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Review of FINDING ME by Viola Davis

Viola Davis would probably not be the first name that comes to mind for most people if asked to specify an award-winning actress. My only acquaintance with her work was a random discovery of the TV series How to Get Away with Murder when it was screened on eTV a few years ago. Something about the gritty legal thriller and its imposing female lead had me engrossed.

Since reading her 2022 autobiography, I now know that Viola Davis has won all the prestigious performance awards – the Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar, as well as a recent Grammy for the audio narration of her memoir; to date, only 18 actors have achieved all four and earned the distinction of becoming an “EGOT”. She is also a graduate of the Juilliard School’s 4-year drama programme, although she felt that she didn’t really fit into the euro-centric training. That’s a truly impressive list of accomplishments, but reading her story leaves you in awe of what she had to overcome and how hard she worked to reach the pinnacle of her craft and a place of self-love.

Viola was born into poverty in the US and grew up as one of six children in a home where alcohol abuse and domestic violence were her backdrop. She describes rat-infested living conditions in buildings that were fire hazards, no heating or hot water in bitterly cold winters, and regular hunger. As a child, her dark skin and chronic bed-wetting added to her torment. Fortunately, there have been a few guiding lights in her life: her oldest sister loved school and encouraged Viola to learn and work towards something better, a teacher and a counsellor urged her to enter an arts talent competition as a teenager, there were friends and mentors as she pursued her acting career, and (after a friend told her to get down on her knees and pray for the kind of man she wanted) her husband of the past 20 years.

In her book, Viola shares her long, gruelling journey to success and self-acceptance, including therapy in later years as she struggled to embrace the traumatised child she had been and to see herself as worthy.

A copy of FINDING ME by Viola Davis is available in the Chartered Client Library for short-term loan.

From Priest to Painter – Gill’s journey

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Chartered client and former priest, Gill Bowman, discovered a new purpose in art. She had always been passionate about art, even studying it after matric, but her faith and community work took precedence. When she was put on disability leave due to her diagnosis, she realised it was time to rekindle her passion for art.

During a life planning session at Chartered, Gill realised how much she wanted to get back into art. She started doing mandalas and found the process both meditative and healing, describing it as getting the thoughts in her head out onto paper. During lockdown, Gill took online courses from the Learn to Paint Academy and the ETCHR Studio, as well as motivational courses from Jessica Serran.

Gill primarily works with acrylics, occasionally dabbling in watercolours. She soon began selling her art and displaying it at local galleries, spending up to six hours a day in her studio creating her paintings. In December this year, Gill will exhibit her work at “Art on the Veranda” in Bushman’s River. She has also been invited to showcase her art at the prestigious Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2024.

Gill has turned her art into a new side hustle and also finds it beneficial in managing Parkinson’s symptoms. She says that painting helps to calm her hands and body, as well as her overall anxiety.

Roy, her husband, has been a great supporter of her journey in the world of art. He helps with the framing and other tasks, and she fondly refers to him as her assistant.

When asked about her new purpose in life, Gill said that she had two choices when her purpose as a priest was taken away by Parkinson’s; she realised she could either choose the tomb and see this as the end of her life – or choose the womb, an opportunity to start a new one. Her choice is obvious.

Gill’s story is an inspiration to us all. It shows that we can always find new purpose and meaning in life, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

To see Gill’s art, you can follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

The Never-Ending Journey of Learning

At Retire Successfully, we believe that lifelong learning is essential for a fulfilling retirement. Life is a tapestry of many threads; neglecting one can unravel the others. That’s why we’ve identified eight essential elements that weave together a balanced and meaningful retirement: work, give back, relationships, money, learning, health, purpose, and play. This month, we’re focusing on the “learn” element.

What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning is the continuous pursuit of knowledge and skills throughout one’s life. It is driven by a desire to grow and develop personally and professionally. Lifelong learning can take many forms, including formal education (such as attending college or university), non-formal education (such as taking online courses or workshops), and informal learning (such as reading books, watching documentaries, or engaging in conversations with experts).

