She had a husband but she was no wife. In a world where a woman had to belong to somebody, be it her father or her husband, she was bound to him but he had no obligation to her. Without betrothal and without a wedding, she found herself tasked with living as a wife without the security that a wife had. She was a Continue reading “Reaching for the Door”
A lot of the time, people say, “I’m depressed,” when they really mean, “I’m sad.” Depression isn’t a tearful sobbing widow at her husband’s funeral but a heavy emptiness crushing the life out of daily living. It is not a downcast face, no, it is a laughing face, a laughing face that “hides eyes that cannot cry.” That is why some of the funniest comedians are the most miserable. What does it say about us, that misery makes us mirthful?
Depression isn’t a dark cloud obscuring the sun, it makes you hide from the light. Depression is not hatred of people, it is just that interacting with them is so tiring that you lock them out, shut your curtains as you promise yourself to let them in tomorrow. You find yourself wondering when the day will pass into night and then you wonder when the sun’s fiery tendrils will chase the night away, never realising that years are passing you by. So you sit, not knowing what you’re waiting for and try to dream about a better tomorrow, a tomorrow invisible through the impenetrable darkness.
Food loses its taste, pleasure offers fleeting respite and even laughing leaves you emptier than before. Yet, desperate to glean some semblance of a worthwhile existence, you wolf down meal after tasteless meal, licking your lips before chasing another diminishing pleasure with your empty laughter ringing out loud. Then the friends you shut out yesterday knock on your door. Fighting the urge to shut them out again, you let them in. Of course their attempts to cheer you up just tire you out and so do their suggestions.
You’re filled with euphoria as you lock your door behind the last one to leave. Yes, you will do something. Their deluge of suggestions and pep talks, meant to motivate, has served only to amplify a nagging whispering feeling deep within you. For some time, you’ve been wondering why you should go on, if your life is worth the effort and if you shouldn’t end it all. Your friends have tried to inject you with motivation but all you are left with is a feeling of increased worthlessness. Surprisingly, you are euphoric.
You are excited because you’ve convinced yourself that you are not worthless. You have found a way to dispel the palpable darkness that engulfs you. You have finally found a way to live a full life and have made plans. You’re no charity case and even if you are, it stops now! You can see yourself climbing to those dizzying exciting heights. Yes, you’re better than this! Sleep comes difficult because you can hardly wait, but it comes in the end and so does the morning. With its emptiness. Your curtains stay shut and you lie in bed, tired. How long before the darkness swallows the sun, you wonder. How long before the darkness consumes you? That nagging whisper grows louder. That is depression.
For all its overflowing emptiness, depression is not invincible. It has and can be defeated. With a little help. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/
In my part of the world, marriage is not just the joining of two parties, it is a cloak of respectable visibility. The voice of the married is unadulterated wisdom while the single are an embarrassing nuisance. Marriage is a holy grail to be sought after with fanatical zeal while singleness is a disease to be cured. I would know, being an unmarried man in his thirties, I have found myself subjected to diagnosis, prognosis and been handed prescriptions that do little but testify to both the immense creative capability and shallowness of perspective of humanity.
Harangued as the unmarried are, divorcees have it worse. Hope is held out for those yet to march down the nuptial aisle but for those who’ve marched into and out of marriage, hard lessons are to be learnt. Stripped of their respectability, they are hugged by folks eager to hide eyes filled with suspicion and disapproval. Smiled at but never invited to lunch, the divorcee is held at arms length lest they “steal” a spouse. He is accepted as long as he doesn’t even share a joke with children: he might pollute them. She is asked if she might have worked harder on her marriage, after all, marriage is not easy for anybody.
We just love apportioning blame. Immersed in an often brutal reality, we cower from our vulnerability and silence our fears by fetching rulers and black pens, eager to draw lines of culpability. The idea of being overtaken by events, of being unable to control everything that befalls us, is unbearable so we delude ourselves into believing that by blaming it all on the victim, we can safely return to our comfort zones, confident in our ability to push back the clouds by blowing at the sky. Along comes divorce, forcing us to face the possibility that it can all come crashing down, that in one moment we can go from respected to invisible, from celebrated to denounced, from alive to dead.
In the stampede to blame divorcees for their calamity, it is quickly forgotten that divorce is a failed marriage not a failed person. Even in a union as intimate as marriage, forces beyond individual control are at play. Thus, loving devoted spouses who walked down confetti-strewn aisles have suddenly found themselves sitting outside courthouses, embroiled in child custody disputes. Others have found themselves reluctantly starting off the divorce process after being beaten to within a hairs breadth of their lives, after finding the umpteenth nude on a phone or after the coldness of desertion.
Lines of culpability drawn, we put our rulers and pens away. Confident that we would not be that stupid, careless, unobservant and downright immoral, we boast that our marriages can know no divorce. Yet marriage is not a reward for job well done or an exam completed individual but a shared commitment. At any moment, a spouse can decide to walk away through no fault of the other. At any moment, a spouse can flee abuse. At any moment, a spouse can choose to simply officialise a de facto divorce. A marriage can crumble besides untiring effort to sustain it. Starting a marriage requires at least two minds, ending it only requires one. So who’s boasting?
