How Fitness Guru Lisa Raleigh Discovered the Secret of Living Life Well
Being fit for life means being fit…for life. That doesn’t mean you have to strut around, showing off your toned muscles, or spend hour after hour going round the circuit at gym.
It just means you should exercise your right to feel good about yourself, and then spend a little effort getting to feel even better. This is where an exercise buddy would come in handy, and you won’t find a fitter candidate than Lisa Raleigh.
She’s a model of the benefits of health and wellness, not just as a practical philosophy, but as a pathway to a thriving career.
Fitness-brand ambassador, personal trainer, reality-show consultant, author, presenter, and TV producer, she is also a social media influencer and motivator to many.
But despite her passion for working hard at working out, her everyday mantra is “just breathe, and chill”, she tells Ruda in this interview, which also puts the focus on her digital production company, her forthcoming book about “the belly”, and the joys and challenges of motherhood.
R: Hello, and a very warm welcome to another session on the Change Exchange. My guest for this one, Lisa Raleigh. You’re a wellness expert and also a media personality. Huge social media presence. How did you get into fitness and wellness and all that?
L: Well Ruda, I think I always had this destined for my life. I started out as a ballerina and a gymnast when I was growing up, and I was actually a private boarder, which means that you don’t stay in a boarding establishment – you stay with families. And the reason being is that a boarding establishment couldn’t really alter the bus schedules for my weird schedule. You know, early morning training, late night training, they didn’t have buses that time of day, so I had to stay with a gymnastics family. And in the first holidays of that – I think it was the second term that I was with them, the dad actually passed away reffing a soccer game. And he was in his early forties, so I no longer could go back to that grieving family after the holiday, I had to find another family. And that started my journey with staying with five different families over a period of two and a half years.
R: This was high school?
L: High school, ja. So I kind of fell with people and what makes a family tick and different EQs within a family and the different dimensions, relationships and I had to really be … I had to, like evolve and mould myself to fit in all the time with them, and also just …
R: That’s incredibly difficult for a teenager. It’s difficult for everyone.
L: I was a very organised, OCD type personality. I was a gymnast, a ballerina. So everything is very controlled, everything is very disciplined. Watch what I ate, I exercised a lot, sleep and homework was up to me. Making my own school lunches, getting to school, because my parents lived in a different city and so I became really disciplined really early on in life. And I loved fitness, nutrition, exercise, discipline, sleep … And I loved that about what I was doing with my sporting career. And I was really good at this stage, I was like an SA gymnast. Part of who I was is discipline type of little soul, and at the same time living with these families, I realised how much I love people, how I was intrigued by them. So when I finished school, I thought I’d love to study something to do with people, and something to do with fitness and wellness and lifestyle, so I studied to become a personal trainer, and this was 15 years ago. And it wasn’t as popular as it is today. And I studied it, and straight after that I went to Wales, and at the time I dated a rugby player who got chosen to go and play for Wales, so I followed him and that’s kind of where my journey started. But I always knew, right from Grade 9 – they call it now – Standard 7, that I wanted to work with people, and I wanted to work in the nutrition and fitness and discipline space.
R: So what did you do when you lived in Wales?
L: I worked in different gyms. They call them motivators. So I got a lot of experience working on the floor, personal training programs, fitness classes, nutrition plans, and after that I studied many different course and diplomas after that to kind of enrich my CV, but even before that, going back to when I was five, six, seven … My mom told me that all of my dolls were sick, so when I come home from school I had all of them lie down in their little beds and I’d walk into my room and say, Hi Molly, how are you feeling today? Took her temperature, and gave her medicine, and changed her nappy, so I was always in the caring kind of realm, and I definitely wanted to care for others in some way or form. And I’m glad that I didn’t become a nurse, that it’s more in a preventative role as opposed to a bit too late, but I think I’ve always loved people, cared for them, worried about them and wanted to help in some way.
R: You had your big break, really, when you were one of the trainers for The Biggest Loser. What was it called?
L: Ja, The Biggest Loser South Africa. That was awesome.
R: How does one motivate people to make that kind of radical change in lifestyle?
L: It was an intense, intense time in my life. I remember getting through all the interviews and then getting a phone call to say we’ve chosen you as the female trainer for South Africa, and my life changed at that moment. Because before then, I was focusing a lot more on the fitness side of things, I had three gyms, things were going really, really well. I had 50 to 70 clients in a day, and I had to remember all their names, what their kids’ names are, their birthdays, it was an intense, busy, and fulfilling, fulfilling career.
