A bit of a theological argument been going on in my mind recently as I struggled to understand why I felt so guilty for thinking rather than doing stuff. Sinning with my thoughts. Just being a very bad Christian in theory. It made me think of the church in the middle ages, all the flogging and self flagellation which I now understand because sometimes the enormity of comprehending an all merciful God is too much for human beings to understand.
It made me think of creation and how Adam and Eve sinned and got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. I thought, if they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be feeling this bad right now. I would be enjoying paradise. Unless, and this is where the argument arose, unless someone else sinned in much the same way somewhere down the line. But then, I reasoned, how would that someone sin if there was no tree of the knowledge of good and evil to tempt him or her? And I realized, maybe, just maybe, another temptation would have entered his or her mind, like say committing adultery. And that would be it.
See, I always thought that sin came into the world because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but what I am wondering is did the sin not start before the actual eating? Did it not start when Eve greedily thought of eating the fruit in the first place? I mean, if thinking of sinning is paramount to sinning, as I have grown to believe, then didn’t God create human beings with the potential to sin? Meaning it’s not the tree that brought about sin. It just kind of activated it. Materialized it. Right?
Ah. My mind feels like spaghetti.
But then there was always the antagonizer the devil to stir things up. Filling in our blanks about good and evil. And then there is the concept that every human being is born a sinner. Which takes me back to the beginning. Were Adam and Eve also born sinners seeing as they had the potential and freedom of choice to sin?
Ah. Forget spaghetti. My mind is mush now.
And even if someone helps explain this, will I feel less guilty for thinking the things I think?
Flipped through my old high school journal, or as I once called it, my idea book!
Gosh, where to begin? Basically my teen life was a mix of ambition, tiffs with my mum, fierce loyalty to friendships, way too much television and movies, and a lot of song lyrics. Funny thing is that as I read back on the entries, I can see myself exactly as I was putting them down–sitting with my legs crossed on top of my bed, or bent over on the sitting room floor cutting out pictures or words from a magazine, looking up and down for glue or tape to stick all the mementos in place, ever at a loss for a pen.
I even have four A4 pages filled with my handwriting trying to justify why I wanted to be a journalist at the time. A lot of the entry amounted to rambling, with enough pop culture references thrown in to prove my case, at the end of which I concluded in a very teenage way, “I don’t know why I want to do it. I just do.”
Some things have changed, some have remained the same. I still like Nickelback’s song Hero. That will never get old for me. I still think that the one rainy scene in Lion King reminds me of my grandparents’ home in Limuru. I still have no definite favourite food or colour, still want to see the world. Still really want to go to Sydney. In fact if anything has changed since then it may be my book and music preferences. Happily I still feel pretty much like the same girl I was then. Even if it was only, you know, five years ago.
One thing has come back to me though. The need to write. Not type, really write. Physically. Using my right hand, left one too if I try hard enough. Because the thing is I really liked doing it. Even after high school when I really began taking writing seriously, enough to consider making it a lifetime gig, I would live for the moments of stretching my hand over the pages of some journal in a bid to try to make sense of everything. Sure I stressed when ink stained my fingers, but deep down I felt proud. Lifting my fingers to my nose to take in the smell of ink. Breathing it deep, intoxicating myself, looking forward to the next time I would do it again. Straining my hand at first, just so to get my writing as I liked it–neat and loopy, though not completely restrained, before eventually losing myself in the activity as my thoughts became one with my actions making me feel whole for even the briefest amount of time.
Come to think of it, I was always a bit obsessed with handwriting. As a child learning the basics of writing, I could not hold my pencil right. My index finger was too weak, so I substituted by grasping using my index, middle and ring finger alongside my thumb. End result was a callus on my ring finger that too this day still manages to flabbergast my brother.
“Tell me how do you write until you get that on your finger?” He always asks. Beats me.
