Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Annus Horibilis?

I have been walking around with this post in me for a while now. Most of the posts during the last month or so have been on the light hearted and fun side. Hairstyles, rugby, tennis, music, movies, family, friends, bulldogs and the like have taken preference over deeper issues. Well mostly in any case.
A lot of special people have come my way through this whole blogging thing. I have made friends in faraway places like Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, London, Johannesburg, Durban and Australia. I have learned so much from so many of them. In fact, not a day goes by where I do not learn something from one of them.

This year has had some very good things and some very bad things. We have started to feel like Capetonians for the first time. This has been our first full year in the Cape and we have enjoyed it so much. We really feel at home here. Even the weather is cool by us!

On the not so good side we have had the news of an illness in the family. With God`s help this is going very well and I can see a very happy ending to it.
On a more personal level, it has been a very tough year. The company I joined last year and which made the move to the Cape possible went into liquidation in February. That was a punch to the gut. From being very successful in my career, to being without a job in the matter of a few minutes, that was a tough thing to come to grips with. If I`m honest with myself, I`m still coming to grips with it.

I have always believed that a man is defined by his job. I believed that it defined your standing in the community, who you marry, where you live, basically everything. Now I had to face the reality that I was jobless. The things I had always held dear were to be taken away from me. I loved nothing more than surprising Hayley with a weekend away, a surprise night away for an anniversary, flowers delivered to her office or a nice watch or handbag. Just little things that would show her how much I love her. Seeing the happiness in her face made me want to do these things over and over again. I enjoyed buying myself nice things too, especially clothes, lots and lots of clothes.

I was offered another job a few days later. This was more commission based and was not a job I was very comfortable in. However, beggars can`t be choosers so I took the job and decided that I was gonna do my best to make a success of it. Unfortunately the whole SA economy took a knock, with interest rates shooting up, inflation rising to dangerous levels and spending on asset based finance taking a backseat to basic survival. This has been my reality for the last few months. Our reserves were being depleted, savings almost gone. Survival had now become our reality. No more nice gifts for my awesome wife, no more nice things for myself.

So, this has been the story for the last few months. I started looking for another job but as with most things in SA it is taking time. I had become very down on myself and my own self-confidence was / is at an all time low. I have to keep reminding myself that God does not make losers.

It is a pretty crap story and if you had asked me at the beginning of the year what would be the worst thing that could happen, I would have said losing my job. My worst nightmare had become my reality.

BUT, things are not all bad.

Firstly, I have committed myself to my God and have been in His company ever since. Secondly, my absolutely awesome wife and I have become inseparable. She is such a rock in my life, what would I ever do without her? I have found that cooking a nice meal or fixing something around the house brings the same happiness to her face as an expensive watch or handbag. Sitting on the couch at night, each with our laptops, each on our blogs is just as cool as spending a night at an expensive hotel. Having a braai at home is just as cool as going to a nice restaurant, in fact it`s better cos you get to kiss the cook.

I have also learned that a man is NOT defined by his job. He is in fact defined by what he has inside and by how he treats the people around him, the kindness he shows to strangers and how he reacts to adversity and importantly the family and friends he surrounds himself with. Those things define you, not a fancy title or a paycheck.

I still get very down on myself every now and again (if I`m honest it`s most days) but I try to remain positive about the situation. I know that God will provide and I hang onto that fact with all I have. I really have no idea what He has planned for us but I thank Him for what He has taught me this year. The small things in life are in fact, the big things. The things I thought meant the world to me in fact does not matter at all. Love, friendship, family, togetherness, those things count, not the amount of money in the bank.

We are so blessed that we have the best parents in the world (I will not call them In-Laws anymore cos they are so much more than that). My own Mom and Dad are not around anymore but they made me into the person I am today and laid every foundation I hold dear. It might have taken me 30 odd years to figure it out but at least I have. I am now so fortunate to have 2 other people I can call MY folks. They have shown me that you don`t need to be blood to be loved like you are. They have shown such kindness and understanding during the last year that it will be impossible to say thank you. Their support, which has taken a lot of forms, has been immeasurable. I feel so guilty but at the same time so thankful. I don`t know how I will ever be able to repay their kindness.
My sister Monya, has also been really supportive and her awesome kids were responsible for one of the kindest gestures I have ever come across in all my years on earth.

So, looking back, this year has been a very difficult but vital one. I needed a wakeup call to show me what the really important things are. It`s been a tough learning curve and I`m sure there is a lot more to come but I am surrounded by love and I feel more blessed than ever.

Writing this post was very hard. The image I have always tried to project was that of a confident, happy go-lucky man, with the world at his feet. That man has been torn down like the Berlin Wall. God and I are busy rebuilding him into a better, stronger version of himself. A version that does not care if people see him as somebody who does not have it all together, who has worries and who doubts himself constantly. I am a work in progress and there is a lot of work left to be done but I am not doing it alone, everybody mentioned on this post has a role to play, no matter how small.


Darryl Bridges said...

Thanks for being so real, Francois. God often uses difficult situations to teach us lessons, usually about life's priorities. The fact that your faith has strengthened during the past year is so heartening. I understand what you mean about a man's identity being found in his career. About four or five years ago, I too realized that is not the case, and my new approach became "This (my job) is my living, but NOT my life."

Who knows what God has in store for you and your family . . . but rest assured, He will reveal it in His time.

Thanks for sharing, and God Bless . . .


Francois said...

Hi Darryl, thank you so much for the inspirational words and for sharing my story with me.

I have full faith in God and I know His way will be best.

Thanks again my friend.

Miller said...

One is never prepared for life's lessons and that is what makes it hard to accept, but if you can accept them and work through them, THAT is what makes you a stronger and better person. God does not deal you a hand that you cannot handle, it is how you handle it that makes the difference.

Francois said...

Thanks very much Mark, your support is greatly appreciated.

Heather Nicole said...

Its very cool that you can let your guard down and show the world that you are human. Everybody has these feelings some are just too proud to show them.

I agree with Darryl, I think that everything that happens in life has a lesson to be learned from it. You always have to ask yourself "What should I walk away from this with" Maybe being laid off a job will make you step back and re-evaluate youself. You may realize that wow...I can do better and aim higher than my last job, I have more to offer than I give myself credit for. It may lead to something more fulfilling! You never know where there is a blessing in disguise...

Francois said...

Hi Heather, thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this very personal story.
Like I said in the very first chapter, I learn so much from you guys, on a daily basis. That`s why I love surrounding myself by such cool people in the blogging world.

Thanks for the different perspective on the situation, we sometimes get so caught up in our problems that we fail to see it from a different angle.

I went to your blog today and followed the link to Gavin`s blog. That put things into perspective too. Sometimes your own problems look so big until you see what other people have to deal with.

Thanks again and God bless!