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.

May I live as I believe

I woke up to a distant memory.

19 years ago an 11 year old staged a mutiny, rebelled against ritual and stood her ground against custom…. *sigh*

I’m making it sound more dramatic than it actually was.

Let me start again.

When I was young I went to boarding school for the better part of my Primary education and the family ritual was that we had to spend one holiday of each calendar year visiting my mother’s side of the family in Tshapfutshe and Tshaswingo, places that were remote and snuggled very close to South Africa.

Each year. Religiously. Without fail. Non-negotiably. We were packed into the car by my mother and transported to my maternal relatives.

I loved my mother’s side of the family but I did not like the discomfort of staying with them.

I adored my maternal grandparents but I couldn’t stand the fact that there was rarely a book to read and I would resort to picking up random scraps of paper in despair just to quench my thirst for the written word.

And my mother’s side of the family spoilt us rotten whenever they got the chance.

Goats slaughtered. Chickens and sheep too.

My maternal uncles would fall over each other parading their prized cattle before my grandmother insisting theirs was the fatter option to slaughter for the new arrivals who graced them one holiday per year.

My mother’s side of the family was full of fun, side-splitting family drama and one was guaranteed days of endless laughter, adventure and ‘royal treatment’.

But that holiday. When I was in Grade 6, I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t have a special reason for not wanting to go – I just didn’t want to go anywhere.

I wanted to stay at home in rural Siyoka, by the Makhado highway, close to the Jopembe hills and about 20 kilometres from Mazunga and approximately 80 kilometres before Beitbridge town.

This was home. It was where I wanted to be. I did not want to be anywhere else.

I was rather untactful in broaching the subject with my mother (something that the 30 year old me can now admit with the requisite winces and cringes).

I had interrupted my mother in the stream of her enthused speech about the pending holiday plans for Tshapfutshe… the clothes that needed to be packed, the date of departure and the estimated day of return as well as the things we could look forward to.

I had interrupted my mother midstream to mumble, “But I don’t want to go”.

Now I have to make something else clear.

These trips to my mother’s side of the family where ritualistic in more than one sense.

They were a ritual because we always went.

One holiday out of each calendar year we would be packed off.

But these trips also represented a more veiled struggle on the part of my mother who would begin negotiating with my father long before the holidays in order to get ‘clearance’ to ship us off.

And whenever we actually made the trips, it represented an immense triumph for my mother – she would have bargained her way into making the trips a reality and keep her family from complaining of how little they saw of us.

My father was stingy with us.

Not in a mean way. Just in a proprietorial ‘these-are-my-precious-kids-and-I-cant-really-trust-anyone-to-take-better-care-of-them sort of way.

It must have been annoying to all our relatives – both maternal and paternal – who wanted to have us over but had to contend with his ‘mother bear’ attitude.

Guarantees had to be made.

Guarantees that we would be safe while we were away. That someone would keep an eye on us at all times and that my father would be immediately informed if anything went wrong.

To understand this quirky behavior that my father exhibited you can read my blog on him titled “My Father – a man of emotions”.

Back to my mother.

So here I was. All 11 years of me. Interrupting my mother’s excited torrent of speech to say, “But I don’t want to go”.

She stopped and looked at me, “What did you say, Delta?”

And I looked at her and repeated a bit firmly, “I said I don’t want to go”.

I am not sure but I must have worn my expression.

My expression that said you can beat me up right now but I will keep saying exactly what I am saying and you can pack me up kicking and screaming to this holiday you’ve planned but I will keep reminding you that I said I don’t want to go.

The others were quiet. Looking at me like I was a troublemaker.

Looking at me like I would get all of them in trouble too.

My mother was Sotho, very light, with a light peppering of hair on a mole on her chin that was made more discernible by her light complexion and she had a fierce temper.

My mother’s anger was like spontaneous combustion when you tripped her up. Instantaneous. Lethal. And unbridled.

Her temper was made more fearsome by the fact that she was – on the surface of it – very accommodating, easy-going and warm until you got on her wrong side.

So here I was, 11 year old me saying I didn’t want to go and spend the holiday with her side of the family after all the trouble she had gone to with behind-the-scenes negotiations to make this trip happen.

I hadn’t meant to blurt it out.

But it slipped out. As a mumble. An ill-timed mumble that unfortunately coincided with her catching a breath in mid-speech.

