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.

…a slap in my face!

This post was originally written for and appeared in The Sunday News Leisure Magazine, in the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (Issue of 6-12 November, 2011)

I spent the last two weeks proof-reading and editing a book on marriage and had it been written by anyone other than my best friend Talema’s dad – I would not have consented.

For one thing, the book is lengthy and I have a crazy schedule without adding anything else, for another – I was certain that my views on the subject of marriage clashed completely with whatever his were (generation gap and all that).

I approached the book with a respectful attitude, prepared to keep my prejudices on a tight leash and also unwilling to contradict the author – after all he’s been a distant father figure to me for nearly 15 years.

I read the book and it left me feeling like I had been walking around with shit in my shoes.

Reverend Levy Moyo’s soon-to-be published book, The Woman in White – is a blunt, relentless and devastatingly written book – brutal in its honesty and frank in its castigation.

I did not expect to encounter such a frontal onslaught to all my ideas around marriage; never mind the fact that each chapter made me want to dig a deep hole and shove my feminism in there like some dirty secret!

The book is engaging and reads like an invasion – drawing in the reader, ruthlessly tugging, pulling and testing every idea or notion one has of marriage.

Proverbs 31: "1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. 2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? 3 Give not thy strength unto (loose) women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink..."

The book is like an armpit check; it makes you want to keep sniffing at your own life or ideas to see whether you’re the one that’s being written about and it forces you to take stock of your life.

Like a sober parent, Reverend Levy Moyo’s book spanks foolishness out of the mind; firmly asserts wisdom, discipline and the stinging slap of reality.

And here’s the twist – he wrote the book for MEN!

The woman in white is premised on Proverbs 31 in the bible and it is the Reverend’s contention that although that scripture is always quoted to women and sermons are crafted with the intention of ministering to women through it – that Chapter is a mother’s letter to her son.

It was written by a woman to her son, for her son, and in order to help her son find and marry a good woman.

Reverend Levy Moyo redirects the message back to the audience it was originally written for – men.

He points out that behind every great man there is a great woman – only that woman is not his wife; that woman is his mother!

One of the things that left me frazzled is how he demonstrated the devastating effects of verbal abuse in a manner that I have tried, unsuccessfully to express in my own writing.

Perhaps it was because I too, was of the opinion that verbal abuse was bad but not that bad; I used to compare verbal abuse to physical abuse and sub-consciously classify verbal abuse as a ‘lesser evil’.

But Reverend Levy Moyo draws an intriguing parallel between verbal abuse and The Chinese Water Torture technique.

In this one paragraph, he encapsulates the undesirability of a contentious woman.

Chinese water torture is the popular name for a method of water torture in which water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead, allegedly driving the restrained victim insane.

The Discovery Channel investigated Chinese water torture and found that dripping water on the forehead, by itself, was not particularly stressful.

Immobilizing the subject along with a variable water drop schedule proved the most stressful of the methods they tried, and cold water intensified the effect.

The key part of this is that the water drop was made to be randomly timed. Thus, the victim would not know when the next drop would come. I think there are many men that live in dread of when the nagging, yelling, shouting and quarreling will start or what will trigger it.

Some women are accomplished Chinese Torturers and some men live in perpetual torture…because what some women fail to appreciate is that they fail to the long-term consequences of short-term repetitive actions.

The mouth is hard to restrain and many men live on the receiving end of what is arguably the greatest weapon of mass destruction known to human kind – the undisciplined tongue.

As a mother to a young boy; I fervently hope my precious son does not fall into such captivity and endure a lifetime of having to put up with a Chinese torturer of a woman!

I’m keeping a copy of that book and like, Lemuel who remembered the words of his mother; may my own son remember my words as I too point out life’s endless follies.

Parting shot: “Victims were strapped down so that they could not move, and cold water was then dripped slowly on to a small area of the body. The forehead was found to be the most suitable point for this form of torture: prisoners could see each drop coming, and after long durations were gradually driven frantic as a perceived hollow would form in the centre of the forehead. Many of the people that were being tortured suffered a great deal of mental retardation.” – Wikipedia (describing Chinese Water Torture)

Of faith, marriage and baskets!

I just came across this article I wrote over 4 years ago; bright-eyed, eager and hopeful. I resisted the urge to edit it for fear that I may taint its sweet sentimentality with traces of the bile skepticism and cynicism that I have unfortunately picked up over the years.

Marriage is the highest form of faith.

It is the unrelenting faith in the potential and good inherent in another person. It is to open one’s eyes and accept the faults of another. It is to entrust to another that which you can least afford to gamble with – your heart.

Marriage is like a basket.

...ready to gamble? Don't let go of your end...and I'll hold on to mine.

It is the only basket that requires you to put all your eggs in it. Because if you hold on to some of them, you’ll need both hands to make sure they don’t break. And so, with two hands shielding some precious eggs, there’s none left to hold your end of the basket.

Marriage is when two people, who owe each other nothing; decide to owe each other everything. To spend their lives paying a debt they never incurred, because a marital relationship is the one interaction between two people with the greatest degree of intimacy, bonding, sacrifice and exposure.

Marriage is a culmination of the voluntary exposure of two beings, who strip themselves naked in every possible way, physically, emotionally, mentally and share their deepest and most vulnerable thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears and dreams.

I suppose that is why losing a spouse is as good as losing an integral part of your life, because marriage intertwines two people’s destinies into one.

Marriage meshes and interweaves the goals and aspirations of two people into one – they become a team, supporting, defending, caring for and loving one another. They both sacrifice their energy, material and emotional resources and time to improve one another.

I guess that’s where faith comes in.

