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 #3: Beyond the call of friendship

I heard her the first time.

When she spoke softly and tried to gently nudge me awake.

I screwed my eyes slightly tighter, concentrating on keeping my face blank in the futile hope that she would relent and go away.

But instead, she raised her voice, prodded me more determinedly and starting peeling the blankets off my body – before I could restrain myself, my hand had instinctively shot out to counter her action and snatch back the bed covers – still with my eyes screwed shut.

She paused and I could feel her penetrating gaze.

She knew I was awake and now she also knew I did not want to wake up.

I am not sure now, but perhaps she paused more to rethink her strategy in light of the new information she had gleaned.

Because when she next spoke it was with that soft, common-sensical and cajoling tone of a negotiator who knows that their requests are quite reasonable.

“Vuka De, asambe uyegeza” she said in Ndebele [Wake up, you need to go and bath].

Giving up the pretense of sleep, I opened my eyes and made no attempt to mask the resentment I was feeling before responding churlishly, “Ah Dess, hamba wedwa” [You can go alone].

She wasn’t taken aback by the attitude, instead she laughed indulgently and said firmly that it was time to bath and she was going to help me and we should do it quickly before the bathrooms filled up with people.

And as she spoke the tears pricked at my eyes – self pity.

I was tired, I said.

Tired of moving and the pain that moving caused me.

She was not the one with an injured hip, she did not know what it felt like to try and get into those high tubs with my injured hip protesting any movement let alone the elevation required for me to all but jump into those damn Swinton Hall tubs.

She did not know what the shooting pain felt like as it exploded from my hip joint and coursed through my body in protest over any attempts at bending to scrub my feet.

She should leave me alone, I said.

But I have never known Destelia Monalisa Ngwenya to bite her tongue when what she had to say needed to be said or to shirk from a necessary task regardless of the attendant unpleasantness associated with carrying it out.

...for saving me from myself time after time - thank you mngane wami!

…for saving me from myself time after time – thank you mngane wami!

Destelia and I have been friends for over a decade now and in June of 2004, she spent a week bathing my 3-month pregnant self after I had been hit by a car and was unable to move owing to a hip injury that I sustained.

She would wake up in the morning, put up with my moods and my misdirected anger to help me to the bathrooms, half-lift me into the seemingly high tubs, let me bath the upper part of my body which I could reach without straining my hip and then take charge of the rest so that I wouldn’t have to bend or hurt myself in the attempt.

After the bath she would half-lift me out of the tub again, help me back to my room where the task of getting dressed often involved wearing my underwear last because again, the process of wearing underwear involved bending which had become such an excruciating exercise for me.

I remember one morning where I staged a one-woman mutiny and refused to wear my underwear at all.

I wasn’t going to go through that pain again. No. Not for all the words in the world.

I was going to just spend the day without any underwear because it hurt, hurt, hurt TOO much trying to put a pair on!

I remember her laughing, saying “De, you know you can’t go out without underwear”, and I asked why not? Who would know?

And besides I was done with hurting myself every time I had to move.

And wearing underwear required two simultaneous movements that combined to inevitably set my hip on fire – the act of bending and the act of lifting my legs one at a time.

She would stand there, cajoling, encouraging and reminding me that we needed to hurry up, because I still had to eat the porridge that she had prepared and then take my pain medication.

We had exams throughout that entire week and my friend was pulling double shifts to see me bathed, clothed, fed and then she would have to contend with trying to revise for her exams while playing nursemaid to me.

I know I said thank you to her countless times that week and over the years since then but it never feels like it is enough.

I was a sulky patient, wallowing in self-pity and wondering why all these things were happening to me.

First I get myself knocked up and then I get myself run over by a car just a day before my first year final exams at the University of Zimbabwe?

Why was all this happening? Where was God? Why did my parents have to die and leave me… (I really hate it when people play the ‘I-am-an-orphan’ card so it took some severe depression to get me to that point, lol).

