May your courage not fail you (for Collin’s daughter)


It’s been going on for months.

The torment of your fear-filled heart. And we’ve talked about it via Whatsapp chats but I haven’t really been paying attention. For this I am sorry.

I stayed up tonight to pay attention to your pain and to tell you that I understand. It is a frightening path upon which you tread – tread lightly dear friend.

Standing at the forked road between going forward with this man you pledged to spend your life with or moving on without him towards a destination where uncertainty is the only thing certain.

I am sorry I have not been paying attention.

Sometimes when you know that the heart heals, you are quick to dismiss the process of pain that comes with the healing. That’s what I have been doing.

Listening to you and knowing your heart will heal and not paying attention to the pain you feel in the here and now.

I want to give you answers. To assure you and give you guarantees but there are none.

There are no guarantees, nothing to hold us up when we venture into the unknown except our own courage and grit and will to live.

May your courage not fail you my friend. May your will to live not waver. It hurts I know and some days will be worse than others.

Osho - Courage Love Affair

And you will look in the mirror sometimes and wonder who that stranger is that’s staring back at you.

Life doesn’t always pan out the way we hope it will. Certainly not with intimate relationships.

I long to see you laugh again, to watch you throw your head back in mirth. I want you to find joy again.

You are so battered and so bruised and the laughter in you has since died away. It is frightening to see the hollowness in you and the shell you have become.

Sometimes when love goes wrong it takes so much out of us. It scoops out all the hope we hold and leaves us empty.

Come back to me. To us. To who you were before this love made you give until you believed you had nothing and were nothing without him.

You want to hold on because it is so much safer to keep holding on than to let go when you don’t know where you’ll land. But may your courage not fail you dear friend.

Because all we are is the sum total of all we have had the courage to become.

I have learned that there is no reward for breaking my own heart to spare the hearts of others.

There shall be casualties, make no mistake about this.

There shall be a price to be paid. Be willing to foot the bill because losing a lover always leaves a scar long after they cease to matter.

You will miss him on some nights and thoughts of him will pop up at random in the middle of the day and a pang of ‘something’ will hit your heart. A pang of regret, of sadness, of nostalgia and even residual heartache.

Be willing to have it so. Accept it and let your heart heal as it sees fit.

You will learn to live without him.

Because our very existence consists of things we have learned, things we have unlearned and things we have had to re-learn.

You will learn to ignore the urge to call him with good news and suppress the need to share your joys with him.

You will learn to resist the desire to reach out to him for comfort when you have bad news and want his strength to hold you up. You will learn to not need him.

And in time you will forget him for hours and eventually you will forget him for days upon end.

And it will surprise you, even sadden you… that someone who was once the center of your universe can eventually cease to matter.

In time you will be free of him. Free of your heart’s longing for him and free of your soul’s grief over how things ended.

May your courage not fail you my friend.

We cannot make people love us and indeed, they too, do not have the power to command their hearts to love us.

And similarly, we cannot force ourselves to love or compel our hearts to open up when there’s no inclination to do so.

Make peace with it. Heal. Laugh. Have hope. Live as you believe. And have courage Collin’s daughter.

I love you always.

Gratitude Memoirs #4: Thanks to those who’ve believed in me (Guest Blog)


By John Mokwetsi

I often doubt myself.

I question myself and I question why things are programmed the way they are in my life.

Maybe I occasionally suffer from impostor syndrome or maybe I am just never quite content with whatever I may have achieved.

There are times I when try disassociate myself from my successes and from those achievements people use to define what I am or what I have become.

It is never enough to be me. Some call it ambition and a psychologist friend says it is low self-esteem.

...I have been to places I never thought I'd be, done things I never imagined I'd have a chance to do and people who've believed in me every step of the way!

…I have been to places I never thought I’d be, done things I never imagined I’d have a chance to do and people who’ve believed in me every step of the way!


But it is when I forget other amazing things about being me that I am reminded by my tortured conscience what the great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton once said:

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

In those moments when I have felt my ambition waning, when I have considered my resolutions to be as worthless as the paper they are written on – I have had shoulders graciously offered to me to lean on… and to weep if need be.

