Read an Excerpt from Valley of Victory: A True Story of Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs by Val Rankin Prinsloo
Read an excerpt from Valley of Victory: A True Story of Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs by Val Rankin Prinsloo.
In Valley of Victory, Prinsloo describes her life with bipolar mood disorder, shares her experiences and discusses psychosocial disabilities in the workplace.
In the excerpt below, Prinsloo describes the emotional experiences that led to her re-uniting with her childhood friend Khanyisile.
About the book
Val is a girl raised in apartheid South Africa.
Her family is financially well-off, there is an abundance of everything except harmony.
As a child, she is hurt, as a teen insulted, and as a woman, abused and discarded. Haunted by her extreme obesity, Val slips into a world of reckless debauchery and alcoholism and substance abuse of all kinds. All other kinds discord ran like wild fire through her life in much the same destructive manner.
Is there hope for her? Can she redeem herself? The only soul she can turn to is her childhood friend, a local servant girl. Can her friend guide and mentor her, and eventually pull her out of her bottomless pit of despair?
With an epic sweep that spans well over forty years, Valley of Victory is a touching tale of one individual’s fight against the society, its hypocrisy and a system that is rotten to the core. It is the moving story of a woman’s determination to take charge, change herself and the world around her.
Along the journey, Valley of Victory asks questions that are as simple as their answers are complex. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our connection with our Higher Power? It tackles issues head on, with a sharpness that pierces the heart and a bluntness that dents the soul.
Leading us to the final question, If all human beings long to attain Peace, why is Love the most ignored emotion?
About the author
Val Rankin Prinsloo lives and works in the insurance sector in bustling Johannesburg, South Africa. She is married to Sydney and is mother to Cidal. Life is jam-packed with day-to-day activities but writing gives her the greatest pleasure and fulfillment and that is how she spends any free time.
She was born and raised in the so-called City on a hill, Eshowe (KwaZulu-Natal) in 1972. Those days were a far cry from city life; quite rural, where everyone knew your name and stopped to offer you a lift in the rain.
Valley of Victory is her first book.
Her journey through life has been a challenging yet exciting transformation.
Sometimes, life’s like chewing gum …
Great in the beginning. Flavourless later. Sticky.
That’s how I felt. Chewed, stuck, stale – between a hot pavement and a tight shoe, on a humid, sweltering day.
Yours truly, however, had the reverse taste experience. Gum, spat out by another, picked up from the pavement. Already flavourless, sticky twice over. Then, gradually, a delicious tang began to seep through magically, cutting through the bad taste in my mouth. A true salivary surprise.
Well, none of this is new for me. I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I looked around and found carefree attitudes and artificial smiles. And it affected me.
I craved to be ‘normal’, to be able to laugh and chat and be free – like the rest. They say, ‘Fake it till you make it’. So I tried the plastic smile but it didn’t stay plastered for long. There’s no mask for the heart … the pain cracked through and streamed down my cheeks … the mask slipped, the cover was blown. There I stood, naked and exposed. And from beneath the façade of falsehood the “real me” peered out.
The gum was carelessly discarded by someone inconsiderate … the mindless actions of some can cause discomfort for others … a little thought and the world be made a better place …
But the world can wait. First comes I, me, and myself. I’m a world within, my own oceans of despair, my own dry land of comfort, with my own volcanoes and valleys. (Valley … that rings a bell. Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.)
God knows I tried. The pain and the heartache were real and palpable, and excruciating … but it passed and I thought time was a great healer. It is, but it takes a huge effort, and time does extract its pound of flesh. If only that pound of flesh was taken off my rather fat thighs … !