I must have been hell to be around but Destelia was totally unfazed.

She kept showing up every morning to get me ready for days I didn’t even want to face anymore – days she all but bullied me into facing.

And usually, when all the bathing, dressing, eating and taking of pain meds was done – she’d text my male friends to let them know I was ready so that they could come and carry me off to whatever exam venue we would be writing from.

Sometimes it was my female friends who formed into teams and carried me from one point to the other – taking turns to rest and relieve each other of the weight that was me and my useless hip.

Among those who carried me to write exams that year was Falimehang and Nomsa (I can’t believe I forgot her surname and she used to speak Venda! But she was Polite Ndlovu’s girlfriend at the time, lol…hoping those clues help my former college mates to jog my memory); there was Jacob and Sean; and there was Mmeli and Yvonne.

I know I thanked them.

But I must do it again to remind myself of the good fortune I have met with in my life and to let them know that their kindness will always mean a lot to me.

For sacrifices that went above and beyond the call of friendship; I want to say thank you but words are not enough.

With gratitude to Destelia Monalisa Ngwenya – for being there and for saving me from myself more times than I care to count or recall.

Gratitude Memoirs #1: For Confidence ‘Kisha’ Mshakarara, with gratitude

She stood by the doorway of the bedroom that we had dubbed the ‘girls’ room’ and spoke in measured tones, expelling each word carefully as if it was important to get the words out in their right order.

There was uncharacteristic hesitation in her speech, as though she knew these were the right words to say but that saying them was the wrong thing to do.

She sounded conflicted but resolved.

“I am going into town right now and when I come back, I want to find you gone. Take your pregnancy to its owner. I don’t want to see you in this house again. Is that clear?”

It’s been too long for me to remember my exact response to that but I am sure I said something like “Alright” or “Yes, I will” or “Okay”… I don’t know.

Perhaps I said nothing.

Perhaps I was too shocked and numbed at that point to think of an appropriate response to this woman who had been all but surrogate mother to me for the six years I lived under her roof.

Some memories lie buried deep under layers of greater events, more imposing struggles and instances of excruciating suffering which dwarf everything else that preceded them.

So my recollection of these particular events is neither sharp nor precise, merely a hazy outline of what I remember to have happened and now, after so many years, what remains are broad stroke reminiscence of pains that have long ceased to matter.

What I remember is that it was 12 July, a Monday in the year 2004 – a solid decade ago and so much has happened in my life since then as to render these events relatively mild in magnitude but not in consequence.

I was three and a half months pregnant and had been back home for just three days on semester break after writing my first year examinations at the University of Zimbabwe where I was student.

The circumstances under which I wrote those exams require a whole blog to outline, suffice to say that, I had been hit by a car along Harare’s Rotten Row the previous month and suffered injuries to my hip joint rendering me unable to walk.

I had written my examinations after being carried on the backs of fellow students from one exam room venue to the next – but that’s a story for another blog.

On this Monday of 2004, I was being kicked out and I had no clue how I was to walk from the house of my uncle where I had lived since I was 14 to my boyfriend’s home which was about 15 minutes walk away.

For starters, my hip hadn’t really healed so I had trouble walking – it hurt incredibly to even move, let alone attempt to carry my bags and measly belongings and present myself at my boyfriend’s doorstep claiming refuge for myself and the baby I was carrying.

As fate would have it, one of my dearest friends from High School whom I had not seen in over a year had returned to Zimbabwe and called to say she was coming over to visit me and catch up.

I remember telling her that visiting me was not a good idea because I had just been ordered to vacate the premises and I wasn’t even sure if I would be welcomed at my boyfriend’s home.

I don’t think I cried that day.

Maybe I had known and expected this course of action from my aunt – that kicking me out was what the average parent or guardian does under the circumstances.

Anyway, I packed what I could and my heart was aggrieved at all the piles of cherished novels and books I could not take with me.