R: You mean my trainer does not really care?
L: No, we actually … Well, I did. And it was actually too much so. At the end of the day I used to do this ritual, I used to shower off everybody’s problems because I felt overloaded by their burdens, sometimes, and what I had heard in my … People tell you a lot. And they kind of confide in you as much as if you were their best friend or their psychologist … And I used to think this is too much, I used to wash it off. It was a very special time in my life, where things progressed from being a personal trainer, where I could only really help, and as a business owner … At that stage I had mini-trainers working for me, and I had three different gym locations and things were going well. Business was thriving, and this was again, eight or nine years ago before there were so many options out there. My gym was one of the first private gyms in KZN, Durban, where I grew up and started out. That big break was amazing for me, because I always felt quite frustrated for only being able to help people going to my gym, and I felt I needed to reach more, I needed to help more than just a couple of hundred people that I saw every week. And so that really helped me. It catapulted me into the media. The seven contestants that I was given – my blue team – stretched me and made me cry more than I cried in my whole life …
R: Why? Tell me about that?
L: Because their stories are so deep. There’s always a reason why somebody is so grotesquely overweight. They don’t just get overweight and then are happy with it – there’s always a reason. All seven of my contestants were different races, from different parts of South Africa. They had different issues as to different reasons why they were overweight. It was rape, it could have been abuse, it was divorce and trauma in the home and those specific people decided to choose food as their refuge and to fill that massive void in their lives. So I heard all the stories and I saw how much they tried and I saw how much they wanted it and how much they sacrificed and how much we trained and how little they had to eat and how sore they were and how much we pushed them. You know, sometimes we’d train them through the night on the beach, in the rain, with black bags all over so they would sweat a little bit more, and they would jump on that scale and they would jump up and down because there was this radical weight loss, of course, what we had to do for TV was pretty impractical and not so sustainable, but it makes for good TV. And I just … I bled with them, I felt everything with them and I was a changed person after filming that show. I completely changed, and I realised just how much went into changing your life, and not just exercise more and eat less, it’s way more complex and intricate than that.
R: So what is the trigger? Because so many people will say I’ve tried all my life, I just cannot do it.
L: To be honest, readiness is really important. Mind-set. You’ve got to determine what it is that’s holding you back and why you want to change. Like, for everybody …
R: And do you really care enough.
L: Exactly. There’s got to be that penny dropping moment, that epiphany moment where it’s this far and no further, and for all of my success stories, there was always that moment. Always, always. Where somebody would say this happened to me, and that was the moment I realised I can’t be this big or this unhealthy anymore. And I like to wait until that point. Not when someone is dragged into my door or a husband has sent them and said I will pay whatever, I need my wife back, or the doctor said you’ve got high cholesterol, you better sort it out. It has to come from that individual.
R: It’s almost like an addict. He or she has to first realise that this is what it is.
L: Self-actualisation is the first thing, and then being ready, because I’ve tried many times with clients who just aren’t emotionally ready to make that commitment, because it’s hard. And when you do it right, it’s even harder. It takes longer, the sacrifices are huge and the results are sometimes slower than anticipated. You just got to have your mind right. And that is the key to any success story – it’s like how badly do you want it, and why.
R: You’ve also now, since then, worked on television. You’ve been on Expresso, you had a show with your first husband – what was that called? Doctor’s Orders?
L: He wasn’t my husband, Doctor Mol …
R: Sorry, mixed up.
L: It’s cool. But we were good colleagues, good friends. So Doctor’s Orders was one of the shows, also produced by the same company and then …
R: How did you experience it? You’re not just an expert on the show, but you now have to be the host and the presenter?
L: I loved it, to be honest. I love television, because for me it’s a medium where you can touch thousands and sometimes millions.
R: And does it come naturally to work with the camera?
L: Very much so. I prefer to be myself – I could never be an actress. So ja, any scouts out there, it’s not going to happen. I can only be myself, and that’s why I find it difficult when you have to memorise lines verbatim – my worst things are opening and closing links because I have to say something in a way that somebody else has scripted for me, whereas I much prefer to be conversational, light, myself, educational, inspirational in my own way. I find that it’s more believable and that people identify with me on that level, as opposed to this TV presenter where everything is a little bit more on the fake side and it’s just not relatable, and I find that that’s not me.
R: You’ve also started your own production company. What do you want to achieve?