PS: Singleness is not a disease. Divorce is not death. Life goes on. Maybe if we put away our rulers and pens and instead of drawing lines to point fingers, chose to genuinely embrace each other, we would all be much happier. Divorce can happen to any married couple.
The great arbiters of blackness that I meet everyday have deemed me not quite black enough. This judgement is often pronounced with annoyance and derision as if it’s my fault that America came to me. Continue reading “Too Dark but not Quite Black Enough”
Deep within us all lies the craving for belonging. It is this pulsating need that leaves us vulnerable to bandwagons. Their resolute sound bites, witty hashtags and rousing visuals strum our heartstrings, bidding our hearts (eager for approving backslapping) to dance to their tunes and join the happy band of fist-pumping acolytes. Continue reading “I am Not Open Minded”
My mind was too fluid for the incident to be etched in my memory but I am reliably informed that my early childhood involved a game with the deadly boomslang (Afrikaans: Tree snake). The tale goes on to say that I owe my life to a combination of hysterical maternal instincts, my love Continue reading “Play With Boomslangs”
People ask a lot of stupid questions. I would know, I am left handed Continue reading “Dumb Questions and the Celebration of Mediocrity”
Why do we kill our children? In our incessant drive for perfection, we unwittingly lynch our progeny.
I witnessed the lynching of a precocious innocent not too long ago. Chuckles filled the air when she looked at an electronic billboard and changed her verdict from “those are adverts” to “no, they’re not adverts”. What else could the adults sitting with her in the car do but chuckle at the blissful ignorance of childhood? It is for children to look at adverts and declare them not adverts but an adult cannot be expected to utter such nonsense. Flounder now, sweet child, for tomorrow we will not countenance fecundity of imagination daring to call a spade a spoon; tomorrow you’ll be an adult.
Why is imagination the preserve of children? When did adults decide to exclude imagination from reality? Somewhere along the line, we stop exploring possibilities and decide to fixate on single answers and stand at the door of adulthood, barring children from entering unless they strip themselves of all imagination. Life is full of hardship so we decided to find the answer to every question as if each problem has only one solution. The reason is simple: we are afraid of failure. There’s nothing wrong with fearing failure as long as we don’t equate mistakes and failure. Imagination or no imagination, we all make mistakes; failure is not learning from them.
As for, that sweet child who got lynched by the guffaws of adults too engrossed with perfection to learn, I asked what she thought the billboard’s flashing images were, and without hesitation, she declared them to be newspapers. The lynch mob continued laughing but I was stunned by the profundity of her conclusion. She was right! For some time I’d stared at electronic billboards and displays in my hometown (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) and wondered why their ads were so bland and this girl had blurted out the simple reason. The advertisers hadn’t moved from the print media paradigm to digital and so their digital adverts where little more than newspaper ads forced onto PowerPoint slides.
Needless to say, unbridled imagination quickly becomes cowardly escapism or fanciful ineptitude, however, the lynching of children by asphyxiating their imagination is undoubtedly myopic. Imaginative people are often dismissed as unrealistic but is there anything as unrealistic as believing that following the beaten path will eliminate mistakes? Every well worn path was once a jungle cleared by painstaking trial and error so why are we so dead set against those who seek to beat new paths?
We all make mistakes so instead of dodging children’s footsteps in some vain hope of preventing mistakes, shouldn’t we help them bridle their imagination by teaching them to evaluate their ideas in addition to learning from other people’s mistakes? Curiosity and creativity coupled with courageous evaluation drives all progress. Guarding the door to “club adulthood” is vital but we ought to admit only those who’ve learned to differentiate between creativity and fantasy. I dare say that according to that criteria, some people need to be demoted from adulthood!
I long ago decided to stop treating children as idiots and I’ve found that as much as they have a lot to learn, they have even more to teach. Unspoiled by the fear of being wrong, their observations are honest albeit somewhat superficial. From my own observation of them, it’s clear that they greatly benefit from an adult has the patience to walk them through the evaluation of their ideas and perceptions by way of dynamic interaction. Of course, not everybody sees it this way and so the lynch mobs will continue guffawing around lighted pyres.
Blue lights flash in the dark, my time isn’t mine anymore; my thoughts ruthlessly interrupted – I’m being haunted. Call the exorcist! I’m tired of the blue ghosts dodging my footsteps, their incessant cries pulling me from the real world to their own eerie illusion of flashing images and unfriendly friends stamping their approval on brief exhibitions of morbid voyeurism.
I’m weary and leery of the green goblin’s wailing. He whistles in my ear, disrupting my slumber. Day turns into night but he doesn’t knock off, he needs no holiday. He and his blue cousins lap at my eyes and ears, feasting on my attention. My attention span is getting shorter although I stare at them all day. I read all they show me but I remember so little. Their catchphrases echo in my thoughts: they’ve taken over my mind, I must reclaim it. Continue reading “Blue Ghosts and Green Goblins”
When did it become wrong for men to cry? Did their cheeks suddenly become too fragile to bear the weight of cascading tears? Perhaps we ought to remove the offending tear glands, numb our nerves and discard our hopes. It would appear, each tear that escapes our eyes dissolves our muscles and eats away at our faith for who hasn’t heard a weeping man being encouraged to be strong and mourning Christian being quizzed about his faith’s whereabouts? Rubbish! Continue reading “You’re a Man so Start Crying”