I had no idea how exactly I would walk to my boyfriend’s house and my aunt had not specified what time exactly she would be returning from town so I had no clear sense of deadline, only the knowledge that I was no longer welcome there.

The answer came in the form of my friend, Kisha, who showed up at the door even after I had warned her that she might not be met with a warm welcome as I myself had now become persona non grata.

She showed up regardless of the fact that she had just arrived from a grueling 12 hour journey from SA and hadn’t even seen me in over a year.

She showed up because that’s what real friends do when you’ve gotten yourself into trouble – they show up.

It was Kisha who carried the luggage and it was Kisha who bore the weight of my body leaning against hers for support.

It was Kisha who made jokes about the situation, made me laugh so hard that although it took me double the time to get to my boyfriend’s home – I wasn’t in a state of despair.

It was Kisha who saw me off to what would become my premature marriage to a very young man of 23 that I was madly in love with.

What should have been the worst day of 2004 was saved only because a wonderful friend of mine showed up and for that I am grateful.

I don’t know how I would have made it without her, Kisha has a habit of ‘showing up’ especially when the going gets tough.

...Confi, we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..

…we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..

This blog is to say (in many words) that I love you and I am so thankful you showed up when you did.

There are thousands of memories I have of you and countless acts of kindness you have bestowed upon me but somehow – I remembered 12 July 2004.

Thank you Confie.

Let your life be your own fault

People who don’t know me well often think I am reckless, those who know me better think I’m courageous and those who really know me; have long resigned themselves to the fact that I will always do precisely what I want to do.

And sometimes the precise thing that I want to do also happens to be the wrong thing to do so my close friends usually express their disapproval, give me warnings and then dutifully step aside because when all is said and done – Delta is going to do what Delta wants to do.

My life is almost always entirely my own fault, whatever goes right and whatever goes wrong can be traced back to a decision I made or neglected to make.

…you can’t learn from your mistakes if you won’t even own up to them

But I am neither courageous nor particularly reckless; I am just someone who lives life by making a risk assessment that I have dubbed ‘the worst case scenario’.

I think I started to live that way after I lost my parents and realized that I would have to largely depend on myself to figure out what to do in times of crisis, confusion or uncertainty.

The end result has been a life lived full of errors, trailed by the nasty consequences of bad choices for which no one can take the blame except myself and invaluable lessons for which no one can take credit except myself.

In any event, I taught myself to never do anything whose price I am unprepared or unwilling or incapable of paying.

If I am going to do something I know is wrong, I ask myself ‘what is the worst possible outcome of this decision’, I ask myself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen if I decide to do this very wrong thing that I so badly want to do’.

If I figure out what the very worst thing that can happen is, then I ask myself, ‘if this worst thing possible happened, would I be able to live with it?’

If my answer is yes, then I will go ahead and do the thing that I know is wrong that I so badly want to do.

If I know that I cannot afford to pay the price for an action because the ‘worst case scenario’ is something I am unable to absorb; then I just quit and let the thing pass.

In other words, I live my life by pushing the moral envelope; by taking every choice to its extremities and avoiding the murky shades of grey.

I must be as aware of the wrong choices that I make as I am of the right ones and as accountable for the bad decisions I take as I am for the good ones.

If you’re unprepared to face the consequences of a given course of action – then don’t pursue it.

Someone once noted that the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are often one and the same.

Congratulations on whatever good choices you’ve made in your life and big up to you for the right decisions you’ve opted for along the way… but for the wrong choices and for the bad decisions; I hope you take full responsibility – there are far too many people who simply refuse to acknowledge their mess.

Don’t be one of them. You don’t own your life until you ‘own’ your mistakes.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts”.

No. I won’t give a eulogy

A while ago I had a nightmare in which my best friend Talema Moyo had died. The sharpness of that pain woke me up and long after I had realized it was just a bad dream – the feeling of loss and regret lingered.