I had said it and now I did not want to swallow it. Because I meant it.

And because the others were watching me.

And because I knew if she hit me I could take it.

And also because I had a niggling suspicion that if she hit me, my father would not be pleased that my mother was resorting to beatings just to get me to go on holiday.

My father would probably have said (rather gleefully and triumphantly I imagine) something like, “Leave her alone, if she doesn’t want to go let her stay”.

In any event that’s not how it went down.

Instead my mother gave me a penetrating stare as if to weigh the level of my determination by the look on my face.

Then she completely surprised me by saying, “Fine. If you don’t want to go, you are not going.”

Then she turned to face the others and kept talking, more enthusiastically now.

Painting vivid pictures of all the fun those who were going would have – placing emphasis on those who were going.

The conversation took a rather sour turn from there.

My mother spoke of how those who were going would naturally have to go into Beitbridge town and get new clothes.

Those who were going would naturally be gifted with chickens which they had permission to come back with and add to their existing flock.

Those who were going might even see my SA-based maternal uncles who would be coming down for Easter with lots of goodies just for them.

In fact, said my mother, those who were going should prepare a list of what goodies they wanted from South Africa so she would make sure that they were delivered.

And so it went. The subtle emotional blackmail. But I stood my ground.

Yes, it would have been nice to have all the benefits of going without actually having to go but I just wanted to stay home.

And so I stayed. And they left me. All of them. A whole holiday at the homestead by myself with no one except the help.

No one to play with. No one to talk to. Nothing.

That was when I wrote these lines of what was meant to be a poem;

We choose to stay when we can go
And sometimes we choose to go when we can stay
So I guess life is about choosing

I think I may have written a lot more than that but it escapes me now. Anyway.

That incident taught me something. The power of choosing.

If I could choose now, I would go.

I would go to make my mother happy had I known I would have her for such a short time in my life.

But what’s done is done.

I am very big on choices and on owning the consequences of those choices.

I have stayed in bad places because I did not have the courage to admit to myself that I had put myself in a bad situation.

And let me tell you something. Sometimes people are places.

They are places we create in our lives and stick to even when they’re so clearly wrong for us.

I have found that knowing I have the choice to go is what makes staying a delight.

There are places (read people) that I will never leave because they matter to me.

But then there are places (read people) I have come across and walked past.

Regardless of what others may have thought, regardless of what they will think and regardless of all the ‘fun’ they will have on their journey – I will always chart my own path.

I will go where I want to go.

I will love who I want to love.

I will leave whomever I want to leave (as others will choose to leave me too at one point or another).

I will be who I want to be.I will not apologize for this.

I will always be the girl who stays when others go or the one who goes when others stay for no other reason than that it is my choice.

As I turn 30, I remind myself to not inconvenience myself just to fall into the plans of others. I remind myself to live as I believe.

I am what I am.

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) - my brother Dalton is the best of them!

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) – my brother Dalton is the best of them!

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.

Time flies…regardless of what we’re doing

There is nothing as disempowering as indecision. When you’re undecided about anything you’re stagnant and in a state of paralysis until you figure out what you want to do, where you want to go and how you want to get there.

It should be the easiest thing to know what we want but sometimes what we want might be so lofty that we are afraid to admit it to ourselves, let alone others. The funny thing is that sometimes the only way to identify what your dream is – is to identify the one thing you desire that you’re too scared to tell anyone about.

Our dreams scare us because they seem so unattainable at first and they seem so improbable that we don’t share them with anyone else to avoid looking or feeling foolish.

…time flies while we make sacrifices…it flies while we are stagnant and undecided.

We are all afraid of making the wrong choices, having regrets in the future and of going down the wrong path. So decision-making is at the core of our aspirations but to make those decisions we must be able to admit to ourselves (if no one else) what it is we truly really want deep, deep down in our hearts.

Sometimes we do know what we want but we lie to ourselves and pretend that we want something different because we know that what we truly want would require sacrifices of us that we’re unwilling to make.

Sacrifices are painful to make and decisions are hard to make because they entail making admissions to ourselves and to other people about what we really want. Most of us end up making the easy choice of doing what we’re expected to do even when it conflicts with what we truly desire.

