I had a dog called Pirate once. A little dog with once-white fur and sparkling black eyes. A dog with a bark as big as his spirit, who we constantly had to hold back from Big Dogs in the neighbourhood. A dog with a tail that did not know how to stay still.
(A dog whose feet ran swiftly towards danger.)
Every Sunday my family went to church, and little Pirate would sit alone at the gate of our compound, awaiting our return. We’d see him as we drove home from a distance;
a once-white mound,
asleep on the ground,
At the sound of our approaching car, Pirate would rise. Pirate would stand, and Pirate would bark his Big Dog Bark. As one of us stepped out of the car, Pirate’s bark would grow more impassioned, as if to hasten the opening of our gate.
From my little dog, Pirate, I learned the nature of how some of us love. For those of us who love too quickly, love is an off-white dog at the gates of our hearts. It waits. It waits and it welcomes. It trusts fully, even when much in this world warrants suspicion.
Sometimes this love, not knowing its place, will bark at Big Dogs and come home bitten, limping and whimpering in pain.
Tend to its wounds.
Mostly, tend to its spirit.
Then send it out again.
Your love is alive, its posture open to delight in others. Do not still the wag in its tail. Do not dim the light in its spirit.
The world needs those of us whose feet run swiftly towards [the danger of] love.
Give and have the sorts of names that hold meaning like the near-black clouds hold rain at home in December. When these names are uttered, every hearing ear will know that it's about to pour. They will feel fat, cool droplets slap onto their skin and they will take cover. These names will pitter-patter on corrugated iron roofs.These names will tremble out like the thunder, they will flash brightly and burn- just like the lightning. These names will be the strangest storms- storms that build instead of tear down. They will be tempestuous rains that repair ships as they toss them hither and thither. They will fall on fertile ground and nourish seeds of love for our many selves. They will be noisy- they will be the storm after the stupor-induced calm. Yes, the storm after the calm. They will rinse off every piece of mud that clings to our spirits. These names will be oceans. Their waves will tower high into the sky and when they come crashing down, they will submerge every ear in their saline waters. What a baptism that will be! And we, submerged in this baptism, will be preserved- every inch of what's left of us. Pickled- unexposed to corrosive conditions. These names we should have and give, they will sprain tongues, pain jaws and break hearts. These names will be bowed down to. These names will echo for eons, like chimes in gentle winds.<
Hard work is glorified. There is nothing quite like a 'good work ethic'. Wake up early, go to bed late. Stay up all night- as long as it's in the name of hard work. Break yourself. Do a dance with your shattering bones. Cry. Sweat. Bleed. Blood, sweat and tears season your success. Give talks. And speeches. Be read by millions. Die trying. Be heard by multitudes. Nothing is good if no one's applauding. If they aren't, you don't have enough followers. If you do not, you didn't try hard enough. Don't be lazy. Do not be lazy.
You'll be great.
You will. Don't entertain that What If. The one that thinks you won't. (Miss Khokwa said you write very well.)
What a waste of brains you are.
And you're not even trying.
(She asked for $60,000 to speak at our event. Isn't that how much you pay for school? That could put 6000 people through school for a whole term, actually.)
You need clothes for the summer. You need to hide your hair.
Your face is fat.
Your arms are hairy.
Your stomach has a life of its own.
You're not loving. You're not kind. You don't know who you are. You're not kind. (You've got to be kind.) But being kind is kind of like not littering in Lilongwe. If no one else is not doing it, then what's the point?
You know God's real, but you also know that men have added so much in the mix with him that sometimes it's hard to tell where the lines are.
You've got friends. You've got love. You've got a good family. But that's not enough.
Remember where it said in the bible that you can never really escape God's spirit? That he's there in the heights and depths and all that? You can also never escape chaos in the world. When it's not nuclear bombs terrorizing us, it's our own self-hate having a little bit of us three times a day like some sickening prescription. Isn't that ironic?
We're not required to save others. Oh, and before I forget, quitting is allowed. Not everything is deep. But everything has meaning.
10. Oblivion is a luxury I can no longer afford. Ignorance is a rusty trinket that's not quite as precious as I once thought it. I pine for both, on very frequent occasion.