Loss because she has always been there and I mean through the good and the worst… she has been a witness to my life. I remember a character in the movie Shall We Dance who said:

We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

That character was talking about her marriage but for me those sentiments capture the way I feel about my best friend. I love her beyond words and if she died I don’t know what the hell I would do and although it is selfish of me – I always hope I die first.

…did you ever know that you’re my hero?

I think she has always been the stronger one of the two of us and perhaps she will bear the loss better than I could. I love her because our friendship has always been about goodness.

In a world where so much bad happens, our friendship has come to represent all that is precious and beautiful. And being the flawed person that I am (who has committed more than her fair share of wrongs) our friendship represents the good in me because she brings it out -always.I would truly be lost without her.

Besides the feeling of loss, the dream invoked in me feelings of regret because I felt like she hadn’t really known how much I loved her. It was why her death had hurt so much because it seemed too soon, too sudden and there were things I felt I had to say but in the dream it was too late and she was already dead.

These were things I would have to say in her eulogy at her funeral but she wouldn’t be alive to hear them. So I hope to never give her a eulogy, no. I will say what needs to be said now. I will say it while I still can.

It was her birthday on the 26th of February and I stayed up preparing a recording for her. I sang a song for her to try and express how much she means to me BUT then I never sent it (I have it on my phone).

I didn’t send it to her because I have a terrible voice and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get the song to come out the way it sounded when Bette Milder sang it. The song I sang for her was Wind Beneath My Wings. Considering that my friend has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard so I was ashamed to send that recording where I was sounding less than spectacular.

Because while I may be praised for whatever I have accomplished very few people know that my best friend has been the driving force for about 15 years now.Below are the lyrics of that song and I can relate to every word:

It must have been cold there in my shadow,
to never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.

So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

I don’t want to give a eulogy when she dies… I want to say all that needs to be said now. To tell her that she is amazing beyond words, that I know God wanted to convince just how much He loved me by blessing me with her friendship.

I want to say it now before she is no more. That she has believed in me against all odds and that I tire of living up to the high expectations she has for me. I want to say I am indebted to her in ways I could never repay.

And I want to let her know that she is the wind beneath my wings because I am afraid that one day I might wake up and find my nightmare has turned into reality.

…thank you for the silence

Thank you for allowing the silence, for not taking offence at my decision to crawl under a rock and choose obscurity.

Thank you for understanding even though your emails got no reply and your text messages got no response and your online chats encountered nothing more than a blank screen.
It’s just the words are not there. They are no where to be found. And I am afraid to substitute them with tears – because if I start crying I don’t know how I would stop.

To grieve for a thing that died a slow and maddening death is hard to do… because it is hurt piled upon hurt and mostly regret stuffed into more regrets.

Thank you for allowing the silence; for knowing something’s wrong and waiting for me to say it out loud.

Thank you for not pushing it, for not pelting me with questions about ‘what’s the matter’ because you know I know where to find you when I am ready to talk.

Thank you for letting me keep it all inside because if I let it out it becomes real, overwhelming and out of my control.

Thank you for picking up your phone at the very first ring, even though your own calls went unanswered and the voicemail messages you left were ignored.

Thank you for waiting until I was ready to say the words out loud. To say it to myself and admit it to you too.

To say, “It mattered and I lost it. It mattered and now its gone. And the loss is more horrible because it died long before I could bring myself to accept that it was no more.”

And now I grieve over the carcass of what once was, and mourn over the skeleton of what could have been and words fail me.

So I let the silence fill this space – there are no words, I cannot find them.

So thank you for allowing the silence.

Your friends see a little clearer… sometimes

If you’ve ever been head over heels in love with a guy, you’ll admit that that guy became your blind spot. And sometimes the only thing standing between us and a horrible heartache-waiting-to-happen kind of relationship is the vigilance of good friends.

When you’re in love with someone (or you fancy them a lot), your emotions cloud your judgement and you need to have good friends whose judgement you can depend on when your own judgement is compromised. It’s easier said than done.

