The more things change, the more they stay the same

“All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.”  D.H. Lawrence
I have been feeling like a really lousy friend recently. I can actually count on one hand the friends I’ve spent time with before the holiday break, and actually I’m pretty sure almost all of them were post-gym playdates. I trained at Ballistix then hung with Hes & Ryan. I trained at West Workout and then had lunch with Liezl & Michelle. I met Tammy for a beach workout. I hurried over to the Shrimptons’ after gym only to have what I thought would be a ‘quick’ Skype call turn into a 45 minute conversation. The only time I can remember really stopping to smell the roses was when I was playing Cape Town hostess to a Wi-Fi boy who’s from Betty’s Bay but now lives in Joburg … and even that had to come after my gym time was done.
I think it might be the time of year. Firstly, I used to love Christmas when I was a kid. It was my absolute favourite holiday, and by orders of magnitude. Between the vulgar materialism that I despise and a couple of bad personal experiences around the holidays, I no longer love Christmas. Not that I hate it, but I just don’t go nuts for it the way other people do. So when my friend Sam suggested that we skip the normal Christmas routine and rather bake and deliver charity cupcakes, I thought that sounded like an amazing idea.
This is also the time of year when it gets hot and my body just wants to be healthy. It’s what makes the competition season diet, training, and sleep regimen a pleasure and not a chore. But I recall very distinctly last year going into hermit mode. This year I am paid, in part, to be charming, so I can’t just retreat to my own thoughts.
Cape Town summer where everything is so bright that it looks faded, where for me history seems to come alive and I can imagine what this place was like in Colonial times. It’s like Cape Town was meant to be hot, so hot that you just want to sit in a shaded corner with your typewriter. I’m no James Michener, but this place has that sort of romanticism about it. It’s times like these I can imagine being here 100 years ago, or in another English colony, perhaps somewhere in Asia. I was musing if perhaps my boarding school days led me to have a greater affiliation or association with the trappings of Colonialism than I would have otherwise. Even the new money in Cape Town has an old money feel to it, in a way that it doesn’t in, say, San Francisco.
My northern European blood doesn’t like this hot weather much. I don’t like extremes of either sort, but man, this gets to me. Getting burned by sitting in the shade doesn’t help.
I actually took off most of the holiday weekend, and spent time with friends. Not enough of them, and not enough time, and I think it actually took me about three days to recover from Friday’s workout. Note to self …. Sleep and eat better before deciding to pretend you’re indestructible. I did something I’d planned for a loooong time which was to go visit my friend Jo, who has this amazing place in Scarborough, for a mini-vacation.
And it was. Firstly, Jo is lovely. Smart, thoughtful, gentle, kind, and conscientious. I was apparently really run down, probably if I’d gone too much longer at my current pace I would have gotten sick, and she did a great job of taking care of me: cooking, letting me be chill, and also taking some photos of me because I will be needing such things soon. She also has some very cool friends, who I got to know a little bit better between a Saturday night braai and a Sunday brunch in Kalk Bay.
I also saw my friend Keith who I hadn’t seen in faaaaaaaar too long. As I said, crappy friend. But hey better late than never. As it happens he is now staying at a house in City Bowl that is not far off of my dream house. Gorgeous views, not at all too large, and very Cape Town. Maybe some day I can afford to buy a house like that.
The weather was a bit funny over the weekend. A weather front moved in Sunday, and that night may have been literally been the perfect weather for sitting outside under a nearly full moon, looking down on the city. The air was a little bit warm, but cool with the breeze. Around 1am an electrical storm came up, and those are rare around here. Then it rained, and made the entire place smell clean and fresh, but you also know it’s transitory, like a dream, and when the next day comes the sun is going to burn everything up.
Christmas Day dawned foggy, and Keith and I went to the beach (as one does, on Christmas). I, of course, thought I’d sunscreened my entire back but turns out I missed a massive patch. Fail.
So one of the themes that has come up quite a bit in recent days is money. Cape Town, and South Africa, is a great place to live … if you have money. No car, no job, no money for food, well, that’s another matter. I was having a fascinating time at Jo’s braai listening to three different South Africans talking about topics I’d thought about: poverty, privilege, politics, race, apartheid, dependency, motivation, hope. One is currently an expat in Nairobi, one does town planning in various African countries, and one has recently returned from living overseas in London.
I think in a way I have a very unusual relationship to money because I was in the right place at the right time and through that got enough that I could afford to do nutty things like move to Cape Town and volunteer for an extended period. But now the capitalist in me is back, and I hear myself talk sometimes and I sound cynical, even, or jaded. And Africa terrifies me, because I’ve been in SA long enough that I generally know how things work here. Sometimes there’s a surprise. But it’s not Nigeria or Tanzania.
