The daily grind

I mentioned last week that I’ve been grinding my teeth to bits, and that was no exaggeration. A recent (very overdue) visit to my dentist revealed that over the past year and a half I’ve managed to grind down all my fillings and teeth. And so began a three-week undertaking of weekly dentist appointments. She’s a miracle worker, my dentist, and a lovely one at that. She’s so good at putting me at ease. It was a costly endeavour, and not in the least bit comfortable, but we’ve fixed the damage I’d done.

The next step is to ensure this doesn’t happen again. One way is getting an (again costly) bite guard made. However, first prize would be to stop grinding my teeth. But how?

During the day, I guess it’s a case of being mindful of when I start clenching my jaw and consciously relaxing. Which I’ve been trying to do the past few weeks. It’s alarming how often I’ve caught myself at it. How is it possible I’m so tense? I’m cutting back (a bit) on coffee and adding chamomile instead. And I’m trying to remember to factor in some Mindfulness practice more often, but it’s taking time.

We (My superstar dentist and I) assume a lot of the grinding is happening at night. Which makes sense, but I’m not waking up with a sore jaw, like many nocturnal grinders (lol) do.

I’m a worrier in general. I’ve come to realise that about myself. Granted, I have noticed a remarkable improvement over the past few months. I’m not stressing as much about the “what ifs” that have been gnawing at my mind for decades, but I do still fret. About things I really shouldn’t. Or at least, things that aren’t helped by my perpetual state of worry. Is flapping about it helping? No. Is it just making it worse? Yes.

Asking those questions has helped me take a step forward, out of the constant worry. But, clearly, it’s not completely solved. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still be catching myself gritting my teeth at my desk, in the car, at home, in the shops.

So, it’s time to really focus on calming down, taking deep breaths and being more in the now, rather than stressing about the past and the future. I’ll be writing a bit about my Mindfulness journey soon, because that, I think, has already played a huge role in helping me start to unwind.

For now, I’m going to make another cuppa chamomile.



The Fight – a poem

The Fight  – Terri Dunbar-Curran

(Written June 11, 2018)


I win the fight

Every single time

And I win gloriously.

My skin prickles with the static of victory as you gape,

A bewildered fish which doesn’t know

If it’s going to be released or swiftly gutted.


I win the fight

And your eyes go glassy

Your cheeks puff.

And you try to stutter a salty rebuttal, but you know

You know you lost, you were wrong

You flounder, longing for the relief of a buttery end.


I win the fight

And you feel ashamed

You should have known, you should have slipped away

But you didn’t, and you lost

Victorious, I thrust my trident into your glistening flesh.


I win the fight

But it doesn’t count

Because no one else saw my triumph, least of all you

You’re not even here

The static fades, and my daydream turns instead to lunch



Once more, with feeling

A while back (oh look, October, see the below post) I decided to cut back on social media, and it went really well for a while. But then it snuck back in and once again I found myself sucked back into lying awake until the early hours, scrolling. But beyond the utter waste of time, it started making me unhappy again. Especially Twitter.

I get the importance of staying up to date with what’s going on in the world, and I get that social media is a very useful tool for that. But I’ve been feeling bombarded everytime I open the app. I know all these terrible things are happening, and I know that I have the luxury of just scrolling on by, while the people stuck in those situations don’t. But the problem is, I don’t just scroll past. I open threads, I read every comment. I get completely worked up and frustrated and sad and angry and horrified. And that helps no one. All it does is leave me lying awake exhausted in the small hours, and then when I finally do put down my phone and find sleep, I grind my teeth to bits.

It’s time to be more proactive about disconnecting. I haven’t deleted my account. But I have removed the app from my phone. It clearly wasn’t enough to just will myself to not check in. I need to make it very difficult for myself. And honestly, it’s not like I’ve been sharing anything of use to anyone else over the past while. I’ve just been reading and retweeting.

Instagram and Facebook are still there for me. I find them to be happier, and more useful places (in terms of keeping in touch and events etc). So, for now, I’ll keep them. But as soon as I see their role in my life start to change, I’ll have to rethink.

I’m not going to lie, it was kind of difficult to remove the Twitter app, to let go. Which is ludicrous. Why do I feel so drawn to it, so unwilling to disengage? All the more reason to cut myself off. I haven’t deleted my account, which I suppose is a bit of a balm. If I really want to check in, I can make the effort to log in from my desktop. But no longer having it always in my handbag ready to pull me away from real life is a good first step.

