Shalene Kritzinger

Think of the times when you've acted courageously in your life – in speaking your truth, in giving your heart away, in trusting someone fully, in honestly looking at yourself and changing what no longer serves you! Having faith that things are exactly the way they should be. All that takes courage. You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous. You cannot be loving if you are not courageous. You cannot be trusting if you are not courageous. You cannot enter into reality if you are not courageous. Hence courage comes first… and everything else follows. —Osho


Life Snippets

Do you speak South African?

The graffiti under the bridge catches my eye as I drive by. “Do you speak South African?”

And it gets me thinking. Well, I’m South African, so yes, I guess I do speak South African. But the question lingered with me. “Do you speak South African?” I ponder this for a while.

“Do I speak South African?” Do I really speak South African?” What does it mean to “speak” South African? South African is not a language. South Africa has 11 official languages of which I speak only two and know a couple of words from the others. Which one of those would be South African? Do I need to speak all 11 to be able to say I speak South African?

No, South African is not a language.

So what does it mean “Do you speak South African?”. Is it a cultural thing? Can only one part of this country actually claim to speak South African? What would that culture be?

“Do I speak South African?” What would qualify a person to be able to speak South African? It’s certainly not English or Afrikaans in my point of view. Neither is it Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho or any of the rest.

I’m South African and I speak one of the languages, but the question goes much deeper than that for me. My thoughts around this make me sad.

If speaking South African means being desensitised to the beggars on the street, looking straight ahead whilst someone motions how hungry they are, then perhaps I speak South African. If it means being relieved that the beggar doesn’t smash my car window, throw his body into the car and grab whatever valuables I may have forgotten to place in my boot, then I definitely speak South African. If I sit vigilantly everytime the car’s wheels come to a stop, keenly aware of my surroundings in case some gun wielding madman comes to take my car. Being petrified to drive alone at night – then yes, unfortunately I speak South African.

If it means hearing about rapes, murders and the most horrendous acts of torture (horrendous do you hear me?) on people and elderly citizens of this country and accepting this as part of the daily news headlines, then I’m ashamed to speak South African.

Not feeling safe in my own home. If an electric fence, state of the art alarm systems, cameras, beams, locked doors and gates, dogs and armed response are needed to help me feel safe in my own home, and to know I’m still not safe – does that mean I speak South African?

If it means not trusting the police, the very people meant to serve and protect us tax paying citizens then yes, I guess I speak South African.

If it means trying not to get upset by the everyday lawlessness that I see – from people driving through red traffic lights, to zero consideration for others, to the government of the country not being held accountable for theft and corruption – then I speak South African.

If it means feeling hopeless about the state of education in this country, where you barely need 35% to pass a level. Yes our government thinks it’s good enough for you to know 35% of the work prescribed to you. Feeling frustrated because the future will not be easy for us, or our children.

If it means sitting in the dark for hours on end because the power-utility can’t keep the lights on, I guess that means I speak South African. Or waiting for the looming water crises to hit, as we all know it will, it’s just a matter of time.

If it’s made to feel like a second class citizen because of the colour of my skin, called a colonialist, to not have job prospects and to be made to feel unwelcome in this country then yes I speak South African. Yes, our very own president sings “shoot the boer” (Boer = farmer, but in South Africa, if you are white, you’re almost automatically a boer). He tells the masses that the electricity problems we face now is because of apartheid (an abhorrent government of racial segregation that was abolished over 20 years ago). In fact, the arrival of the first white settlers back in 1652, are where the real problems come from (yes he actually said that and what’s worse is people believe him).

If it means having a president continually stirring racial tensions in this country, one that doesn’t have a Std. 3 level of education and has the gall to defend the R206 million homestead of Nkandla and his fire pool as if the nation are a bunch of complete dimwits – do I speak South African?

To know your fellow countryman (I’m sorry, the ones that do this are savages) set people alight for being a different nationality – is that speaking South African?

If I feel I can’t relate to this country and what I see happening on a daily basis – do I speak South African?

Do I really speak South African?

I don’t know.

