Depths of despair

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I find her a challenge, one that in spite of all she has done continues to stimulate; and so, the conversation in my head futile as it may be continues and I’m left to wonder, have I simply failed to find the answers to the questions that preoccupy me? Or can they not be answered at all? Fortunately for me, the world always presents the next diversion, the next elaborate distraction that vexes.

So, in the depths of my despair I am walking around town aimlessly not knowing what I really want. I decide to go into a restaurant I have recently discovered gives me a therapeutic experience located just by the side of a main road. I am hungry and it is 9.04pm. I sit on the terrace watching people, cars and trucks pass by taking inventory of the colors of their clothes, wondering why a man would wear a pink trouser, squinting my eyes trying to read the inscriptions at the back of the trucks. I order tea to warm my stomach before the main dish. You ever wonder what was going on in the heads of the people writing those inscriptions? When my mind is not troubled by the thoughts of whether Kim Jong Un will launch an attack on the US and how soon that might be, or whether Kenya as a country will ever send a team of homegrown astronauts to space, my mind is invaded by thoughts as trivial as those of truck drivers and their crazy inscriptions.

My heart is heavy. I am a troubled man. I am lost in a maze of emotions. A fire ball of love, lust, anger, self-pity, loneliness, vengeance, sadness, confusion, betrayal all wrapped into one. I am highly unstable. I can go from happy to hungry to depressed to horny to sad to angry in a minute without warning.

In recent weeks, I have spent lots of time and given so much thought on the discussion of human connection and I am no closer to understanding than I was when all this began. If anything, I feel more lost in that world. I often feel as if am standing on one side of a wide cosmos, shouting across wondering if the response I get comes from someone else or it is my own voice echoing back to me. It seems to me on my side of the canyon that the search of unity with another is the front of much of the world’s unhappiness. Much of my recent unhappy moments too.

A long while ago I watched as my friends eager as ever to extract some meaning from the prevailing social conventions endured a series of curetted meeting rituals. It seemed to me that they were incrementally less content each time they returned from one of those. So, I conducted myself as though I was above affairs of the heart chiefly because I had seen them corrode people I respected and still do. Over time, I too was sucked into the infectious cycle of meaning extraction.

In my candid moments, as I sip my tea on that terrace, I go back in time and take the stats because love for lack of a better word is a game I fail to understand and so for a long time I have opted not to play. However, that is not to say I have not been involved in this game one way or another. There are several aspects of this game to this game. After all, if I have the purity of all my convictions, I wouldn’t regret so many of the things I’ve done, nor would I persist against so many of my better instincts in this line of thought. Neither would I be constantly on this topic.

I have loved and lost, shut myself in and everyone and everything else out. Plugged the holes in my heart like in that story of the Dutch boy who plugged a leaking dam to prevent everyone else from drowning. Became impenetrable, emotionless, cold and my heart froze. And then I opened myself up to the world again. My hand became numb and I got tired of holding back. I pulled my hand back and the emotions came trickling in like the flood gates had broken loose and broken every bound. I started caring. I loved and lost, loved again and lost, loved again and on the verge of losing yet again. I do not like to lose, not in a soccer game and definitely not love. No one likes to lose, especially when it comes to love. You know how they tell you its better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? That is crap. Nobody wants that.

I have cared for people, without expecting anything in return, care turned into affection and affection to love. Tried so hard to be the shining thread in the beautiful tapestry of the world. Been the person who always calls first, always returning calls, always making the efforts. If that is not enough, what is? What do people actually want if love is not enough? If being cared for is not enough, what will ever be? I am no longer skeptic about people, but neither do I trust them anymore. All I know is that the world is a cruel place and people are hard to trust. People are complicated and selfish. But I don’t want to be that or a ‘philautos’ as the Greeks call the ‘lover of themselves’. It is from being selfish that the depravation of the entire human character begins.

Chest pains have become a norm for me. If you have never told someone you love them and they replied “Thank you” then my dear friend you do not know what chest pain is. With that reply comes with it the full wrath of cupid’s arrows. It feels like arrows with ragged edges and tips lit with fire from the archery cavalry of Alexander the Great’s army during his conquest and expansion of his empire just landed on your heart.

My heart is burnt beyond recognition. It has been roasted and grilled like you would do a lamb’s limbs. All that is left of it is just dark patches and a thick hardened crust around it.

In an attempt to find myself, I have lost myself even more. I am back in the dungeons once again. Lost in the darkest depths of the caves of despair. I need a latch to hold on to but I cannot find it. I need someone to shine a light at the end of this tunnel however dim. It is paradoxical how they say that to find yourself you must first lose yourself completely. Perhaps it is true after all that the darkest hour is always before dawn. And if that is the case, perhaps I’m onto something here. Perhaps the insights I am getting now are a sign.

