No Shame

It is not customary to speak of weakness Nnwa. It is not. Even if that weakness is not of your own, even if that weakness is what you need to let pass on its own. So I will tell you this once.

I remember clearly. That day. Ordinary, just enough sun, the perfect beginning for a weekend. I love to stay in bed when I can and catch up on a chapter or two, or one of the week’s papers, maybe even run through the online streets. And so I did. I knew I had been under a lot of pressure. Work, school, family – there was a lot of flipping events in that time but I always had it under control somehow and on that day, I just needed to kick back. I thought. When you are not attuned to chaos, you do not see that you are in the heart of a hurricane until it flings you out of its eye and on to the currents. At least that is what it felt like.

One trigger. That was all it took to bring the tower down. They do not teach you how to breathe when you are dying Nnwa. Some things, you will find out, you learn on your own. In retrospect, I do not know how I did not see it coming and for a long time after, this one thought battered me. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I read later that they can be sudden, frightening and often for no clear reason Nnwa. Panic attacks are sneaky like that. They like to take you by surprise. But how was I supposed to know they happened to regular people?

pan·ic at·tack

noun

a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.

I had my book in my hand but I figured it would make more sense to see if there was anything new online first. Ping. I cannot ignore notifications because for some strange reason I feel like it is akin to refusing to look someone in their eyes when they call your name. I would have been alright on any other day I think. Dealing with shitty emails is becoming an expected adulting skill these days anyways and me, I am quite the decorum slayer. But it just had to be sent on this one day I was closer to the edge than I thought possible.

I do not know if it was fury, disappointment or betrayal I felt first. There was too much emotion to separate one from another. I remember not being able to stop shaking. I remember letting my phone fling to the floor. I remember breathing and not breathing at the same time. I have seen movie scenes where an abducted child tried to scream and bang the windows so the neighbour jogging by would come and help. I figured that is what I felt like when I tried to cry and speak and nothing could make it out. I have no idea how long I lay there betrayed by my own body. Unable to move, unable to speak, unable to reach my phone and locked in because that is what you do when you go to bed every night – lock up. It was surreal mostly because I partly felt like an observer. My neighbour had a set of my keys so she could have helped but there was no way `i could reach her. And then what would I tell her was happening? ‘Hi, could you come over I am….what? Breaking down?’. There is no way to make that sound right…

When I did move, did breathe all I could do was cry. That was the first of a few. I only knew months later what they actually were. In between, I was mostly ashamed for losing control. Partly thought there was finally something wrong in my head. Funny how an attacker flips the blame on you; even funnier how you agree it is true.

It took a while to realise I had too much on my mind than I needed; too much on my plate than I needed. Took even more time till I established my triggers and started from there. Dr. Google helped much. I did not know these were things people asked for help for. Also, I am not very attuned to talking through problems. I was cultured to know you keep your problems close until you think them through and solve them, then perhaps, talk about them.

Nnwa, you have a 50/50 chance of picking up a lot of who I am. This means you will have a great mind, you will be wired to achieve and think through everything and unfortunately, you might be, like me, ill prepared to think through anything that causes you pain. Those ones you will probably lock up until you have no choice but to unpackage and maybe then, finally think through them.  I will tell you how this system works someday. Your mind will be your blessing and your curse. I hope you do not keep so much that it bursts out. I hope somehow, you learn to let things go. Learn that even the strong ones need a rest sometime.

You will be strong. You will have a big heart. You will be an amazing woman. Always remember nothing is worth losing your peace over. You will not get to choose what you get from life most days; but you will get to choose to let go of things before they are too heavy to hold. You will get to choose to reach out and find help when you can. If ever you find you can’t, remember there is no shame, no shame in losing it when its too much. Let it pass over, breathe and let it go. Then start again. They say you should practice calm breathing, relax your body and what not – which is helpful but at that particular time, redundant. The best way there is is to be happy. Every day, choose happiness and peace; wire yourself in such a way that you have no time for anything but that which makes you happier, smarter and stronger. Run away from things only to gain enough strength to face them again. Do not be an ostrich Nnwa. The ground above the sand will catch fire. Fire has no mercy, when it does you will burn along with it.