Perhaps I took to heart the words of that brilliant French novelist by the name Marcel Proust who said: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Whenever it seemed as though my soul where lost and searching for the path; I have always had that unexpected yet amazing midnight call or that thoughtful and encouraging Facebook inbox and more importantly – the motherly assurance that all would be well.

My mother has had to play the role of a father figure in my life and as a single parent her life was far from easy and fulfilling these roles required a great deal of dedication.

Despite the financially constraints she worked hard to ensure I was fed, clothed, sheltered and that I got a reasonable education.

She has been there to listen to my stories of disappointing girlfriends.

That closeness can only be born out of the heart of a woman, for it is the maternal love that can only be patient with the whining and complaints I had almost on a frequent basis about this and that.

I only discovered a half-brother and two sisters very recently. After 32 years of living I found myself with siblings – a brother and sisters.

Before them, I’m grateful to the close friends I’ve made over the years because I think my friends somehow became dots that linked up to create the person I have become.

From Tafadzwa Chinembiri who has always been there… to Delta Milayo Ndou who always says I can be whoever I want to be… to Bethel Goka who keeps on pushing me… to workmates who have monitored my progress and cheered me all the way and to Joseph Katete’s ears that never tire of my fears.

I am especially blessed to have my wife Mildred who chooses not to see my weaknesses while I am indebted to Vincent Kahiya who put his head on the block for me.

I think of and appreciate people like Ignatius Mabasa for the inspiration and for believing in me, as well as the colleagues I met at the University of Sussex and all the help they gave me (Zondi, Mialisa, Tanya, Sammy and a host of them).

At some point in this whole article, I obviously have to make mention of my favorite football team so here it goes – to Dynamos supporters for showing me that when you cheer others you cheer yourself too!

But I reserve the last and most important mention for my son, Jayden.

Jayden is the brother I never had, he is the reason I work hard, he reminds me of the father I never had because he passed away when I was too young cry.

Jayden is the personification of all my joy as a father and the embodiment of all my fears that go with fatherhood.

They are many others I did not mention, not because their contribution was less important, but because there are far too many to mention.

Suffice to say, I remember each and every one of them and I am so grateful to them.

Sex is a currency….always has been, always will be


Several weeks ago, a media training and sensitization workshop afforded a group of journalists from all over the country a chance to interview and listen to the testimonies of sex workers.

The generality of society views sex workers with intense aversion and the stampede for the moral high ground each time the phrase ‘sex work’ or more commonly ‘prostitution’ is mentioned attests to this.

I have always had a problem with legislating morality because moral values and their enforcement can only be instantiated from a premise that assumes homogeneity among all members of society – and such an assumption is obviously unsound.

My socialization has largely leant itself to understanding the transactional nature of sex as an extension of the transactional nature of love.

Where love is not a premise for the transactional act of sex, some other agreed upon or implicit commodity may be considered an acceptable substitute for love such as marriage.

Image

The sex work trade is hard to defend, emotions run high and recriminations fly hither and thither but I am writing in this instance to challenge the unfounded notion that sex is only permissible when it is transacted as an act of love and not through any other mutual and consensual agreement between the adults who engage in it.

Sex is a currency. Some people use it to buy love and affection or to sustain the same. Others use it to exchange the bodily fluids necessary to reproduce for noble and not-so-noble motives including forcing a man to marry them or confining a woman in the domestic sphere by turning her into a baby making machine.

Some people use it as leverage to control the purse strings of the men who lust after them and others use it to exercise control over the women who are financially dependent on them.

Some people use sex to express love and affection, others wield it as a weapon to subdue the women or men that they want to take advantage of.

From the time a young man learns to woo a young woman, he is made to believe that his quest is to find a transactional commodity that the young woman will find agreeable and terms upon which she will accept him as a suitable partner – that commodity tends to be material and that acceptance tends to be the availing of her body.

Generally, young women are taught to withhold their bodies until the young men offer a higher commodity to transact with – the offer of marriage.