Decisions often get tougher when something important to you is at stake…. The more it matters to you, the harder the decision becomes because the things we care about are the ones we are reluctant to compromise on.

Yet in many cases we choose to cave in, to compromise and to choose the path that seems easiest because we are scared of making the wrong choice. We wonder, – what if we follow the dream and it’s a dead end? Wouldn’t it have been better to just follow the crowd so that even if our lives turn out badly, we can find anonymity in numbers?

Well time flies…. It flies while we’re failing to make up our minds and decide what we want.

Time flies when you make a sacrifice…take the leap and chase your goal…. It flies when you sit around, wringing your hands in despair wondering what you’re going to do.

Time flies…. We can’t change that. But we get to decide what we’ll be doing with ourselves while the clock ticks away. It takes courage to make a decision and stick with it… don’t let time pass you by while you wallow in indecision.

We don’t know who we help

When you are good at something, its easy to take it for granted. It’s easy because we’ve been taught that only the things we work hard at deserve any acknowledgement.

The things we do easily – that come almost naturally to us – happen to be the things we tell ourselves are not a big deal.

For me, writing is one of those things. It’s easy to do and it’s enjoyable and it comes almost effortlessly. I get embarrassed when I receive praise for it because I feel like a fraud.

In fact in my more self-deprecating moments, I tell myself that anyone can do what I do because… well… what I do is easy.

So easy in fact that if I stopped doing it, it wouldn’t be such a loss to anyone because it’s not like I was doing anything special. I was just writing about stuff. Anyone can do that, right?

Well, I am discovering (rather belatedly) that I do have a talent and that writing is that talent and that it is a big deal regardless of the ease with which it comes to me.

A while ago, I was going through a really rough patch and one of the things I wanted to do was quit writing and blogging. I figured no one would miss it anyway.

I didn’t think it would make any difference. I didn’t think it would register with anyone. Who would really notice or care about the absence of a column in a weekly or the staleness of an un-updated blog… or the silence of an authorial voice?

One of the reasons why the decision to quit writing and blogging seemed so simple was that I didn’t really feel like what I did was that important, or that it really mattered or made a difference to anyone.

If I stopped writing, I wouldn’t be hurting anyone because (after all) it wasn’t like my writing was actually helping anyone.

But the truth is when you are good at something you have a duty to do it to the best of your ability. We never know who we’re helping when we just choose to be the best version of ourselves we can be – and being the best often starts with making the most of our God-given talents.

In subtle ways, you make a difference. Even when you’re not aware of who you’re helping or whose life you’re impacting.

Be the best you can be. You owe the world that much and you owe yourself no less.

This picture is of me 10 years ago… I have always loved the blankness of a page – what have you always loved?

…why we wait in vain

We wait in vain because we hope in vain. That is the problem with hoping – we just don’t have any idea where to stop – where to just admit that it’s hopeless.

HOPE... keeps you thinking the end is in sight

We hope in vain because sometimes we love in vain. That is problem with loving – we just love so deeply – we are blinded by emotion and fail to see that we’re wasting time that we can never reclaim.

We waste time because we’re so desperate to get what we desire that we believe the lies, the promises and the assurances despite the fact that the actions negate what the lips claim.

Recently I voiced out the opinion that a couple who had announced plans to get married after having known each other for just six months were “rushing” into marriage and should really get to know each other better before taking the plunge.

Feeling like a sage, for dispensing this morsel of wisdom; I was surprised when several male colleagues made it their business to tell me in no uncertain terms that that sort of logic doesn’t follow when it comes to deciding on a marital partner.

They shared of how they had been in long term relationships with women they later on did not marry – some going on for as long as 8 to 10 years and the families of both individuals comfortably settling into in-law relations assuming that it was just a matter of time before the relationship was formalized.

...when we hope in vain we shut our eyes to reality

It occurred to me then, that there was a lot of truth in their observations because I know many women who have stuck it out with a guy for years and waited in vain for the fellow to pop the question.

Shifting from hope, to frustration, to anger, to desperation (and back to hoping again) – over a series of years while life passes them by as they keep vigil over a man who has no intention of marrying them.

They watch the days melt into one another, worry over their biological clocks and hang in there hoping their patience will pay off and that the years they have invested in the relationship will count for something because starting all over again is too daunting a prospect to contemplate.

