Dear Beloved Donors,
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
This, then, is a thank you present that is long overdue.
I had hoped that my current circs would have changed, but I fear they haven’t.
No, strike that. I am still at home, in my sweet little rented flat, overlooking the parking lot.
But I am here. Baruch Hashem – and you.
Thank you to all the people who responded to me. You are my homies; the feeling I get from you, no matter where you live, no matter how long I have been away. You connected with me at some umbilical point, at the point of your humanity and I love and thank you for that.
Anaïs Nin once asked ‘Is devotion to others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed? I was always ashamed to take.‘
My experience has taught me that I, too, was ashamed to take. I didn’t understand that. As Eric Fromm once wrote ‘Giving is the highest expression of potency.‘
I preferred to be the gifter than the giftee.
I had not wanted to reach out to people precisely because of the genus of questions – interrogatories, more like – that I received from the Press in South Africa.
Why, included in the list of questions from Huisgenoot was
Are you ashamed of the situation you are in now?
How do you think people will receive the news that you went from jet-setter to server and now a jobless spinster with only dogs for company?
After I wrote my piece a few weeks ago, I was amazed that someone I don’t know, felt moved to start the GoFundMe campaign. This astonishing woman lives on another continent.
She in turn contacted Lynette Ammann, a South African expat (also unknown to me) who lives in Arizona.
The GoFundMe has to be started by someone who has American Citizenship.
Lynette wrote the appeal, so gracefully finessed, so mindful of my bruised situation. When I read the wording I understood. A psychological crack-up is caused by drowning in the waters of opprobrium while kindness enables one to swim like a mystic.
Lynette and her husband Kurt, have Raku, a luminous gallery in Sedona, Arizona where which represents more than 200 artists. Raku – the Zen translation of “raku” means serenity and contentment.
The Ammann offspring run Rozendal Farm in Stellenbosch. They won gold in New York at the SOFI awards for their artisanal Rozendal Hibiscus vinegar.
Next time you are in Cape Town stay at their charming Country Inn.
Perhaps the great surprise was to know that I am not forgotten by people I used to teach so many decades ago.
Keith Calder was one of the pupils in my art class. His sculptures now adorn all the important businesses in South Africa. Eleni, now a jaw-droppingly stunning model in Malibu, made me believe, as the ancient Greeks did, that one is both beautiful and good. Kalo kagathos.
Actually, all the people who have supported me – you know who you are – are physically beautiful.
The offers and suggestions I have received have been remarkable.
A woman, slightly tipsy, called from London late one night. She kept insisting that she didn’t know who I was, but thought I should ‘learn to laugh more, man!’
The conversation was one of those one has with people who are either stoned or plastered or a bit of both. The needle gets stuck in the groove. When she was silent for a while I assumed that she had drifted off. She told me that I could pop around (her words) and see her if I was in London but my ‘dogs were going to be a problem, man!’
The suggestions ranged from ‘Why don’t you start a coffee-shop and call it Jani’s’ to ‘Why don’r you go to Malta?’
The inquiries about how The Modeling is going – I need a syringe or three hundred of Botox since I now have the ‘elevens’ on my forehead from scowling at the inaccuracies written about me by the press.
A South African doctor in Washington DC offered me a temporary place. An antiques dealer in Hertfordshire invited me to write her memoir. One of the people I was lucky enough to talk to was Donna Sweidan, the South African founder of CareerFolk.
Donna is seriously high-powered (her office is in the Empire State Building.) She is The One to consult professionally on career matters.
I even got to speak to a university lecturer. Many people were obviously kindly responding to requests from their friends.
We spoke on the telephone.
Me: ‘Someone who says you are a real mensch suggested I talk to you, that you may have some ideas…’
Short silence followed by a long silence.
Real Mensch: “Have you thought about house cleaning?’
Two years ago I bought a vacuum cleaner online on a Black Friday Sale (I must have been drinking champoo). It is still in the box.
To the person who suggested Upwork, thank you.
I applied to write blogs for a jewellery store in California. I have thus far written six. They payment is niggardly – can one still use that word? – $70 for about 1000 words – but it is the first paying writing job I have had in living memory.
One of the more unusual people who reached out to me was Brian Faul.
Brian is an energy-healer. He will, via Skype guide you through an energy meditation. As add-on value, he will explain your astrological natal chart to you and tell you where the best place for you to live is.
We have thus far had three Skype sessions.
I also reconnected with David J Witchell.
David (the kind of man who has monogrammed caviar) was charming.
He actually asked me if I would mind being a shop girl. I would gladly be a shop girl for him. His emporia, over which he and his partner Galina reign, have acres of desirable boutiques and a range of skin-care and make-up.
David coloured and cut my hair and gave me a makeover.
Lance Cohen of Seeff wants me to come to Cape Town to discuss possibilities.
Local beloveds Billy O’Connor of Wessel O’Connor Gallery and Lori Stagnitto of Lambertville Animal Welfare kitty rescue fame have treated me to dollars and dinners at which I actually sit down.
CT and Di, the Pom’s godmother, invites me to sleep over in her cottage and watch the full moon. She has a huge interest in and love of nature, and can identify every bird call. She also feeds foxes in the meadow and as we know foxes are part of the fairy realm. The full moon rising behind the sparking fireflies.
I know so well how much the rand is worth (less). I know that for every dollar I received, someone had donated an unbelievable R14. I am starting to believe Lin Sampson when she tells me a sweet potato is R16.
Thank you, my friends, for confirming that at the bottom of the abyss comes the salvation.
I have somehow managed to get out of my pit every day and take care of my fur children. And I continue to apply for McJobs.
It is only because you have enabled me. All the generous and encouraging comments have been like a healing touch on a wound.
Every column I write in future will be my gift to you. The only way to thank you will be to succeed in surviving.
Thank you for your gentleness. Nothing, as the saint said, is as gentle as real strength.
P.S. Let the record show, despite the fact that my poverty made headline news in South Africa, not a single magazine or newspaper in the country has requested my services as a writer.