9. My disposition isn't sunny. It's LED lights. The blinking ones that are screaming to be changed. 8. 8. I wish everyone in the world was poor. I wish all we had was play and constant conversation. Or lengthy silences drawn out for hours under the shy sun. Predictions of when the rain would fall that were based on the smell in the air, and the direction in which the birds flew.
So get this; most times, I don't feel like a writer. Because my will to write is seasonal. But my hunger to is constant. But what good is an appetite for mangoes when the tree hasn't borne them?
Hard work is frightening. Home sometimes is, too. From far, it's glorious. But close up, it's suffocating and pitiful. But home, still. And, I suppose I should add that it's hopeful. But sometimes I'm afraid that the damage that was done to it will last much longer than I'll live. I hate that my life's on display. That a large number of uninvited guests get to share in my life's most secret moments. If I had the head-shape, I'd be bald. If I had the drive right now, I'd be bold. Quitting is allowed.
As it turns out, I am not too different from David (my dear friend told me so). Belting out my psalms of praise from the rooftops one day, and whispering cries of deep sadness the next. I do not like to share the sadness here these days. Not while it is present. Things put here are offerings. For you, Dear Reader, to consider and cherish, or dismiss and deem unimportant. The decision is mine, but the ultimate prerogative is your honour. To leave it up to chance, and have that room for rejection is among my greatest fears. And so I do not like to share my sadness here- not while I am fumbling in the thick of it.
I prefer to speak of it as an unwelcome visitor come and gone, all its vices gone with it. Lest it leap up from your screen and jump onto your shoulders. I prefer to talk of my uncertainty in past tense- when I have sat down and pondered and prayed and made some manner of sense of it. I like to share the high bits. The strong songs. The joyful melodies. But truthfully, we're all so inevitably inclined to melancholy at times. Or so I'm theorizing. Now is one of those moments.
I am overtaken by everything I wish to be and do and become. I am profoundly irritated by the things I am shackled to doing in the meantime. It all feels futile. It all feels big. Emptily big and bigly empty. I've been second-guessing myself for quite a while now. I've been questioning. Who I am. Who I am perceived to be. The ocean of difference that lies insultingly between. (We, human beings, should maybe just be. And not have to define ourselves. Or be defined. But I digress.)
I feel small and incompetent. I feel inconspicuous and weak. I feel inexperienced. I feel like I fall short of what even those who think the least of me see. I feel that I need permission. Permission to fail. To fail so epically and openly and completely. To be. Just simply be. Not constantly haunted by what needs to be done, and when, and for whom, and for what purpose.
I feel that I need permission to zoom out. To call a spade a spade and declare from the top of my shaky doings that I am weak. That I am weak, and afraid of my calling. That I am afraid of what I feel so completely and honestly drawn to. That I am afraid of doing it absolutely no justice. Of dragging it through the mud and then eventually abandoning it. Muddy and tattered and torn. And gravely smaller than it could have been, in more deserving hands. I need permission to wing it. I need permission to fear. I need permission to say, quite honestly, and quite boldly, that I do not know.
That if there is anyone small, I am she. That if there is anyone hesitant, I am her. That if there is anyone whose every step quivers these days, Takondwa is that person. In a world where strength is the stuff that warrants praise and admiration, or at the very least, a pat on the back, I need permission to be weak. I need permission to be weak without cause. Not because I am going through something, or because I've been through enough. But because I am not strong. Maybe these are false, misconstrued narratives of self. But in this moment, they feel the most true. This shouldn't be a bad thing (should it?).
I feel daunted. I feel like I am at my wits' ellipsis... This ellipsis, it's a long row of ellipsis that coils around me in the dead of the night, and dances fiendishly above me as I live out my days. I am in the dark, with a small dying lantern that only lights few steps ahead of me. I feel like on this path, I expect to find refuge, but a deep pit might await. I am afraid. (I am commanded not to be). I feel weak. One shouldn't feel this weak so early in her race. One shouldn't feel this 'failful' when the scent of her beginning still lingers heavily in the air. I am never one to get caught up in illusions of grandeur. (I have never thought of grandeur as a thing to be attained at all). Right now, I feel weak. Rightfully. But there is hope. Promises remain. And into them, I let myself collapse- fully and completely. When I am weak, it is then that I am strong.