Perhaps because I can’t relate to any of the above, on any level whatsoever, perhaps it means I don’t actually speak South African.

But them I’m left with the question… what do I speak then?… South Africa is all I know.


I’m blue…. and everything is blue…

Everything is blue, this is where I live now.  An outside room and garage converted to a flat, and painted blue. Thick, heavy, coarse blue – the kind that can creep into your bones and stay with you for years.

The landlord is an old man who gives me the creeps.  I can’t bare to look at him, I hardly ever say a word to him.  The way he looks at me makes me feel dirty.  He would come to the bedroom window behind the flat where he had a little vegetable garden and I would freeze, silently watching him plucking blood red tomatoes from their vine.  I didn’t want him to know I was there, right by the window, hidden only by a flimsy curtain.

It was cold and the sun never reached in through the windows. The carpets hard and rough to the touch, it hurt to walk barefoot on them. Even the carpets were blue, except in one room, the old single garage, which had a brown carpet. I didn’t want to walk barefoot, the blue carpets too hard, the brown one, too long and dirty, I was sure. Cold radiated from the cement floor below.  I moved there in April, a few days before my birthday, just as the leaves were falling from the trees announcing winter was on her way. That winter was excruciating.  The flat only had a shower, I was used to baths.  Taking a shower does not compare to taking a bath, the cold air comes in from all angles and you cannot immerse yourself in the warmth of a tub of water.

The place was dirty. Filthy…  Clogged drains with years of fat and grime build up, in the basin, in the shower, outside.  The shower was by far the worst. My stomach turns. The yellow, or is it brown?, linoleum kitchen floor is sticky and curling up at the corners.  The brown cupboards have a layer of dirt and oil on them, I’m not sure where the dirt ends and the cupboards begin.

I spent days cleaning before we moved here.  Painted it white inside. A hard, acrylic, shiny white. We moved in with a fridge, a table and a bed. A springy and uncomfortable bed.  A bed nevertheless. I was not used to sharing my bed. I burned the midnight oil at the table studying towards my degree.

I couldn’t sleep.  I missed my mom, all of twenty-one, but I couldn’t go back home. When I did sleep it was restless, filled with nightmares and midnight awakenings.  Many a night I wrestled with my inner voice, urging me to pack my little black bags and leave.  Run for the hills, leave now in the middle of the night it urged. But I didn’t listen, where would I go anyway?.  What does it know.?

I was alone for weeks on end while he worked away.  We got a dog.  A cute boxer whiney puppy that needed potty training and kept me running between the kitchen and bedroom, in the middle of winter, night after night. The puppy slept in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I adore dogs, but I could not love this one.  It stole my freedom. I was the one left behind to rear this puppy that I hadn’t wanted in the first place. I cleaned up messes and was lucky when she didn’t pull the dustbin over. I can’t remember if I was sad the day the dog went missing. I can’t remember being happy when we found the little thing, playing with some kids in a garden two streets away. The kids had stolen the puppy.  They could have kept her (wince).

Then my younger “sister in-law” moved in with us.  She stayed in the brown room. All of a sudden she was our responsibility too.  One night I come home to find her crying in her bed.  Desperately unhappy she lamented that she will never find a man to marry.  I look at her as though she were mad.. she is so young I thought. Barely a year out of school.  She shouldn’t worry about settling down now.  It didn’t occur to me that she was not much younger than I was – I was young too!

There was no money.  I couldn’t go home.  I hated the blue flat. I hated the landlord and his grouchy wife. I couldn’t even find place in my heart for the poor dog (wince).  I hated the  shower with it’s horrible blue (blue again really?)  plastic curtain. I wanted a bath. With bubbles.  Where I could lock the door and shut the world outside.

I was suffocating.

I stopped seeing my friends.

I stopped seeing my family.

I stopped dancing.

I threw myself into work and my studies.

Life became heavier for my young and naïve self.

I wanted to be young and carefree but life has not allowed for this.  As much as I wanted to go home I knew I could never again.  Life at home had become unbearable.  Living under the same roof with an alcoholic parent was no longer an option.

Do you know Peace?