The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

The benefits of lifelong learning are far-reaching – it keeps the mind active and engaged, which can help protect cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia in later life. Learning new things can be an enriching experience, giving people a sense of accomplishment and purpose and helping them live more fulfilling lives. A wonderful added benefit is that continuous learning creates new opportunities for people to connect with others with the same interests.

Lifelong Learner: Meet Stephen Marcus Finn

Chartered client Stephen Marcus Finn is the epitome of a lifelong learner. Although Stephen, who’ll turn 75 next month, has a Master’s in English and a doctorate in Communication, he insists – and persists – in studying further – all the time.

In his mid-sixties, he returned to the piano to do his Grade 8 (the highest level) practical with the Royal Schools of Music, having to start from Grade 4. He did this in one year and, in the same period, went from Grade 1 to his Grade 8 theory exam, which he passed with distinction.

Six years ago, he completed his third year in Film at the Open Window and was also involved in acting at a private institution.

To celebrate his 70th birthday, Stephen gave a piano recital that included works by vegan composers, including the notoriously difficult Alexander Scriabin.

Three years ago, he obtained his Honours in Drama and Film Studies at the University of Pretoria, specialising in Research, Writing and Directing, and earned his degree with distinction. When he obtained his first Honours degree in English, he was the youngest student in his programme at the university; this time around, his fellow students were young enough to be his grandchildren.

Straight after a double-knee replacement, Stephen started writing an academic book on animal rights, Farmed Animals on Film: A Manifesto for a New Ethic, which took him a year to complete and was published by a major company in the USA. He has currently resumed his passion for writing novels, plays and poetry, but intends to continue (in the next year or two) with studies in … whatever he wants to do.

Stephen’s journey is proof of the endless opportunities for growth and fulfilment through lifelong learning. His story shows that it’s never too late to embark on a path of curiosity, discovery, and self-improvement.

Spotlight on Negester Onrusrivier

Negester Onrusrivier is a lifestyle estate for the over-50s, situated in a tranquil coastal town near Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. It offers a range of property options, including full-title homes and sectional-title apartments within the care centre. The estate’s architectural design draws inspiration from Cape Malay houses, Stellenbosch’s Dorp Street, and modern farmhouses.

Residents of Negester Onrusrivier enjoy a range of amenities, including a modern care centre with 50 residential units, a lunchroom, a living room, a small library, a hair salon, and a clinic. The estate also offers different care packages to suit individual needs.

Negester Onrusrivier offers the perfect retirement lifestyle for those seeking a secure and serene environment with easy access to amenities and attractions.

Click here to view their website

Meet Negester Residents Peter and Jackie Mellowship

Peter and Jackie moved to the Negester North Estate in August 2014. Their primary reason for the move was downsizing to a more manageable property. Peter and Jackie were both in their sixties, and their children had all moved away (two of the three to overseas locations) and had their own families. They had a large property all to themselves with only occasional visitors.

Their part of the estate is purely residential, with no medical or care amenities, restaurants or communal facilities. It is a gated complex with 24-hour security and access control.

The bulk of the estate was designed with a 55+ theme featuring smaller, more manageable properties; in their case, their home is on one level, with wheelchair-friendly touches such as easy-access showers.

Socially, Peter and Jackie enjoy occasional lunches and dinner parties hosted by fellow residents at their homes. Having lived in the Hermanus area for 19 years, they most often socialise with friends made over the years rather than just in the estate.
Peter and Jackie have sound advice for others considering moving to an estate: carefully consider the type of facilities you will require in the future. Estates vary widely, ranging from purely gated communities to those providing comprehensive medical and care facilities. They know of several instances in which couples relocated to their estate, only to move once again shortly afterwards, because one partner needed access to medical care facilities. “Before making your decision, ask yourselves those tough questions,” recommend Peter and Jackie.