L: My goal is to have my own show, so we’re working on a few collaborations – some international and some locally – the hardest part actually is to find a platform and a medium. Do we go online and have great results and traction that way, and a lot of social media backing and a good sponsor, or do you decide to go on a more popular, traditional platform like our normal TV. But then some people say TV is kind of dying, so it’s just what medium to go on, and what message, and I think the big thing for me now that I’m a mom, my message has changed slightly. So I was going to do it last year, and now I’ve kind of prolonged a little bit to find out who I am now that I’m a mom. I’m not just in the wellness game, but TV and all that stuff and now I’m a mom too, and that’s changed my whole life. So it’s just creating this new identity for myself, which I’m just slowly starting to figure out and then, the minute I’ve got it figured out I’m going to obviously go forward with our plans and proposals to develop my own wellness television show.
R: Well, good luck in between! What’s the role of digital media in helping to motivate people who want to do this?
L: Well, it’s become everything. To be honest, anybody can actually become an internet sensation and a celebrity. I mean not necessarily overnight, but in a year somebody can go from zero followers to having 5.2 million if you really want to. And it’s all about being authentic and the message that you want to portray and the story that you want to tell, and the Instagram accounts, the YouTube accounts that are doing really well, are those where they’re raw and believable and when they could actually relate to others that are going through a similar story and are facing similar problems. So it’s huge because anybody can tell their story, and anybody can help somebody else that’s in a similar position. So it’s powerful – very powerful – as long as it’s authentic. And that’s been a big learning curve for me in my company. It’s not just about sponsors and about money, it’s about exercise programs and eating plans and all those kinds of things that anybody can do, really, if you’ve got the right studies behind you. It’s about what more you’re going to do, what extra value you’re going to add and how authentic you’re going to be and what story you’re going to tell and how you’re going to help people and why. It’s more about that than just about the facts, because you can get those facts online. Anywhere, actually.
R: So what is it that reaches through, that actually touches people. Real stories?
L: Ja, real life stories. People like success stories, they like that zero to hero kind of story, hardships and people being real. Keep it real people. You know, if you do that, you’re going to have success, as long as it’s authentically real and as long as you’re a victor at the end. People don’t want to watch something that’s sad, that’s demotivating. It makes them feel worse! You get onto a platform and after watching something for five to 10 minutes, you want to feel elated and motivated and inspired, and that really is the key to what we’re doing at the moment, which is creating a lot of content of our own, as well as other brands that we’re collaborating with. It’s how do we make people feel better. How do we inspire and motivate somebody to want to create that change, and not just actually want to, but actually just do it and be successful.
R: You’ve also written two books. The first one was Darren Scott – No fries on us, and now, is the second one …
L: Not quite launched yet. Not quite – it will be launched in March, 2018.
R: The Belly Book?
L: It’s called The Belly Book, yes. And that is my most frequently asked question, right. How do I get rid of my jelly belly – whether it’s an adult male and he’s got a bit of a boep – a real South African boep – or whether it’s a mom that’s obviously had one or two kids and really is suffering from all the loose skin and what happens to one’s tummy after having a baby – or just generally from sitting too much, being sedentary and not working those muscles adequately. A lot of people have some form of jelly belly, most people – up to 95%. You very seldom will find somebody with a beautiful, toned, svelte, tight stomach that … You know, really!
R: Especially if you’re older than 18 and a half!
L: Exactly! And it’s not just about the outside and aesthetic appeal, but it’s also about what’s going on in the inside, your gut health and your digestion and there’s so much that’s not really spoken about. It’s quite taboo – you don’t go to a dinner table and speak about your digestive habits. Just yesterday we had an episode about digestion 101, and things that people really need to know. And it is really the core, our essence of our well-being, is how we absorb nutrients and how our digestive system works. And people don’t place enough emphasis on it – they’re happy to speak about sleep and skincare routines and exercise, nutrition, but hang on – what about our digestion? It all starts there, and ends there. Ja, so that’s kind of in a nutshell.
R: And the first one, No Fries on Us?