Society insists that the only acceptable transactional arrangement to facilitate the enjoyment of sex is marriage and therefore it becomes the goal of every parent to preach abstinence to their daughter or to preach material gain to their son so that the pair can negotiate from a common premise in future.

To marry, the young man must have money and to get married the young woman must have something valuable to bargain with – her virginity (preferably) or her body.

It is not true that sex is only about love. Sometimes it is about pleasure.

At other times it is about comfort and companionship. At other times it is about procreation. And in a society where poverty is rife, sex can be about money, about the bread and butter issues, and about survival.

In a materialistic society, lying on one’s back can be about financial gain and a lavish lifestyle paid for through sex.

Tradition, religion, the law, rightness and wrongness and the moral code of a given society may prefer to couch sex in different ways depending on the ideal that each institution pursues but none of them should presume homogeneity.

Listening to the tales of those sex workers, I struggled with my prejudices, struggled to put myself in these women’s shoes until I gave up the attempt altogether.

I felt sympathy but not empathy because their lives and experiences were so far removed from my own that I was willing to consider myself quite unqualified to judge them or the choices they have made – but having heard their side of the story, I consider myself qualified to defend them.

There is nothing as unburdening as flatly turning down jury duty, refusing to be on the jury that sits to judge and condemn the lives of people in whose shoes we have not walked a mile let alone a centimeter. What qualifies you to judge? Is it your high moral code? Is it your Christianity or religious belief? Is it your traditional values or cultural norms? Is it your infallible sense of knowing right from wrong?

People qualify themselves to judge by stripping away any recognition of the humanity of sex workers, viewing them as vermin that should be exterminated at best or punished at the very least.

Sex workers are ordinary people; they are as ordinary as the clients they service. For every sex worker, there is an employer.

If what qualifies one to judge is a moral code, then why is this morality or self-righteous indignation not directed towards the root causes of sex work such as poverty, or why is it not directed at the clients who keep these women on the streets by making sex work a viable option, why is it not translated into positive action that can re-integrate these sex workers into society rather than increasing their vulnerability through societal ostracism.

If your own aversion to sex workers is influenced by religious beliefs, traditional values or an internalized societal standard of what is right or wrong, then you must remember that your religious beliefs are your own, the traditional values you choose to embrace are not compulsory for the next person and your idea of what is right or wrong is informed by your own lived experience – which is not universal.

If you can trace every sexual encounter you have ever had to some ‘noble’ transactional arrangement such as love or marriage, then good for you but in the real world, people have sex for many reasons and financial gain is one of them.

Sex work has often been viewed as a problem caused by women, and the solution has been to punish the women as if these sex workers have sex all by themselves and then proceed to pay themselves for it.

Rightly or wrongly – sex is a currency. It always has been and it always will be.

 

ps. I know there are male sex workers but in this case I just focused on the women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These elections won’t just “leave us alone”


The shadow being cast by the forthcoming harmonized elections is so vast that hardly any of us can afford the luxury of shrugging a nonchalant shoulder, wrapping ourselves in swathes of indifference and hoping that these elections will ‘just leave us alone’.

If you don’t want to vote FOR anyone in the upcoming elections… then decide who you will vote AGAINST but for goodness sake – vote!

There is too much at stake for the eligible voter to merely decide that their pink finger is not worth staining or to make the ignoble choice of sitting at home, flipping through DSTV channels and pretending that elections are none of their business.

The elections are everyone’s business… no, in fact they are everyone’s battle.

Elections are not a business they are battles.

They are a battle to elect the people we want and the people we want to vote for are those whom we think will protect and advance our interests.

You see elections are as much about self-interest as they are about any other more ‘noble’ human quality.

The self-interests of the voting public reigns supreme in the ballot box – not the will of politicians but the will of individuals, expressed through one ‘X’ after another until cumulatively thousands upon thousands of individuals collectively morph into millions saying the same thing.

Millions of individuals, like you, determining whom they will entrust their wards, districts, towns, cities, as well as provinces and ultimately whom they will entrust their country to.

So do the selfish thing – go and vote! Elections are all about you.

FYI…they [elections] won’t just leave us alone!