There is an increasing pressure in my time to have it all and then some. To be at the best of it all all the time. It is ridiculous really, this notion. It sets us on paths of self-ignorance and causes us to push ourselves mercilessly beyond borders. The worst of it has to be that it makes us think of ourselves less and pushes us more toward the ‘bigger picture’ leaving most of us battered and disillusioned at many stops of life because we just cannot figure out why we give so much and get so little. Yet therein is the problem. We give so much that we have nothing left for us. I do not know how your own world will be Nnwa but I know you will need to learn to be a little selfish if you want to remain sane. Give of your time but have some for yourself. Give of your expertise, your joy, your energy but only after you hold back some for yourself. Because when you have more than you give, you are free to see when you are not well enough. Free to see when you need to stop and breathe and enjoy the sun.Because when you have given until they are full, it is you that remains a hollow shell.

We were not invincible because we are strong. We are because we fall many times, fall apart some times but always get it back together. Somehow. it is what the best of us do. Take a break once in a while (a lot), choose the energy you allow around you, do not let your work enslave you and the need for perfection, that we will need an entire sit down to go over because I fear many things amongst which is feeding you the lie that is living the perfect life in the hope of receiving a perfect end. The world does not work that way anymore; if ever it did.  You should come first and that is not selfishness or whatever else they will tell you. That is survival. If anything, I need you to believe there is no shame in striving to be happy and letting go of what you find to be your triggers Nnwa, no shame.

 

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Do not Fear what you know Will come

Nnwa,

Your people say death is like a robe everyone has to wear. They say that life is the beginning of death. So as it is, my fear is unfounded because what I fear, I live. Yet I still cannot bring myself to think that I will one day lose you; no, you will one day lose me because it is not right for a mother to bury her child. If it tears me inside to lose whom I have not held, I know you can tell to lose who I already have is not twice or thrice that pain. It is a million times that then again.

I do not like to mention death. Even thinking about it I can’t. Unless it is one of these few times such as this that it forces me to look it in the eyes; eyes that demand I understand it is what it is. Even death cannot help itself. I call it a thief, yet I am no longer certain if it steals or it takes.

These have been tough days Nnwa. I find myself thinking if I could shield you from anything, any one thing. It would not be the pain of a broken heart. It would be the sting of death because a heart, we can mend. But the sickness that sting causes to invade a soul even I do not know how to cure, how to stop. They will tell you if you carry the egg basket, do not dance. But what is life without the shaking of shoulders, the swaying of hips, the claps and shouts and stomping of feet? What is life if lived in the fear that it will fall, that it will break. But what is life if it breaks anyway? I do not seek answers from you. Your mother just needed to speak and hear her own voice. To ease one door open and calm the voices in her head.

It is strange, this cycle of life. It is happiness, it is space, it is drifting to a better place. It is madness, it is joy, it is fear, and it is a pain. It is understanding, and then it is not. It is birth, it is bliss, it is death. I can only hope that God will grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. And that He will grant you immortality or give you a heart like your father so you may not fear what you know will come. Perhaps this fear, will for me, become a thick shroud, shielding me from the end.

It’s a while now, since we lost 147 young souls and it troubles me that the dust seems to have settled especially in the corridors whose voices would make a difference. At least it seems that way. They have not spoken much about it. Surprising? No. We were not told or taught but most of us have come to the silent understanding that when the only voices you hear are the cries of the broken, you accept the fact that they may never say anything more. Perhaps nothing more than the contents of a letter. One though well meaning, holds no solace to the blood that calls out for justice.

