growth

Mdu For Love

We live in a filthy city, and no I don’t mean the actual place itself, it’s not there yet. I’m talking about the people.  There’s a saying that in Gaborone “go bechitswe phamo” when it comes to relationships, which basically means “it’s grab and keep, and every man for himself.” Every other girl is a sidechick, knowingly or unknowingly.  Every other chap is either juggling or being juggled.  The couples that stay together are usually either pretending to be happy, stuck together because of all the time they feel they’ve put in, or fighting tooth and nail to maintain their genuine happiness and keep it from the vultures that are always looming around our social circles.

But I know nothing of long term commitments.

So here Othata, having been with her partner Mdu for 4 years and seven months this Saturday [He wanted you to know he remembers these things] shares her story and her insight on what it takes to keep a relationship going in Sodom and Gomorrah.

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People have been asking for almost 5 years now, “How do you guys do it?”  It’s a question that should have a simple answer, one assumes, and yet I fail to come up with one.  For the first time in 5 years, however, I will try to give you my side.
People assume we have a movie screen romance, “love at first sight” type of thing, but that’s nowhere close to the truth. I actually used to dislike this Prince Charming of mine, before I even got to know him! He has always been popular, and at some point I couldn’t seem to breathe without hearing his name. My best friend would tell me “Dude, there’s this guy called Pops at GSS [Gaborone Secondary School], wa [of] ‘Hotboys'”.  They had to be semi attractive if they were arrogant enough to call themselves such a name, but chances were, they weren’t. I’d never liked people who were hyped up all the time, 9 out of 10 times I was always disappointed.
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School would end and I’d get home, time to catch up with my cousin Epe (we lived together, the inseparable twins). I’d ask her,  “So how was school?” as she put down her GSS blazer and the first words out of her mouth would be “So today Pops did this…”   I had to hear about him everywhere I went!
Fast forward a while later, because of Epe I got to know almost half of GSS, made a lot of friends too, some people even thought I schooled there, but I never once met the infamous Pops! God does work in mysterious ways! New friendships were made, we completed High School and applied for Varsity [seems like ages ago].  During this time we were bums, the only thing we would do was go out, where we got all that money still beats me but it happened. And I’d still see everyone, except this Pops person.
We were officially introduced by my friend in ’09 when we were finally being accepted into Varsity, and my goodness, had somebody grown! He was sexy as hell.  Spiked dreadlocks, and like *counts on fingers* 10 piercings [we are grown now, I forgot] and yeah, did I mention he was sexy?
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Long story short, I forgot I never liked him in the first place. The start of our relationship began to write itself.
Getting to know each other, first kiss, making it official, etc. Since I’m not trying to write a book here [I think] let me focus on how we make it work.
For the most part, it just happened, I believe it was meant to be and there was no running from it.  If you believe in Destiny, you’ll relate. I thought I had the option of being single in Varsity, what I thought would be the true meaning of “living life”, but God/The Universe laughed and said “Look at this one!”
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I don’t think you can plan when you’re going to fall in love.  How or where you’re going to meet that person etc. We clicked, became the best of friends, easy as pie! But that’s the easy bit, everything else you have to work for.  Hard. There has to be effort in everything you do: communicating, trusting,  loving, caring, being there for your loved one, and although it sounds like work to many, the beauty of it is doing all this (and more) and not feeling like it’s hard work.
Whenever a couple is fighting a lot of single people think to themselves “Thank God I don’t have to deal with all that”, but in reality, people fight all the time: family, friends, etc. In my opinion it’s healthy for a relationship because after said fight you have a better understanding of each other’s points of view.  The other person’s opinion can actually better you (if you can take criticism), which results in you growing together.
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The key is to form a bond with someone who betters you.
Respect is integral too. You have to learn to respect your other half, that’s the only way you can have a fight and still manage to move past it. The only way you can actualize your potential and support one another.
Another important thing you need is focus, and it has to be from both parties. You need to understand what it is you want in life, [I could give tonnes of examples here].
Does being with one person make you feel complete?
Are you in a relationship but still envy your single friends?
Are you easily influenced or do you trust and understand yourself?
Once you know the kind of focus you both have, you can determine how far your relationship goes, and if you guys share the same goals, it will probably work.
Last but not least is trust.  If you understand each other it’s easy to trust one another and you’ll realize how unnecessary it is to question everything.
What is mean to be, will be.
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Sins of the Father

It’s an unfortunate truth that we all become our parents before we die.  I often think one is made up of both their parents not just physically, but psychologically and spiritually, and if you’re lucky and able to, you add on the little authentic pieces of yourself as you become yourself.

This is how I asses who I am.

When I was young I was my mother. Naive, caring, sweet, considerate, emotional. I was thoughtful and diplomatic.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve pushed my mother’s positive attributes aside and become my father.  Short tempered, occasionally belligerent, secretive, deceitful when need arises, and selfish.

Growing up I never understood why my father was as he was.  It wasn’t until I knew about his background that I began to somewhat understand his behaviour.  My grandfather was a polygamist who preferred his second wife over his first wife, my grandmother, and therefore neglected his children by her.  My father and his siblings would go for weeks on end without seeing him and when he was around, he’d cause a ruckus and then fuck off. My grandmother in turn became resentful and took it out on the children [not so much physically as psychologically].  My father would often run away from home or hide and wouldn’t speak to anyone for weeks on end.