It occurs to me while am sipping my tea that I have halted at the rest stop of distraction and succumbed to the indulgent luxury of self-pity. The problems and challenges I face now could be merely distractions from the greater force of destiny that draws us from where we started to where we will accomplish what we were meant to do. If you sense that there is an order to your steps, a guidance that has corrected you when you were off course and nudged you when you sat in a holding pattern too long, then read on.

I start reflecting on my life and the many experiences I have had. Some sweet and some of which I have not the courage to share publicly. I am also amazed to realize that the greatest moments of my life have happened only through a series of circumstances that I did not initiate. I think about the serendipitous encounters, the synchronous timing of events, and the chance meetings in my life. Had I not gone into that restaurant yesterday, this article would not have been written today. Had I not been standing on that spot, I would never have met that girl. Had I turned down that first kiss from her, my heart would still be intact and I would definitely not be here today. If I had not met her, I also wouldn’t have met some of her friends who turned out to be instrumental in making me who I am today. Had I not stumbled on that movie accidentally on a friend’s computer, my passion for writing would never have been discovered. Had I not started writing, I would never have discovered my passion for art and that I could paint. The faithful will say it is God. The secular may interject with words like fate or luck. Whatever name we use to describe a situation like mine, I have come to believe that all of us are left drawn by the pull of destiny’s allure.

I want to live a life comforted by my belief that despite the turbulence of my journey, I have lived on course with a destiny far more important than the waves of grief, emotions and tumult of the life I have experienced. At this point I wish I could replicate the resolve of the great men I have read about throughout history. Could it be that I have allowed the conditions in my life to distract me from the meaning of my life? Is it possible that I have not been spending enough time checking on the dials and reading the compass of destiny and its intrinsic pull on the human soul?

If we are wise, we will see the predestined purpose we were created for and in our brief life span, find it and do it. I do not claim to be wise. Beneath the man’s face is a young boy still trying to find himself. Trying to sit right with mother nature’s plans for him. It is now my new hope that each of us will be free from the purposeless living that causes so many to stumble aimlessly through life like I have been doing for the last three months. I firmly believe that we are all created to fulfill some role only through which we can find the great elixir of contentment and courage. Whatever the assignment, death loses its license to threaten those who are certain they have lived before they face its clutching grasp.

As the hours wear on (it’s now well past 10), I reflect on the fact that I want to live a life to which I feel drawn to. I want to be pulled by a call that will draw me from the mundane acquisition of life’s mementos to the far more rewarding task of doing something with my life that only I can uniquely accomplish.

I look back on my life and I am amazed by what we humans can endure. My mind peruses the pages of history and look at the wives of characters such as Nelson Mandela, Dedan Kimathi, Ernesto Che Guevara (if he ever had a wife), Martin Luther King Jr and such others. I wonder how they withstood the challenges of raising their children practically alone, the threats by the prevailing political and security forces at the time, the relentless probes by these forces on whether they knew anything about the activities of their husbands and such stuff. What motivates a person to find contentment in a life of struggle as Mandela did during his twenty-seven years in prison? Perhaps in understanding others who have had bigger plights than my own, I will handle mine better.

The talk and thought of destiny and purpose have always amazed me. How else could one person be so fascinated by the accuracy of numbers while another is totally obsessed with accuracy of words, order of thoughts and flow of sentences? How could one person be so into football and another one in cricket with equal passion? What allows you to have great interest in something that bores other people to tears? Why are you able to pick up anything and fix it from a clock to an automobile while others should be arrested for even picking up a hammer? How is it that you can fix anything while another grown ass man cannot fix simple plumbing problems in the house? Why are you able to devote countless hours to reading a book while other people will never know the storyline if its not a video or that book hasn’t been adopted into a movie. The gift or desire that God has wired you to express is unique to you. Others cannot understand how you do what you do, but neither can you understand how they act in their gifts (like how I have never understood cricket or golf).

I remember reading a story about an Olympian who was charged with a serious crime. After he was released on bond, the first thing he did was resume his workout routine. This story was all over the news at the time so I believe its easy to deduce who I am talking about. As I read the story, all I could think was, “If I was prosecuted for such a serious crime and I was under the public microscope for that kind of crime, there is no way I would be spending my time working out.” (This is totally unrelated, but how did Jowie’s case go? – talk of work out and serious crime brought him to mind). But then I considered the fact that this man was a champion athlete and real champions cannot help but do what they are gifted to do. It is their therapy. Just as my refuge is in writing whenever I feel burdened, like I am now, it is through working out that they fortify themselves. You are a champion when you overcome adversity and go back to doing what you were doing before.

The drive to do what you are good at is instinct. It is what God has created you to do. The kind of instinct given to God’s highest creation is not the same as the instinct that causes a sea turtle to make her way to the ocean shoreline to lay her eggs and then return to sea.  Human action is a pure joy to behold. It is like a work of art in motion, like watching Michael Jordan dunk a basketball, or watching Messi do his magic in his moments of brilliance on the pitch, or listening to a hypnotic melody offered by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.  

