REPUBLISHED: Love and Loss – the heart’s siamese twins

[First published on 24 February 2010…..for all those we loved and let slip through our fingers]

I’ve written to you every day since you left. Formulating sentences in my head and stringing together words that hopelessly fail to capture the depth of what I feel.

I have written to you every day since you left. My mind tiring of the constant need to run away from the thoughts of you that haunt me – my heart tiring of the exhausting enterprise of trying to bury beneath layers of nonchalance what I feel for you.

I’ve written every day since you left. Failing to hold back the miserable tears that take over from where speech fails – a language that only an aching heart can speak. Tears – how eloquent they are and how I welcome them.

Welcome the relief they bring, welcome their silence as they course down my face for it would not do to let the world see my misery – for it is private grief no one can share and a sorrow I cannot seem to escape.

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….our lives are contradictions: how loss and love can be two sides of the same coin and how we can stay whole even when our hearts break

I write to you every day since you left. In a language of sighs and when the mask I wear slips off to reveal how truly wretched I feel – I feign a headache, plug silent earphones to my ears and hope to keep the curious eyes and inquiring glances away from me.

I write to you every day since you left. Crossing roads where we once stood, my mind refusing to forget, even the most mundane of things.

How perverse is the heart, to cling so tenaciously to every memory, to guard so jealously every feature of your face and store so faithfully every dimpled smile that lined it and every frown that marred it.

I write to you every day since you left. Write – because I cannot bring myself to speak of you – cannot bring myself to get the words past this stubborn lump that permanently lodges in my throat… I cannot think your name without this flicker of pain flashing across my heart and I cannot bring myself to speak of you for the tears threaten to overwhelm me. So I write to you every day.

I write of trivial things. To tell you of a bad day at work, with the shadow of your absence hanging over me, to tell you of a headache that I nurse from morning till night from the constant effort of trying to outrun my misery.

I write to you every day since you left. To tell you of my long nights, how I still wake up in the wee hours of the night, in the room that we once lay trying to recapture the scent of you; knowing there’s no trace of you that remains – yet that night is faithfully preserved in my thoughts carefully stored in my heart.

I write to you in my head –every day since you left. But the words freeze at my finger tips and my hand refuses to meet the keyboard… so I know you got none of the letters I wrote.

Now as I lay in that room where we once lay; the wind howling outside my window – I allow myself to weep. To grieve for you as I have refused to do; for to cry would be to acknowledge that I am hurt – that the pain is real and not a figment of my imagination.

I cry now, because the yawning silence between us has not diminished what I feel; I cry because that’s what I do when I run out of options – when my mind has tired itself and my heart has grown weary of the constant ache.

Tears are an ugly thing. So pitiable, they are a capitulation – an acceptance that life has beaten me once again, that I must accept defeat and that I must embrace my loss.

I write to you every day since you left. I write of places I avoid because they remind me of you – no more spicy pies from that Oriental deli you loved and I write of the pathetic lurch in my chest that I can’t stop every time I come across the car you once drove, my heart squeezing in pain at the maroon sight of it.

I write to you every day since you left. My feet hurrying to work each morning in a vain attempt to outrace my thoughts – how I drown myself in work, trying to marshal my thoughts to coherence and gather my scattered emotions into a mask of composure.

I write to you every day since you left. I write to tell you of my longing, of my yearning and of my impossible love for you.

Impossible because you are too far – yet I would follow you to the ends of the earth… my heart leading me to find you wherever you are.

Impossible because you were too late or I was too hasty.

Impossible because our paths crossed when I had made promises I had naively thought I could keep – yet I would give it all up; my own happiness taking precedence over any sense of duty. I never was one who could live a lie in order to conform.

I write to you every day since you left. To tell you of little sorrows – of a cellphone that got stolen, of how my only regret was that your precious numbers vanished into the void of an automated voice telling me the number I’m dialing is not reachable.

I write to you every day since you left. Sorting through the clothes I wore when I was with you, the bitter-sweetness of remembrance and how I smile against my will as my mind relives moments that only you could have given to me – moments preserved by a mind that refuses to forget you and a heart that refuses to stop loving you.

I write to you today because the words would not remain sealed within the confines of my mind. Because for once, the fingers were willing to let the emotions come alive on the computer screen – to give shape to the feelings that elude me.

I write at last – fearing that I may drown myself in the attempt to drown what I feel and that I may lose myself in the attempt to forget you.

