letters or words – is just as easy as recognizing a person and being able to say their name. It’s when we make a ‘thing’ out of it, make it more or less than what it is – a point of separation is created and we’ll be in conflict with the object, being or concept in our world.
I had to challenge myself (and still do) to drop all expectations of what is hard, easy, educational, fun, relaxing – as for Cesar – there’s no distinction. There’s just things around him, and stuff to do – whether it’s reading, playing with a toy or cleaning – it doesn’t have to change him or who he is.
The School of Ultimate Living is a great platform to explore your relationships to words, to see them for what you have made them to be, to deconstruct and redefine your relationship to words so that they form the building blocks of your life, your potential – and live the best version of yourself that you can be.
Being a first time mother was definitely an overwhelming experience from time to time. It was something way out of my comfort zone, something I had never done before. Even when I was pregnant, just ‘thinking’ of all the things I would have to do and change would send shivers down my spine. Will I do good enough? What if I make a mistake? What if there’s not enough time?
I experienced my childhood as being somewhat traumatic. I was very fearful and anything ‘new’ or ‘out of my comfort zone’ would set me off into fear, anxiety. Overtime, this accumulated into a general experience of myself as being inadequate and a victim. When I had my son and saw all the things that needed to be done, I would stress out in anticipation that things wouldn’t go smoothly, that it’d be difficult, that I’d do a bad job, etc. In a way, this seemed normal. Like, stress is a normal experience in life and is actually a good sign because it means you’re being ‘busy’ and ‘productive’.
In the end, I’d still get to everything I wanted or needed to get to. I’d even get to a point where I was no longer stressed out. But then…this just felt ‘off’. I must be missing something? I must be doing something wrong? This absence of stress must mean I am being soft on myself and slacking!!
When I looked at all the points that triggered a stress response, I saw that I accessed a belief that I wasn’t capable and adequate to direct what needed to be done. That things were just ‘too hard’ and ‘too much’ for me. Yet living in constant and continuous stress, well – then things really get hard and too much because the body just can’t keep up.
So what to do?
Every point of stress is actually an opportunity for myself to investigate my relationship towards that which I am experiencing stress towards. I can use these moments to specify myself. If I stress out about a particular task, I gift myself the opportunity to unconditionally carry it out and do the best I can. To gift myself to check whether my belief of inadequacy actually holds truth, and if I see that there is room for improvement, to set myself up to equip myself to be able to direct it better next time around.
How does this bring me to peace?
Well, in every factor of stress, there is something to learn about myself. That I can direct myself, that I can move myself to direct my world and reality effectively. And so piece by piece, I piece myself back together. And it that wholeness is peace – within bringing all the pieces that were missing – back together.
Somewhere, in the first two years of Cesar’s life (and my new life as a mother) – I had a dream where Bernard visited me.
While he was there, from the get go I had placed myself in an experience of dissatisfaction, where my whole body language was clearly conveying that ‘I wasn’t enjoying myself’. Then suddenly he asked ‘So Leila, how are you enjoying motherhood?’
I was with my body turned away from him, making a pouty mouth – ready to make a complaining comment. But – there was something about Bernard asking you a question, which made the truth of you ring just a bit clearer for you to not be able to deny it.
As I wanted to open my mouth and speak – my whole demeanour dropped and softened. And I looked at him and said: I’m enjoying it. And he responded with that big grin smile of his.
And that was it.
What stood out for me in this dream, is how I have the tendency to want to complain, pity myself and seek ‘empathy’ from others – while if I look at my actual experience of myself: I am fine – and I am not just fine, but I am actually enjoying myself. This especially so for things that are challenging and trying – which the first two years of walking with Cesar definitely was.
Where, it’s almost as if just because things are hard and challenging, that I have the right to, and deserve to complain. That I should complain. That it’s expected of me to complain.
And the funny thing is – is that when I keep reacting this way, and keep playing out this pattern, then soon enough – the burden becomes real. It’s no longer just something I am playing out, pretending to be – I become it.
For myself, it was quite something to acknowledge, accept and embrace what I enjoy. That I, ‘out of all people’ was the one to have a child. That I, ‘out of all people’ really enjoyed walking with a child.
To stop fighting myself, where instead of keeping up with the idea of myself, to simply embrace and acknowledge that I do enjoy this. That if this experience is here and it is real – well, then it must be me! Lol.
Cesar decided to hitchhike along in the Bakkie while many were busy doing firebreaks in what we dub “the big field”. Every year during winter time which is our dry, and so also our fire season – we burn the edges of the farm in the case of fire breakouts, so that the fires can’t travel from field to field, farm to farm – which can happen quick when it’s dry and windy. The whole process took a bit more than two hours, which we observed mostly from inside the bakkie, watching what everyone is doing, explaining what each person’s role is. Oh, and fitting on sunglasses he found in the bakkie, insisting that ‘upside down’ is really the right way one should wear sunglasses.