People are resilient. I think we are designed that way. Its embedded in our DNA to forge ahead, to soldier on. Classic scenario of survival of the fittest and we are the fittest. After all we are still here, aren’t we? But sometimes it feels like we are on our own. It might even feel like the world is conspiring against us at times. A test to see just how much we can take. How do we get out? How do we break the cycle?
In the last few months, I have learnt two lessons of a life time. One is that most of the things we go through are not problems we have to solve but just life paradoxes we need to manage. The other is that my standardized ideologies will not always fit in life because life is messy. We cannot always bend the world into shapes we want but we can try. We can make a concerted and real and true effort. But we will not always get what we want.
For people like me, life doesn’t have a lot of options. The only choice we have is to rise every time we fall. Every time we are struck down by the tsunamis of life and hit rock bottom, the way, the only way to go is up. We cannot go further down because we are at the very end if this rope called life; and if we let go, something terrible will happen. Not just to us but also to countless more who draw their energy from us. Those who draw their inspiration from us to continue living. Those who look up to us to provide direction albeit sometimes without even speaking.
That being said, in so many ways, I find my life possessing incredible similarities with that of the life of a phoenix bird. History has always been one of my favorite subjects and somehow, religious and non-religious mythology all share this common principle; that nothing is new under the sun. I find the statement rejuvenating as it is fascinating. I find solace in knowing that nothing that happens to me is unheard of and that someone before me has gone against the same odds or even worse and emerged victorious.
Now let me give you a free trip down ancient mythology about this mysterious mythical Phoenix bird. The legendary phoenix is a large, grand bird much like an eagle or a peacock. It is brilliantly colored in reds, purples and yellows, as it is associated with the rising sun and fire. Sometimes a nimbus will surround it, illuminating it in the sky. Its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. It builds its own funeral pyre or nest and ignites it with a single clap of its wings. After death it rises gloriously from the ashes and flies away. Don’t ask me how. I also know how that sounds.
This legend paints a picture of a magical bird, radiant and shimmering, which lives for several hundred years before it dies by bursting into flames. It is then reborn from the ashes, to start a new long life. So powerful is the symbolism that it is still used commonly today in popular culture and folklore. You have probably heard the phrase “the phoenix has risen” before.
For me, writing is my way of being illuminated in the sky, a sign of rebirth. A way of saying I am back. That I have beaten the odds. That I have risen above the adversities that life has thrown in my direction and finally emerged victorious. It almost feels like an orgasm to finally be able to sit and write again. I feel glorious.
For the last few months or rather most of this year, I have been fighting demons. Not the ones that pass through the living room wearing white or black sack clothes in broad daylight and no one sees them except you, not those ones. Neither am I speaking about the ones we were made to believe as children that they were lurking in the dark waiting to pounce on us whenever we misbehaved. I’m talking about emotional demons.
I have been in an emotional whirlwind for the last couple of months. Being unable to write or even come up with an idea worth putting down on paper. My notebooks have gathered dust on the shelves wondering where their owner disappeared to. I had completely lost my writing hand as Mzangila Snr put it at one time. To quote his exact words, “Emotions, if not love, were consuming him. He was going mad, falling for women and losing himself, getting confused as shit and slackening on things that were out of the emotion bracket.” Read all about that here. I even tried making a come back but not long before I went under again. I got injured, stopped playing soccer, lost someone, lost another one but this time differently from the first, fell for someone but things turned out sour in the end of the beginning (I will tell you all about her in another post), told another one I loved her but the feeling was not mutual, got mixed up in a very heated love trapezium (this one I cannot talk about – I have still not figured it out myself), narrowly escaped being stabbed by a man because I got involved with his wife. In my defense, I didn’t know she was married. She misrepresented her credentials. In a nutshell, my life has not been boring. I was so high on life’s adrenaline that I got lost in the swirling waters.
Interestingly, my last post was what kept me afloat during those times. That and friends who never left my side. I never thought I would need to use my own advice that soon. I had always pictured myself reading through my old posts savoring the youthful prose when I become older and consequently a more accomplished writer. For those who do not remember, my last post was about family and that was in mid-July. Exactly three months ago. Funny how fast time flies when you are not checking.
It all started when I busted my knee. This is what my two crazy friends Anto and Kush in campus would call a crucial ligament injury. My left knee ligaments were torn so badly that climbing stairs was a problem not to mention bending that knee or even going to work in the morning. For a person who spent two hours in the evening every four days in a week for the last six if not seven years on the field playing football, you would understand why that injury would shake my world so badly. Nothing comes between me and training. Not my boss, not work and definitely not women. I am a fitness freak. I have actually lost a girlfriend because she wanted me to spend time with her on a match day. Match days are my days. She also said it was childish and that is how that relationship died a natural death. That is how intimate my relationship is with football. It is an important part of my life that those who come into it must recognize.
