On dancing barefoot with Jackie Burger

Jackie Burger rediscovers the meaning behind Daphne du Maurier’s words: “Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”

Picture by Gerda Genis

The long-awaited, eagerly planned renovation of our Little Karoo home started more or less 10 weeks ago. True to my nature, the process comprised a carefully constructed timeline, mood boards and an exact budget. How different can it be, I asked myself, to managing a retail brand or editing an international fashion title?

So I armed myself with the necessary determination and focus and set out to realise my dream of creating a beautiful space where we can live sustainably. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to those who’d been there, done that and I’d have realised that forewarned is forearmed. As the days progressed, I spiralled into a never-ending web of trouble-shooting matters I was never asked to deal with as an editor. It robbed me of my confidence, disturbed my sense of self and made me doubt my belief that you will realise your dream if you truly own it.

Still, my stubborn pioneering spirit kept me going – and ignoring all the signs of debilitating fatigue and the onset of depression. Finally my body succumbed to a serious bout of flu, leaving me downhearted and bedridden for days. A video call with my homeopath not only provided the necessary medication, it also led me to the realisation that we can only truly accomplish any dream, goal or intention if it shifts from being a task or a goal to be achieved and ticked off and becomes instead a meaningful and fulfilling experience.

My week of recovering from flu therefore was also one of self-healing. I not only focused on my body, but re-learnt and reclaimed what it is to live lightly; I re-recognised and embraced anew the things that bring me happiness.

What a difference a moment makes

Weeks of dealing with dust and near disasters followed by a week of tea and tissues was a sobering experience. It reminded me that it is difficult to experience moments of happiness when we forget, or don’t know, what we genuinely love. We fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our attachments – job titles, clothes, even social status. I had allowed myself to become the one who manages builders and wrangles budgets, stressing about every little delay and deviation from my perfect timelines and the mood boards that crumbled like fairy dust when confronted by the big, bad builder. (Mercifully he has now been replaced.)

Despite wanting to run away every day, it did help me to realise that if we don’t nurture our inner resources and we seek fulfilment from external events instead, we are headed for disappointment and a sense of personal failure.

As an act of self-redemption, I revisited some of the simple pleasures that I had been neglecting. Jotting down a few of my favourite things reminded me of how much I missed these sacred rituals that makes me truly happy:

Wearing silk
Biting into a perfect pastry Flowers every day
Vintage treasures finding their place in my wardrobe Morning coffee, uninterrupted
Dancing barefoot on the stoep under the stars (like no one is watching).

The gift of gratitude

I also began to practise gratitude as part of my daily routine again, remembering the wisdom of self-help author Melody Beattie who said that gratitude unlocks the fullness of life and turns what we have into enough. Gratitude turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

When you live in a remote dorpie, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve lost your creative influences, that you’re stuck. I had reached that point. I needed to give myself a good talking to. My life is overflowing with riches. There is beauty everywhere I look, as far as the eye can see. I wake up to a symphony of birdsong as the new day breaks over the koppies. At this time of year the vibrant yellows and fiery oranges of budding aloes will put any painter to shame. Friends drop in with freshly baked banana bread to savour a slow Sunday afternoon over an even slower tea tête-à-tête.

This abundance made me realise just how lucky I am to be able to enter a new chapter in my life in these surroundings. After all, nothing is forever and frustrating builders too have to leave sometime, even if it’s later rather than sooner.

The good that came with the bad these past few months is that I again realised how vital it is to stop obsessing about who we think we should be or what we think we should do. We can rediscover our truths and re-learn to see things just as they are in their simplest, most authentic form. We can let go and be happy.

Try googling the poem ‘I’d pick more daisies’ and you’ll find yourself going down a rabbit-hole. The author is given as Nadine Stair, Star or Strain who, it seems, never existed. The real author, many believe, was Don Herold. Whoever wrote these words, we should take their message with us every day – even to the local co-op to buy more nails.

“If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.”

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