And then there’s that Christmas cupcake bonanza. Firstly, what a sort of lovely person is Sam even to think of such a thing, and specifically to think about the places we could go that wouldn’t already have an excess of holiday donations. Instead of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital we went to an old age home and to a public hospital.
Hospitals are sad, sad places actually. We made some people happy, certainly. I am not sure how much of the details of such a thing I will remember but there was this young boy on a tricycle peddling around the pediatric ward. When we tried to give him a cupcake he kept running away, and he certainly wouldn’t speak. But, like a scared cat or something, when I was kneeling down talking to someone else he came closer, and closer. I held out the tray but I could see he was too scared to take one, so I picked one out and handed it to him, and he nearly snatched it out of my hand before retreating a few feet from us to eat it in safety.
Yes, they may be poison, but we all need a little poison every once in a while. Red velvet cupcakes are more of a devil’s food than chocolate anyway. I even poisoned myself a little bit. Always good to remember why it is I don’t eat wheat.
But you know, it is sad. This poverty here is so in-your-face, and you can’t just snap your fingers and do anything about it. The world was supposed to end over the weekend. For better or worse, we’re still here, and having to reconcile the ennui of worrying about self-actualisation while other people are worrying about putting food on the table.
But you know what? I learned my lesson the hard way. I’m not going to bankrupt myself or make sacrifices that cause me to become resentful just to make the world a better place. I may not know what the future holds but this is an area where Ed Boudrot, a mentor of mine, was very right: rather than complain about how things suck and you’re disempowered, fix the situation, reframe it, or leave it. There’s more of Robin Keller to my personality than I once thought … we’ll see what happens to me next. But I’m not thinking about what’s happening next any more than you can think about anything else other than the workout you’re doing when you get into a competition.
Yep, I’m getting pretty excited to get back into beast mode. Maybe you can tell.
I keep looking at these photos of myself that Jo took. Partly it’s because at this time of year I always go through all my photos from the year so as to make a ‘best of’ album. But also because it’s strange to see myself like that and especially to notice how asymmetrical my face actually is! Do I really look that way? Oh well, asymmetric face asymmetric body ….
My body gave me a hell of a fright when I was utterly, utterly convinced I’d pulled my groin on Sunday. This is an injury I was familiar with from St Paul’s, and some injuries you just don’t forget. If you’ve never experienced this particular thing you won’t understand … it’s like an ankle sprain or a coccyx injury, if you’ve had it you can commiserate with others, but I can’t really identify with people who have or have had shoulder or neck injuries because I’ve never had the displeasure. In any event I was sure that I’d be out for six weeks and was already planning my regimen of strict pullups, ring dips, etc., but by the next morning I was almost totally fine. Fine enough to do a workout with 55 light squat cleans. Oddly enough what hurt wasn’t my groin and wasn’t my healing injury but the other side of my back completely, so I took the deadlifts and squat cleans slowly so as not to hurt myself. Still, had a much easier time with 2/3 bodyweight bench press this year than I did last year!
Amazing. Well, maybe it’s the time of year or whatnot but I’m getting a bit impatient. I’m usually happy to talk. But right now I don’t want to talk. I just want to get on with it. I don’t want to explain CrossFit to newbies or people who may have an incorrect impression about it. I just want to train, and compete, and get on with it (injury-free please).
I’m also VERY much missing consistent training at my home gym. Thank goodness the holidays are ending soon and we can get back to what I used to think of as a ‘normal’ schedule. Except, wishful thinking what with a USA trip coming up in a few days and then a Joburg trip shortly after I return, and a competition a week and a half after that. Well, maybe lack of routine is the new normal. Whatever it is, I’ll adapt to it. But I sure as heck do miss being able to train at my gym.
In a world where it suddenly seems like everyone wants a piece of me, I’m looking forward to slotting into my team and doing my bit as best I can.
Same with work. Enough talking about doing, time to do. The calm before the storm is about over, I’d say.
  • “No wonder you needed a Snickers.” – Jo
  • “A lot of the stupidity in Africa actually has a lot of thought behind it.” – Simon
  • “I’d better not see you doing overhead press in jeans!” – Howard
  • “At least you know what you’re training for.” – Jobst
  • “I didn’t say it was too heavy for me! I said it was heavy!” – Ellie
  • “I think if we bake any more today we’re going to ruin Christmas!” – Sam
  • “He has a reputation for being … difficult.” – Kerry
  • “It’s because you fit in well with the guys.” – Kerry
  • “I mean, I’m not actually sleeping with the enemy. But it’s close enough, right?” – Ellie
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