What a profoundly powerful word this is. Peace … it is so much more than silence after the noise, more than a peace sign around ones neck or represented by a time gone by with hippies, VW beetles and flower power. More than rainbows, white doves and flashing peace signs while posing for photos in exotic locations.

Peace is more than this, but what is peace?


I’m not sure how to explain it… I don’t think that you can know peace until you have experienced it. Until you have felt a deep, deep sense of what can only be described as peace – you will know it when you feel it.

The word Peace, to me, used to mean quiet… you know as in “run along now and leave us in peace and quiet”… And yes, it does mean that, but it means so much more as well.. Peace is not only the absence of external noise. Peace, to me, is a feeling. Yes, it is an absence of the inner chatter, conflict and noise of the mind, but not only this. As much as it is a quieting down of the mind, it is also a feeling. A sense that everything is ok – this does not come from the mind but rather from a feeling, a feeling radiating from the heart space.

Peace is the absence of the clenching of the gut, or a racing heart, or ice cold rush of unexpected adrenalin – in response to a thought or a situation. The absence of the fear that can grip you when there is something within you that threatens to erupt that you are afraid of facing. When your head and your heart are at war with each other… Your heart desperately trying to bring to the surface what it knows needs to be felt – your head in denial that anything might be wrong, stubbornly refusing to look that way, needing to be strong but desperately afraid of the pain that may come out should it give space for the heart to be heard.

Peace can only come when your head and your heart come together, finally realising one is no good without the other. The head realises that the heart is not the enemy, that it is not there to trap you in all kinds of hurtful situations and that it doesn’t have to fiercely protect the heart from pain. The head finally concedes that the heart has so much more wisdom than the head can ever hold. The head has knowledge, but the heart, holds wisdom. The heart already knows that nothing would get done if not for the head. The heart also knows what needs to be done in order to heal, and the head needs to learn to step out of the way.

Only when a truce is called between the head and the heart, and only then I believe, can you know real peace – a deep, unshakable, undeniable sense of profound peace.

Peace: It doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work; it means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart. Unknown.

Tough love – is tough


“You deserve to be happy” said Rose, smiling at me.  “You don’t need to put up with this type of behaviour” she said reaching out to touch my arm.  We were standing at the front door to a grand old  house where weekly tough love meetings were held in my area.  This was my first session and I wasn’t sure what to think about the whole thing. The rest of the group were milling around.  I had bumped into a work colleague and suddenly felt very ashamed to find myself in this place. I reminded myself that we’re both here for the same reason, and that he is probably just as shocked to see me.  We both had someone in our lives that was an addict and we needed help with how to cope.

I nodded my head, as if in agreement with Rose, perhaps she doesn’t understand, I thought to myself. I can’t be happy, I have tried to be happy before, it doesn’t work. My life is not meant to be happy, or carefree, or not sad… “I’ve just told them my story, don’t they understand?” I asked myself.  I had come here to learn how to help my father, who was an alcoholic, deal with his problem.  It wasn’t me who had the problem, it was my dad.  I couldn’t understand how me getting happy was going to help him?  No I didn’t need to get happy, my dad needed to stop drinking, that’s what needed to happen here.  Perhaps I could think of being happy then. The only time I was ever “happy”, was when he was not drinking, therefore, it makes sense that if he stopped drinking, I would be happy.   I studied Rose, at least 30 years older than I was.  She had a son my age who was an addict.  I thought the difference between us was that perhaps I was the only “child” of an alcoholic at the tough love group, and the rest were all parents of an addict.  I thought perhaps they just saw things differently.

It was January 2006.  I had my own flat, my own car, was travelling a lot for work, I had my own life, or so I thought.  I had dropped my dad off at Phoenix House, a rehabilitation centre in Jo’burg, just the week before.  I had checked him in, together with a couple of belongings and his pipe.  For 12 weeks I knew he wasn’t going to be drinking and I could relax.  He was living with me, temporarily.  He had myasthenia gravis (a complicated autoimmune disease where your own immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes grave muscle weakness) and the alcohol was aggravating it. I had asked him to move in with me as I thought perhaps he just needed some support.  I thought that if he saw how much we loved him, he would change.  I had failed, miserably.  And it wasn’t the first time either.  I had offered that he come stay with me as he was desperately unhappy and lonely, I thought perhaps he just needed some family, and some good natural medication and healing to help him on the path.  He moved in, and brought his orange persian cat – Garfield with him.

