Redemption – A gentle look back

How can you forgive others I wonder, if you can’t forgive yourself? Forgiving yourself, true redemption – is an act of loving the self. How can you love someone else if you can’t love yourself? And so it is with these thoughts, I close off here. This is not my final word on a big conversation – I just want to rest in a cool and trRedemption-12anquil place to draw breath and reflect.

On a superficial level, to find redemption I needed to dream of a life better than my current one. And so I looked to becoming ‘The Pilgrim.’ Believe me, when I planned to take on this life for one year, I was unsure if I could ever achieve such an ambitious project. Oh yes it was huge – in the year I turned 50 I ran a marathon on each continent, wrote a book about it and raised much needed funds for the Hospice I worked for. On a spiritual level I had to trust myself first, and then the forces of good which lay way beyond me. I asked Them to bless this quest and bring realisation. Dreaming on one level and trusting on a deeper formed the first stepping stone towards my redemption. Here is the story.

The day I was retrenched from work was humiliating. I was the lucky one, for in truth it was exactly the spiritual quality which gave me the courage to take the next step. Starting my own business. I knew I needed to plan the way ahead carefully. Walking away from the illusion of comfort in formal employment required more than insubordinate boldness, in itself an illusion. More than humility, the second step also needed budgets, money and strategic planning. Here is the story.

To be sure, redemption is a lifelong process, strenuous and demanding. I knew from the outset it would be the most valuable act of self-love. If I was serious about such a thing, the third step was total commitment. And what, pray tell asks for more commitment than running the Comrades Marathon? For the uninitiated reader this is no ordinary race – this is a race of more than twice the distance of an ordinary marathon over the most brutal terrain in KwaZulu-Natal’s Valley of a Thousand Hills. Here is the story.

Ours is a time and a culture that needs to take action. Superficially that is where the spoils go and also the victory. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world” so says Joel A. Barker. But in the unseen world this is only true when the fourth step is tempered with patience. This was also true when I decided to walk away from a mediocre life and go to university. Here is the story.

It took more than just courage and self-awareness to finally see the elephant in the room. The fifth and final redemptive step required me to accept I was an alcoholic and realise I could never drink again. I look back on it now and think “what was the big deal?” Yet in those early days it was the big question. Now with perseverance it is nothing but normal. And that, my friend, is the final powerful step – acceptance and perseverance. Redemption rests with, and is comfortable with what is normal. Here is the story.

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Redemption – Plan ahead, show humility

I spent a lot of my productive years trying to hack a way through the middle management jungle. It was not a pretty sight. My tenure was pockmarked with anger, resentment and a clutch of mediocre staff appraisals. My career began to resemble the war-torn battleground of the Somme. SRedemption-11arcasm was my trademark as was belligerence and downright stubbornness. It was little wonder then, that senior management was dismissive if not hostile. I know I had the talent to go far, even in those days I had enough wisdom and self-awareness to understand. It was not the people around me and above me that were at fault, it was me. My reach was oftentimes exceeded by my grasp and truthfully, I was the problem. My days were numbered in the corporate pile, and I knew it.

I found myself staring out the window in management meetings, planning an escape. My musings became doodles on a page which became scratchings and sooner than I realised, before me lay the kernel of an idea. As the company barons droned on and on, a book began to take shape, deadlines were pencilled in and a publisher was found. In that blissful ignorance, noticed by all but me, the dark clouds were gathering. There can be fewer things in company politics that hurt more than a stab in the back by your colleagues. But when the knife called betrayal is pushed in and then twisted by your boss, the pain is felt even deeper. Although I was hurt in the process, retrenched even, I would not bow. Corporate life from Afrox to Zenex is universally unfair and the duplicitous mail clerk is just as dangerous to fellow workers as is boardroom treachery. It is the law of the jungle, it was not about me.

I look back on it now and realise the pathway out of that stifling jungle was well planned in advance, and because of that I could find workplace redemption. Few details were missed and oftentimes I had to endure humiliating management censure. “What is the matter with you, Tom? Your mind is not on your job. I’m sorry but I cannot justify your raise.” Ugh. You are so right, I’d think to myself. My mind is elsewhere. In this jungle daily, I was becoming a gnome and Churchill was right – the greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes. Humility taught me not to fight back, seek revenge. Humility taught me also to shift my focus from self-pity to positive action.

I have been on my own as a writer and publisher for 25 years and was able to travel more than I could have had I been trapped in the corporate pile. I have been more involved in my children’s schooling and social development, and therein I found my redemption. I may not be a rich man, but I know I am a happy man.

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