On a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in March, there I was; standing in my living room feeling deeply and joyfully accomplished as I was sipping on a beer dressed in pyjama shorts with my hair in a messy bun, my feet in my polar bear slippers and a t-shirt with ‘cheerleader’ written on it (which is a blatant lie. I can’t jump to save my life and don’t have enough rhythm to knock on a door, but that’s a story for another day).
I having finally taken down my Christmas Tree in March. It’s been up since my Christmas in July party the year before and just became part of the home decoration after that (plus I REALLY love Christmas so it didn’t bother me at all!). As I was standing there admiring my personal achievement I got a message on our family chat and had to do a triple take on the message; my brother had raised a very impressive GBP32k (and growing) for Autism in his aim to run the Virgin Money London Marathon in under 3 hours.
First, let’s go back a few years to an event that profoundly shaped me.
Many years ago I was engaged to a British guy who I met in beautiful London through a friend when I was there on business. I’d just moved back to South Africa from London about 2.5 years before after finishing up as a working holidaymaker.
One thing led to another and soon I found myself flying to London from Johannesburg on a Friday night and back to South Africa on a Sunday night to be in time for work on a Monday morning. He had a fantastic job at a prestigious investment bank and could afford the tickets, something I was very grateful for. I was very young then and wasn’t even tired from all the travel. Before I was due to move to London following a shotgun wedding planned for Gretna Green in Scotland he came to work remotely for 4 weeks in South Africa. I was working full-time at an Oil company at that point and doing a handover, so I could not take time off work. My sister was studying and had holidays so offered to show him around. She ended up sleeping with him.
Needless to say, the wedding was called off and unfortunately for me I’d already quit my job and sent everything over to the UK. I was left with 2 suitcases and not even a nice, expensive ring that I could sell. I was perfectly happy with the small little band he gave me and declined the 1ct. platinum diamond ring as I (still) don’t see the connection between love and expensive jewelry. They denied their relationship for months and the moment my sister told me that they were actually in a relationship he dumped her, which is something I won’t ever understand (and no longer try to).
I shared an office with a wonderful, cheerful and honourable devout Christian named Pieter. We became very good house friends and when my sister got engaged to her first husband I just could not get myself to be genuinely happy for her. Over the weeks following her engagement I was deeply resentful; not of her fiancé but the fact that she took that magic away from me and denied me a true part in her journey when both her and my ex-fiancé betrayed me.
One Monday as I was wallowing in self-pity after she humiliated my other sister and I at her dress fitting with a casual and evil ‘by the way, you’re not bridesmaids’, and having to spend thousands of Rands and all my leave to fly to Germany for a wedding in a castle, Pieter said something to me that I carry with me since that day and which now forms part of my inner being: ‘Until the day you can truly be happy for her, from the deep inside of your being, you will never be happy with your own life’. Those words hit me like a baseball bat in the face (not that I’ve ever been hit by one, but I can imagine that it would be unexpected and has a profound feeling to it).
Those words consumed me, taking me some time to digest. The journey towards forgiveness took an incredible amount of prayer, professional help and purposeful introspection and devotion to improving my mind and the way I would see and respond to things going forward in life.
I ended up not only attending the wedding with the greatest joy in my heart, but I also spent weeks of my spare time in sewing classes to make a dress and had an absolutely great time doing her makeup for the wedding, happily spent money I did not have to get to Germany for the wedding, and joyfully hopped along Europe on one leg after an alcohol-inflicted injury at the pre-wedding party (which ended up with me having to wear my VAN’s to a wedding in a castle lol!)
I supported her and was genuinely and deeply happy for her, not because of the person that she is, but because of the person that I’d become.
When I saw the message from my brother that he’d raised so much money I was ecstatic and beaming with pride, immediately bragging to all my running friends.
Life’s not a competition. I owned my experience that day and allowed myself to celebrate my accomplishment concerning a Christmas tree, and given my brother’s great news what better way to celebrate than to get another beer out of the fridge. And another one :-).
Learn to be genuinely happy for others (no matter how long it takes!), it’ll bring immeasurable joy to your heart. Trust me on this one.