L: No Fries on Us was … Speaking about The Belly Book, I kind of stopped myself too soon. But it’s an instruction, inspirational type book. So we have all the different chapters, and we have your exercise videos and recipes and eating plans. We speak a lot about the other factors, so that is sleep deprivation and getting your sleep right, stress management, emotional wellbeing, your DNA and genetics. All of that plays a role. You can’t just say to someone you eat too much and you need to move a little bit more. Same thing -– everyone just thinks it’s that simple, but if you really, really want a nice, toned tummy – whether it’s a six pack or if you just want to have a nice, flat tummy, then you’ve got to look at all the other holistic factors, and we go into detail there and what we’re going to do is we’re going to throw it from being offline, in a hard copy format, to online, so right throughout the book, you can actually scan little QR codes throughout and take it from a recipe to me, online, in the kitchen cooking that recipe. The exercise and sort of workout for that, you scan the QR code and it’s actually online and you see performing exercise and guiding you through that exercise. So it will be one of the first times that we’ve gone from the hard copy to online …
R: Multi media.
L: Because it’s fun and people want to see the book come alive. They can use it, not use it, the idea is we are really educating people. I love to teach people how to fish, and not just say eat this, train like this. You’ve got to teach people how to look after themselves long term. And without me, holding your hand, once you have read this book, what are you going to do? You have to educate them enough.
R: Do you think that South Africans are becoming more aware of that?
L: Definitely. I’ve seen a huge trend. I’ve been in this industry since I was 17, 18, and I’m quite a lot older than that now. But most definitely. There’s a huge trend to being well, in fact, people look down on people that don’t look after themselves. It’s very unusual to find somebody now eating a pack of crisps and drinking a Coke and to say, ah, cool. And eating takeaways and things – it’s definitely becoming hip, and happening and respected to look after oneself. That you make the effort, because it is an effort. It is actually more of an effort to be healthy than to be lazy and eat out and eat takeaways and just not respect your health. I know for a fact that I only employ people that are healthy, and if they’re not healthy and they need some work, I’ll help them. I’ll make it my mission, really, to make an effort with them and to improve their productivity and to make sure that they are singing our brand’s song. It’s very important to me. But I’ve seen a huge increase, just from being fit to people going to personal training gyms, to people that are eating out at raw bars and having a smoothie every day and buying the right appliances for the home and actually investing in home gym equipment. They’re taking their smoothies and veggies and supplements and vitamins, not just to be cut and huge, but to actually live the best life that they can live.
R: What do you want to achieve in your career?
L: It’s quite a few things. As I’ve said before I would love to have my own show that’s on-going, that’s kind of like your story. You were on-going for many years in television, I would love to have my own show. And I only feel qualified now and it feels a bit strange, but I’ve been a guest on many shows in the past and I felt qualified to do that and now that I’m a mom and now that I’ve had a lot of change in my life and a lot of evolution, I feel like I could host my own show and do it justice. Only now that I’m in my 30s and I’ve become a parent and I feel okay, I can now add more value. I think the time is now, definitely on the book-front is to launch a book once a year, together with an e-Book and recipe book and we’re working a lot on online programs for people that are obviously computer literate, to transform their lives with a click of a button. They can sign up for my program and can transform their lives with my guidance, inspiration, motivation and techniques. So ja, I’ve got a lot to do. I feel like my career has just started and constantly a balancing act between being a good mom and spending enough time with my daughter, Bella, and being a good wife as well, and keeping a balance at home and then work. So there’s been a huge shift around how I do that, you know.
R: You were married for five years when you were much younger. What did you learn out of that?
L: Well, I feel … Often when I look back to that time of my life, I feel that it was a different person marrying somebody else, because I feel like I’ve grown so much over the last seven to eight years. I feel … I really do. I look at it and I feel I can’t believe I was actually married before. I learnt …
R: What do you do differently now, in your relationship?
L: Wow. I was a young girl when I got proposed to first, and when I got married, and I just don’t think I thought it through as much as I should have. The one big thing that I’d change is that I got engaged very quickly the first time – I got engaged after three months of knowing my ex-husband, and married within eight months. It was very fast, and then I got to know my husband. And it didn’t work out. And this time round, I actually knew my first husband, Stafford, I’ve known him for six years – two months ago I’ve known him for six years – and we’ve dated … We were friends for the first three, and we dated for about two and a half years, and then I only said yes, when he proposed, I said yes. And I feel like … And by the way, we did a lot of work. We went through a lot of therapy, and because he and I are very strong-willed people, we lived in different cities – both of us were divorced. He had two kids already – it’s my two stepdaughters now – different races, and he’s almost a decade older than me. So we had a lot of stuff, and also the older you are when you get married, the more baggage you have, for sure. The more stuff you have. So we saw an amazing lady and not like we needed therapy-therapy, but we just wanted to get it right this time, because both of us didn’t want to get married a third time. And this had to be forever. So we invested a lot, and …
R: But it’s also what I’m hearing is that you were actually aware of what you were doing. When one is so young, it’s just the next step and that’s the natural thing to do and oh, something’s wrong.