I have thought of what I would have done if I were there. Would I have made it out? Nnwa, I will not lie. I do not think I would. I have seen the light flicker then die in the eyes of the parents who had to seek out who was theirs from the rubbles of bodies – the only memories they could get back of what was once their child.

I have never seen your grandfather mourn. I have seen him angry but he has always been strong. This would have shattered him. I do not know that he can cry or wail. When I try to imagine what he would have done, the only thing that comes to mind is a snuffed candle whose only memory of the flame is the winding curl of white smoke. It would have killed a part of him. Your grandmother – I fear to even consider what this experience would have meant for her. So I do not. Even the thought of it, of a mother’s loss, is too fierce an emotion to try and stir.

I have been shocked. I have been angry. Now I feel like a drop of rain trying to quench parched soil – helpless. For many families across our land, tears still run and for the lives we lost, blood still cries out. I am afraid that these tears will run till they run dry as the cries turn into screams and maybe then, someone will hear. Someone will speak for them. A voice that will bring not just promise but will evoke the justice that is said to be our shield and defender.

Everyday seems to paint a picture of a world I am no longer sure you will be safe in. Yet still I trust that He that keeps me will do the same for you. It is the one thing that keeps us going – faith. Tonight I pray for the families they left behind. I pray that somehow, faith will ease their pain, restore their faith in brighter days and help them through this darkness for. I cannot begin to understand what they are going through; that is all I know to offer. Pray for them too Nnwa, my own may fail to reach beyond the skies but yours, yours will.

Pages of a Journal #2

It is not that i do not love your people. I love you. Them, it seems i will need some more time to learn. But the past few months will make the first few months harder. Forgive me when i will not want to visit them so soon. I ask now, forgive me.

Maybe it is because i am wrung to the bone. I knew it would be quite a process. What i did not know was that four visits later my people would still be knocking at your fathers’ door. I ask when they will open, you say you do not know. Can’t the voice of a child’s question draw response? Sometimes i wonder if you’re voice was heard at all.

There will be the white wedding. If i have heard correctly, your people will all be there, they are very exited about it all. We, sorry, i – will be bringing them to see their daughter off. They even had a cost budget drawn up and everything. Good of them to save us the trouble.

I don’t know how, but you’re fathers’ unfinished house was part of the discussion the last two times. My uncles do not understand what i have to do its completion. But we are still outside looking in. We would not even think to ask.

We will marry. Of that i am sure. Also, we will we broke. Please do not think that the first days will set pace for the rest. The fields will be greener along the way.

I have just a message from the guy getting your dress and the suits. I have to go pray for a miracle.

I love you. Talk to your people my love, then maybe when mine will speak they will listen. Sweep the leaves from our path. Bring us water to drink. We are still walking. But we are getting weary.

© Ang’asa Malowa

You Will Be Happy

Nyathiwa,

There are many things I will hope to teach you. Many things I will hope you learn. I will try but you will be your mothers’ daughter. You will learn that which you choose yourself to learn. Many times I will want to break you, I will forget how much you reflect me.  You are my own, you will be stubborn and in the same way, you will be kind, you will thoughtful (and i hope you quickly learn that in itself puts you in danger of being wrung dry, e careful Nnwa), a kind heart with a sharp tongue. You will have an innocence many will not understand. For this and more, you will owe no explanation. But you will owe compassion and you will give respect – because you are mine.

 

When you take the kind of turns that make you want to crawl down a hole and die. Do not crawl. Do not die. With the sun will come new news. Do not burn in shame what you will need to dance again.

 

The shock and the disappointment of having no one by your side when you battle will first sting, then slowly blur. You will boil over, then you will calm and realise it was no one else’s fight anyway. And you will fight. Many times, you will win and many times you will fail. That is how it is.

 

I have learnt that to hold that which burns you with clenched fists will not stop the fire. I pray you learn it sooner. I am afraid of what I will fail to teach you more than what you will fail to learn.

