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?

My writing has packed its bags… and is leaving

I have been struggling to write of late. And it is a frustrating and frightening thing. Frustrating because writing is something that has always come effortlessly to me.

And when I have to exert myself when writing an article; I let it go. I cannot force it.

That is not the kind of relationship that words and I have… I don’t force them to come. There is no coercion just camaraderie.

Words and I. For as long as I can remember we have been ‘in this’ together. And by ‘this’ I mean the business of living. The business of thinking, of questioning things, of seeking answers, of trying to do better, be better and be relevant.

I need the words. I need to write again.

I am frightened. Frightened by this silent treatment my mind gives me when I say to it, “hey why don’t we find words and scribble something up?”.

Writing has always given me release, always allowed me free reign – enabling me to make my thoughts visible where I could not make them audible. I want it back. My writing.

Anyway I have worked it out. Why the words won’t come. Why the writing is being so aloof. It’s because I am distracted. Because my mind is on a leash… tethered to that nasty thing called ‘unfinished business’.

And in my life there are people who go by that name as well – the people I have ‘unfinished business’ with whom I have judiciously avoided dealing with to the point where it is stressing my mind out!

And now even my writing has packed up its bags, is standing at the door and telling me how things won’t work between us unless I get rid of the distractions.

Now the ‘unfinished business’ is people or things that fall into these categories:

1) The hurts I can’t let go of…
There. I said it. Every year end when I sort out through the stuff I want to enter the new year with; there are certain hurts I make sure I pack to take along with me. I keep the hurts, the really deep ones because I want the pain to be a constant reminder of why I should not let people in. Why I should not trust or depend or need anybody. Why I should learn to crawl if I can’t walk rather than accept the outstretched hand of someone offering to help me to my feet. I keep these hurts because they are souvenirs of risks I was once willing to take, gambles I was once brave enough to make and I especially keep them so that I don’t forget the person who inflicted them on me. So that I don’t ever forget. If I forget it may trivialize the enormity of their transgression against me. But if I keep the hurts – keep them minty fresh – hold on to them tight; through the years and seasons; then it will be reminder that I got hurt and that the hurt was so bad it has not healed and so the offense cannot be pardoned.

2) The things that could have been…
And every year when I pack up for the next year… I pack again a little box of the things I almost had that life cruelly snatched out of my reach. By life I am referring to specific people and their choices that impacted on my life because I had been foolish enough to bank my life on theirs. I keep this box as a set of lessons that I must never attempt to travel through life without. All the things that could have been have one thing in common – they all required the cooperation of somebody else and they all failed because that somebody failed me. So the lesson I learned from the things that could have been is that I increase exponentially my chances of succeeding in life when I go it alone. I learned that if I premise my life on relationships or make someone other than myself central to what I am hoping to achieve – it has the terrible potential of becoming a colossal failure. In short, it has taught me to regard with fear, suspicion and scepticism the hand that would interlace its fingers with mine.

3) The hopes that got deferred…
Each year I carry over, the hopes from the previous years that never came to fruition. And with the years, I find there are some hopes that lingered year after year even when I can see that there is no way they can ever materialize. These I keep locked away and double-bolted in the attic of my mind because they are the worst form of self-torture. They are the heart’s refusal to accept what is and the soul’s refusal to let go of what never was. Because these are things that were fed by everything in me that was beautiful, good, well-meaning, pure and positive. How can such things, fed on such a wholesome diet of everything that embodies goodness in me not come to be. For hope is fed by nothing dark, negative, malicious or twisted. No. Hope is the stuff of goodness. In the balance of life and karma… the hopes that got deferred hurt the most because they sting my innate sense of fairness, of rightness, of just reward and deservingness. So I carry them along too; to remind myself that life is too stochastic to entertain certainty in self, in people and in what the future holds. In short, the lesson I carry from this is – you never know what’s going to happen.

4) The people I won’t forgive…
I have a list of people held captive in my dungeon of grudges. These are people who have let me down; and these people who’ve walked away when they’d said they’d always be there; and these are people who returned my good with evil; these are people who took something from me that I have not yet figured out how to restore – my faith in humanity. Every year, I declare an amnesty for these captives of grudges and I am glad to say many often go scot free. BUT there is a select core of people whom when I release others; my heart reinforces the cage of bitterness and resolutely increases the chaining restraints to make sure they don’t escape. This dungeon is safely guarded somewhere in the recesses of my heart and they have made for light luggage over the years to the point where I can go for months on end without thinking of them but some little thing will trigger a memory and before I know it; I am standing in that dungeon reliving the unjust treatment they gave me and wishing I had more rope to tie them up in. They are ‘unfinished business’ because I am afraid that if I set them free; it will make what they did to me right… it will sanction their actions and it will trivialize the gravity of how they wronged me. I don’t want it to be okay that they hurt me. Because it is not okay. And it will never be okay. Forgiving them would be like saying it’s okay. And it’s not.

5) The things I regret…
Of course the most unfinished business is the stuff I regret. The choices I made that I shouldn’t have made; the people I hurt that I shouldn’t have hurt, the places I stayed when I should have left; and the places I left when I should have stayed. The promises I made that I failed to keep; the people I rejected when they deserved a chance; the people I kept making excuses for when they didn’t deserve the generosity of my loyalty; the people I have betrayed when they’d honoured me with their trust; the things I did that I shouldn’t have and mostly the things I didn’t do that I ought to have done. I carry these along with me to remember that I am not better than others. That I am as messed up as the next person. That I have no right to judge. That my pain is not special, unique or more noteworthy than that of others. That I am only human and can only do the best I can with what I have when I have it. That I too have done horrible things and yet remain a good person. That people deserve a second chance to redeem themselves but also that some people cannot be redeemed and regardless of how many chances they get – they will be what they’d rather be. My regrets teach me that no one can save me from myself and I can never save others from themselves. In short, I cannot change other people; I can only change me.

So my writing is still standing at the door, all packed up and ready to leave – my mind is still tied to a leash, straining to get past all the ‘unfinished business’ so that we get on with the dreams yet to be fulfilled.