2017 – The year my heart started beating again.

“Grieve. So you can be free to feel something else.” – Nayyirah Waheed

About a year and a half ago, my heart stopped beating and I couldn’t breathe. Death. Death to the life of a young black woman whose heart had packed up and sunk deep into the grave where he lay. Beneath the dirt, covered with cement, and topped off with flowers from his enemies. Gone. I remember the cry I let out when people started to walk away and go home. I remember struggling to breathe because in that moment, I died with him.

This was 2015. When the gamatoxes ran wild and the G40s had yet to really get going, and the bond notes were yet to be set free. When the vendors were told to leave again and the President was going to rule from the grave and the drought had started to claim lives of the ‘resilient’ people ruled by painful mediocrity. My heart lay still, buried under 6 feet of red earth, waiting. Occasionally it would stir up, but only to feel pain. It’s 2017. Last year, the-year-that-we-will-never-speak-of, is gone with what we thought may be winds of change. And this year is the year I took my heart back from the grave where he lies, and the year it starts to beat again.

Grief is that horrible feeling that never really goes away. It consumes you and dictates how you think about yourself, the deceased, the people you love and the world you want to change for the better. Grief strips away the pretences you held up for so long, the inhibitions you should have never had, and it jolted me out of my slumber and comfort of a good, stable life. Grief takes away, but it strange ways, it also gives. This piece is for myself, but it’s also for anyone who has lost a loved one and doesn’t know what it means to love/live without them. The beauty of new years is they give the impression of a new start. They give the kind of hope that is fleeting, but hopefully makes an impression long enough to last you half the year before you need another pep talk.

There’s so much grief has taught me, but I’ll share the 5 most lessons I’ve learned that I want to (need to) take with me into 2017.

  1. You’re stronger than you know – There will be days you can barely get your eyes to open fully and start your day. I know these days well. You will think ‘I can’t do this anymore’, and shut the world out and feel annoyed at every text of encouragement, because don’t they know you can’t do it? Cry, kick, scream, stay silent, pray, run – do whatever you need to do to make sure you wake your heart up again. If the most that you can do is take a shower and go back to bed, it’s alright. Give yourself days when you don’t have to be the you that everyone relies on, needs and turns to. You will surprise yourself when you wake up the next morning, and you’re breathing again. Give yourself time, you’re stronger than you know.
  2. You can’t ‘do life’ alone – To this day, all I want most of the time is to be alone. People can be irritating as fuck when all you want to do is wallow in your misery and loss. But people can also be kind and loving. Allow people to love you and to want to be there for you. Tell them when you need some alone time, but don’t hide from them forever. They mean well, I promise. No one is an island, and no one is expecting you to suddenly ‘be okay’. You know who your people are so keep them as close as you can.
  3. Value your peace – For months I felt like all I was doing was calming the storm inside of me. It was loud and angry and violent. I had no peace, and the storm was destroying me. When you find a slither of peace, be it in a novel, with a friend, on a morning walk, while you pray in your garden – GUARD IT. Guard that slither of peace with your life because you and I know how seldom it comes around. Guard it and never let anyone take it away from you, no matter how important they are in your life. Be kind to yourself and value the peace that keeps you sane.
  4. Everything you need is within you – This is a great time to introspect and understand yourself better. It’s a time I realised who I really was, what I really thought, and what I really wanted and didn’t want. Everything you need to heal and succeed at life after this pseudo death is in you. It’s in your passions, your frustrations, your dreams, your actions, thoughts and gifts. Don’t doubt yourself.
  5. Don’t give up on yourself – This is something I still need to work on. Trust that you have what it takes to make it through this year. You’re all you have, and at this point you need to take a step outside the grief circle and believe in yourself. And if you can’t muster up all that faith, call a friend who affirms, loves and is always there for you. Don’t give up – we’ll make it through.

My heart is beating again this year, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’m hopeful and excited about the year because I know what it’s like to lose hope completely, and I never want to go back there again. I hope that in whatever way, this piece brings you peace and you can take away a few things that will help you calm your storm.

“Grieve, so you can be free to feel something else.”

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Christmas Day, 2016. The day I decided to get my heart beating again. Also the day I danced heartily for the first time in months.

The living dead – A letter to Amos.

You died.