The hurt stays just under the veneer of normalcy, the gum that sticks your shoe to a scorching floor, all set to topple you over at a moment’s notice. For me, that was the stumbling block – in my emotional, physical and spiritual progress. The gum would root you to that point in time and space, not letting you move on, not allowing you to grow …
It was the year 2000. The millennium. And a good time, I thought, to pull in the reins on my life slipping out of control. The time for tough calls. Then and there I made the decision – to roll up my sleeves, to kick off my shoes. (That’d help me get rid of the nasty gum as well!) I needed to get a perspective, to pull myself together. Enough destruction had been done, now time for damage control.
Paradoxically, I had to pull back to focus. I had to begin at the beginning, to trace out the steps and find out which one was out of place. Precisely where did I fall out of step? I had to relive the story to learn the lessons for each episode, each experience.
The terrain was tough, the trip daunting. But I never felt alone. Like in Eliot’s The Waste Land, there was always a ‘third’ that walked beside me, matching my step. That companion, like a shadow, made it all easier – a journey shared is the distance halved.
Quite involuntarily, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, Khanyisile came to mind. She was friend, partner, and soulmate to me, all in one. Almost like a clone of mine, she was with me, walking, falling in step throughout the journey. Anything happens, any thought crossed my mind, my first instinct was to share it with her – and when I do, it somehow seemed that she already knew about it. And she was quick with a reaction; often, a diametrically different perspective from mine. I resented it at first, since it never quite matched my own point of view, but on retrospection later she would be the one who emerged right. It was uncanny.
Back to my expedition. It was a long trek, and I was walking barefoot. Mostly it was hot coals or broken glass. Sometimes, freezing cement floors. And rarely, lush green meadows. Mostly, it was slippery slopes and precarious rope bridges – with the frightening deep below. At times, it was the cutting edge of shrapnel. And rarely, cooling waters caressed bruised feet. Call it the variety of life.
But before we take that crucial first step on this thousand-mile journey, a small orientation about pre-apartheid South Africa. Back then, not so long ago, people were often derogatorily classified according to their race:
Whites – Caucasians, thoroughbred, Europeans, English-speaking. Also called: Wit O’s, Blankes. Blacks – Native Africans, non-whites. Also called: Darkies, Kaffirs, Koons, Zots.
Indians – Non-whites of Asian descent. Also called: Koolies, Tjaroes.
Coloured – Mixed breed, a combination of any of the above. Also called: Bruin O’s, Kullids. (My little daughter, in her utopian innocence, considered herself ‘none of the above’. According to her our shade of skin is akin to the fruit, so she is a ‘peach’.)
This story is, among other things, also about the unlikely bonding between the hapless, disadvantaged black Zulu girl Khanyisile, and the privileged, spoilt, coloured girl Valenta. Or Valley as my late dad used to call me. (You’ll hear more about him soon, the greatest hero of my life.) But unlike flowers in the sun, this bunch never wilted – their friendship kept blooming forever in the valley of life.
And this story, our story, comes with a plethora of patterns and textures. It’s the story of our friendship, at one level; at another, it’s the story of my darkest hours. It’s also the tale of how Khanyisile walked into my darkness and spread light. Which is what makes it everyone’s story, yours and mine, because all of us have our horrors and all of us need our Khanyisiles to drag us out of the abyss.
In that zone, there’s no racism; it hardly matters if Khanyisile is ugly or pretty, black or white or in-between. All that counts is she helps you to get to the bottom of who you truly are. That’s universal, independent of time and place and language and creed – the need to understand and be understood.
So here’s my story, as I lived it. I write this in 2014, it’s been a long time coming. I often think that there has to be more to life than a mundane existence – indeed, there’s a greater purpose for each of us walking the earth. That purpose is what makes a real difference to our fellow human beings.
So what’s my purpose? Having gone through fire, and having emerged alive albeit burnt and battered, I can come to the rescue of the unfortunate who got the rough end of the stick like me.
Maybe that’s my mission in life. And, may I add, Khanyisile had a key role to play in crystallising my part for the world stage. She was – and is – everywhere.
- Valley of Victory: A True Story of Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs by Val Rankin Prinsloo
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