I scroll, slide and sift through daily deluge of words and images on my newsfeed – and cut myself on a shard of news so disturbing that I can taste blood in my mouth and I feel sick to my core.
I would rather have had a nightmare; experience the trauma of my dark imagination than read this testimony to our reality of crime and decrepidness in South Africa in particular.
It haunts me. The images that creep into my mind, the reconstruction of the unfathomable trauma. I want to shut off my brain, close the windows to my shocked soul and never look outside again. Maybe scroll on – pretend I didn’t read that. I want to undo. There is no escape.
We have fallen into a pit toilet with her. We have been tied to the bed too. We are suffocating on the stench of violence and corruption. The lives of children – voiceless, collateral damage.
How do we make a difference? How do I lift my heart out of this dark hole? Despair, lament, cry? Pretend it was a nightmare and tomorrow my life will continue in a bubble of suburban bliss?
I will try to write it here, acklowledge that it wasn’t a dream. I will give a testimony to their short and shocking lives. I know that being silent and scrolling on – with an index finger dripping with blood – isn’t any help at all.
Cry, my beloved children.
I heard a nightjar calling outside in the dark. I often hear the familiar sound when the rest of the house is asleep. I fondly remember cool nights and roaring camp fires as a child in the Kruger National Park. Tonight, I also thought of my late Grandfather – who enjoyed birdwatching and sharing morsels of trivia like he shared the hard, white peppermints in his car.
I asked the internet and I was told that the Fiery Necked Nightjar “has a call which sounds like Good Lord Deliver Us”(1). Yes, I remember now … I heard this description before, from my Oupa.
I then asked the internet where that expression comes from. Thank you, Google. Apparently, it’s from an Anglican Litany in the 1789 Book of Prayer (2).
“Good Lord deliver us.
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day our judgment.”
I would love to sleep. Good Lord, deliver me!
Perhaps this solitary little brown bird also suffers from insomnia. Or perhaps, we are just birds of a feather … and we like to catch our worms in the darkest of hours.
Photograph by Rico Demetrio, a ranger at SABI SABI.
The past 6 months have left me exhausted. I have never been so tired in my life. As I type this I feel guilty for talking about it – as if the time it will take to wrap my head around this past season is a luxury I cannot afford.
Guilt is a monster. It shakes an accusing finger at me: “How dare you feel like this when so many people are going through so much worse? You are not spending quality time with your girls. You are a terrible wife. You fail more than you succeed at anything.”
How dare I try to explain that, for every perfect Instagram moment, there are 10 more moments of frustration, exhaustion, anxiety … and yes, depression.
Being honest – being transparent about my feelings – is partly why I challenged myself to write. I find it sobering that I haven’t done so in ages. Veiled with work and closed-off behind deadlines, I have successfully avoided my reflection here, in stark black and white.
When my newsfeed is congested with curated images of beach holidays and words like “bliss”; I am grateful that we are not going anywhere. If anything, I would love to stay in bed, go nowhere and eat everything. I don’t want to worry about finding a camera angle to hide my bloated belly. But this is completely impossible.
The girls will climb over me, I will laugh and they will giggle as they cleverly coax me out of my soft, white bed. Life will force me to live. Even when my mind is charred now, my heart and my body must (and will) continue for them – and for myself. Perhaps I can show the incessant Guilt a few fingers of my own next year.
I haven’t written in a while. I read my older posts and quickly pick up typo’s and errors; I feel embarressed and exposed. I am also encouraged that I am always in the process of improvement. I can do better next time. My evergreen hope.
Why do I still do this? Maybe I feel braver facing the real world ironically by opening my thoughts to cyber reality. If anything, it is a therapy to organise my thoughts into semi-coherent paragraphs that are a “witnessed” and which becomes a historical record to which I can return to: sketches of my life and mental landscape. Impressionistic compilations.
My life feels in chaos at the moment. I am failing to strike any resemblance of balance between work, the kids, my marriage and myself. I am overwhelmed.