Between standard four and form four, my writing must have changed about ten million times. My A’s would one day be as they appear on a keyboard, the next day stretched out cursively, the day after straight and boxy at the top as I would use a ruler to try and make my letters line up. I was jealous of the girls whose writing was better than mine. I romanticized the art of writing, always imagining that it would play a huge part in my fate (as I believed in fate rather than destiny). I watched documentaries featuring children in Asian countries engaged in calligraphy competitions, watched as they dipped brushes into paint before stroking them over rolled parchment at their knees, their tongues stuck out as they concentrated on their exercise. I felt similar to them, in awe of what they were doing.
For my eighteenth birthday one of my friends gave me a Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a gift. At the back there was a short biography in which Mr. Dahl was described as having sat at his stool writing using a pencil pages and pages of his manuscripts, using an eraser to rub out his errors. I saw him as they described it, positioning his wrist and making music with his words. I dreamed of doing that with my own hands. Making music with words.
It was after I read Crime and Punishment that I became so excited to become a writer enough to scrawl stories down late into the night until my mother would shout at me to turn off the light so as to save power. You’re killing my dreams, I would think, staring daggers into my door. Then I would shift around restlessly before sitting up and using my cellphone’s torch for light as I continued writing. And they were silly stories, really. Improbable ones. Unfortunate ones. Some were beautiful, but deep down I wrote them knowing they would never sell.
Fact is I like writing. Always have. While I appreciate typing as fast, it also sometimes feels so impersonal. Like the robots are taking over. We are no longer living in Nairobi. We are living in Jetson land, or 1984. It is for this reason that there is ever a new notebook added to my collection–small, big. An obsession. Half of them never filled, yet for me to write more in them than I already have would be to intrude on my memories of the periods during which I wrote them, whether two days or two years.
And you know what? I feel like getting another notebook. I think I will. To prepare material for future reading, see.
There was this day last year when I developed a bad itch around my neck area. I kept scratching and scratching, tugging on my shirt collar and fanning myself using my fingers, wondering why I felt strangled. I was in class at the time, trying oh so hard to concentrate and failing oh so miserably. The world is an evil place, I kept thinking. And as I did so, I could feel the four walls closing in on me, suffocating me. Once the teacher left, I got up from my seat leaving my friend instructions to hold it for me while I went to get some air at the washrooms. Funny thing though; I left with my bag, and after using the washrooms, I walked down the stairs and right out of the building into the mid-morning sun, caring little for the next class or the one after that. With every step I took I felt like not only was I walking away from school, but also from the world. As though half expecting to find at the end of Moi Avenue the end of the world in the form of an abrupt cliff leading down into a dark unfathomable abyss.
It’s only today that I realize what I had that day was an anxiety attack. Fear becoming a daunting beast that takes possession of my heart and plays with it as though it is silly putter. Struggles for air and clarity of thought, feeling sad and mad and scared and impaired.
I didn’t find the end of the world that day. I walked round the city center–a combined distance of probably 3km, noticing nothing yet looking at everything. A part of me wanted to go home, so once I reached the bus stop I stood staring at the vehicles, a lost soul, debating whether to climb on. The world around me was a hot haze of yellow and haunting splotches of psychedelic colours. I felt like the skeletal figure in Edward Munch’s painting The Scream, fading away but still there, little by little losing touch of reality.
In the end I went back to school which was even more awful than when I left it. My friends thought I was insane, asking ”Are you ok”, perturbed when I said ”No”, thanking the heavens when the lecturer came in bringing with him a semblance of normalcy. Everything seemed so trivial and small which in turn made me feel trivial and small. I cried in the bathroom stall, cried at home that night, in the process confounding my sister. It took me three days to snap out of it.
The other time I can remember this happening on a major scale was shortly after high school. Coming home from computer class in the late evening, I sat in the bus while stuck in traffic jam and read the synopsis of a novel I had considered buying earlier in the day. The Lord of the Flies. The more I read, the sicker I became. By the time the bus reached our destination, I couldn’t understand what was going in. It was like I was in a dream. I went home and told my mum about the book which so disturbed me. She had read it in high school as it was compulsory those days–and she hadn’t liked it either. I felt some relief except I felt no less disturbed. That night I experienced a nightmare. A hazy, black figure taunted me, fear gripped my heart and I couldn’t shout out. Not even to Jesus. The next day I told mum I wasn’t going to computer class. The world is too evil. What if something happens to me?