The dreams we deferred… in the name of love


We used to have conversations in our final year of varsity when the thought of entering the job market weighed heavily on our minds and we worried about where to go from there.

In some of those discussions the view was often expressed that the female graduates were at an advantage because they could always look for a husband instead of stressing too much about their chances of penetrating the job market (as if marriage were a career path) while the males would have no such reprieve.

In the haze of idealism, we thought that perhaps such arguments had merit and that a male graduate might have to work years before they could own a car while a female graduate might happen upon a wealthy man and be driving within a few months.

This line of argument was further buttressed by the fact that many female students often fell pregnant and got married in the final year.

It seemed to the male students that their female counterparts would be spared the torment of agonizing about finding jobs because they could rely on husbands to support them financially.

So it was, when we graduated the majority of male students began from entry-level positions in various fields while an equally vast number of females prioritized their roles as wives and mothers superintending over their households while seeking jobs in a more leisurely way.

...sometimes you jus can't have it all...

…sometimes you jus can’t have it all…


It was not that these female graduates did not dream of occupying corner offices and commanding boardrooms or realizing long-held ambitions of rising to the top of their chosen profession.

It was just that they reached a forked road and realized they could only walk one path.

They faced the dilemma of trying to reconcile their personal career-related ambitions with the responsibilities and expectations they assumed when they became wives or mothers.

They chose their husbands and children over chasing after their dream careers taking comfort in the thought that their dreams could wait and receiving strong assurances from their husbands/partners that they would be “ungrudgingly” taken care of.

Then there were many of us who tried to do it all and be it all.

Tried to hold down full-time jobs in demanding professions, tried to be available mothers and tried to be supportive wives.

We tried to do it all and when we realized that we could not juggle every responsibility all at once, we took to desperately running our households through the conduit of housemaids who walked in and out of our family’s lives with dizzying frequency.

Navigating the professional world, some of us excelled only to deny ourselves the enjoyment of promotions because the promotion presented yet another forked road.

The promotion meant better benefits but greater responsibility. Receiving a job promotion sometimes meant longer hours and perhaps added frequency in work-related traveling that would keep us away from home for long periods of time.

So once again, many chose to pass up such opportunities for professional elevation thinking it would compromise our ability to be hands-on mothers and available wives.

We felt that we needed to be there to pack the children’s school lunches and be at hand to help the husbands locate a misplaced tie or missing sock in the mornings. Promotions could wait.

Always at the back of our minds was the hope that eventually we would be able to jump-start our career and do something that would provide us with some fulfillment outside of the joy of watching our children grow.

Yet because none of us had a crystal ball back then, we could not have known that the spouses we had so eagerly supported, stood by through thick and thin — for whom we had shelved our dreams and hopes would wake up one day resentful of the fact that we felt entitled to the money they earned, to being supported financially as we too, had supported them domestically.

Who knew back then that at some point these same men would sneer at us and talk about “yimali yami leyi, yindlu yami leyi, yimota yami leyi, wena wabuya uphetheni lapha?” {This is MY money, this is MY house, this is MY car, what did you contribute towards these acquisitions?}

Who would have imagined back then that the sacrifices we made would mean little in the face of title deeds that said nothing of us being owners of the houses we had turned into homes?

Who had stopped to think back then how getting a husband did not translate to economic empowerment even as we drove in luxury vehicles whose ownership papers did not carry our names?

Who would have known then, that we would rue the day we came to the various forked roads available to us and chosen to trust in love thinking that deferring our dreams to support our husbands would mean we would share and be entitled to every success they had?

In the name of love we gave up a bit of our autonomy at every forked road, sliding further and further into the rut of financial dependency and secure in the knowledge that out sacrifices would be rewarded by loyalty (and financial security) on the part of our spouses/partners?

Then the unthinkable happened and the same husbands we gave up our own dreams for decided that we were parasites – milking them dry and in return we gave nothing while they provided us with shelter, food, clothing and even “status’’.

Those same men could now look us in the eye and say dismissively, “you were nothing when I found you’’.