From rugby fields to empty nests

And the promise to tackle foreboding joy in the scrum of life

I have shared all my first-time, brand-new, and exciting experiences with you every month this year. This month, I am standing on the edge, waiting for a significant change in my life – becoming an empty nester for the first time. My daughter, Gabi, will embrace her next chapter of studying Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University next year. While I have so many mixed emotions ranging from pride, love and anticipation – to fear, dread and anxiousness, I remind myself to stay focused on the present and enjoy the time we have now, rather than be overwhelmed by the worries of next year.

Have you ever spent so much time worrying about the what ifs that the beautiful, joyous moments of the present pass you by? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about things that haven’t happened yet?

I’m incredibly proud of Gabi’s achievements and her choice to pursue a career in engineering. I love every minute of my time with her. Still, I constantly guard myself not to be overly concerned about everything that could possibly go wrong or pre-empting the dread of an empty home and losing those daily moments with her.

In a wonderful social media post, Brent Lindeque (The Good Things Guy) reminded me of a term called anticipatory grief – when you worry or grieve about things that haven’t happened yet (like many South Africans did 70 minutes into the Springbok-England Rugby World Cup Semi-finals). At the very least, we were all panicking just a little bit! I am convinced that only the bravest of us resisted grieving ahead of schedule!

But rugby aside, Brent makes a good point when he shares that South Africans may be in a constant state of anticipatory grief – waiting for the next corruption scandal, waiting to hear more bad news, waiting for load-shedding, more potholes, inflation, another war … Similarly, the concept foreboding joy, coined by Brené Brown, captures the internal conflict we feel when joy is immediately followed by worry and fear. We end up catastrophising, wasting our time worrying about things that haven’t happened, and in the process, we have no time or space left to embrace the joy and happiness of our present.

I’ve seen how the initial excitement of retirement can be replaced by fears and questions like “What will I do with my life?” or “Will my money last?” and “What if my health fails?” I have spoken to many people whose children are emigrating, and the fear and worry for their future start way before they leave the country. I’ve noticed how fear and worry can deter people from trying new things. It seems we are all constantly worrying, letting the impending fear of loss and change overshadow the potential joy of living in the present moment.

So, how do we move past this cycle of anticipatory grief? The answer, I believe, lies in being present. Embrace each moment fully and focus on gratitude, all the positive aspects of change, and the many new adventures that change will bring.

So, no anticipating grief this Saturday during the World Cup Rugby Final! No foreboding joy allowed! This is the 8th Rugby World Cup tournament that SA is playing; we’ve won the Cup three times and have never lost a final! There’s nothing to worry about.

Review of The Good Life and How to Live It

Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

The authors of this book (published in 2023) are the current programme directors of a Harvard research project that has been ongoing for an impressive 84 years. It has followed the lives of diverse participants, from their early teens through their senior years, incorporating a second generation along the way – all in a quest to deliver what the title of the book promises.

They aren’t, however, promising a shortcut to euphoria, and the authors do clarify that they are referring to eudaimonic happiness, which is “a state of deep well-being in which a person feels that their life has meaning and purpose” despite the inevitable disappointments, trauma and loss that we all experience over a lifetime.

It all comes down to relationships; other studies over the years also back up the data from the Harvard Study, i.e., quality relationships play a pivotal role in supporting our health and happiness. The Harvard Study participants who fared best in terms of happiness had strong relationships and were in better mental and physical shape into their 80s. Quality of and satisfaction with your relationships count and provide ‘armour’ when life delivers hard knocks.

The message is that all relationships – spanning spouses, family, colleagues, and friends – need effort towards embracing openness, offering and asking for support, facing into challenges, taking time to pause and understand emotions and situations better, paying attention (especially to long-term relationships that have shifted into autopilot) and showing genuine curiosity. Even interacting with a stranger can boost mood and open up opportunities. Loss of friends following retirement is quite common, and the authors encourage being purposeful about maintaining and creating social connections as life progresses.

The book provides some mini-Harvard-Study tools to gauge your ‘Social Fitness’ and plot your ‘Social Universe’, as well as a ‘W.I.S.E.R.’ model for dealing with challenging relationship events. Several life stories and comparisons among individuals who have participated in the Harvard project are included and add the human element to the research data.

