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.

Holding on…

I am a very good let-goer. I let things go. I let people go. I let relationships go. No matter how hard it is, I know how to loosen my grip on something by sheer force of will and I let go.

Because I have never had anything or anyone that hurt me that was worth holding on to. So I let go. Time and again.

Trying to introspect recently on why I stopped writing – really writing – I discovered that it’s because I write to let go and I write to heal and I write to make sense of each loss, each meaningless blow that life deals upon me.

I write to process pain, triumph, living, loving and losing.

But I finally found something I am unable to write away because I now have something I am afraid to let go of. It is not something really, I should say it is someone.

Someone who held the pieces of me together simply by existing. Just knowing he was there, tucked away in his office slaving away editing some story, fretting over deadlines and dispensing his own brand of commonsensical wisdom sufficed to make my world to go on merrily.

My uncle died this year.

I have been telling myself that I will work through the grief later… eventually… when I am ready to let go – I will write about him.

But the day never comes, the moment never presents itself because I don’t want the pain to lessen, I don’t want the blow to be cushioned, I don’t want the suffering to diminish, I don’t want the loss I feel to ease.

I don’t want him to vanish and become just another name in a long list of people that I have loved and lost.

I want to grieve for him every day, to carry the weight of his absence with me wherever I go because I am afraid that if I set it down, I might forget to pick it up again or life might fill my arms with so many other things that there will be no room to carry the memory of his departure.

So I stopped writing to keep remembering… to remember Paul Mambo.

To remember an uncle who loved me like a father, who was fiercely protective of me like a mother and who was so impossibly proud of me… I want to remember the lectures and the lessons; the petty arguments and the major fights; the tantrums I threw and which he tolerated; the joy that lit up his face when I set foot in his office the first day I returned from the UK and the hours of endless teasing over his “old-fashioned” ways.

I remember. And it hurts.

The kind of hurt that congeals your smile into a more pasty version of its former glory, the kind of hurt that makes you trip over your laughter and laces it with the edge of hysteria.

The last picture I took of my Uncle on 25 May 2013 when I'd been teasing him about his white hair and beard advising him to tint it black so he could retain some youthfulness... he, of course, resisted my recommendations. The last picture and the last time we spoke. If I had known it would be the last time... I would have remembered to tell him I love him and to thank him for making the woman I am.

The last picture I took of my Uncle on 25 May 2013 when I’d been teasing him about his white hair and advising him to tint it black so he could retain some youthfulness… he, of course, resisted my recommendations. The last picture and the last time we spoke. If I had known it would be the last time… I would have remembered to tell him I love him and to thank him for making the woman I am.

Holding on is so hard. One day, when I am ready – I will write about that man.

But today is not that day.

Today is another holding on, a little tighter, a little longer, a little harder and a little more desperately to the miserable “if onlys” which are all that remains of what once was.

I miss him.

Miss him selfishly, the kind of missing that makes you want to curl up in a ball and die too. No, today is not the day for letting go. It is not the day, so I will hold on because if I stop holding on, I am afraid that there shall be nothing left of him to mourn.

For memories are such fickle things, so prone to erasure, to distortion, to yellowing around the edges like the pages of a much perused book… so I hold on to the pain a little more because it is real and is the only tribute that seems worthy of the man I lost.

Sometimes, I try to remember what life was like at 2039hrs on Saturday the 20th of July a minute before that fateful text message was delivered to my phone simply stating the irrevocable: “Paul Mambo has died”

If I could have had the presence of mind to text back the only appropriate response would have been: “…and so have I.”

It’s been almost three months and I’m holding on even though life continues to unfold ahead of me, I refuse to step away from the edge of my grief for fear that life might sweep me away in its tide and wrench my pain out of my grip.

I’m just going to stand here. Cry a little more. Hold on a little longer. And die bit by bit… because I can’t seem to write myself back to wholeness. Not today.

From one sister to another…

My dear sister, since you are so intent on dating a married man, I hope the sex is good because that is all you will have to cherish when the whole thing inevitably blows up in your face.

I won’t waste my breath trying to make you see reason because before making the choice to date that married man; you reasoned with yourself and it appears to have had little effect on you.

….if you don’t have the sense to look out for your heart ~ maybe you deserve to get hurt

I know you’re going to remind me (as you no doubt remind yourself repeatedly) that he asked you out, that he sought you out and it’s not your fault that he came chasing after you.

Of course it’s not your fault.