He left home at 17 and went to start a life in Phikwe, close to Bobonong, then eventually joined the army and moved to Gaborone to prosper.

My mother came from a loving, close family in Moshupa. She went to school and lived a peaceful existence.

Now imagine that union.  The two of them together is a trip, to say the least.

Although both of them have gotten this far in Life, maybe what deterred me from becoming my mother was what I regard as weakness from her when it comes to dealing with hardship and things of that nature. There’s such a thing as “too nice”.  Watching how my mother was unable/unwilling to stand up for herself and was constantly crying over something someone else had done, I decided I didn’t want to be that way.

I, however, thought I was too intelligent to become my father.  I thought it wasn’t something I had to stop myself from becoming because deep down I knew it wasn’t okay. Kind of like being a murderer. You don’t constantly have to tell yourself not to kill because you don’t think about it, you just don’t kill.

I learned that the best way to deal with him was to become like him.  For lack of a better expression, it was kill or be killed.

Now my mother, who honestly tried her hardest to shield me from his flaws, has no choice but to admit that I embody them. And it’s unfortunate but I do believe it necessary to be so.

I see it in the way I interact with people, in my romantic relationships and my decision making, I can be a bully and rather irrational. And I swear it’s getting harder to change the older I get.

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Time, Birth and Death

It’s the end of the year and a part of me is truly shocked I made it this far. Frankly, I was shocked I made it to my birthday in July.

I often wonder if I’m just perfect at making horrible decisions or I’m one of those people who are meant to live a certain kind of Life and just figure out a way to get through it.  Is it destiny or a string of Fuck Ups?

The 14th of January 2013 I had a miscarriage.  When you hadn’t even known that you were fertile, no less pregnant and wake up to contractions and blood rushing down your legs, it’s a special kind of trauma. One of those experiences words can’t even begin to describe.

It was a bleak time.

I honestly don’t think I knew the meaning of depression until I went through the next couple of months after it happened.

There were days when I’d wake up and cry because I was still alive. I felt guilty and lonely. As if I’d somehow caused it and even though I knew I hadn’t, I felt like the blame needed to be passed somewhere and I was the only one to carry it.

I didn’t want to write about this.  The thing with sharing experiences with people is that not everyone will respect it.  We live in a society where everything turns into a joke, no matter how traumatic, and one never wants to be on the receiving end of being dismissed.

Friends often ask me if, in a sense, it wasn’t a blessing. If I would have kept the child and really, I don’t know. But I would have liked to have been the one to make the decision.  I felt [possibly still feel] like my body betrayed me.  For months afterwards I’d have panic attacks when my menstrual cycle came around and menstrual cramps would leave me terrified with flashbacks of that morning.

It’s been, by far, the most painful experience of my Life.

I still cry about it.

And I’ve learned that the real pain in certain experiences is that you go through it alone.  You can’t collectively grieve, even with people who understand.

It’s your loss and you have to come to terms with it.  You grieve as long as you want and you do your best to get by.

This is not a “Everything will be fine, just keep going” post.  Sometimes I have no guidance to provide.

What I CAN say is Life’s taught me that Time heals and creates all wounds.

And that’s that.

“…But then she has to be so transparent and so honest, and like, her secrets are completely – they belong to everybody. And it’s caused her problems in her personal life. That’s almost common knowledge.

So I think it’s this thing where you feel – it’s such a cliché, but like such an open book sometimes. It’s a struggle to try to figure out what to keep to yourself and what not to. Because writing, for me, is so important, and I need to do it. It’s a physical need. And so the more difficult a thing is I’m going through, the more I’ll write about it. Sometimes I feel like, “Should I be keeping that to myself, or is that not appropriate?” But then I think, “Fuck it. Whatever.” And write about it anyway, because I need to.

The purpose that it serves is greater than ego or pride or what people may think of you and all the rest of it. I spent a long time trying to make sure that I wasn’t worried about being embarrassed or stigma or people thinking that they know you, because they don’t. The more that you work on your craft, the more that you can find ways to write about the most terrifying things, things that you can’t even really say out loud to yourself, but write in a way that still feels very safe, and everybody takes something different away from it when they read it.” 
– Warsan Shire

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You, Yourself and You

“Life’s all about progression and transformation” I said as I passed the beer bottle over to a friend, wondering whether in this very moment, I was progressing.   Which led me to wonder if one has to be progressing all the time, and if you weren’t, were you falling back?

 

If Life’s taught me anything, it’s that it goes hand in hand with Loss.  Sometimes you push things out of your Life, and other times, they just go.  Friends come and go, dreams come and go, thoughts come and go.  I always marvel at how, despite the fact that we know change is the only constant in Life, we can’t seem to embrace it and go with it.  We’re always looking for some sort of stability.  We keep clothes that will never fit us, buy brands we’re used to, regardless of whether or not they do what they’re supposed to, and keep relationships that no longer do anything for us.