What was I thinking.  The old chaos was back.

I don’t know what I had expected, I knew he was an alcoholic. I remembered the unpleasant days and nights while we were all still in the family home.  I knew he had been in to various rehab centres, many times before.  I knew he was drinking heavily. Perhaps I was acting out of guilt for cutting him out of my life completely for 6 years, because it just hurt so much to acknowledge that my father was an alcoholic.  Perhaps I was trying to make up for lost time.  I was hopeful that things would change.

The hope was in vain.  For nothing. The precarious bottom just fell out, again and again, like it always had. I should have known.

It was that very orange cat that went missing one day, that caused me to look in places that I never really looked in. Just as I was afraid to look at the darkest parts of my mind, I physically avoided looking too hard for and at things. Tucked away at the very back of my bedroom cupboard I found an open bottle of vodka… my cupboard… not my vodka…. so I did what I’d always done.  I went on the rampage, shouting, screaming, threatening, crying – my world was falling apart again.  I didn’t give a dam who heard.  Couldn’t he see how much he was hurting me?  Does he not care? Can he not see how I’m suffering?  The ugly truth was staring at me once again.  I had suspected that he had been drinking, but I didn’t want to look too hard for fear of what I’d find. The truth hurts too much you see – ignorance is bliss.  But, this, I couldn’t ignore.  I knew the truth now and I was devastated.

I knew this feeling though.  I knew how to pull myself together, I had been doing this from my early days at high school.  I knew how to push those feelings down to the deepest recesses of my mind. I pulled up my socks, and life carried on, as it does and always had.  I had lived with this feeling of unease and fear for what will happen for so long I had no idea there was another way to live.  A few weeks later I rushed my dad to the emergency room at the hospital (not the first time).  We thought he was having a heart attack.  After examination the doctor came to me and said my dad is fine – but he has been drinking. Duh… I knew that.  In that moment I wanted to defend him and defiantly wanted to ask what that had to do with the suspected heart attack.  But I didn’t, the feelings of shame and, dare I say it, hate, were so enormous I nearly wanted to die.

Sometimes in life time seems to stand still. It’s as if for a moment everything revolves around you and the universe stops and waits with baited breath to see what you are going to do with the latest development.  I had a moment of truth, it had smacked me in the face and it was smarting.  I heard the humming of the bright overhead lights of the hospital, when did the lights become so bright?,  the waiting room, doctors, nurses and people swirled around me.  I felt removed from everything and from somewhere within me I absolutely knew something had to change or the next trip to the emergency room might be me.

Shortly after that hospital trip Dad was booked into Phoenix and I went to my first Tough Love.

There is a reason why they call it tough love, because that is exactly what it is.  What was I expecting to learn when I heard about tough love?  I thought I’d toughen up, learn how to deal with the alcoholic and the problem, with the intention of  changing his behaviour.  I was convinced that by me giving tough love, it would make it so uncomfortable for my dad that he would stop drinking.  Once his behaviour changed, then I would be happy.

And then, here was Rose and a group of people all with someone in their lives who was causing them overwhelming hurt and heartache. They spoke about acceptance of what is, and I could hardly believe what I was hearing.  Why should we accept it when someone in the family is dead set on ruining their life?  What if they drink themselves to death? What if they commit suicide? What if there was something I could do to help and I didn’t, and then he dies? What if… Then they told me to stop making “what-if” movies in my head…

I was confused.  It began to dawn on me that tough love was perhaps less about becoming tough on the other person and more about becoming tough with yourself and what you accept or don’t accept into your life.  I could feel that I needed bit of a mind shift, I was not on the same page, hell, not even in the same book, as these people. The intention was not to get the other person to change their behaviour, which was what I was hoping to learn there.  No, the intention was to change our own behaviour and thoughts and feelings towards the addict, to separate the person and the addiction, to set and communicate healthy boundaries, to stick to boundaries and ultimately know when to preserve yourself and walk away.  This wasn’t very comforting to me.  I wanted him to change, not me.  I didn’t want to walk away and if he would just change then I wouldn’t have to.