A copy of The Good Life and How to Live It – Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness is available for short-term loan from our Chartered Client Library.

Review of I am Ella by Joanne Jowell

Reviewed by Karen Wilson

Ella of the book title is now 102 years old, just a few years after a series of interviews with author Joanne Jowell, in which she shared her remarkable life. Remarkable that, despite tragic loss and suffering as a young woman, she found the strength to rebuild her life from zero and to thrive.

Ella was born into a close-knit and prosperous Jewish family in Poland. The advent of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of her home country snatched away anything resembling normality for Ella, who was then in her late teens. She recounts their living conditions after they were forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, the extermination of twenty-three of her beloved family members, and her miracle survival of the Majdanek, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, along with her niece.

When Ella emerged from this horror in 1945, she was 24. It is a testament to her faith, optimism, and resilience that she started a new life in Paris soon after, then moved to Palestine/Israel, where she met her husband and followed him to South Africa mere weeks later – knowing nothing about her new country and speaking very little English. She and her husband ran a retail business in Brakpan for many years and raised four children who became successful professionals.

For decades, she rarely spoke about what she had endured but gradually began giving small talks to niche audiences. Joanne Jowell had the privilege of spending time with Ella in Cape Town (where she now lives close to her daughter) and documenting her life story. Joanne’s commentary on her interactions with Ella intersperses the narrative and provides more insight into Ella and her experiences. There are also some helpful footnotes explaining the Yiddish words and Jewish traditions that Ella references as she unpacks her memories.

Ella’s fighting spirit and determination to get the most out of life shine through in this book, along with her sense of humour – and the lessons she no doubt hopes humanity has learned from the tragedy of the last World War.

A copy of I am Ella is available for short-term loan from the Chartered Client Library. We also have a copy to give away. To stand a chance to win, email Lyndsay, and you will be entered into our lucky draw.

A review of 1000 Ultimate Travel Experiences: Make the Most of Your Time on Earth

Reviewed by Karen Wilson

Most of us will chalk up just a few of the 1000 travel experiences in this book, but it will undoubtedly inspire those wanting to create new travel memories. If you prefer armchair travel, you’ll find the mini write-ups fascinating.

The book is divided into geographical sections and numbered experiences that are first-hand accounts from various travel writers. Some options are not for the unfit or faint-hearted, but if zip-lining across the Spain-Portugal border, hiking up Peru’s multi-coloured Rainbow Mountain, or facing off with Komodo dragons in Indonesia is not for you, there are plenty of alternatives!

History enthusiasts can consider a stay at Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, and a therapeutic visit to the Thermae Bath Spa in the World Heritage town of Bath, England. In Italy, outdoor concerts, from opera to contemporary music, are held in the Roman-era Verona arena.

If history and hiking are your preferred pairing, the path of the old Berlin Wall is now a 160-kilometre (divided into 14 sections that can be tackled individually) hiking and cycling trail. Several much longer hikes are featured if Machu Picchu or a Camino are on your bucket list.

Plane, train or automobile? Train choices include the Beijing – Shanghai Express, Eastern & Oriental Express between Singapore and Bangkok, and the Australian Ghan, which travels across the vast Outback from Adelaide – Darwin.

For some, the highlight of any trip is sampling a region’s food and beverage. The book notes Belgium’s claim to beer and chocolate fame and will tell you where in the world to find the best coffee, bourbon, and local speciality dishes.

Those who don’t mind the cold and the dark may enjoy a December visit to Kiruna in Sweden to see the Northern Lights and sleep in an Ice Hotel.

The list of natural wonders and cultural experiences is long, and South Africa also gets several mentions – from Bo-Kaap architecture and Cape Malay cuisine to Table Mountain. Whilst whale-watching in Hermanus didn’t make the pages, did you know that the Dominican Republic and Mexico are whale-watching hubs?

Rough Guides publishes 1000 Ultimate Travel Experiences. The font size is reasonably small, so good reading light is essential! The 2007 copy in our Chartered Client Library has been replaced with 2022’s fifth edition.