 

I know you will watch me. I know in many ways, you will become your mother. Be wise in what you take from me. Some dyes were cast before I realised they were. And for you, I would wish for different patterns.

 

Always smile. Always be happy. I learnt that from my mother. I pray you learn it from me too but I cannot say that you will. Life has been good and also strange to me and with it, i lost pieces of my soul you will not get to see. I will have dark days but the yellow will always return. When it does, bask in it, suck it in. for when the clouds will gather, I will see it still shining in your eyes and you will save me from myself.

You will find true friendships, you will find true love. Do not worry over things that are yours. They are yours, you will not beg or wait for them to come because they are already there.

 

You will be happy. Wherever you find happiness, wherever you find laughter and joy, drink it in. For us both and for your own, drink. 

 © Ang’asa Malowa

 

Ramblings …

Dear Imani,

The sun is finally out; makes me feel like its easier to get more yellow into my days.

Just thought I’d let you know its wedding season here. Best excuse to get new dresses don’t you think? 🙂

I can walk okay again. Learnt to treasure the little things too. I smiled today at how happy I was to do the dishes standing. I pray you will not have to fracture anything to see the beauty in the background; to feel every moment. I pray I will be able to teach you that.

I know I sound rather scattered today. I don’t know why…but I know I’m happy. Spent the weekend with your aunt, its almost midnight and she’s still working (PS: its Sunday). I really pray you get her passion, her drive. I really do.

I have to go now; I’m rambling already. Wish me a good week, I have a feeling about this one…can’t put a finger on it yet though. Don’t worry, its a good one.

Write you soon…

Love you always,

Mama

Brave

I watched Brave a little while back and i loved it! There was something ‘real’ in Princess Merida. I loved that she wasn’t all dresses and slippers. Don’t get me wrong, i have nothing against dresses or shoes. There was just something beautiful about how they let her be …raw.

A little while later though Merida the archer, running across fields, beating the boys at their own game…the raw Merida i loved had a little of a makeover because she was now being crowned a Disney princess and there were certain ‘qualities’ she needed to have.

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I know we’ve come to know princesses as pretty, proper, hair and makeup in place et al. I know that’s what would be expected if you, for example, were crowned today but, i wonder if the princess is the crown or the heart the crown sits upon.

I loved Merida because she was…normal. She had rough edges and a strong will. She had unruly hair and a mind of her own. She made mistakes. She had triplets for brothers and she was sane! 🙂 She was the girl you’ve met before, she was the princess you would love perhaps because she didn’t paint over the cracks or glam up so hard she’d get lost i the glitter. She was…normal.

Now with the ‘remodelling’, she’s a princess and if i were her subject, i’d feel the need to wave by the roadside because she wouldn’t seem like one who could relate to me.

Sometimes that’s what we do to ourselves. Buff up the shells till they shine so hard, we can’t see what lies underneath. I know there’s the constant pressure to be ‘it’. The girls in the heels and the life with everything in place. The guy with the job and the car and everything in between. We fight so hard to be acceptable that sometimes we lose the raw us. The us that was meant to be. Sometimes, we remodel. Only the remodelling takes over and leaves persons we don’t really know. All phases of growing pains me thinks. Trying to find out, define, make over who you are only to lose it in the same quest.

I loved Merida ‘before’ 🙂 If only we were brave enough to be who we are, brave enough not to remodel the blueprint, brave enough not to just be. If only they were.

I can watch it over and over. Brave. It reminds me that in the end, one thing matters : being true to yourself.

 

© Ang’asa Malowa

Why Did You Have to Go?

A friend of a friend was to be a bride this past Saturday. Everything was in place, everything. The bridesmaid dresses, the groomsmen suits, the white and the black was set for their day. No one saw it coming. She did not get to marry the man of her dreams. She didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. See, a few days before the D-day, there was this car crash on his way home and he didn’t make it out alive.