That is what is tough.  We can never ever, ever change another person, ever.  It’s about learning that we have a choice every moment in life and in how we respond to events that happen.  Sometimes the only thing left to do, for your health and sanity, is to let go (gasp). Even though the world can come crashing down around you, you can still be at peace.

It is possible.

Tough, but not impossible.

And then we read the serenity prayer by St Francis.  I had heard it before but never really paid too much attention to it.  That night it took on a new meaning to me.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

The meaning of the words hit home sometime that night.  Tough love was going to be tougher than I ever imagined.

This happened at the beginning of 2006.  Sadly, after battling alcoholism for over 20 years, Dad passed away in April 2011, his mind and body unable to handle the disease of alcohol combined with MG a moment longer.

How do you let go?

How do you let go in love?


There is such beauty in surrender, I’ve taken my whole life to realise this. It’s not something that you can theorise about, or analyse, or conceptualise or fool yourself into believing you have. It happens when it happens. When you allow it to.

Letting go is not giving up, it’s not throwing away, it doesn’t even mean not caring.  Letting go means leaving things as they are, letting it be, not attaching your desire to the outcome of a situation.

So armed with this knowledge, how do you actually do it?


How do you watch a loved one slowly and methodically drink themselves to death? How do you not try to do everything in your power to stop this from happening? How do you control this monster?  How do you not throw out the alcohol in the fridge?  How do you get through to a person who just won’t listen to reason? How do you continue to live knowing someone you love is slowly killing themselves?

Do you turn a blind eye? Ignore it?  Separate yourselves by distance? Cut them completely out of your life because it hurts too much? Or do you invite them in, telling yourself that you can help them.  Pretend you didn’t seem them hiding the bottle in the bathroom, pretend you didn’t hear it in the plastic bag by their feet.

Do you book them into rehabilitation?  How many times? Once, twice, three…or four?  How do you deal with the hope that this time it will be better? You tell yourself that this time is different, he’ll see what he is doing now. He will come around.  And then…It goes well for a month, or two, or three and then…you find a bottle hidden at the back of your own cupboard… How do you deal with that excruciating pain of disappointment? How do you deal with life knowing that the bottom is always going to fall out?

How do you listen to the wretching all night and convince yourself it’s a stomach bug – so that you feel better?  How do you see their flailing body, look into their eyes and hear them beg you to please buy them some Vodka, because that will make it stop?  How do you carry on going when the straw breaks the camels back?

How do you…?

let go


I learned the hard way.

I know how.  You let go.  You don’t scream and shout and tell them you hate them. You just let go. You don’t tell yourself you don’t care, storm off into another room and pretend it doesn’t bother you.  You just let go.  You don’t sit and wish things were different.  You just let go. You just let go.  It just happens.

In that moment, peace descends all around and everything becomes crystal clear.  There is nothing more you can do.  There was nothing you could ever have done. There is nothing more to do. You surrender to what is, and it’s beautiful.  Life is unfolding exactly the way it should.

On that day that this happened to me – my heart broke.  It broke into pieces, but I was at peace for the first time in my life.  I recall looking him when, like the missing piece to a puzzle I was looking for, everything just clicked into place.  I walked away from him, who could hardly get out of bed.  I sat down in the living room. I wasn’t angry and raging at him, I was sitting quite calmly.  A sense of peace descended upon me that I’d never felt before.

“there’s nothing I can do”… and I knew it deep in my heart, and I was ok with that.

I was prompted to pull a book out of the bookshelf – The Language of Letting go by Melody Beattie.  I turned to my birthdate and read what was written there.  It was is though it was written for me in that moment in time.