And we would lie awake enduring long nights thinking that perhaps every engine that hums down the street was heralding the return of the husbands who would come back carrying with them the scents of other women’s perfume, reminding us how we were nothing when they found us and gloating about how we can never leave them, because, after all where will we go and what will we do?

Long nights of lying awake and remembering the forked roads that represented opportunities we bypassed and the chances we chose to forgo and all the dreams we decided to defer — dreams we deferred in the name of love.

And a cursory glance will tell us how wrong we were all those years ago at varsity when we thought we had an advantage over our male counterparts because when we meet each other on the roads we know they own their cars whilst we ‘own’ the husband who owns the car we’re driving in.

We know too, that when they speak of developing a stand and building a house, their names are registered on the title deeds, whilst our houses are ours by proxy because we ‘own’ the husbands who built them.

So where would we be had we followed our dreams and deferred the marriages and delayed the pregnancies and waited until we had secured our own financial stability?

It is a scary thing to trust so completely in someone else and hope that they will not betray you tomorrow or decide you are no longer good enough . . . but it happens all too often.

We forget to love ourselves enough to do what is best for us first before laying our lives down for the ones we fall in love with… every now and again it would serve us well to remember that love is sometimes a fickle thing.

May you find what you seek


I learned to love you from afar. To watch your retreating back without shedding a tear. I learned to long for you from a distance, repressing the urge to chase madly after you.

Loving you made me weak before it could make me strong… it hurt me before it could heal me…and it broke me before it could make me whole.

...it's been real!

…it’s been real!


I learned to love you without expectation – taking only what you were willing to give and offering only what you were willing to accept.

I have loved you in a language of goodbyes, through seasons of absence and the constant shadows of one farewell after another.

I have loved you defiantly – across vast spaces and time zones. I have loved you despite the wrongness of what felt right.

I have loved you through months of yawning silences and through sleep-deprived nights of Skype-calls…

I have loved you too long and too hard. I have loved you without making the effort to do so… and without you having to put in any hours to earn it.

But you are chained to the wind and where the wind goes – you will follow. I am chained to my dreams – and where they drive me I will go.

We are but two ships passing each other on the vast ocean of life… may you find a safe harbor in stormy seas and perchance we may sail on the same waters again.

But for now – farewell my love. As you would put it, “it’s been real”.

And as I would put it, “may you find what you seek”.

Life goes on


The great thing about life has got to be the fact that ‘it goes on’.

It goes on so that our failures are never permanent – so that the inexorable passage of time gradually fades the horrible mistakes we’ve made and allows us to turn new pages every day.

The great thing about life is that it does not stop.

It goes on so that we have a second chance to get right what we missed on the first attempt – so that our defeats are never permanent on the scoreboard and we get the chance to redeem ourselves.

The great thing about life is that it is continuous.


It yields to the ticking of the clock – and every second that goes by carries us further away from the scenes of our greatest shame, humiliation and moments of treachery.

The great thing about life is that it moves on – beyond our present despair, transcending our moments of tragedy, misfortune and struggle.

Life doesn’t stop because we’re hurting… it goes on because we’re healing.

No matter how deep the wounds, how great the disillusionment – life goes on so that we are able to get to a point of acceptance; because with time worse things befall us – things that make our past hurts pale in comparison.

And also with time – wonderful things happen to us – things that obscure our shameful past, our mistakes and flaws by making them fade with the brilliance of our every triumph.

The great thing about life is that it goes on – so that the things that once had the power to hurt us; lose the potency to destroy us; for in the forging of a new dawn there is inevitably the snuffing out of a dark night.

Life goes on – so that our trials become our testimonies; so that our wounds morph into valuable life lessons and our tears carry the bitter-sweetness of a life lived as best as we knew how to.

Life goes on – so that our dreams stand a chance of catching up whenever we take a wrong turn; so that we are never stuck in that place of defeat… for it carries us along on its current, giving us the chance to navigate new waters.

The great thing about life is that it goes on – so that eventually what brings us to our knees now might get us to our feet tomorrow; because with every minute that goes by – life is happening whether you consent or not.

Regardless of what happens, life goes on – and so do we.