So I go through the motions – laughing on cue and pasting a smile on my face; I fool the world but I do not fool myself.

I miss you. I miss you as if —-

As if I could not face the next hour without you – and yet I find I do.

As if I could not face one more day without you – and yet I find I do.

As if I could not go through one more night without you – and yet I find I do.

As if I could not endure one more week without you – and yet I find I do.

As if I could not survive one month without you – and yet I find that I almost have.

As if I could not make it till the end of the year without you – and yet I suspect I shall.

I write to tell you of these things – of the irony of life: how life has the audacity to go on despite our pain. How the sun has the temerity to keep shining despite our gloom and how the birds have the gall to sing in spite of our personal grief and oh, the brutality of it – how the flowers dare to bloom while our hearts wilt.

I write to you every day. To ask how you are, to tell you that I wonder if you think of me as much as I think of you. I write to ask whether you still remember me at all or if in travelling, you have had the fortune to meet new faces and the luxury to forget old ones?

I write to you every day. To ask you whether the ache in my heart resonates with yours? Or whether you have perfected the art of insulating your heart from the inconvenient tangling of emotions?

I write to you every day. To ask you if your mind ever strays to me – if you ever allow your fingers to hover over the keys thinking you might want to write something to me.

I write to you every day since you left. To wonder what you’re doing, to wonder whether you’re happy, well? To wonder every other minute whether you’re smiling, laughing, talking, sleeping or walking. I write to tell you that I hope you are happy, that I hope you are loved, embraced and accepted – that you are treated with kindness because someone as precious as you deserves no less.

I write to you every day since you left. To tell you that I hope those who meet you recognize you for the special soul you are and that one day as you unpack your suitcase, from yet another journey – you may find the heart you unwittingly packed from Africa – my heart.

At my strongest – I am the mother of Simphiwe

There are many things I am uncertain of, even fearful about but the greatest of them is my fear of failing you, my child.

Simphiwe - your name means 'we have been given' - and boy, am I glad  I got blessed with you!

Simphiwe – your name means ‘we have been given’ – and boy, am I glad I got blessed with you!

It is inconceivable to me to ever give up, ever give in or ever lose hope regardless of life’s endless obstacles because I know whatever becomes of me, will have a huge impact in what will become of you.

I refuse to be the one that lets you down. Ever.

You are the balm that heals me, much faster and more effective than waiting for the ministration of time.

Ever since you were a baby, nothing soothed my spirit like holding you close, breathing in the sweet scent of you and feeling the familiar flood of emotion that swept away any other feeling save for my all-consuming love for you and with it, my determination to always be strong for you.

At my strongest, I am your mother.

This is the identity in which I am all but invincible for I would kill before I let myself fail you and I will always push myself to the limits and beyond in protecting your interests.

For you, I would brave anything, endure everything, sacrifice all things and soldier on whatever comes my way.

At my strongest, I am the mother of Simphiwe… and the converse is true because at my weakest, I am the mother of Simphiwe.

You are my weakness, my vulnerability, the chink in my armor and the reason I will always be prepared, willing and able to place myself between you and harm.

I thank God for you.

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.

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.

We’re just a bunch of ‘tryers’

My close friends and I congregate around whatsapp messaging quite often because most of them live out of the country so keeping tabs on one another is an endeavor requiring more effort than before.

Over the years, I have noticed that the texture of our conversations have changed and without realizing it – adulthood crept up on us.

...if we've survived the drama of the last decade, we'll survive whatever the next decade throws at us!

…if we’ve survived the drama of the last decade, we’ll survive whatever the next decade throws at us!

The carefree years of high school life (where the biggest problem was which love proposal to accept or reject) made way for bigger dilemmas involving whether to accept and live with the fact that our husbands have mistresses or simply pack up and get out of the stagnation caused by interminable love triangles.

We have chosen different paths, prioritized different things and now with the age of 30 looming ahead of us – we are all taking stock of what we did with the last decade of our lives and grappling with whether or not we made the right choices.

All I have been able to ascertain as I have reflected on where the years have gone and on what we did with our lives in that time frame is that we did with our lives the only thing anyone can do – we tried.

All of us tried.

Whether we failed or succeeded, at least we gave it all a shot and for better or worse the choices we made over the years have brought each one of us to where we are today.

We are just a bunch of tryers.

We have tried to follow our hearts, and where we lacked the courage to do so, we have followed the expectations of others.