How social media is stealing from me

When I packed up all my belongings for my move earlier this year, I tossed a whole lot of stuff. Well, I recycled and donated a whole lot of stuff. But one of the things I didn’t send to the recycling depot was my stash of diaries from my teens and 20s. Each time I filled an A5 book I’d wrap it up in pretty paper and paste a label on the front with the date range. The idea was that I’d open and revisit them when I turned 40.

I’m not far off that moment. With just a couple of years to go, I’m interested to see how much I’ve developed as a person. But I’m also a little sad. I haven’t journaled properly for years. And I’ve been trying to work out why.

Part of it is the fact that maybe I only journal properly when I’m alone/lonely, or maybe when life is a little difficult. But not horrifically difficult. Because I’ve been through some really rough patches over the past year and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it, let alone write about it in the moment. But when it’s nastiness that’s a little less than devastating, it’s easier. I’ve journaled through years of being lonely, years of loathing my body, years of being uncertain of where my life is headed. And then stopped when I was happy in a relationship, when I got married and had a life companion always there.

Then when things started to not look so peachy I tried again. But it seemed wrong somehow. Like I hadn’t kept a record of all the happy years, now to suddenly return to my diary when things were bad… I felt like I was almost lying to whoever may one day read them. Like I was withholding parts of myself, even if it wasn’t on purpose.

Let me try explaining it differently… Maybe it’s like when religious people spend hours praying in their worst moments. Desperate for help, and then when it comes and life starts to look up, they forget to pray. Until the bad times return. I don’t know if that quite captures it. But I felt like a hypocrite.

There’s more to it though – my poor to non-existent journaling over recent years. And it’s really struck me in the last couple of days. In the Mindfulness course I’m doing, my teacher suggested I pay attention to when I click into social media. Not try to stop it – just pay attention to when I log in, and how it makes me feel.

As soon as I started to take notice and realised just how much time I spend on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (not that it was at all a surprise), I started to notice the time wastage and also how much of what I share online would usually have been things I journaled about. But with filters. In my diary I would (mostly) be brazenly honest, because it was only for me (and maybe decades down the line for a future relative). But on social media I’m concerned about what others think. So, while it’s still a record of my life, like a diary would be, it’s been filtered to within an inch of its life. And I don’t just mean pictures. I mean words and sentiments too.

Thinking about it now, I feel like pouring all of my random thoughts and observations out onto social media is a little like stealing from Future Terri. Because, when I open my journals in a few years’ time I’ll realise that there’s a whole chunk of my life that me at 50, say, won’t have the opportunity to look back on properly. Not that we should be living in the past. But I know that as I get older, my memory is getting less sturdy and there is so much that has happened over the past decade that I think it would be good and encouraging to be able to revisit. And I don’t want to have to rely on Facebook memories to dish up lukewarm seconds or thirds to look back at this part of my life.

I think I’m aching for a more authentic form of self-expression again. I owe it to myself now, and to my future self.

PS. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard I had to fight with myself to turn this into a blog post and not a tweet or Facebook update. Oh the irony.

Cooking for one (it’s about more than simply not starving)

Being in the kitchen is one of the things that makes me happiest. Give me a handful of hungry guests, a couple of hours and a list of inexpensive ingredients and I’m the proverbial pig in mud. But it’s a little different when you find yourself having to cook for one. After almost seven years of whipping up meals for the multitudes (okay, between two and five people), I’m back to cooking for just myself, and it’s been an interesting transition.


Growing up, I remember my mom often asking us what we wanted for dinner, well, when we were old enough to actually have an opinion beyond “tinned spaghetti and Oros”. And I recall her frustration when teenaged me would say “ugh, whatever”. I only really “got it” years later when I was cooking for someone else. There’s only so many times you can cycle through your index of five dishes before you’re totally and utterly bored of having to decide which one to make that night. All you want, need, crave is for someone else to make a bloody decision. You don’t mind cooking it…. You just don’t want to have to actually decide.

So, when I eventually found myself in her shoes, and with not all that much input from the lounge, I realised the only way I was going to solve it was to mix things up a bit. I needed to add some more options to my go-to list so things weren’t quite so dull. Besides, being in the kitchen has always been a kind of therapy for me. I’m at my happiest when I’m cooking or baking. So, I scrounged around online and found a great site that had a bottomless supply of interesting (LINK) recipes, and I got stuck in. Some days I’d have a hankering for something tasty and search specifically, others I’d plug in the ingredients I happened to have and see what it came up with. Either way, I found some superb dishes that we both enjoyed and that I returned to time and again.