My college classmates had thought I was crazy when I had my anxiety attack. Who ever gets so afraid when there is nothing to be afraid of? It made me feel foolish too. Like a fraud. What now? Walls closing in? Blah!
On the other hand, a year before my mother had understood all too well. I stayed home from school. We watched TV, cared for my niece and cooked lunch. In the afternoon we went outside to burn some trash. As we stood in the blazing sun staring at the flames licking at paper and fighting with empty glass bottles, I decided never to miss school–or anything, again because of anxiety.
Truth is I’m scared of a lot of things. Heights and snakes. Spiders and failure. Stubbing my little toe on the corner of a wall. Relationships. I tried to drown it out today by listening to music. I shifted around nervously feeling my dread grow. What if I’m not good enough, I asked.
Almost immediately a voice answered ”Well, what if you are?”
I remember all the times I have had bouts of anxiety, always dealing with them privately. Clutching my chest, gasping for air. I’d read about such before, but they were always so dramatic that they could not possibly apply to me. Where the mini heart attacks I knew were chick-lit material, I considered my own symptoms classical Dostoyevsky. An affliction snob. One thing I forgot was the base ingredient of both: fear.
I think of the animation I watched recently–Rise of the Guardians. The kids in the film are forced to acknowledge The Boogey Man is real. I know that all too well. Some nights he jumps out from under my bed and grabs hold me. Sometimes I fight him off, sometimes I don’t. What I really hate though is when he shows up in the day.
I had one last week. I didn’t know how to explain it to my mum because how do you explain some things?
”Why are you crying?” she asked, wondering whether the soap on telly was really that sad.
”Sometimes I just cry.” I replied. In my head I thought that sometimes it’s good to cry in company. Less lonely that way. Less suffocating. Less scary.
It’s that time of the month again and my lower back is killing me. The first night is usually the worst as I spend hours tossing and turning in my sleep trying to find a position good enough for me to be able to sleep in, and even then I only ever end up dancing between dreams and reality. Five days that drag on, during which I simultaneously feel filthy, moody, listless, and at the end realize that my jeans are slightly looser, my abdomen slightly flatter, making me wonder just how much I’ve lost in less than a week. And then I hold my breath until the next time roughly a month from now, when the misery and back aches and restless nights will start all over again making me question everything about me as a woman.
I am taken back to my teens when the obsession began. We had been prepped about this since our pre-adolescence. Girls who were probably as old as I am now would visit once every few months to give us ‘the talk’. It was a major secret not to be shared with the boys. We snuck out packets of sanitary towels, tampons, little sachets of cleansers, toners and moisturisers; doing it all to pique the curiosity of the males, but not too much. Videos were watched. We got up close views of STD’s, their symptoms and cures. The abortion videos were the worst. They gave me nightmares. And slowly by slowly it seeped into our minds that everything we knew before was nothing. Now we were on the brink.
I felt abnormal because I was a late bloomer in everything. By the time I was almost through with primary school, it seemed every girl had breasts, hips and had begun their menses. I had not and as a result my self esteem took a nosedive. Somewhere, I went from being cute to awkward. The boys didn’t like me anymore.
I remember one girl in particular who got her menses when we were 11. She used to get cramps so bad that she’d openly cry in class–classless, embarassing wails that hinted to some excruciating physical pain, and we’d stare in horror, convinced that once our menses came it would be the same. It got so terrible one day that several teachers had to come to our classroom to deal with the situation. My friend and deskmate leaned over and conjectured,
”They are going to ask us to take off our sweaters, tie them together and use them to carry her down and home.” Her logic made perfect sense at the time because the girl in question was a bit big (and in our young eyes the teachers not very strong), yet it was so ridiculous that both of us spread our lips in mirth. Until one male teacher came in all menacing and big-eyed and barked out the order, ”Take off your sweaters!”
My friend and I exchanged a look in horror. ”No!” we mouthed at each other, imagining the worst. As it turned out, our fears were not to be confirmed. All that happened was an impromptu PE lesson to distract the rest of class from the wailing girl.