I lay awake thinking about what I still need to do, haven’t done yet – or what I should have done differently. But tonight, I will start to order the chaos by folding my thoughts into neat towers, here.
I need to take care of myself, physically. I feel the drain of too much coffee and too little sleep. I will need to value my body as much as I do my work and family.
I need to find ways of navigating chaotic deadlines and tidal waves of emails in a way that is more sustainable and healthy. Perhaps an assistant? The art of delegation is a skill I have not yet mastered.
I need to prioritise and focus on the time spent with my family. Maia dressed herself this evening and I was struck at how quickly she has become an independent little human. I noticed how her body has changed. When last did I notice her body and the transformation from toddler to little girl happening too quickly? Her round toddler tummy is gone. Her legs are long and lean but their shape has filled out since she is eating more like a pre-schooler and less like a picky toddler. Her hair is so long! I must make time to comb it with gentleness and not in a frenetic we-are-late-for-school rush.
I listen to Dara’s sleepy sighs and Michael’s deep breathing next to me; I make a mental note that this nocturnal peace is perfect order – it’s a counter balance to the chaos of my days. I must just listen and breathe it in.
Order over chaos.
I am very careful with words like “blessed”. It has been abused and commodified like a badge you can buff on social media – one can be #blessed but perhaps not truly #believe.
This week, I was very sick, but this week I was blessed. It seems a contradiction. There was nothing glamorous about taking antibiotics – I am suspicious of any pills. The irony of working for a pharmacy does not escape me. Nothing glittered as I nebulised myself in my pajamas, while pumping polluted breastmilk.
Yet, between the coughing fits and mountains of medicine I became aware of how blessed I am.
It started with a good friend who brought us soup and bread. It was a delicious and comforting blessing.
I spent time with my two little girls – who I kept home when they also showed the first signs of coughing. I was blessed because they didn’t get any worse.
I baked flap jacks (two mornings in a row and on demand) because I could. I ate breakfast with my kids – sitting on the floor next to a small red plastic table – all still dressed (and blessed) in our pajamas.
I realised that, while becoming ill is not a blessing (that is just the collusion of bacteria, biology and a weak immune system); the blessing was the little time I was forced to reduce speed. The surprise of becoming aware of the blessed beauty hidden in those two horrible sick days.
Ilness and sickness cannot be glamourised. It’s always a vivid and heartaching reminder of the frailty of life.
From now though, I am less afraid of my weaknesses (physical or otherwise); those moments of being dependent and utterly frustrated: as that is when I find myself most blessed of all.
Last night I fell asleep with you on your bed (on the floor) again. The days’ stress drifted away from me like the clouds breaking into playful tufts in-front of the half-lit moon.
A night jar was calling outside and I whispered Ingrid Jonker’s Donker Man in your little ear. You were too tired to protest bedtime like you normally do these days.
I held your sleepy growing body in a soft fleece onesie (with white hearts) a little closer tonight. In a dreamy muddle, I realised that it was already becoming a memory as it happened. When I woke up, you were sleeping and softly snoring. When both of you are sleeping, I actually miss your toddler cacophonies of giggles and sporadic shrieks, between the general noise of growing up.
The house is so quiet at 2am. I carefully rolled away from you. I climbed into my own bed – rational, big and cool. I won’t open my computer to work, like I normally do. I don’t feel guilty of falling asleep and not working at all tonight. At this moment, I tiptoe around this delicate feeling that everything is perfect. The world can wait a little while more as I think of you and your sister and I write myself to sleep on my phone … toemaar, die donker man.
We stopped at a farmstall on our way back from a gorgeous wedding. Freshly baked bread from a wood burning oven soaked up an orange yellow yolk. I sipped on black coffee out of a blikbeker with character. There was a roaring fire in the middle of the room, casting warmth and light into the darker corners of the space – packed to the ceiling with baskets and boxes. Leaving, the smell of freshly baked pies and fishy bokkoms became an invisible curtain which fell between that moment and my memory of this beautiful morning.