To believe that the other party will not go back on their promise. To believe the other person will keep their end of the bargain. To believe the other person won’t just let go of their end of the basket and smash every one of your eggs.

There are no guarantees.

Life is a journey... question is: are you gonna walk alone?

Just the hope that things will work out. Just the hope the other won’t stumble and crush some of the eggs. Marriage is the highest form of faith.

Because we know God is faithful, but men at times are not.
But still we believe we can beat the odds and find a perfect partner.

For if we never keep the faith alive, then we’ll never place our eggs in a basket. We’ll carry them in our hands, walk the journey of life in solitude, fearing to stumble because we’ll lose the eggs we’re clinging on to.

Rather we carry this basket together – you and I.

If I should stumble, forgive me for the crime of being human. And believe in me, in my good intention not in my wrong-doing. And if you stumble, may I be strong enough to still believe in you and I. To have enough faith to hold on to my end of the basket. So that at least, some of our eggs remain.

This basket is ours – you and I.

In it we’ve placed so many eggs: we’ve invested our time, our emotional resources, our passion, our aspirations, our dreams, our hopes and also our faith.

I believe in you, but more than that; I believe in who you can become.

An error is when one does what is not in their nature, when they act out of character. I know when you stumble, it ‘s not because it’s natural for you to stumble; it is only because it’s natural to err.

So I’m holding on to this basket, we’ve carried through so many trials and hardships.

At times you’ve had to carry it alone, when I was too weak to hold on, too hurt to be strong and too afraid to believe.

But I believe in you and I.

I believe you are the one, the only one I want to stumble with, to conquer with in the duel of life.

Marriage is the highest form of faith.

I’ve got enough faith to see us through a lifetime, may you have enough faith to hold on lest I should stumble.

…but why shouldn’t I care?

One of the questions that have always been directed at me in my journey as an activist is, “why do you care?” and the question is always followed by a rebuke, “you too emotional. You mustn’t be so emotional.” can we insist on ignoring the persistent and ever-growing cries of a world in crisis?

I have discovered that being emotionally involved in the work I do is seen as huge flaw and sometimes I get dismissed on the basis of having shown too much emotion; in fact I suspect that some people regard me as being highly unstable.

At times the way they say “you’re too emotional” seems to imply that my mental faculties are short-circuited by the strong feelings I attach to what I do.

When I write about children who’ve been molested, women who’ve been betrayed, girls who’ve been violated or the myriad of unjust events that transpire in our society; I sometimes get back-handed compliments that go something like: “you write so well. Those were some powerful words. It was really moving and touching. So I guess you were also abused as a child because from the way you put it; I could tell that this person is really speaking from experience.”

I wonder why people suppose that things matter only when they affect them and what doesn’t affect them does not matter.

I don’t need to be raped, or brutalized, or violated, or treated unfairly for me denounce the act – to me it is enough that there has been an injustice; that someone somewhere has suffered. To me it is enough that there is someone – human like me – who is in pain, who needs help, who needs to heard and whose pain was undeserved.

I grew up with a very keen sense of justice; it is something deeply ingrained me – like someone with a fine-tuned ear for music can pick out a discord no one else hears – I pick out the subtle nuances of injustice that some people remain oblivious to.

"there are many things in life that will catch your eye - but only a few will catch your heart: pursue them!

So if something is not fair – I can’t just shut up about it just because it doesn’t directly affect, involve or impact on me.

I mean why shouldn’t I care?

I have girlfriends who have a fit every time a favorite outfit gets ruined, I have pals who get so torn when they break a manicured nail or when a trusted hair dresser spoils a good weave by failing to get it right.

I have friends who get so traumatized when their favorite soccer team loses, they have fits when their car gets a tiny dent or scratch and they can have a near death experience their favorite shirt gets scorched by an iron or whatever.

They care about these things but I care about people – women in particular and I have a very special spot for children too.

I care about the condition of people’s lives; I care about justice and about equality. I care about empowerment and education. I care about development, health and climate change. I care about the economy, politics and our history. I care about the total sum of experiences that define us and I care about the choices that are availed to us as people and I care also about the choices that we are denied.

Why shouldn’t I care?

Recently when I had to make a presentation at the UN’s 55th CSW; the Moremi Fellow chairing the session remarked on the rest of us MILEAD Fellows saying, “the women you are about to hear from have a passion for their work that has bridged the gap between doing and being. They are so passionate that activism is not something they do – it is something (one of many things) that they are.”

Yes, I get emotional. I don’t quantify how I feel about the plight of humanity so I can never tell whether I get “too” emotional about elevating the status of women. All I know is that I can never be indifferent, cool, detached, aloof and nonchalant.

I can only be myself – passionate, involved, committed, single-minded and sometimes militant in my pursuit for the realization of social justice for women and for other vulnerable social groups that have been pushed to the margins.

...its not enough to have compassion - you have to act!

If people can obsess over soccer to the point of pouring billions into the sport – surely I can have the lee-way to obsess about a better a world for girls and women to the point of devoting my life towards that cause.

If people can get so worked up about their appearances and spends fortunes on hair, nails, make up, accessories and clothing to the point of grieving inconsolably when any of these ‘necessities’ are compromised – surely I can be allowed the luxury to use every platform and opportunity availed to me to share the stories of society’s victims and call for justice to prevail.

So what if they’re not related to me? So what if I’ve never been in their situation? So what if they never asked me to speak on their behalf? And so what if I have never met them or known them personally?

All I know is that wherever there is a fight for justice – that is where I belong. I am a crusader – I do care.
Some people care about things; well I just care about people more than I care about things.
Why shouldn’t I care?

Parting shot: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” – Marcus Tullius Cicero