There's a Sale on Happiness


Another year. Another day at the shops. Another crowd. Another sale.

Admittedly, I’ve experienced this to a minimum this holiday season. I’m glad. All the shops are crazy with people doing their last minute Christmas shopping. Honesty, I don’t really see a point to gift giving. Most presents, unless they come from somebody who knows you really well or if they are the result of a request, are useless. They’re just an indication of people feeling socially obliged to conform to the spirit of the season and prove to you that they didn't forget you. Sometimes, after opening the package, you wish they had forgotten you.
“Oh, it’s a set of cute espresso cups which will take up space in my kitchen but I’ll never use. Gee, thanks for the thought but just a tip for the future: leave the cups, give me the money instead.”

If people just gave each other money, at least we’d all be able to buy ourselves the stuff which we actually want. But, there’s not much thought in money, is there? Personally I’d rather put in a little effort into something useful than put a big effort into something that will likely become worthless.

And, so the closet shelves fill up with unwanted gifts. It’s not that bad however. A good stupid gift can always be wrapped again and passed on.

The mass consumerist cycle continues. Somehow we’ve been brainwashed into believing that the more stuff we have, the happier we will be. How about nurturing the things which are of greater value such as relationships, experiences, knowledge, nature and compassion towards each other?

Well, there is an exception. Chocolate. There we have it! The perfect gift. Give me chocolate. There is a point to Christmas after all.

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Maja Dezulovic



Mandela’s Life – A Lesson on Putting Things in Perspective


Before I heard the news of Mandela’s passing, I was already feeling depressed.  I was worried, but not about Mandela or this country.  I was thinking about my priorities, family, bills that need to be paid and deadlines that need to be met.  Then I heard the news.  Mandela died.  Minutes after President Zuma’s announcement, the news was all over the internet.  What does this mean for me and my daily “first world” concerns?  It doesn’t change them but, it does put things in perspective.

We often get lost within our own problems.  We focus primarily on ourselves and our direct responsibilities.  Poverty, the education system and other such matters are the government’s responsibility.  We are obliged to pay taxes in order to fund these priorities.  We participate by voting and we take advantage of free speech to voice our opinions.  The problem is the never-ending cycle of shifting social and moral responsibility which characterises our generation.  It appears that everybody is in it for themselves.  The same can be said for our administration judging by the cars that MPs drive and the properties they own in comparison to the active role they play in enhancing our society.

Our individual problems are not as big as they appear but only as big as we make them in our minds.  Your problems are not going to disappear if you shift your focus to the challenges of our country but, we need to realise that our individual concerns are minute compared to the issues we face collectively.  If we perceive our issues as minor, it becomes easier to tackle them and we realise that we can take on greater challenges.  Unfortunately, we have become a culture of the self rather than the community.  We focus on the small problems which appear huge to us and fail to see the large errors in society which affect us all.  This will only change through education and acting on what we learn.  Only then will we see that our individual problems are not that big and we create many of them for ourselves.  Poverty, child labour, human trafficking, ignorance, prejudice, racism, inequality and environmental deterioration, among others, are real, measurable concerns.  They are statistics which are easily neglected.  These are the real problems we need to face together. 

Mandela sacrificed his life for an ideal.  His freedom, reputation, family and physical self were placed at risk for the benefit of the whole.  These hardships were endured with the end in mind.  The task was not handed down to somebody else but accepted.  Madiba is our icon as a result of his recognition of the bigger picture and fight towards political freedom and equal rights.

If a man could endure all that which he did and overcome it, why can’t we overcome our life’s obstacles?  A man.  That is all he was.  That is what every icon tries to tell us.  They are only human.  They have just tapped into a greater potential and purpose than most of us.  Mandela has taught us what the human spirit is capable of. 

Mandela’s vision was not singular.  It encompassed our entire nation.  The long walk is far from over.  It is up to us to realise that vision and if that day comes, the next vision.  We cannot rely on politicians.  The change begins within us.

My problems don’t appear so large anymore.  In death, Mandela has reminded me of this.  His purpose was realised through his service.  If we want to see a change, we must make a change.  We cannot do this by simply conforming and living within the system.  Each person’s challenges are unique but it is up to us to face them in order to free ourselves so that we can actively contribute to society.

Thank you for the reminder, Madiba.  Rest in peace.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”



Icon (A poem about Madiba)

You are
An idea
Personified

You are
A character
Exemplified

You are
A model
For a nation

You are
A spirit
To prove to us all
That we have
A soul

You are
The words we quote
The history we study
The past we relive
And the theories we implement
In an attempt to alter our future

You were
Just a man
A mere man
Like any other man
But,
Fuelled by vision
Passion
Perseverance
And love

Men die
But the legacy lives on

A luta continua.

Our long walk continues...
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Maja Dezulovic

42 Daily Lessons


I was shuffling through some old magazines when my eyes met with an old Elle Decoration magazine. The title of the cover story was "42 New ways with flowers".

42?  I knew that number was familiar. If you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, you’ll recall that 42 is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.  I re-read the title. "42 New..." It was the beginning of December, less than a month from the start of the New Year.  So what was I going to do that was new? What would I change? The answer: Nothing really. Resolutions never really worked for me. The things we do daily and the routines we get into never really change, so long as we're comfortable with them. However, developing and learning equal progress. So, I thought of the things we do daily and the hidden lessons in seemingly meaningless tasks. This is what I came up with.  The tasks are not specifically ordered although they are divided into three parts of the day.