Dare to Ask: Embracing Courage in Seeking Assistance and Discovering New Possibilities

The heart-warming friendship between Margaret Kearns and Brent Lindeque began with a simple question. Read about it in this month’s article by Kim Potgieter. Margaret’s daughters had the courage to invite Brent, a stranger, to their mom’s 70th birthday party, and a beautiful connection blossomed.

In the realm of creative pursuits, Steven Spielberg’s legendary career serves as a testament to the power of courageous asking. His journey took flight when he boldly approached Sid Sheinberg and asked for a chance to direct a feature film. The result? A ground-breaking career that has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema.

Similarly, The Beatles faced rejection from multiple record labels, but their unwavering determination led them to ask George Martin to sign them. This courageous ask launched their extraordinary journey as an iconic band and forever changed the landscape of music.

Reflecting on these examples, it is evident that the fear of hearing “no” shouldn’t hold us back from asking. In fact, some of the most impactful careers, fundraisers, ground-breaking initiatives, and life-changing connections have all begun with someone’s courageous question.

But what about the question of asking for help for ourselves when we need it? In a world where helping others comes naturally, it’s equally important to embrace the courage to ask for assistance when we need it. We often find it easier to extend a helping hand to others, readily offering our support and lending our strength. However, when the time comes for us to seek support ourselves, we may hesitate, held back by the fear of burdening others or the worry of appearing weak.

Fear, pride, and societal expectations can create formidable barriers that make asking for help feel daunting. We fear judgment and the potential rejection that may come with revealing our vulnerabilities. We worry about being seen as incapable or dependent. Yet, it’s crucial to recognise that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a strength that allows for personal growth and deeper connections. When we open ourselves up and ask for help, we demonstrate the courage to confront our challenges head-on.

Asking for help is an act of self-care and self-empowerment. It’s a recognition that we all have limits and that it’s perfectly okay to lean on others for support. In fact, we create opportunities for personal growth and foster stronger connections with those around us through our vulnerability and willingness to seek assistance. It takes courage to acknowledge our needs and reach out to others, trusting in their willingness to help.

The power of courageous asking cannot be underestimated. So go on, ask that stranger to a party, ask those seemingly impossible questions, and most importantly, ask for help if you need it!

A review of Breathe (Strategising Energy in the Age of Burnout) by Dr Ela Manga

Review by Karen Wilson

Dr Ela Manga is a Johannesburg-based doctor who found her calling in integrative medicine. Burnout from the stress and challenges of modern-day life and technology was the crux of many patient ailments, and she has focused her work on ways to address this energy crisis.

As Dr Manga explains, many people now live in a persistent state of adrenalised energy. Whilst this serves the purpose of dealing with short-term stressful or demanding situations, it is crucial to balance out this high-energy state with a rest and recovery mode – what she refers to as authentic or natural energy, when the body’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated. If energy balance is out of kilter for years, symptoms such as insomnia, panic attacks, extreme fatigue, depression, recurrent infections, and heart disease will start to show up.

The book is divided into three sections – Body Intelligence, Mind Intelligence and Heart Intelligence. A selection of her patient stories depicts how their lifestyles, habits and beliefs eventually landed them either in the Danger Zone (more wired than tired) or the Burnout Zone (more tired than wired), signs of which Dr Manga describes in her Energy Zone Map. The third zone is the Optimum Zone, where we should ideally be – at least most of the time!

In the context of the stories, the book covers areas such as diet, rest, exercise, mindfulness, connecting with nature, and conscious breathing as antidotes to energy imbalance and burnout. Dr Manga has a particular interest in the breath and how it can be harnessed for authentic energy, and she shares some simple breathing techniques to incorporate into daily life. She talks about the importance of regular ‘recovery loops’ – these can be as brief as a good sigh and a stretch or as long as a weekend getaway – to help restore a sense of calm and well-being.

A copy of Breathe is available in our Chartered Client Library for short-term loans. You can find more information on Dr Ela Manga and her ‘Breathwork’ on her website,