A Wondrous Testament to Survival

I meant to write this reflection at the beginning of the month of July which – by the end of June – I had begun to dub the second beginning of the year. Being the first month of the second half of the year, July was cause for celebration. In the mire of fear and anxiety that the months of March and April had brought with them, it had seemed almost impossible to imagine getting to the later part of this year called 2020.  And yet somehow the days and weeks had at first dragged past, until almost magically, the months began to pick up pace again.

With this renewed sense of time, I was ready to write and publish a blog post. I had it planned perfectly in my mind. It would start either with a narration about the broken plate I had glued back together; or my vase of bright pink gerbera daisies that the winter afternoon sunshine fixed its gaze over so beautifully.  Both were simple but momentous things to me. The plate was by no means special; it was just a plate I’d bought in a homeware shop which had – like many things this year in this world of ours – come hurtling down onto my kitchen floor and broken. I remember being irritated with myself when the incident happened. I had been absent-minded and preoccupied with too many of the world’s problems. And the sound of the crash had abruptly brought me back to the present.  I decided I wouldn’t throw away the pieces, which had broken almost perfectly in three parts. In this random kitchen tragedy, I saw a metaphor.

In December 2019, one of my close friends guided me through a process of preparing for 2020. Spread over two different weeks, our meetings were largely conversations about what I wanted to achieve in the coming year, but also how I wanted to feel, and make others feel. I wasn’t one of those particularly hyped by ‘the new decade’ narrative, but I felt a good intensity to this process. In the preceding couple of years, we had had similar planning meetings. But perhaps, now that I think about it, I hadn’t really been too clear about my future direction in those years. And as such, my energy towards planning things was diminished by a lack of faith.

Having gone through this process and written ideas down as elaborate notes with colourful mind maps as signposts, you can imagine my horror by March when COVID started spreading like a wildfire across the world. As a joke went in those early days, in 2020 it would be futile to keep a diary as every plan would shift and change. I began to see this with myself as lockdown took away the chance to operationalise many of my 2020 ideals.

My mind raced with multiple thoughts and fears, and by the time Zimbabwe recorded its first COVID-related death with media personality, Zororo Makamba, a sorrow and apprehension began to sit constantly within.

And so that plate. Broken. On the floor. That plate felt like everything that 2020 was bringing with it. Pain. Loss. So much loss as numbers of new COVID-related deaths rose alarmingly in different parts of the world.  As lockdowns led to a terrifying and inconceivable hush over the planet. As I felt myself very alone, far away from the people I love.

Still, even as I felt the way I did, I decided to keep the pieces of the plate and not throw them away. Because I wanted to believe, to hope that there could still be something salvaged.

My vase of flowers when the late afternoon sunshine would filter through.

It took me some time to get back into the groove of life, and I when I did, I glued that plate back together again as a symbolic event. Today it sits under one of my plants, collecting the water that seeps through its large terracotta pot whenever I water it. Sometime later, I bought myself the gerbera daisies, wanting to brighten my space with some bold and happy colour.

July was going to move in the right direction.

And then it was not.

On July 1, I got the news that a journalist, Grace Mutandwa, I had known for most of my adult life had passed. Sis Grace, as she was known to many, was one of those people I’ll call my cheerleaders; she wasn’t particularly present in my life, but every now and then, she would show up with very strong words of encouragement, as though she knew exactly what I was going through.

Retrospectively, upon discovering that she had been unwell for some time, a message she had sent me in April began to take on different significance. It read;

Baby girl I hope you are well. Never let the world change you. You are beautiful in and out. A beautiful spirit and a gift to the world. When you have time send mum’s number have lost many numbers. You take care our diamond.

It had – without the hindsight I now have – come out of the blue and I hadn’t thought too much of it, even as I appreciated its kindness and gentleness. Thankfully, Sis Grace got to speak to my mother as she had requested and got her chance to say her goodbyes in a way that made sense to her. Still, I wish I had known that this was the end of our time here together.

It was this that made the writing, when I intended it in July, difficult; this realisation that the worst was not yet done with and that 2020 would still be long and hard, with still so much loss and uncertainty.

But even amid this realisation, I wanted to honour what I had intended to do last month, by writing this belatedly. In so doing, I wanted to honour these words that had been swirling in my head for all these weeks. But more importantly, I want to honour hope. I want to honour each day of this year that I have stood up against the many things that could have swallowed me if I had let them. I want to honour perseverance and endurance. I want to honour the many other humans who are also making their way through this year, imperfectly but as best they can.

I want to honour myself.

Today as I looked through some of the affirmations I had put together to read back when I was planning for 2020, this one stood out from the short list;

“You have survived 100% of your bad days.”

I know it’s kitsch and in these times of commercialised positivity, it can sound hollow. But it is true.

Here I am, and there you are.

Are we not both a wondrous testament to survival?

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