Somehow, I have come to realize that my writing and going to the pitch are intertwined. If I’m not writing, I’m not going to the pitch and if I’m not going to the pitch I’m not writing. It is important to note that as I write this, I have resumed training, my knee is healed but not completely and in yesterday’s match (today is Monday), I scored an incredible solo goal and provided two assists. I am in very high spirits as I write this.
After my knee, death robbed me someone so close to me. A family member. That shook me. I didn’t know how to talk about it with the others close to me. I compartmentalized. Shoved everything down so deep I forgot how bad it hurts. I couldn’t cry, not with so many eyes looking up to me to give directions and the way forward. I was the man of the house, the El Matador del Mar of that family. The unshaken, the unburnt, the hardcore, the one who doesn’t cry, the one whose tears have never been seen, the one people go to whenever they have problems, the uncle who buys sweets and soothes crying babies, the one who gets called to resolve marital disputes despite not having a family, the one who is said to be far more mature than his age. I just couldn’t bring myself to shed a tear in front of all those eyes. Not because I didn’t have tears to shed or didn’t want to but because there was too much at stake.
I went back to work and acted as if life was normal. I would laugh my heart out during the day and bite my pillow and sob alone at night. I talked to no one but Sam. Sam is my best friend by far. There are others who come close but Sam is the one who holds all the other’s secrets. If I was Pablo Escobar and I was arrested, the only person I would be worried about or hoping not to get arrested is Sam, my right hand, the trusted lieutenant. Man knows too much. I tell him everything. He knows when I’m broken, when its serious and when its not. He knows how a serious call sounds like by the first word I say. He knows when it is gossip time and when there is a new catch on the horizons. He knows it all. He is the man who lives miles and miles away but you would think we are neighbors. For the others, all of them know something. A piece each. You would have to bring all of them together to figure me out. But like any family, there are others who know more than the others. Some have bigger pieces and it is them that I most worry about because I do not know for sure where their loyalties lie. Am I saying I don’t trust them? Not exactly. But I wouldn’t trust them with my life.
I just couldn’t believe she was gone. I remembered how cautious I was not to view the body at the morgue because that would have destroyed me. I knew very well I would not have held myself together if I had. I remembered how jovial she had been when we had spoken over the phone a week before her death. There was a way she called me ‘bro’ and I would really feel that she actually meant it.
I remembered how she would covertly pass me drinks at one ‘disco matanga’ we attended together. My mother was there too in the planning committee. I used to drink but no one knew except her. I was in campus and tried very much to leave ‘my life in campus’ at campus whenever I went home. But she would see right through me for what I was. The party boy. She didn’t judge. We kept secrets for each other. Her boyfriend while we were in primary school, her first cigarette, where she used to hide them, I knew it all and never once did I betray her. In return for covering for her propensities, she would be caned on my behalf whenever we went to school late. It was a great deal on my part. And we were late a lot of times. Mostly because I woke up late and she had to make sure I was ready for school before she left. And she never left before I did, we walked or ran together to school, got there late and as usual she would happily take both our canes. She was badass. Always had my back through life’s turbulence.
I do not know whether or not I believe in an afterlife, but I believe she hears me whenever I talk to her when I have my moments. I imagine her sitting by my side, just listening without a word, sitting on a rock above the highway watching the cars and trucks pass by. I think about her whenever I see a bike. She taught me how to ride which is a funny story filled faith and belief. I have never seen someone believe in me that much since then. I think about the kids she left and wonder what it will be like for them to grow up without a mother. To actually never know how crazy their mother could be sometimes. I think about my mother and the pain she might have felt and is still feeling for the loss of a child. No parent should ever have to bury their children young. It must really hurt. I cannot imagine her pain. I try to put myself in her shoes and its unbearable. I have known my sister for long by our mother has known her much longer. The pain she felt or might still feeling must be unimaginable. I pray for her to find peace and happiness again.
Throughout the time, I kept reading my last post the tie that binds. And I sat back and watched them putting all differences aside to make burial arrangements. We all don’t get along but when it actually matters, families will always stand together.
As I savored the wisdom in the article, I kept thinking that the universe knew what was coming my way and so; in preparation for it, I got inspiration to write it. Taking me back to Paulo Coelho’s idea that we are all one in spirit and the universe always knows.
A paragraph from my last post: family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else. But let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family. This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work. We should love our family enough to never make them choose.
©C. J. Njoroge