One of the things I enjoy is to engage with young women. So, once a quarter, I host a "Girls Lunch with Dr Lulu". We sit, eat, talk, question, laugh, and share experiences about life in general.
My Personal Reflections: Lulu Gwagwa
The 2020 Traversing Liminality Cohort has left me with no doubt about what my WHY is. As I listened to each of the Girls reflect on their year with Traversing Liminality, emotions took the better of me. As Saray Khumalo said, the sky is most definitely not the limit. All these young African women need is someone to invest in their dreams. As a mother to a young woman and an aunt to many nieces my WHY is now crystal clear. I am inspired to do anything to support young African women to traverse their liminal spaces better equipped than I did. They deserve better because they have so much to offer the world.
2020 has stretched all of us out of our comfort zones. It has brought so much pain and devastation. It has also challenged us to review the familiar, and sometimes stale ways of doing things. We now know that we can build networks and new relationships virtually. We now know that Traversing Liminality can onboard Girls not just outside our boarders, but also across the oceans. We now know that virtual delivery of content is just as effective. We must just enhance our platforms and tools.
Another TL first in 2020 was our Vision Board picnic. The Botanic Gardens was just the perfect venue. Its expansiveness provided the right mood for visioning. The smell of fresh grass, the natural light, the chirping birds, all provided the ambiance for reimagining a different future.
And of course, the Liminality Walk on the 14th of November 2020. What a blast! We are exploring a different date though. The November heat showed us flames. Keep those walking shoes ready. The Walk is going onto the TL annual calendar.
I wish the Traversing Liminality Class of 2020 all the best. Remember Saray Khumalo’s words: “You are uniquely extraordinary. Therefore, don’t allow anybody to decide for you what is failure and what is success”.
Virtual Lunch, February 13, 2021
There is a quote by Kahlil Gibrán which says, “When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense”. This ending for us, intentionally culminated by a ceremony celebrating the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest, Saray Khumalo, as she takes us through a journey of traversing her own liminality, from defeat to defeat until one day she succeeds.
The event took off with the African Diamonds coach, chief coach, Nothemba taking us through a graceful meditation. A journey which started off as an intention; a commitment which required from us a separation from our previous selves - the egos we built from childhood, although we did not quite know the unfolding of this journey we were undertaking. In-flight we found ourselves in the in-between, the Bardo, the threshold of a new liminality, as she describes it. She warned about the curse of the enlightened, of self-righteousness, criticism and judgment of those who have not enlisted to the call. She advised rather that we take on the journey of integration back home with humility, forgiveness and compassion and to “meet them where they are”. To be aware of the fruits of the liminal space and taking note of what may still be incomplete.
We then went into the breakout rooms for a check in and notice within ourselves the impact of having traversed this liminal space. What inside of us has shifted? For me, what has genuinely changed is my perspective. Being an Enneagram Type 5 and driven by the need to understand and almost “cheating” the space by reading the last page of the book first, it has been quite an undeniable and a genuine change in perspective about going through the process instead of “outsmarting” it and getting to a place of knowing that, I am that I am.
As our guest speaker, Saray Khumalo, started speaking, the quote “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” kept ringing in my ear as she introduced herself to us a mother, a corporate person and a mountaineer. She reminded us of the extra-ordinary importance of our uniqueness instead of emulating others. She reflected on a turning point in her own life when she reached the “corporate ceiling” and her sister had just passed She found herself at a crossroads where she sought for something deeper. As she took us through the journey which starts with a charity home in Benoni, trying to find a sustainable solution for the home which became her strong WHY, building 5 libraries, 3 digital libraries to raising over R2.6m, and summiting Everest we learnt invaluable leadership lessons:
- Equip yourself for the summit. As she went from defeat to defeat to success, she started equipping herself for the summit, by changing to shoes that would get her to the top.
- Don’t emulate or envy others. We all have different goals in this life. Being yourself gives you a competitive advantage.
- Have the right tribe around you. Dump friends who are not helping you reach your desired success, but also be the friend that helps others reach their desired success.