Fast forward a couple of years and I’d got the hang of taking on new recipes. I’d even (mostly) learnt to remember to read the full recipe before starting. There was one unfortunate incident when I thought I was in for a 45 minutes wait and it actually turned into close to two hours… It said so, plain as day in the recipe, I had just allowed my taste buds to yank me into action before my brain had had a chance to process the instructions.

I went from cooking for two almost every day, to cooking for five once a week. Which was great in that it meant that the other four days someone else was slaving away in the kitchen, and when it was my turn I could make something exciting that took a little more effort and sometimes a slightly more generous budget. I tried all sorts of things, from gnocchi and ravioli, to chicken pad thai and tacos. It was great. I not only had immense fun cooking on a huge stove and oven, but I also absolutely love to see people enjoying what I’ve made. And, what is it they drill into us as kids? Practice makes perfect. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my cooking is perfect, but I have learnt a heap from following tried and tested recipes and the reviews of other home cooks beneath them. Enough to occasionally wing it successfully when I either don’t have quite the right ingredients or enough time.

Allow to cool

And then, from five I was back down to one. I need to preface this by saying that the change was also accompanied by quite a heavy emotional shift for me. So possibly, in any other situation I would have jumped into the kitchen a riot of spatulas and freshly ground spices, but this was a more subdued transition. Not only was I faced with the tiniest stove known to man (trust me, I can MAYBE fit six cupcakes in there at once), but I was also having to gradually try to find a new routine in my life in general.

So, it should be no surprise when I tell you that my first few meals in my new house were crumbed chicken burgers. The kind where you get six frozen patties in a box and watch them sizzle forlornly in a pan before whacking them on a stale roll you forgot you bought yesterday. Yeah. Gastronomic genius it wasn’t – but at least I didn’t starve.

I allowed myself to have a couple of weeks of uninspired meals, before I realised it was time to shake out my apron, pull my hair into a pony and get cooking again. Proper, exciting, adventurous cooking. One thing that counts in my favour (much to my colleagues’ dismay) is that I really don’t mind eating the same meal four days in a row. So long as it’s delicious. So, I’m slowly getting myself back into the habit of getting creative in the kitchen and preparing a feast for one for four meals. I started with Cajun chicken pasta, moved on to Mongolian beef and have just landed on sweet and sticky spicy chicken this week.

I’m also only buying ingredients as and when I need them. Gone are the days of veggie racks upon which a lush sweet potato forest is growing, or baby marrows turning to juice in the fridge. I try to plan my next dish before I get to the supermarket so I know exactly what I need to buy, and I also know that it’ll take care of dinner for the next few nights.


There was a brief moment, standing in my new kitchen staring mournfully at my tiny stove, when I thought “what’s the point? It’s just me”. But cooking is one of my passions. I’ve realised that right now, more than I ever I should be indulging that. And of course, I’ll have other people to cook for sometimes (Ladies Night Dinner gals, I’m looking at you). But in the meantime, I’m totally worth the extra time in the kitchen and the careful grocery list-making. And I certainly don’t have to lapse back into cycling through the same five dishes I used to make the first time I lived alone. There are too many fantastic recipes out there begging to be tried and perfected. Cooking for one has never been to exciting.

And for the days the sadness seems a bit too inspiration-crushing, well, then there’s always a back-up box of chicken burgers in the freezer.

Driving me up the wall

Can I chat about traffic for a moment? I recently moved back down to the south and over the past month and a half I’ve realised just how spoilt I’ve been having access to the MyCiti bus. Yes, yes, I complained bitterly on Twitter about the bus, the drivers and my fellow commuters – but even back then, deep down inside, I did get how fortunate I was to not be sitting in traffic in Paarden Eiland. Yes, even that day when our driver slammed on breaks and everyone fell out of their seats like skittles, or that day our driver decided to try squeeze past another bus and opened his vehicle like a tin can. Come to think of it, that may have been the same day…

But still, hugely fortunate. I got a small taste of it when I had to take my car to town a few days in a row a while back and within minutes I was in the throes of a road rage incident. Wait, let me clarify, there were no cricket bats involved, not even any exiting the vehicle. But that bloody woman in the car ahead of me who couldn’t decide what speed she wanted to go, and that hideous bully in the big silver monstrosity behind me who seemed to think I should remove myself from the road so he could get one whole car closer to town… my blood was boiling. I went back to the bus with a happy sigh and limited my Twitter complaints to two a week for a while.

Why does the universe hate me?

Now that I’m back in the south, though, I don’t have the bus as an option. And oh, how I miss it. I tried the train a few weeks back. What a hideously depressing experience. Seriously. Torn seats, graffitied inside and out, little streams of urine trickling through the carriage and windows so filthy and damaged the only way you can see what station you’ve just arrived at is to either peer through the tiny gap, or risk standing near the door, which is problematic because more people get tossed out of trains sans bags and shoes than you’d like to know.