(pic from: forum.xcitefun)

Meeting a new person is great and when you really really like them – you want to make sure all the other important people in your life like him too. And what better way of making sure your friends approve of the new man in your life than to launch a massive marketing campaign in which you highlight how wonderful he is?

When they ask what he’s like, you’re going to be eager to paint a picture-perfect portrait of your newfound Romeo, and occasionally you may be tempted to oversell him. Because the truth is our real friends tend to be non-negotiable in our lives. We never want to find ourselves in a situation where we are forced to choose between our girlfriends and our new man.

So we are desperate to make sure the new man impresses our friends, charms and wins them over because their approval is like a badge we can proudly wear knowing that there are witnesses to our good fortune. We want to feel we’re lucky to have found this guy and we want our friends to validate our feelings.

(pic from: friendship quotes yorkshire rose)

And there is nothing inherently wrong with this, except in those times when we just happen to fall for the wrong guy or for the guy who’s just not right for you. You need your friends to have your back because they’ll be able to see what your blind spot prevents you from seeing. And to say what you don’t want to hear but what you may really NEED to hear.

Friends are good at looking out for us, especially when they know what’s going on with us. Here are few tips to help them spare you a little heartache. You’ll thank them one day.

1) Be frank. If you’re the one actively chasing him, you know there’s a problem right there but you can’t help your obsessiveness because you’re soooooo into him. Confess this to a friend and they’ll scold you out of acting so desperate.

2) Be vulnerable. The funny thing is we get very embarrassed to admit to our friends when we know there’s something dodgy about the guy we like because we know in their protectiveness our friends will work round the clock to pry our hearts out that man’s clutches. Have a little faith in your friends.

(pic from: forum.xcitefun)

3) Don’t mislead. Lying to our friends is not cool so in instances where we feel the truth might not serve our purpose (i.e. marketing the new guy) we go for half-truths. We don’t tell the whole story because we want our friends to see what a great guy he is. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because people’s true colours always get revealed eventually.

4) Don’t fake it. When we like a guy we over-exxagerate how great he is and how accomplished he is. We fake some social credentials to beef up his CV to our friends. Wrong move! Be vulnerable – your friends already know all the dumb shit you’ve ever done and they’ve watched you make a fool of yourself countless times so you can let your guard down. They can’t protect you if they’re ill-informed.

5) Confide. Don’t cover for him – its one of the worst judgement calls to make. Tell your friends what worries you about this guy. The things that just make you feel ill at ease. of course you’re welcome to pretend he is a saint but eventually you’re going to want complain about his faults anyway – you might as well come clean about the things you don’t like about him. Covering up for your man eventually leads to self-isolation and compromises your support system structure because no one really knows what’s going on with you and what you need them to help you through.

6) Trust. Your friends love you, they really care about you and your happiness is serious business to them. So don’t assume they will be out to diss your new man for the fun of it. Chances are they would all really rather see the good side of him for your sake. And they’ll make an effort to like him because you like him. Usually they’ll take your word about his character until they get know him for themselves and make independent (usually more balanced) judgements about him.

7) Don’t get defensive. Your friends know you and they will notice the change that new man brings in your life. They will see the transformations in your personality and priorities no matter how subtle they may be. And when the changes are good, they’ll be rooting for you and for him but if the changes are bad – don’t get defensive. Hear them out because they will never accuse him of being bad for you without the evidence to back it up.

Friends are good at gathering evidence and usually their main evidence is YOU and how you’ve changed. Every relationship changes you because every relationship requires some degree of behavioural modification that is specifically tailor-made for that particular new person who’s entered your life.

(pic from: friendship quotes and poems)

Not all friends will be able to look out for you because some of them don’t want to offend or hurt your feelings. And sometimes they just know you’re stubborn and figure the best way is to let you see for yourself what a loser this new guy is. But sometimes, friends do see a little clearer – trust their judgement. They may not know him like you do – but they sure as hell know YOU. They may not be authoritative sources when it comes to him but they are expert sources when it comes to YOU.