L: Exactly. We did, our therapist said, you know, we had the marriage before the wedding. Kind of heartfelt, because when we got married on that day, it was just like sealing the deal. We had already done the work and we knew each other inside out, back to front – we knew our stuff. I knew the worst part of him and still wanted to marry him. And vice versa.
R: What makes it work? What draws you to him?
L: So many things! I’m very attracted to him, so I think that’s very, very important. I have a huge amount of respect for him – he’s such a smart guy. Successful guy, cool, but he’s very, very smart and kind. And for me kindness is everything. My biggest personality-limiter is how kind are you, and how much do you do for others. And he is an incredible man. For many reasons, but his kindness is paramount and I love it. And you’ve got to be attracted to the person, because that butterfly-feeling I still get that when he walks into the room six years later. And ja, he’s an amazing hubby and a really, really good dad to our daughter.
R: And his two daughters? How did you manage that relationship?
L: You know what I decided, early on …
R: They’re teenagers?
L: They’re teenagers, ja. Bethany is actually 17 in December, and Amber will be 14. So they are already in their teens. I met them when Amber was turning 10, and Bethany was turning 13. So I’ve known them for a few years now, and in fact, they knew me, before I knew them because they’ve seen me on TV, and I remember watching a little video of Amber when she was six years old, or five years old, I think, and she was mocking me. She was pretending, and I only saw this thing last year before, and they found it on one of their old laptops and said come and look at this, and there she was as this little thing, pretending to cough, telling the audience that smoking is so bad for you and like actually imitating me! And I just thought this is crazy, she knew me before I knew her. Obviously this girl was meant to be by stepdaughter.
R: Did that help, when they met you, that they felt that …
L: No, it actually didn’t, because they – I think they haven’t said it to me, but Stafford and I discussed it, that they felt a bit overwhelmed and intimidated. Now she’s in our lounge and what do we do? For me it’s never been like that, I am totally fine with being in my PJs, no make-up on with them, totally natural. They were my bridesmaids at our wedding last year, and we went on honeymoon with them. We were away for a month and my stepdaughters actually shared our honeymoon, which I think was very special and it was a bonding experience. But I decided to not be a mother figure in their lives, because they’ve got a great mom and she’s done a great job, and so have Staf. Even though they’ve had parents that have been independent and not married, they’ve just done a sterling job. So instead of me trying to be another mom, I would just rather be their friend.
R: So would that be your advice for someone – so many people are in this situation?
L: Ja, I think that for every family it’s a little bit different. For me I sussed it out quite early on. Number one, I’m also quite young, so to have teenage daughters and I’m only in my early 30s, I feel like I understand them, because I feel like I was that age just the other day, and I was and I’m obviously not, but I feel like that. So for me to be this hectic mom-figure of teenagers, it just didn’t feel right to me. I decided to be authentic to how I was and just to say listen, I’m there for you, no matter what. You can talk to me about anything and if you don’t want me to tell your dad, I won’t tell him. I’ll give you the best advice, but I want us to be friends and I want us to have fun and I want you to let your hair down with me and be natural and your mom can do the disciplinarian stuff and your dad can, but I’m like that other person that you get to tell stuff, that maybe you never tell your mom or dad, because I won’t judge you, you know. So I just play that role and it worked, and we’re quite close and they’ve got a little half-sister, so that also bonds our whole family together now that there is a little more blood in the mix.
R: How did Bella Skye change your view, your life?
L: You know what? She wasn’t planned – so let’s just start there. She really, really wasn’t planned.
R: And this is a fitness expert? A wellness expert?