Morning:

1. Wake up – There’s no use sleeping through life. Live.
2. Open your eyes – Keep alive.  See what’s in front of you.
3. Put on your shoes – Prepare yourself.  It’s going to be a long day, I mean, year. You’ll need tough soles.
4. Walk – Take the first steps. Use those legs. Go for strolls. Dare to explore.
5. Brush your teeth – Nobody likes a bad mouth. If you have nothing good or thoughtful to say then there’s no reason to spread a bad odour.
6. Take out the trash – Never start the day with yesterday’s rubbish. Be clean and recycle. Find new uses for old “junk” or just get rid of it.
7. Feed the pets – Never neglect your responsibilities.
8. Make your bed – Tidy up after yourself. Nobody else will.  Well, not unless you pay them.
9. Have a fresh cup of tea/coffee/drink of your choice – Intoxicate yourself with life and happy moments. Enjoy.
10. Buy bread at the bakery, milk at the dairy and vegetables at the farmer’s market –Keep things simple and don’t neglect the basics. Support local producers.
11. Water the plants – Water is life.  Nature is our foundation. Stay natural and true to yourself.
12. Take a shower – Freshen up and prepare to take on the world.
13. Get dressed – Look the part. Look happy and good. Fake it until you make it.
14. Brush your hair – Each new grey hair is a sign of wisdom.  Keep learning.
15. Have breakfast/Cook up a plan – Make goals and plan ahead.

Morning to Afternoon:

16. Get to work! Plans don’t realise themselves.
17. Drive – Without it, where are you going? Know when to brake and accelerate.
18. Take the easiest, shortest and quickest route. If it’s close enough, walk or take the bus. Save money and interact with others.
19. Smile – You look better that way and you make others feel better around you.
20. Laugh – It feels good and it exercises the stomach muscles.
21. Sing – Why else do you have such a lovely voice?
22. Make new friends.  Shake hands with Westerners. Bow to Asians.  Accept other cultures and be open to everyone.
23. Make a call – Tell somebody you haven’t seen in a while that you love them. It’s always a refreshing reminder.
24. Pay the bills – Pay your dues.
25. Go shopping – Stock up on Earth supplies. Reward yourself from time to time but don’t overindulge.
26. Visit friends or family – Don’t sever the ties you need the most.
27. Hug – You need it.
28. Kiss – Simply because it feels good.
29. Keep walking no matter what. Remember when you woke up this morning and took those first steps.  Allow yourself to stumble now and again. Tripping over your own feet is okay. Just get back up again.

Evening:

30. Switch on the lights – Keep searching for new ways to enlighten yourself.
31. Do the washing – There’s no need to air your dirty laundry.
32. Clear and dust the surfaces. Remove your own dust. Discover the true self that lies underneath.
33. Make a note. Use those yellow Post-Its. “If you think it, ink it”, else you’ll forget.
34. Read – Literacy shouldn’t be wasted on the literate. Learn.
35. Write – Even when you think you have nothing to say, you have something to say.
36. Listen to the music and dance – Move your body. Exercise.
37. Eat. Enjoy the food when your outcome is achieved.
38. Wash the dishes – Show some appreciation to the cook.
39. Watch a movie – Remember your movie. Put on a show. Rewind to learn. Fast-forward to remember the plot.
40. Take a bath – Enjoy some alone time to reflect and cleanse.
41. Say your prayers/meditate – Congratulations! You just survived another day. Be grateful.
42. Switch off the lights. Lie down and go to sleep. Rest well and rejuvenate. Don’t be afraid of the dark. The light always comes.


Of course not every day will be the same and your days will differ from mine.  We can nevertheless learn from every little thing.  Time is our most important commodity.  We have a choice of how to spend our days, which eventually results in the way our lives are spent.  Choose wisely.  Have a good day, week, month, year and life!

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Maja Dezulovic

A Simple Way to Make People Smile: After-effects


I started something in 2009. I started greeting everybody I come into contact with, with a smile and asking them how they were feeling. Well, almost everyone. I slip up too sometimes. People that went around with me told me that I “flirt” with everyone. Yes, as a result, some of the males would take my friendliness as a hint that I was attracted to them and they’d act on that. That’s okay. I was still polite. For a long while, this just became a habit and I really didn’t notice the change in people. Aside from the smiles I received in return at the moment, which made it all worth it, I didn’t realise that there might be some sort of ripple effect.

It’s only sincere friendliness, that’s all. The only downside and something I had to learn my way around was timing. Sometimes people are so consumed by what they are doing and being busy that they simply “don’t have the time” for a full greeting. That’s a shame. Perhaps, you can still surprise them. The surprise may just be enough to make them smile. Otherwise, they’ll just brush you off. Then you just brush that off. Slower days when they’re not so busy are fine.

It’s a numbers game. Like sales, dating, and I’m starting to believe that the same is true for most things in life. The more often you do it, the more people you’ll touch and the more smiles you’ll receive back in return. Nobody gets a ten out of ten. However, a simple one out of ten makes it all worth it.

The point is that there is a ripple effect. I noticed that people in general became much more pleasant to deal with. They are also more genuine. When I frequent a place, they smile when they see me just because of the mere recognition that it’s me. It’s me and them. We’ve formed a connection. It may seem like an insignificant bond, but it’s a bond nonetheless. Many people go through life without these natural ties. Why don’t people allow their innate human inclinations to just flow within them? We’re afraid of rejection, and letting drops of vulnerability seep from within us only to be gulped down by others. What is wrong with that? You might get hurt. The person might see that they’re in a position of power – the power to make or break you at that particular moment. You gave them that power and they accept it. People are suckers for power.

I was thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice to have written on my tombstone after death: “She made me smile”? I think that would make me smile, wherever I am. That is, provided I’ve still got a “face”. Then again, I won’t need a face. True smiles come from the heart and hearts live on.

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Maja Dezulovic