 

Eliminate things that no longer evolve you. — Erykah badu

 

I’ve been observing my relationships with people in my Life and wondering whether I truly need them there, trying to figure out if I need what they bring to the table. Birds of a feather flock together and as I observe some of them I realize, they simply don’t know how to Live, how to take responsibility for their lives, how to stand alone. How to exist as a lone being, and for me, that’s a necessity.

I believe in the importance of individuality, independence. You need to know how to be alone, how to think for yourself, how to grow on your own, what to take in and put out to keep growing.  Stagnancy is a trap, it’s a cage you don’t even know you’re in sometimes.  I know.

I’ve spent close to a year, maybe slightly more, at home, terrified of growing up. Of making any decisions, of living, because I was afraid I’d mess up.  As each day passed, I seemed to find more and more reasons as to why I should simply wait to die.  The possible shame of making a “wrong” life decision [which in this case, was about my academic life] weighed on me before I even bothered to CONSIDER what I’d do.

To many, that was a year wasted. I could’ve done so much in that time, right?

Gotten an online diploma maybe.  Found a job. Hell, gotten married.

But no, none of that.

I cried, I read, I thought, and I repeated all of this. And to quote Anais Nin “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I got sick of seeing my face in the morning with the same uncertain look. I spent hours upon hours arguing with myself about what We want to do, who we want to be, and eventually, I put myself together.  Now, I appreciate all the uncertainty, all the time I felt I was wasting. I grew.

 

For many of us, it takes a lot before we can let go.  We don’t know when to, nor how to. We don’t know when a situation has run it’s course and even when it begins to hurt, we tell ourselves it’s a test to see whether we’re truly committed. Sometimes, that’s simply Life showing you that it’s done now. Some things, I dare say, most things, aren’t worth fighting for, especially if you aren’t even sure you want them.

In Setswana, there’s a saying that goes “Se nkganang se nthola morwalo”, which basically means, whatever repels me only relieves me of a burden.  Words to live by, don’t you think?

 

Most people will never be too ashamed to pass their burdens on to you.  Nor to bring, or keep, you down. A lot of people wouldn’t care if your mental maturity never goes past this point.  But you know, that’s them. It’s up to you to see to it that you become More.  And that will be your responsibility to yourself for as long as you’re here.

 

Who are you? What do you want? Do the people in your Life want the same for you? Will they help you become who you want to be? Are they people you’d like to be like?

You need to ask yourself.

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Becoming your Mother

We think intelligence shields us from emotion. Then Life proves us wrong.  As one prone to depression and mood swings I can tell you that when your mind sets upon an idea, no matter how harmful it may be to you, your intellect tends to contribute to your [emotional/internal] downfall. All mantras and affirmations are thrown out the window as phrases like “You are beautiful and you should love yourself” lose precedence to the more cynical “They lied. You know better than to trust in the words of people.”

 

I’m no stranger to body image issues. We can all relate to feelings of inadequacy and most of us have had and continue to have the 2 AM “I will change my Life in the morning” moments when everything seems attainable with a little effort and possibilities seem to lie in wait, to grow under the guidance of the soon to be rising Sun.  I however, have not paid attention to these issues for years.  The logical part of me took over and I decided, if I can walk, run when I need to [my smoker’s lungs don’t allow for random running] and fit into my clothes, I’m fine. 

Until recently. 

 

During one of my not so appealing bouts of Fuck My Life  someone said to me, “Why do you look such a mess? I mean I’d still fuck but, I don’t know you to be this way.” And as much as I laughed it off, it’s been on mind for probably over a month now.

Why? Maybe because he said it at a time when my mind was ready and willing to accept every unflattering thing one could say in order to justify it’s already despondent thoughts at the time.  Maybe because, being an emotional masochist, a part of me enjoys having something to add to the file marked “Reasons Why You Sometimes Really Ain’t Shit” in my mind. 

 

It’s a funny thing when you think about it. Really, when one’s going through a time when all they’d really like to do is die, why would they even bother with looking pretty for the outside world? I’m not worried about being hit on by you, I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to leave the house tomorrow, assuming I make it through tonight.  A “You don’t understand, things are rough” didn’t seem to quite make him understand why I was as I was and so I left it.

 

While discussing it with a certain Sir he said to me “I don’t even know why you’d pay attention to that, you’re so smart. Have you..Do you even see yourself though? Goddamn.” And he looked at me in a way I haven’t seen in a while. In awe. 

 

The whole experience made me realize, what you know doesn’t save you from making silly decisions, accepting less than you deserve and words of affirmation could be nothing more than pretty lies if you tell yourself so.

 

I know a  Lady, she’s beautiful, young, ambitious and tied down to a man who treats her like surplus meat.  Does she know she can do better? Yes.  Is she lacking options? No. So why is she staying?

 

I said yesterday that I realize we’re becoming Women. We’re growing and even though our private school education, feminism and all round privilege made us think we’d be far from the women our mothers became, at the end of the day, somehow, we end up there. 

 

We’ve grown to undermine our mothers’ experiences and really it seems, only age and our own parallel experiences will humble us. And I’m taking them as they come.  We’re taking them as they come. 

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