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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.

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