Let’s ignore the petrol costs of taking my car to town and back five days a week, and the fact that I don’t have a parking bay so every day is an adventure – the traffic is completely unpredictable. Used to be that school holidays meant that the roads would be emptier and you could comfortably leave 28 minutes later than usual. Now? There’s just no telling. Colleagues sat in jams for over three hours the other day and eventually gave up and went home. Why? No bloody clue. Maybe it’s just because people in Cape Town are automatically transformed into idiots the moment their engines spring to life. Note: I didn’t say Capetonians, because, while yes, we are some of the biggest culprits, check out the license plates and you’ll see our roads are equal opportunity idiot-makers.

We’re either speeding or aimlessly drifting across three lanes and back again. Forget racing through lights just as they turn red. We laugh in the face of that kind of opportunism. We cruise through with the four cars behind us when it’s already been red for a good 5 seconds. Oh, and we love, love, love to get ourselves stranded in the middle of intersections when the lights change so we completely bugger things up for the people whose lights have just gone green. That’s one of our favourite things to do.


I’m not even going to address people texting and driving, or playing Candy Crush and driving or whatever the hell it is they’re doing heads bowed and one hand (if we’re lucky) on the wheel. Guys, Oprah told us not to years ago, can we just get our shit together and stop already?

Thing is, traffic sucks. Being late because of avoidable fender benders that happened 45 minutes before you even left the house sucks. But we can do small things to make it easier. Don’t be that jerk who waits till the very last second to cross over a solid white line to get into the lane they need – you’re the reason the traffic in that lane is so backed up in the first place. Put your phone down – one bonus is that you’ll give your freemium game a little extra time to replenish your lives, oh, and you won’t kill people. And if the person in front of you is already going the speed limit (if not a little over) don’t be a tosser and ride right up on their bumper, even though you can clearly see there’s a queue of cars in front of them, and them moving will do pretty much zilch to get you to your meeting any sooner.

We’re all in this together, let’s be a team, let’s make everyone’s journey a little safer and easier – but most importantly can you all please be a little less idiotic so I don’t have to start each day with a tantrum behind the wheel of my slowly-overheating Ford?

It really is a Laughing Matter

That ruddy leotard is back… and with it comes the ever-hilarious Alan Committie. His new stand-up show, Laughing Matters, is at Theatre on the Bay until January 14. And whichever way you look at it, it’s simultaneously the best way to bring 2016 to a close, and get 2017 off to a riotous start.


Directed by Chris Weare, this show once again sees Committie on top form. He’s engaging, hysterical and knows just how to work his audience. From a fleeting jab at the latest Doom debacle to his continuing frustration at the red City Sightseeing Buses, this show is packed full of one-liners, recurring gags and carefully plotted material.

It’s been a rather grotty year for many people, and Committie seems like the perfect antidote. From the safety of a padded cell (the most elaborate, and apt, set I’ve ever seen him in) he hurtles through a variety of topics, dragging his (all too willing) audience with him. His jokes are quick and clever. Some leave you only a second to chortle before he’s dashing headlong into the next. It’s a breathless show and it’s an enormous amount of fun.

From the preposterous amount of roadworks going on in the city over the festive season, to the appalling rise of skinny jeans – his observations are brilliant. In true Committie style he hurries through his material at a dizzying speed, looping back on himself, bounding along tangents and bringing it all back neatly with a manic little giggle. Utterly exhausting, and totally fabulous – I have no idea where he finds the energy.

And of course, what would an outing with Committie be without an appearance by the cringe-worthy Johan van der Walt? The hair, the flapping snorretjie… those teeth! This time he’s on hand with a collection on water saving tips – you might want to take notes. Even the foreigners in the audience screamed with delight.

Speaking of audiences… As with all comedy gigs, you’re bound to find something to be offended by if you’re that way inclined. But Committie’s comedy has never struck me as vindictive. He likes to have a good laugh at us South Africans and it’s a tonic, to be honest. It’s so easy to get all wound up in the seriousness of life, and people like him know exactly where the pressure points are to relieve some of that tension. Even 11-year-old Tatiana in the audience enjoyed his routine, although some of it may have gone over her head (we can only hope).

Whether you’re on a rare excursion from Pinelands, or you’ve trekked through from “Millerton” – Laughing Matters encourages us to laugh at ourselves. It has comedy by the bucket load, a little music, a touch of magic, a sprinkling of theatrics and great deal of festive cheer. Don’t wait, book now.