So sometimes we wait in vain because we want the years we’ve invested in a person to count for something – we want it all to have been worthwhile.

Too many people just won’t cut their losses – they don’t want to be a laughing stock; they don’t want to lose the image they cultivated for years as one half of a couple.

So they wait in vain – give up on opportunities to travel, to explore, to pursue certain careers or further certain goals – academic or otherwise – because they want to stay with the one they love. They don’t want make decisions that will jeopardize the stability of the relationship because being in a stable relationship guarantees them a greater chance of getting married and so they sacrifice – sacrifice and wait in vain.

In the end I think we wait in vain because we’re afraid that we’ll be sorry if we never find someone as “wonderful” as the person we’re with. We wait because we’re convinced a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

...sometimes when we lose hope it is the only way we can let go

We wait because we have expectations and dreams we’ve built around that individual and we’re not willing to relinquish those aspirations. No. We want it to work. We want to make it work. So we wait… and wait… and wait. But it’s all in vain.

Perhaps the problem with hope is that it is seductive, luring us into a false sense of security, enabling us to hold on to our illusions a little longer – permitting us to make our fanciful wishes appear legitimate and sapping our will to walk away.

Remember me (or maybe not)

This year I forgot to remember the day my mother died. I mean I went through the entire day without even thinking of her, without stopping to be sad or to be appropriately somber. Even now the admission makes me feel wretched.

When I realized what had happened, I was ashamed – ashamed that the wounds had healed -ashamed that the tears had dried up, ashamed that I had carried on with life, ashamed that I had lived while my mother had not.

What kind of a daughter was I? How could I have forgotten to remember?

...we all forget the people we love that's why we 'remember' them. For remembrance presupposes that one had forgotten. For it is not human nature for one to remember unless first they forget...

How is it possible that when we lose the ones we love – we are convinced that we will never ever get over it? And how is it that time has the gumption to heal us without our consent and often without us realizing it?

How is it possible that the dagger of pain that lodges in our heart when we lose someone we love eventually shrinks and fades into a distant memory? And how is it possible that life fills us with so much to do we barely find the time to sit and ponder where the pain disappeared to?

How is it possible that the anguish of the loss can so disorient us, that we find ourselves adrift without a compass to navigate life’s hazards? And how is it possible that we make choices, one way or the other and find we’ve reached the destination on our own?

How is it possible that the grief which tears at our guts recedes into a barely perceptible ache? And why is it that our hearts continue to beat when we no longer have the will to live?

How is it possible that the memories that once besieged us, gradually vacate our minds to make room for the new memories we make along life’s journey?

What right do we have to carry on when the ones we love are gone? I mean what is a more fitting tribute than to grieve and mourn for them, to prove to ourselves and to others that they really mattered, that they still matter and that they’ll always matter?

I find myself thinking, who’ll remember me when I die? Who’ll miss me and who’ll care enough to mark the months, to count the years and to recall so trivial a detail as the date of the day that I die?

Will my son? Will the man I choose to spend my life with? Will my brother or my sister? Will the people I befriended, the people who befriended me and those who helped me or those I too, helped? Who will remember me?

Or will life inexorably go on? Will the memory of me lie discarded in the attic of their minds, gathering layers of dust and tucked away in the recesses of forgetfulness?

I think that if the memory of me brought nothing but sadness to those I cherish, I would much rather they forget me and embrace life. I would rather that they would sing, dance, fall in love and experience every possible wonderful thing before their time runs out.

For I would hate to think that my death would signal the end of their own lives – that in loving me, they chose to hate life – what a horrible waste I would think, what an awful tragedy it would be.

So as I ponder upon it; I find it is not a thing of shame that I did not remember that date – I think it is a thing my mother would have approved of. For she would not want me to build a shrine to her in my head – in the space where I could build dreams of the future; neither would she want me to erect an alter of sadness to pay tribute to her – in the space where I could weave fond memories to share with the grandson she didn’t live to meet.

So when I am dead, may those I love honor the memory of me by living and not by dying.

May those who looked up to me immortalize me by succeeding and not quitting.

May those who cherished me pay tribute to me through laughter and not tears.

And in the words of Christina Rossetti: Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

…in fond memory of my late mother, Virginia Machoeni Ndou (nee Lamola) who’ll always be in my heart though with the inevitable passing of time; she may stray from my mind.