We have rebelled against our families in the name of love, shacking up with men who never paid any bride price but went on to impregnate other women while we waited on them to go meet with our elders and set things right.

We have wasted years deserting our spouses only to reconcile with them before changing our minds and calling it quits or we have spent the years following our men across the globe – trying to make the reality of marriage and relationships tally with what we once fantasized it to be.

We have held on longer than we should and sometimes we have let go too soon but in all those things – we have tried.

We have made mistakes in some things and we have learnt from them but the older we grow the more afraid we are of making the wrong choices because it seems as though our chances of rectifying them become more limited with each passing year.

As we get to 30 we start to think, ‘if I don’t do this degree now, I might never get round to doing it at all’ or ‘if I don’t accept this marriage proposal now, I might never find someone else’ or ‘if I don’t have a child now, I might struggle having one later’.

It feels as though the clock ran out on us and suddenly we’re just trying to catch up with all the things we thought we’d have done and accomplished at 30.

Whether we choose our careers ahead of our love-life or chose love and familial duty over careers – we get to stop in our tracks now and check if the gamble paid of.

I may not be certain as to what the next decade of our lives will hold but all we can do is what we have been doing all along – all we can do is try.

Try to make the right choices and where we fail, we simply dust ourselves up and try again.

We will try to love the right people for the right reasons and at the right time and in the right way – and where we fail we will bruise our souls, break our hearts and grieve our spirits on our way to getting over them.

We will make tough choices and sacrifices concerning whether we will leave or stay; fight or reconcile; hold grudges or forgive.

We will just try to do the best we can with what we have wherever we will be. No more, no less. So to my girls…here’s to another decade of trying.

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.'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”.

An ode to those that broke us

I remarked the other day to some of my friends that we had to take a moment and toast all the men who had walked into our lives, walked all over us, trampled upon our hearts and then walked out on us.

I said each one of them had forced us to seek solace in our work, in the dreams we pursued and in the aspirations that we once might have chosen to forfeit.

If you’ve ever had someone rip out your heart, tear out your guts, shred your confidence and make you feel like you were walking around with excrement stuffed in your bra – then you are a good candidate for dream chasing.

Dream chasers are people whose dreams are better than the reality of their lives.

The harder your life is, the more susceptible you are to being a dreamer – fantasizing about how your life could be different and what you could do to make it so.

And sometimes we have idyllic childhoods, perfect family backgrounds and wonderful educational opportunities but then we end up falling in love with the wrong person.

And the wrong person is not necessarily some heartless devil but sometimes it is someone who is too selfish to give you up even when they know they cannot reciprocate the love you feel for them.

Someone once said that we are never as defenceless against suffering as when we love.

When you love someone you can’t defend yourself from them – you are entirely at their mercy. The tragedy is that too many people have little mercy to spare.

Show some mercy.

We often can’t help who we love and oftentimes it is hard to even explain why we love that particular person when there are perhaps other ‘better’ candidates who want to avail themselves to us.

The most fragile person is a person who’s in love and the strongest person alive is the person who’s loved – who holds in their palm the precious heart of another.

And the most dangerous person in the world is the one who knows they are loved but doesn’t give a damn about it.

When we love we are defenceless against suffering at the hands of the person upon whom we have bestowed our affections.

And one of the coping mechanisms of broken-hearted people, is to redirect their focus to other things that they have some semblance of control over – things they can exert their will upon.

Confronted with the merciless pain inflicted by someone that doesn’t love you anymore or that never loved you at all and finding yourself incapable of extricating your heart from them – you pour yourself into something else that can distract you.

And for some of the women I know, and myself as well – career and school and our talents and our ambitions and our dreams have afforded us the opportunity to rise again and move past the hurts we’ve suffered.

Career advancement, academic triumph, opportunities to travel and exploit our potential and talents may not undo the damage caused but they have inevitably made the pain count for something.

If indeed we had to suffer, then at least the product of that suffering should become something that will matter to us long after our wounds have healed.

So I said to some of my friends – as they celebrated the attainment of new milestones in their careers, in their academic pursuits and in opportunities to travel and explore the world – let’s pause and drink to the men whose cruelties pushed us to our limits, forced us out of our comfort zones and brought us face to face with our own raw potential.

Let’s say an ode to those who broke us because in picking up the pieces – we were able to build something meaningful out of the emotional devastation of loving the wrong person at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.