- A very important one for me was to define success and failure for yourself. As she was reaching better heights, her own personal best was enough for her.
- Stay grounded. “What is your Vuvuzela?” as Dr G asked.
- If it is important to you, you will make a way.
- The sky is not the limit. You can always go further.
- To reach higher, go before the crowds and only take a few people with you.
- Live to tell the story. The summit in and of itself is not the ultimate goal, the ultimate goal is impact.
- Unashamedly celebrate yourself.
To me, Saray Khumalo’s journey is not just a journey of success, it is a confrontation and a conquering of the self; a sacred pilgrimage from defeat to defeat, one enamored by great courage, tenacity and purpose. The egos which you have been harbouring over the years cannot be carried on the journey. Her 2017 attempt is the one that left us all gobsmacked. when she was only 99meters away to summit, a point she describes as her lowest point. This is when she shares a crushing voice in her head which as black women we know too well “Maybe they were right. I was too black and too woman to make it anyway”. In those moments, having people who are just as invested in your goals as you are is important, in her case it was her son. As she went again and finally summitted Everest in 2019, she realized that this indeed was not just for her, that by allowing her own light to shine, she was unconsciously giving permission to other people to do the same. As she traversed back home, reintegrating into the community, she realized the power of her voice and the need to be humble.
As the 2020 Cohort reaches its stage of re-integration this was an important insight. A story with so much power filled the room with silence. We were all astounded by the potential this sacred life holds. How beautifully difficult it could be and the invaluable lessons we will never forget.
As we went on to thanking our coaches for holding space with so much patience, kindness and intention, we reflected on the incredible blessing the program was to us. The virtual room was filled with tangible emotion of gratitude and humility. Indeed, we were so grateful that we were offered the opportunity to show up. Dr G shared this wisdom with us, “If there’s anything you need to learn; if you aren’t able to show up for yourself, even if you think you are showing up for other people, you are actually not”. The people pleaser (nice, but not kind) in me, was shaken to the core and yet grateful.
One will never know the intricacies of traversing liminality until you have attempted over and over again. This was indeed the perfect send off for us. No one could miss its ingenuity. As we reach completion of this Bardo, as coach Nothemba describes it, our hearts have been enlightened and galvanized, inspired and challenged. In this life we will traverse many liminalities, yet this one remains the genesis of them all. And now that we have reached the end what we should know, a new journey has begun.
This was the last Lunch for the 2020 Cohort and it was virtual.
The speaker, Saray Khumalo was amazing. The analogy of Climbing Everest was so fitting and could be related to any goals that the girls want to achieve moving forward. The one theme that resonated with me was reflection. Every time Saray had to turn back, she reflected and when she went back to try again. She went back stronger because at every stage of the journey she had learned something new and was wiser trying again. The theme of reflection was not only after she failed but also when she was on the mountain. Standing 90 meters from summit and being able to look at the situation and say, my life and purpose are more important than summit takes a lot of grounding and stability.
This idea of reflection really stood out for me because so many times we are focused on the goal. We are focused on doing whatever it takes to reach the goal that we forget to think about the value of our lives. We ignore the critical stages and warning signs, and after we summit, we die coming down from the mountain.
It is great to have a vision and a goal for your life. One must also be tenacious in achieving that goal. But reflection is key. Don’t die whilst trying to do what is possible. You know it’s possible. It might take time but it’s possible.
Lastly, it was sad saying goodbye although we all know it’s not the end. I am thankful to Dr Lulu for creating this platform and to the coaches for giving of their time and resources. Thank you for helping me connect with me.
This session discussed building resilience and I found it to be an excellent way to end the journey of self-awareness that Traversing Liminality 2020 provided. The key take away that this session provided was the ability to fail forward. Throughout 2020 and life in general, there have been road blocks and challenges causing many of us to feel uncertain, afraid and demotivated. As much as one may want to believe that they will be victorious in everything they do, failure is an unavoidable part of life. One may do everything right and still fail. Therefore, the ability to fail and try again is one that everyone would do well to cultivate.