You are not to blame when a tout cat whistles at you or a drunk grabs a huge chunk of your buttocks or a mad man dives at your bosom and squeezes your boobs.

You are not to blame when a married man makes a pass at you.

But you are to blame when you entertain him, when you decide he’s yours for the taking and when you make the choice to become a third wheel.

Anyway, I hope you get your heart broken sooner rather than later, while you’re still young enough to find someone unattached whom you can build a future with.

I know some women will go on for years, even decades, being strung along by a married man who has no intention of making an ‘honest’ woman out of her.

I hope that is not your fate, I would hate for you to waste the best years of your life being a side dish to someone’s main meal.

I am not going to ask whether he’s going to leave his wife for you or not — naivety is a luxury I can ill afford and in fact, I hope he never does.

I imagine if he did leave his wife for you, he’d then marry you and what good would that do you considering that you’ll have tied yourself to a philandering man?

That is hardly a prize worth holding your breath for and I certainly hope his wife (who seems to tolerate and indulge him) can hold on to him so that you’re spared the grief of suffering what she is suffering.

I won’t remind you how unfair you are being to that man’s wife or to his children because you’re not a fool and you already know the impact your unbridled horniness is having on that man’s marriage.

I am certain that you will not let a small matter like the fact that another woman’s marriage is crumbling get in the way of your next earth-shattering orgasm in the arms of your married lover.

You have always been headstrong and I am embarrassed to admit that while I disapprove of your behaviour, I’d still stand at your side when they haul your unrepentant backside before the courts and sue you for knowingly dating a married man.

But I draw the line when it comes to changing your soiled underwear after you’ve contracted some disease and are wasting away because you know how I feel about consequences — we must each face the consequences of our actions.

Can I recommend at this point that you put a little money aside (don’t spend it all on those riotous Dubai shopping sprees) to facilitate a good medical aid because you’re going to need it.

Lastly, dear sister, I hope you grow up fast and the only way people grow up fast is through pain.

So I hope that someone (preferably that married man) hurts you and gives you no option but to grow because you do not seem inclined to do so willingly.

Perhaps something good may yet come of this sordid affair if at the end of it all, you get hurt enough to finally change for the better and grow the hell up.

Feelings are fragile…

This article first appeared in and was written for the Sunday News – a weekly newspaper based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Feelings are fragile things; they get hurt even when they’re not supposed to. Even when the brain explains to them why they shouldn’t be hurt by a certain action or statement — they still curl up in pain and demand that some reparation be made.

Feelings are fragile things and they should never be left lying around for some random person to carelessly trip over them with some reckless word or deed.

Of course hurt feelings heal but they heal only to a certain extent, in fact, they heal only to the extent that you can guarantee that the same harm will not be inflicted again.

So when someone says sorry the brain has to convince our feelings that the apology is sincere and that the harm will not be repeated in future and that the remorse is genuine so that the emotional pain can subside.

But if you live with someone who never apologises for hurting your feelings, you begin to nurse a reservoir of pain and build a wall around your emotions with layers upon layers of resentment because feelings are fragile things.

I think the only thing worse than a person who never apologises when they’ve hurt your feelings is a person who apologises but doesn’t change his/her behaviour.

It is the apology without repentance that wounds the heart because it says that your feelings are inconsequential.

And many married women live with this kind of emotional torment every single day — pasting smiles on their faces to mask festering wounds in their souls.

I know this is true because of the many married men who have small houses and have no intention whatsoever of ever being faithful to their wives or even bothering to respect their marriage.

Feelings are fragile things and too many women live with men who just don’t care about the hurt they cause.

If the prevalence of small houses has taught us nothing, it has at the very least demonstrated that there is an abundance of unrepentant husbands prowling our streets and by extension there are too many wounded wives living in despair.

When someone hurts you, I think there are usually two options — you either fight or flee but when you’re married fleeing is a very frowned upon course of action and fighting is never recommended (because you have a physical disadvantage in that regard).

So married women are told to hold their tongue when their feelings are hurt, apparently keeping silent is the best foolproof marital elixir.

I doubt that pretending something doesn’t hurt and bottling up one’s feelings makes things better but I am open to being persuaded (since I don’t know it all) as to how having someone hurt your feelings and suffering in silence is supposed to make things better.

How does anyone decide that it’s okay for someone to trample all over your feelings, constantly humiliate you and be an endless source of pain to you?

There are many things I find to be outrageous but none of them is as outrageous as the idea that our lives are not within the ambit of our own control.