You did the one thing I needed you not to do. You breathed your last breath and heaved your last sigh and blinked your last blink, and slipped into the afterlife, like your life here with us meant nothing. I can still hear your voice, a year after you’ve been gone. I’d give away all I have to see you again. I miss your smile. I miss your terrible jokes and your thoughtfulness. I miss your love. The world is colder without you, and I don’t know where to find my sunshine again. A piece of me died with you that day, and I don’t know how to get it back. I don’t know how to live when a part of me is dead. I don’t know how to breathe when the air you left us is full of questions, conspiracies, politicking and hatred. I don’t know how to breathe when the air is thick with uncertainty and when I breathe in grief and breathe out grief. I wish I had more answers, but you died. You did the one thing I needed you not to do.

You’re no longer with us.

You’re gone, far away and never coming back. Nothing prepared me for your departure. No tickets, no itinerary, no warning. One day we were together and the next we weren’t. You’re not here to see the mess you left behind; your colleagues and frienemies have ran us all into the ground. You’re not here to see the destruction and greed, the lack of urgency and the pain. You’re no longer here to answer tough questions and deal with being on the wrong side of history. You’re no longer with us. You’re not here to hear how they hate(d) you, how they saw you as nothing more but a cog in the machine of a devlish system. But, almost gladly,  you’re not here to perpetuate that system, and maybe that’s for the better. You’re no longer with us, but your actions (and inactions) haunt me daily.

You passed on.

You passed from one life to the next, painfully so. I wish I had known when you were leaving. I wish I had known. It’s been a year since that hot winter’s day when we found you. A year since my heart stopped and my lungs emptied out and my soul left my body for a while. It’s been a year since I saw your face. It’s been a whole year. So why does it feel like it happened yesterday? I can still hear my mother crying, I can still see her pain.

I’d like to celebrate you, but I’m not sure I know how. You did the one thing I needed you not to do. I knew parts of you they’ll never know, and I’ll cherish those forever. But I can’t celebrate you until I find my sunshine again. So for now, while the police investigate, and your frienemies rejoice in your death and wreak havoc on this land, I’ll say a quick prayer for your soul and hope that we’ll meet again. I miss you. Bring back the pieces of my heart when you have a minute.

Love you forever. (And no, you can’t rule from the grave, soz.)

Vimbi.

Bank queue thoughts.

My father had a terrible singing voice. Cringeworthy, deep and without melody, the only song I remember him singing was the national anthem. Yes, the national anthem. He used to belt it out on the days he decided to burden us with his singing, creating strange harmonies and misplaced crescendos. This morning I thought of him as I heard the anthem over the radio, just before the 6AM news. I smiled and cringed – I haven’t forgotten what his voice sounded like. Yet.

Perhaps the feelings towards my country came from the way his singing made me feel. I hated it when he was actually singing, but I somehow found myself humming the anthem, smiling to myself as I went about my daily tasks. Sometimes I’d join him, mostly to improve the quality of the performance. I was much younger when he sang the anthem, and Zimbabwe wasn’t perfect, but it was a much easier country to live in.

Fast forward to this morning. “Kushandira mari kwacho, kunorwadza. Kutora mari yacho, kunorwadza. Nyika yacho yese yaakutorwadza,” says the man in the bank queue in front of me. He has spent the last week queuing for no more than $200, at ungodly hours. According to him, we were headed back to 2008 times, when shop shelves and fuel pumps were empty, our money worthless, our political freedoms stifled, our hearts heavy and our sense of hope wavering. A time when dreams were dashed on the rocks of a callous government and a desperate and trigger happy ruling party. A time of all night prayers, of shady deals, ill-equipped hospitals and dying patients, unpaid workers and late school fees payments. A time much like the present. Pessimism is our ideology, political polarity our bread and butter. Politicians politick and people hurt and hustle. Life is not normal. It hasn’t been for a very long time. Mega deals come and go, corruption makes overweight, potbellied men richer than they can articulate. Morals don’t exist. Every person fends for themselves, just to keep their heads above water. Street children return, begging bowls deeper. Vendors return, fighting for their right for a decent life. Debt collectors take furniture and cars, evict tenants and dare them to take it up with a legal system that bleeds your already empty pockets dry.

The line gets longer and longer, those last in line hoping they’ll make the cut. I keep humming the national anthem, thinking of how we got here. Thinking of the hundreds of doors of opportunity that have since closed for so many citizens. I glance over at the elderly woman a few steps away from me and think of the pensions that were lost and the grandchildren whose parents toil away in foreign lands.

An argument breaks out about a man who tries to jump the queue. Two soldiers join the argument and it ends promptly.

I wonder what it will really take for things to change; for our leaders to care again. For our lives to not be an endless pit of pain. 

I’ve stopped humming.