L: My personality, that has everything kind of sorted out way in advance, and here I am, only finding out that I was pregnant at 11 weeks. So it was quite far along and I got the shock of my life, and I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t happy in the beginning. I was shocked, what am I going to do with my career? I’ve got all these sponsors to please and I’ve got lots of things on the go and lots of commitments and now I’m going to be big and fat and a panic station. And only probably in the last two months have I felt at ease with the fact that I now call myself a mom, that I actually am this little girl’s mom, and a lot came down to my mind-set and when I gave birth to her, it was a very traumatic experience – it was literally an emergency C-Section the day before they told me tomorrow morning she’s coming out. I had last-minute preeclampsia but severe – all my organs were failing, I had protein in my urine and my blood pressure was sky-high and platelet count was really, really bad, my blood was so thin, it wasn’t clotting. So they were very worried about me actually surviving the operation, and I couldn’t believe it, from a day or two before being on our farm, just being happy and free and all good, to listen – we need to take her out and there is a chance that one or the other may not make it. So that was traumatic, and afterwards, for a couple of weeks after that I was all over the show emotionally, because I didn’t get my head around it and I like to do some mental preparation and some visualisation and some reading and research, and I didn’t get any time for that. So it took me off guard, and that was the first thing, and then the other thingswas, there’s just so many hormones in your body once you give birth, and I definitely suffered from post-natal depression. And I think a lot of people with A Type personalities, high achievers, people that put a lot of pressure on themselves suffer from post-natal depression and we don’t talk about it enough. And that’s something that I would love to unearth a little bit more in the motherhood community that I’ve started, there’s this whole PND and how depression plays a role with bonding with your baby soon after. I can honestly say as she came out and as she was lying there, I didn’t love her. I actually grew in love with her over the months, and that was worrying me. I thought I didn’t love this child – I cared for her immensely – she’s mine and I’m worried about her, but this love that women talk about, that moms talk about, I don’t have that – and I was very worried about it, and I felt totally detached from her from the day that she was born, as cute and amazing as she was, I just felt something was off. And then coupled with sleep deprivation of note – I didn’t get sleep, proper sleep, for six months until I got a sleep trainer in. She just wasn’t a great sleeper, and I felt like somebody else. I was puffy and I was so, so, so tired and my head was thick and I was moody and I was not eating correctly.
R: How did Stafford handle this?
L: He was great. He was worried, like what happened to the wife I married, he was very supportive. In fact he jumped right in, he came down to Durban for three months and kind of put his whole company, put it on hold for a while because he could see that this is his new baby and his wife suffering, and we need his support and he was amazing. I can’t fault him at all – probably too annoying, because in the beginning it’s about mom and baby, and when you’ve got a hubby that wants to be there, wants to do night shift, wants to help … You actually need your space to figure it out. Because to have that pressure, to try to sort out breastfeeding, try to sort out my career – I only took a month leave. So in the second month I was already behind my laptop, I was already starting to do the odd meeting and that’s something I would definitely do differently the second time round. I would give myself the six months that I needed to bond with Bella.
R: How did you get out of it?
L: Sleep was the ultimate. I heard about the sleep trainer who I flew up from Cape Town, she came and she lived in our home for two days, and she was ruthless – she was hectic. And it was a hard two days, and after that the whole thing was so stressful, Bella actually got sick, she got baby measles, her immune system was low, she picked it up from some mommy club that we take them to, and she got really sick and that kind of took a step backwards for about 10 days, and then it started coming right, because we just applied the rules, the principles that she had taught us, and within three weeks Bella was sleeping through the night. From waking up three to six times a night, every night, and I was breastfeeding every single time. So I was breastfeeding sometimes 18 times a day, and working. And the pressure of keeping my business together, because I’m a business owner with staff. So the sleep changed everything. The minute I started getting seven to eight hours of sleep, my whole life changed. The fog started lifting out of my brain and I could start exercising again, my cravings sort of subsided and I was eating healthy again, started getting back into the kitchen.
R: So out of this, what did you learn? What would you tell the next young mom? Don’t try and control everything, accept that things may not be the way you think it should?
L: Definitely. I mean, right from the get-go, as I said Bella wasn’t planned, so my whole ethos of being perfect was thrown out of the window right from the start, and I think that’s what I decided to do, is to take a deep breath and to just … I have my non-negotiables that I need to do within the week, so as long as those things are done, how and when they’re done is what’s flexible, and that gives me a lot of peace of mind, so I do have my checklists and I do have like anyone a business to run and bills to pay and staff to oversee and I have stuff to do, but instead of saying it has to be done here and in this way and I just am more flexible with myself, so I give myself a bit of a break and I try to go the mommy clubs and the orientation and stimulation classes with Bella and I try to be involved, and I tick those sort of times out of my diary so that I am a present mom, and in between that I figure out work. At the moment, is what’s working for me, is early, early nights and I get up earlier in the whole house and I sort of have 90 minutes to myself. That’s my quiet time, everybody, even the dog, is fast asleep, and that seems to work for me now. In a month’s time something else might work better for me, and I’ve just decided to try and park my A Type personality, because that doesn’t serve me in motherhood, and just to ease up a little bit and to try and enjoy the process because very easily we can get bogged down with the seriousness of everything, instead of just saying hang on a second, I have a child, I have a home, I have a family, I am lucky, I’m blessed and just go with it. Breathe, and just chill. That’s my mantra.