Devastated. Anguished. Torn. Crazy. Shock. These are just a few of the words that would describe what followed. She got to hear the news from close friends who’d thankfully got to know of the tragedy before her. But nothing could paint any yellow over that minute she heard that her love was no more.

I do not know her but my heart aches for her. Instead of her wedding, she had to attend his funeral. What more to crush an already shattered heart?

It had taken so long to get there; why did he have to go? I don’t know and when they looked into her eyes, gave her the hugs, talked her mind off things; i’m sure they didn’t either.

This life, this life – the more i seek to understand it, the less i perceive. Listening to her story, I do not know what i would have done in her shoes. Ran away, broken down…what? All i know is i’d be furious at him for leaving me, leaving me without goodbye.Even when i knew he left that day and didn’t know the day would be our last. When she stood up to speak at the funeral, i could only think of strength; the strength she had that i wanted but was unsure i could have.

Life is what life is and for the living, pieces have to be picked up; hearts have to be mended if only so they could beat just for one more day.

Through her eyes, i saw how real pain can be, how far hope can ebb away and how certain the dawn is.

© Ang’asa Malowa

16/7/13

Dear Imani…

Dear Imani,

That would have been your name you know. Beautiful, isn’t it? I wanted you to have faith in God, yellow days, true love, real friendships and family even when everything and everyone around you said otherwise. I wanted you to have faith as strong as your mama’s and her mama before.

I miss you…I miss you.

You have a brother and a sister now you know. She loves sunny days and candy and he loves her fiercely; I fear for the child that will ever pick on his little sister. Every time I see them play, I can almost see you playing with them. I can’t help but think of how you’d look in your pressed clothes everytime I get them ready for school or dress them up in their ‘church clothes’. I told that to your father and he gave me the sweetest look; but even that could not hide the fear I saw creep into his eyes. He’s afraid of many things your father. Currently, that he will lose my love to one we never had time to love, he says. I loved you. He did too, I know he did.

I think about you less these days, I dream of you less and I feel the need to apologize for it. I know its been seven years since but moving on doesn’t work with time as we know it I guess. The way you left sill burns me inside. I don’t even know who to blame anymore. The doctors that didn’t detect the problem with your fragile heart, the traffic jam that held us back or me; the mother that couldn’t tell her discomfort was a sign of troubled waters.

I can’t be angry anymore, it’s draining the yellow out of my days but I’m afraid to let go of the anger. What if I do and with it, remember you no more? No, I’m not thinking too much, I guess it’s just that It’s been pent up for so long.

I love you. Now I need to love your brother and sister, you’re father just as much before I lose them too. I need to lift the anchor holding me in these dark waters. I’m letting go of the hurt, of the pain but baby, my heart will always hold on to your pure soul.

I know I’ll see you someday and when that day comes, I want you to be the glue that held us together; not the fire that burnt us down.

I love you Imani, I always will.

Mummy.

©Ang’asa Malowa

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Loss of a loved one can draw one into depths of darkness once thought imaginable. The loss of a child for a mother, even worse. Sad thing is, many women have gone through this in silence, in solitude, in anguish because they didn’t know how to deal with it any other way. Many father’s need to be the strength in situations where their own knees won’t hold them up. Even more the children who don’t understand why their baby brother/sister is no longer with them, who don’t understand why their parents seem trapped somewhere, who have no idea what to do to help because they too are just kids. The pain can break you, even tear the remaining family apart or it can build you, make you stronger. I know it’s dark where you are but there are yellow days ahead, if only you can walk towards them. Seek out a support group – you are not alone, speak it out, take time to hurt so you can heal. Your family needs you, you need them – talk to them. Heal so you don’t lose what you still have because you held on to what passed away.
Till the yellow days are here, till the black turns to grey, till the light at the end of the tunnel drawn near; hold on. It may not seem like it but there will be yellow days. Trust me, there will be brighter days. 