By the time I turned fourteen, I had all the theory down pat. Little did I expect my first period to come when I had gone to the movies, or that it would be so quiet in doing so. Had I expected a party? Well, all I got was a screening ofTransformers back when I liked Shia Labeouf. Irregardless, I stepped out of the cubicle into the spacious washroom, all alone to celebrate my victory in private, and smiled at my reflection in the mirror.
Present reality is jarring. I cannot rest on my back, nor my side, nor my stomach. I shift around trying to get comfortable. I wanted this, I remember. I was crazy, like many others in my gender. Always so excited about the firsts, never thinking about the after. Clear firsts, ambiguous lasts. I wonder about the dynamics of being a woman, the definition, the implications. How many more firsts? How many more afters to resent? A trickle of apprehension runs down my back. A rhyme enters my head.
Life is a walk in a misty park
We could all be winners or sitting ducks
I am reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and at the same time thinking that one of the surest methods of driving people away is to show them all of who you are–what inspires you, disgusts you, your good points and your flaws, your highs and lows, your ups and downs, your everything. It occurs to me that when I do this I do it consciously, perhaps to one day be surprised by someone who will care enough to prod further ( either through actual prodding by means of speech, physical actions such as a kiss or hug, or acceptable and companionable silence); or to be disappointed and smirk in my knowledge that all had gone as I expected. An opportunity for me to snap my fingers and go, ”Aha! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you, and I was right!”
All of which leads me to an overwhelming question (that’s a Prufrock line right there); is there anyone who truly knows me? Not in halves or quarters or crumbs or bites. Through and through, whole numbers, 100%, as much as I know the detail of my arm or my nails or the back of my hand. And I wonder, will anyone ever come to know of the deep etchings on my palms as I do? The beauty spot on my right thigh? The other just below my hairline? The errant hair on my chin? The fact that I sing while cooking, sit with my knees tucked in while brooding, chew on my pinkie nail while thinking? Or is it a youthful sin to wish, to dream of bliss?
To know people in halves or wholes–who knows whether it is possible. Until you find your answer you remain ignorant as to its existence. It’s like they say–you cannot know love unless it is given you, show understanding unless it is accorded. As it stands I am surrounded by love though it sometimes feels like not many understand me. I do not blame them for sometimes I hardly understand myself, which often results in me relating half-dreams to my mum.
”And then what happened?” she usually asks.
I shrug my shoulders. ”I woke up.”
She frowns and leaves the room before calling out from the kitchen, ”Let us pray against spirits of confusion.”
I smile then frown. Shake my head, look down. After all, she is right. There is confusion. Does her knowing that make her a 100%er? Yet she does not have all the answers. Which takes me back to the beginning. Does any human have all the answers, or rather the words you cannot phrase yourself but wish to hear; or is it a pipe dream? Is it really possible for someone to complete you and you them, or are we doomed to living lives of unspoken desires and worries, unnoticed quirks, perpetual loneliness?
I am an unapologetic romantic. I wait and pray, yet I fear that I wait for the impossible. And the thought that there may be no one out there strikes a note of fear within me.
I share my love for Prufrock with someone. Type out whole lines, excited to let it all out. I wait for a reply. The messages stop coming. People like speaking of themselves. When you show them an unexpected side of yourself, you learn to expect radio silence every once in a while. Not companionable silence, mind you. Just dead air.
”I have seen the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us and we drown.”
–The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Hey guys. I’ve been missing for a while because I have been lacking the desire to blog. What can I say? I fear that the time I talked about on my ‘about me’ section is nigh.
I once read a post on the blog Style Rookie in which the author spoke of worth in the sense of putting yourself out there. At first, she acknowledged that her legitimacy as a person with something important to say was when she documented those thoughts in her blog and got responses ie likes, comments and so on. As time moved on, her worth was confirmed to her by simply publicly documenting, kind of like standing on a dais and yelling out for all the world to hear, irregardless of response. Finally, worth came to her by simply documenting privately in a journal–no need for outsiders to confirm. Her blog hasn’t seen a new post in a while.
All I can say is that I understand her.