R: Enjoy, it’s not just a pain.
L: Ja, this is my life.
R: You’ve moved, also, recently. Which is another huge change in one’s life. Durban, Johannesburg?
L: I’m a KZN girl through and through, but Joburg has been calling my name for many, many years. I am meant to be up here. I love the fast-paced life. Joburg has got a lot of charm and a lot of soul, and the people up here are incredibly friendly. I find it very easy to meet new people and make new friendships. Luckily, I have worked up here a lot in the last couple of years, so I’ve built some good networks on a business front and with collaborations. Everything’s cool there, but it’s my personal life that I needed to invest in and create kind of new bonds and friendships. But I’m actually enjoying it. But you know what? I decided that I was going to enjoy it. And I think that’s what’s important. Because I made a decision – very hard – to move from my home town where I knew everybody and my whole support structure is in KZN, but because of my hubby being up here, and our two step girls being up here, that’s where my family is, and that’s where I need to be and we all need to be together and as long as we’re together, we can get through anything. So that was my mind-set and I said I’m going to love it. I’ll just find ways to love it.
R: Did you move into his house, or did you buy something together?
L: We actually got a new house. So within …
R: What did you go looking for?
L: We wanted to stay in the little area that we’re living in now, which is Parkhurst, and I love it because it’s a little bit arty, we can walk the streets and have coffee and both of us love food, so we love to eat out a lot and we love to walk the streets and shop and we love the community. I can take Bella for a run – we exercise a lot and we go running with our dog, Harley and Bella, so I needed something where my au pair or myself could walk her as safely as possible, and where everything was close-by and everything was community-driven. So, I love Parkhurst. I don’t know if I could live anywhere else in Joburg, it seems like Durban in Joburg, you know what I mean? It’s like a little tiny Durban inside Joburg and I feel really comfortable in Parkhurst. So you were saying that I moved, the house that we were looking for just needed more space. We actually moved from – and this is quite weird – for about two years I have been seeing the numbers 11 and 11, and there’s this whole like philosophy behind why you see 11/11, it’s all about your soulmate and your twin flame and about the angels giving you these messages and all this stuff, but we moved from 11th street to another house in 11th street, so I just thought wow, that must be it. But we went looking around and we found this house.
R: It feels right?
L: It feels right, ja. It’s beautiful for shooting, and it’s got these big, big windows and lots of air and I just absolutely love our home. We’re still to finish decorating it, because that takes time and energy and I’ve got to get on my artistic hat, but it’s a lovely creative project. So in one year I literally found out I was pregnant, I got married, went overseas to get married and have a honeymoon, and had a baby, moved cities and moved home in 12 months. And I think wow, I survived that year. I’m sure I could do anything after that, but it’s been an amazing journey. It’s been a hell of a year, ups and downs, but overall I made it and I can look now, saying connecting the dots backwards as Steve Jobs would say, and I’ve definitely become a stronger and better person for it.
R: So how does one handle change?
L: I think …
R: Just think for yourself? How did you get through that?
L: Peace meal. One little tiny bite at a time. I think if I had to have told myself in 2017 that I would have to do all of this in 12 months, I don’t think I would have done it. So I think you do just the next thing, just the next thing as positively and as happily and as … Just as positively as you can, and you’ll get there. And when you look back, that’s when you’ll be like wow, I can’t believe that I had achieved all of this in one year, but definitely you don’t look too far ahead. I know you’ve got to plan some things like finances and all of that that you’ve got to be careful with, but I just think generally in life don’t plan anything too far in advance, because it does throw you curveballs, but they’re there for a reason and they’re there to stretch you and keep you on your toes.
R: All of the very, very best. May, as your daughter grows up, you’ll find new patterns and new ways.
L: Thank you. Thanks, Ruda.
R: Thanks for the visit.
L: It’s a pleasure -–thanks for interviewing me.
R: Until next time, you go well.
Get It Durban October 2017Michelle Markham, Goddess of waste