“Detaching in Love Detachment is a key to recovery from co-dependency. It strengthens our healthy relationships – the ones that we want to grow and flourish. It benefits our difficult relationships – the ones that are teaching us to cope. It helps us!
 Detachment is not something we do once. It’s a daily behavior in recovery. We learn it when were beginning our recovery from co-dependency and adult children issues. And we continue to practice it along the way as we grow and change, and as our relationships grow and change.
We learn to let go of people we love, people we like, and those we don’t particularly care for. We separate ourselves, and our process, from others and their process.
We relinquish our tight hold and our need to control in our relationships. We take responsibility for ourselves; we allow others to do the same. We detach with the understanding that life is unfolding exactly as it needs to, for others and ourselves. The way life unfolds is good, even when it hurts. And ultimately, we can benefit from even the most difficult situations. We do this with the understanding that a Power greater than ourselves is in charge, and all is well.
Today, I will apply the concept of detachment, to the best of my ability, in my relationships. If I can’t let go completely, I’ll try to hang on loose.”


I had finally let go, and I was at peace.


This is a post from my previous blog posted in October 2012.

Every day courage


Courage can mean many things.

I believe we are each challenged with unique opportunities to express our courage.  This comes easier for some than others,  while some people never give it a second thought. As many times as I have displayed courage in my life, there are many more that I haven’t.  There are times when I had to work so hard to display courage I wondered if it was even worth it.  There were many times that I decided it wasn’t worth it. The problem is that after deciding so many times that it’s not worth it, eventually, it’s not even a question anymore, it becomes a habit and you lose your ‘courage muscle’.  And you have to work to get it back, if you even realise it’s missing.

I have to work on my ‘courage muscle’, virtually every day.

Courage could be asking your best friend’s mother to read to you, as a little girl, from Enid Blyton’s – The Faraway Tree, because the only way you can imagine sleeping right now is if Moonface and Mr Saucepan were to entertain you with their antics.  It could be asking another friend’s mother to take you home in the middle of the night and of a sleep over because you are missing your mom so badly you cannot sleep. Courage could be telling your high school crush that this isn’t what you are here to do – after following him away from everyone at the party down to the public swimming pool with him expecting something more than sweet sixteen kisses.  And feeling the sharp pain of the rejection as he turns and walks away asking “why did you come with in the first place”. And not calling him back. Sitting with the thoughts that his date probably “put out” and that’s why she was on his arm…and you’ll probably never quite be part of the ‘in crowd’.

Courage could be unlocking your own “Pandora’s box” of feelings that you’ve kept under lock and key for the longest time because you know something is pounding to come out.  You know that which will come out is going to hurl life as you know it upside down,  that it has become larger than you and that eventually there will be no stopping it.  It’s knowing that you need to end a 10 year relationship, 3 of those married and you have no idea how you are going to live through breaking someone’s heart. Might it be easier to walk in front of a bus, than have to take a stand?  You will your heart to feel differently, and it works for a while, but the truth wants to ooze it’s way out of the wounds you try so hard to hide.   You realise you have to be the one with the balls to call it a day.  You have to be the one to walk away. For your safety as much as your sanity.

Courage could be setting boundaries with an alcoholic parent and sticking to them no matter how much your heart breaks.  To see the truth and to grieve the loss of what could have been. It could be in letting go of the need to control them and their drinking.  It could be accepting this about the person and still loving them for who they are, dropping the judgement, looking into their eyes and seeing their soul.

It could be laying your cards on the table, asking for what you want and being prepared to walk away if it’s not what you need. It’s being vulnerable and open and if the other person doesn’t see that then he doesn’t deserve you. It’s putting that out there, no matter what happens. And when this person embraces you and what you’ve laid out on the table, it takes more courage to believe that you deserve to get what you have asked for.

It could be accepting the pure fear and anxiety that accompanies you when driving on the highways, and allowing it to be.

It could be accepting that you are not ashamed to have a different world view, and your beliefs (or lack thereof) do not make you a bad person and you have nothing to hide.

It could be leaving an unfulfilling job in search of something that will feed your soul. It takes courage to go against the flow.  When you know in your heart something isn’t right, to stand up and speak your truth, without judgement, without fear but with courage.


  We all get opportunities to display our courage, in so many different ways.

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