Our guest speaker, Saray Khumalo, spoke of her experience in climbing Mount Everest. She discussed how despite her preparation and determination, she was unable to finish the climb on her first and second try. Only in 2019 was she finally able to finish the climb. What’s important to note about her talk was her several attempts to return to the mountain and try again. Despite the challenges and limits she faced, she was able to accept her personal limitations not as the end but as a threshold from which she could build her confidence to try again and again. If we extrapolate this lesson into our own lives, we see that there have and will be many glass ceilings that we hit and think that’s it, this is as far as I go. However, if we adopt her mind-set we can see that although we may lose battles, we have not lost the war. Our ability to finally reach the “Top of the mountain” in our own lives is not an isolated event but a consequence of the slow, arduous and continuous process of getting up and trying again.
When asked how she mustered the courage to preserve she replied that this ability is there within all of us, we must just rely on it. As we exit the official program of Traversing Liminality, we will be stepping into the world with a new perspective on both the world and ourselves. Although this journey has been invaluable, it is useless if we do not exercise the resilience to push through the pains we face in life. As we accept our faults and prioritise progress over perfection, we leave Traversing Liminality 2020 with a self-love that is not based on the bellicose perspective that we shall conquer all but rather on a state of solace from which each of us can recognise that should I fall, I will find the strength to get up and try again.
I am not sure where to begin but I suppose it is okay to just share my thoughts in the most natural and authentic way possible. What a year this has been! Every year is special but this past one brought with it, incredible challenges. Thankfully, even with the physical distance, we have been privileged enough to be able to keep in touch virtually.
The Valedictory Lunch was a great way to end the programme. The breakout session was so encouraging and motivational. All of us have grown immensely since the beginning of the programme. It was beautiful to hear each one’s account of how effective the support and guidance we have received has been. There is still so much work for us to do, but we are moving forward, each one at their own pace. There is something powerful in knowing that you are not walking a journey alone. And I think this is what one feels in the breakout session, solidarity.
Our guest speaker, Saray Khumalo, was phenomenal. Another woman to add to my list of exceptional human beings! Her strength and resilience are admirable. Her story is full of life lessons. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to hear it. I can say I have come away from her talk wealthier. One of the things that stood out for me was when she said “I need to know when to pull back in order to succeed next time.” These words are so profound especially today when ambition is hailed as something to aspire to. We are all told to be ambitious and if you seem not to be struggling with something then you are not ambitious enough – whatever that means. There is a huge lesson to learn from this part of Saray’s story. Our goals and ambitions cannot and should not be pursued to the detriment of others and ultimately our own wellbeing. Knowing when to pause, stop or change course, in other words, learning to be flexible, is a key skill which the pandemic has forced us all to learn to some degree.
It was also great to hear each Peer Group speak so fondly of their coaches. This shows how deep of an impact this programme is to all of us. It is truly amazing to see people giving their time and expertise freely to help young women like myself navigate life with a new outlook and toolbox to face whatever challenges are thrown our way.
Thank you to all who made this possible. I am grateful and honoured to be part of such a movement.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.’’ – Steve Maraoli. How things just come together always amazes me. The past year has been one that was never short of trials and tribulations but one thing that Saray reminded me of is how resilient we have been through it all. We managed to come on the other side. She was the perfect speaker to end of such a challenging year. She served as a reminder of how resilient we are as women.
Some of the gems that stuck out for me:
• She touched on how no one will ever be able to tell us what sacrifices we should make to achieve our goals. Sometimes we look to outsiders to tell us what we should do. But it is up to us how much we are willing to risk for our goals.
• It’s not only important to have the right people in your corner but it is also important to be the right person for others.
• Really understanding your WHY.
This session was a great reminder of my own resilience and that I am moving from being an ordinary woman to being a uniquely extra- ordinary woman. Thank you Saray for being such a great representation, for also showing us that the sky is not the limit and reminding us that there will be setbacks in life, but how we handle these setbacks is a true reflection of our resilience.