One of humanity’s central questions relates to the why of life. All of us have grappled with the question of a personal purpose that confirms our destiny. Why am I here? Why are we all here? Why am I doing this? Why am I important? Why was I created? For some people, the question is a little more than a short-lived intellectual pursuit. For others, it is a lifelong quest. Yet the mere fact that the question has been posed through ceaseless generations affirms that there is an internal quest that pricks the human heart. That quest is fueled by humanity’s need to know that our efforts and actions are congruent with our passion and purpose. And I need to know that all my efforts are not for naught. I need to know that my passion isn’t just another effort down the drain.

And as we follow the instinctive path of our passion molded into action, we connect to destiny. As we explore the path to destiny, we gain a barometer by which we measure authentic purpose, otherwise known as success. One cannot define success in shillings or dollar or pounds. It can only be quantified by the accomplishment of a predestined purpose. This need to answer the why of life cannot be satiated solely by fame or wealth or notoriety or even education as none of these acquisitions guarantee that action has aligned with purpose in our lives.

Destiny is the push of our instincts to the pull of our purpose as Bishop T.D. Jakes puts it. That push and pull is what keeps the sun, moon and stars from crashing. It causes the season to change from planting to growing to harvest to dormancy. If that divine push and pull known as gravity accurately sets the galaxies and the seasons in motion, will the same principle; the push of instinct and the pull of purpose- not set your life in the right motion? What gravity is to the order of our universe, destiny is to the meaning of your life.

Entertainers, scholars, writers, philosophers, footballers, preachers and athletes alike have all admitted to being influenced by the skills and style of someone who came before them. Michael Jackson and Prince for instance were clearly influenced by the performances of the Godfather of soul, James Brown. Many preachers a generation ago were influenced by the oratorical styles of Martin Luther King Jr and Billy Graham. Exposure to others who are good at what they do can be highly motivating and instructional; it helps us understand the manifestation of our own gifts. Observing others can help us set the bar of excellence high for ourselves. But there must be a point where one respects, admires and learns from others and then turn inward to connect to his or her authentic expression of talent. Robert Frost and Maya Angelou were great poets, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leonel Messi the greatest footballers of this generation, Michelangelo, Picasso, Dante Alighieri and Leonardo da Vinci all great artists of their time. But each had a distinctive style. Your instinct will draw you to the unique expression of your gifts.

You can only prosper effectively by drawing on what is authentically in you. The drawing process starts from your core. You can only be fruitful out of your understanding of and connection to what is in your core. And I want to write not just what is in my head but my heart too. I feel a certain level of conviction when the things I talk about and write about have actually happened to me. I want to share the experiences with other people. I want to tell them how I feel. To open myself up to the world despite its cruelty to feel alive. I feel that that is the person I am now despite the temptation to crawl back into my cold emotionless cocoon and shut people out.

It can be frightening to own your authentic self. What if other people don’t approve of the authentic you? What if they criticize or make fun of who you are? That is a painful prospect to consider, especially when disapproval or criticism comes from the people who mean the most to you. Are you prepared to brave the negative reactions, comments, criticisms and complaints that arise from owning your authentic self? Can you handle it? Some people can’t. They live without expressing the authenticity of what abides deep within them because the approval of others is more important than self-approval.

Those who live according to what others expect or accept because they do not have the courage to be the person their instinct draws forth from inside are only existing. They really haven’t learned how to live. Real life means discovering what has been divinely placed inside you. Divinely speaking, God has invested a great deal in us and for all the creator has put in you, there is only one thing God wants to know: “What will you do with what I gave you?” God expects you to work excellence at the level given to you. As the late author, professor and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia explained it, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

Instinct is that inherent aptitude or capacity to use your emergent God-given gifts effectively at the appointed time and place- T.D. Jakes. It is the urging inside you that tells you to make your move now, to reach out now, to hold back until later or to never give up. Instinct must merge with purpose to give you a life that fulfills your destiny. All gifts must be given a place of expression in order for destiny to unfold. We are most effective when we yield to the allure of destiny. Every gifted person needs a place to engage the gifts that are rooted inside. No matter how gifted you are, you need a place of expression. That place is destiny. And that place for me is here. The only place I can freely express myself without fear of judgement because I know what I express will resonate with most people. We are all lost sheep in need of a shepherd. I cannot claim to be a shepherd but perhaps through my insights and questions about human nature I can be the sheep that leads the others home every day after a difficult sunny day in the fields.

Sometimes deep pain and torturous emotions later help to maneuver, mold and position you into life’s purpose. Maybe your destiny is being birthed through the heartbreaks you are going through, a failed relationship, death of a loved one, loss of a job, a failed business or even bankruptcy. Perhaps whatever is happening to you now, however bad you consider it to be, was really meant to shake you free to a life of purpose. It is not always the best or joyous moments that direct us to destiny.

Yours truly

©C.J. NJOROGE

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About Cooper Jose Njoroge

Writer, philosopher, painter and a student of life and politics. Follow on Twitter @cj_njoroge. Instagram @cj_njoroge

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