“For the night is dark and full of terrors”.
She walks through inner city Johannesburg, arms tightly mantled around her purse, legs briskly kicking herself forward and eyes intently dismissing and avoiding any eye contact. She knows that today could be the day that she gets robbed, raped, murdered or all of the above. She’s never in her life felt safe walking through Joburg alone.
He enters social situations with light tremors and twitches in his muscles. His palms are so hot and sweaty that they could be rented out as saunas for insects. He’s dyssemic around people because he feels like there’s always something socially expected of him and he’s caught between proving himself and uncertainty; a no man’s land – a purgatory for wall weeds. He knows that today could be the day that he is mocked, judged, alienated, criticised and what’s left of his self esteem killed off. He’s never felt safe walking through a discussion alone.
When home is not safe
We’re all looking for some type of safety, a concrete certainty; a financial, biological or social homeostasis… To risk is to go against human nature but how else do we prosper if not by going against the reasonability of our fears. The truth is we risk just to feel safe. We work for shelter, food and financial stability. We love and give just to know that there is a safety deposit box that we can invest our hearts in,even though there is a risk that that the returns will be terrible(unrequited). It’s a fucken scarey world and there are monsters waiting to tear you from limb to limb in every corner but you’re not living if you’re not gambling against a danger. Trapeze art and tightrope tiptoeing wouldn’t be as exciting without the grave possibility of death.
We often talk about how we want more freedom, more economic freedom or whatever but when you start studying current affairs like what’s going on in Egypt or China, it starts to become abundantly clear that freedom is a chain tethering us to our governments. The country you are in or from dictates how long and tight that chain is. We all have a certain amount of freedom. Some of us decide to hang ourselves by those chains and we die as martyrs but we’re resurrected every time a new generation reads about our struggles and our words. This freedom that you have given us will never be enough. Humanity is constantly trying to claw itself out of a crawl space sized prison that we have built for ourselves. It seems that there will never be an end to our hunger, until we die and we’ll die hungry but death will feed us. The thing is, I want to be free while I’m still alive; I want to be free while I’m still awake. I don’t want to dream freedom, I want to live it.
When your dreams fall apart and every hope you have ever had seemingly vaporizes and abandons you, to make it in this world, you’re supposed to ignore the regret and pain that comes with failure. You have to some how get up and start again as if you were something mechanical, an automaton tinkering along that needs to replace its rusted parts to be okay. You are not allowed to feel and most of us get it so wrong that we’re stuck feeling for the rest of our lives – picking at the same scab, never allowing it to scar over and heal. All we were was based on that dream that just some how got up and walked away from us. It was everything that defined us. You found out what you were not and you got stuck in that void – in the middle of nothing. There was a point in time where you convinced that everything was okay and would be okay until you found out how disillusioned you were. There is no daylight any more – night and day seems the same. Memory reminds you of the times you could feel and how breathing the rain in felt. It’s like a smack now when it splashes you on the face. Now and then again, you get glimpses of what you were and you wish that you were a child again so you can be allowed to dream. You grow to realize that its a dream and so much of what you thought you wanted was an illusion. You’re an overstuffed waste bucket, a collection of every shitty experience you have ever had and you are so pale , frail and shell shocked against the sun light. You just wish you could go back and be what you once were. Those glimpses are like tortures because they come and go, just when you think you’ve finally found sanctuary in a thought, it becomes over worn by the regret reminding you that you’ve climbed this hill before…
“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
We cant do that any more. We cant fool ourselves into thinking that the mundane will provide us with enough self importance to justify our existence in the negative frames of society. What do we do now? We start searching for silver bullet cures in books, drugs and religion, dreaming that somehow in their words or chemicals, we’ll find a tunnel or a river that will wash away who we are and we’ll come out the other end, changed and happy. It’s a let down every time. Teach yourself to forget my friend. Teach yourself not to feel. You’ll lose a lot of your humanity but nothing can hurt you if you have nothing there. There is no suture that can stitch your child hood back. Sometimes the water is not made for drinking, sometimes you have to take a bath in it to come out clean. Unfortunately, there will always be stains and scars, you have to find resolution in your past, heal, gather the broken pieces that could still work for something new and move on.
Another day passes and I find myself even more withdrawn than ever. I have a long task list to get through and I haven’t made a single microcosm of progress. It feels like something is broken, I can no longer find a reason to work or wake up in the morning. I think the word is Dysania? (the state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning). Its not like I’m asleep at the time. I can barely sleep…
I’m the last one in, which means I have to prepare myself to face my managers scowl of disapproval. The quality of my work has slipped quite substantially and now I’m sitting across my boss, trying to figure out which words will convince him that I’ll change. I wont change. I don’t want to change, I want to quit but I’m too much of a coward to do it.
A lack of sleep has left me cognitively impaired so forgive me if I need you to repeat what you’ve said and forgive me if I don’t look like I care. I find myself making stupid mistakes, it gets hard to read or find words to communicate(Dysphasia). I don’t want to be stuck here but life feels like quicksand, I’m just going to die. I start to wonder if I’m developing schizophrenia. I’ve just finished reading Syliva Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, a roman-a-clef where the main character (her) sinks into a schizoid like psychosis. I know I’m depressed, I’ve never been completely happy. I hardly ever smile and what’ s worse is the anxiety. Thick nerves and a brain that ticks constantly into recriminations and a replay of regrets keeps me awake at night- keeps my hands shaking and unsteady. On a sunny South African day in November, at rock bottom of my despair, I decide to do something about it. After a little research – I book an appointment with a psychologist…..
I beat myself up everyday for being myself. Its like I’ve betrayed you. I remember my previous life as an adolescent Christian. More than anything in the world, what I wanted to be was perfect in the eyes of God and if I felt that I failed, I would retract completely. Now, all basic Christian doctrine teaches us to repent and God will forgive us but I hated the fact that I was repenting for the same sins over and over again. I hated my desires, I hated that I touched myself and I hated that I lied. I was a self hating conformist entertaining the idea of individualism. After finally renouncing my religion, I was stuck with no idea of identity. I was so used to having easy to follow guidelines and instructions on how to be human. I started my rebellion in my late teenage years, becoming resistant against any form of control imposed by the barking dog of authority. I never understood it. I got so tired of trying to fit in this tiny box and I’ve never been a great contortionist. I was now doing the wrong things to spite myself when I became disgusted with my own docility. I was the type to cut my nose, not to spite my face but to spite society in its vanity because I knew it would be hard to look at a once beautiful face, now ruined. I would do that just to illustrate how shallow you are but out of the crowd, you would see a few not afraid to look at it and rejoice in its symbol. Here we are today and do I know who I am, years after my religious redefinition? No, but the answer hangs on the tip of my tongue and one day I’ll be able to speak it even if that day comes at the end of a life time. As you for you, the one who is sure how a human being should act and be, I’ll tell you this – I’ll betray you an infinite amount of times over before I betray myself ever again. Im not satisfied with a second hand personality.