Friend: How are you?
Me: I am fine, how about you?
This is the constant to every greeting and sometimes it’s not the case. You are not fine. You have just cleared your throat after crying a whole night on the floor of your bedroom. You have a headache from the crying and you can barely see from your swollen eyes but the other person doesn’t have to know. You do not feel like discussing why you are not fine. You do not want pity or the casual, “Everything will be OK!” So you just answer, “I am fine!”
I was broken once out of life’s form, but I got back on my feet. I was back to normal, back to smiling, socialising, eating, and most importantly back to business. I was seeing someone. Someone who had become part and parcel of my life. My backbone, my right hand person, my support system and my fixer.
I was smiling. I had a reason to wake up and share my everyday shenanigans with someone. In as much as I had grown out of the darkness, I wasn’t completely healed, but he reminded me that I was beautiful, everything will be ok and I will make it in life. Everyone wants reassurance that they can make it out of any dark storm, any low self esteem, any baggage or hard days. You need to know you will be OK at least from someone else apart from yourself.
We had been seeing each other for a while and I had become very fond of him. Despite mum saving me from darkness, I had the lingering feeling that I am not worth it. The rest of the family didn’t help much with the struggle of self worth. They kept echoing my inner thoughts ‘I am not good enough!’ So having someone who reminds you of how good you are at anything counts for something to hold on to.
Oh yes, I had a job but I was struggling through it everyday. When things went wrong, I didn’t see the need of trying again. I was tired of living this hand to mouth business. Just simple basic needs was a struggle to maintain. I would skip breakfast and eat lunch at 3pm so that the meal would cover the day. By the time I am finally eating, I am so hungry, I eat all the money I was trying to save. Before it leaves your hand, it’s already in your mouth. I started walking because is busfare is another nightmare. This had nothing to do with exercise. There were days I enjoyed the walking but there were days I almost hitchhiked, wanted to stop anyone driving and ask them dearly for a lift.
This was the everyday struggle. My shoes were now warn out. I would spend a lot of time in the supermarket negotiating which is the cheapest bread and end up buying Menegai as the multipurpose soap for everything, washing clothes, washing dishes and bathing as well. I no longer used hot water to shower, I would rather save on the gas, kerosene or even electricity. This wasn’t easy for me and every time I would tell it to my friends they would laugh and say “don’t worry, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Unfortunately, this tunnel seemed everlasting and I was hating every minute of the darkness. Do these people understand how these lifestyle changes are affecting my well being. The cutting of costs was hurting me more than it should. I didn’t understand why my life was just getting crappy by the day.
Most of my friends had met my boyfriend. He was a charmer and all of them liked him. They all said I seem very happy around him and if he makes me happy then they are happy. Now the problem begins when you tell your friends of how your life is turning upside down and the first question is “why didn’t you ask your boyfriend to help?” This was the tricky part. How do you explain that you love your boyfriend, he knows what you are going through and you are not the type of person to force someone into helping you if they haven’t offered. We didn’t live together so when it comes to my household issues he was barely concerned and would always say “it will get better” and give me 1000bob on a good day or 200bob on a bad one. Immediately you get that cash, you quickly go to the supermarket to get on with cost cutting debates again and try walk out with more items with the amount of money given.
Days became heftier to go by. Silence became the norm of the day. Hardly any smalltalk when I met up with him for lunch or dinner. He didn’t have much to say anymore. I felt sad. Looking at him from across the table as he is fixated on his phone like his life depended on it. At times, you could notice a hidden smile here and there enjoying endless conversations with people on the other side. I didn’t know who this people were but once in a while I would pick up names like Grace, Jemimah, Stacey, Cherise, Kiptoo, Ted, Mato and JT. I figured this must be very interesting group of people but I had never met in person. I complained about the awkward silence that was always the shadow in our relationship but that didn’t seem to bother him and he called me out as delusional. So our meetups/dates ended up as one day a week to save me from hunger treat. I think it was his way of showing he cares or maybe his way of showing empathy or is it pity?
I was too engrossed in my daily fights with hunger, exhaustion, desperation, disappointments and illusions of life that I hardly had time to fight anymore. Our relationship started withering. I would sit alone at the balcony and cry myself to the night. Days would pass by without a text or even a call from him. I was lonely but the thought of speaking my feelings to him was immediately countered by “stop whining it doesn’t look good on you!” So I stopped bothering to share my feelings to him or anyone else for that matter. From my family calling me arrogant and attention seeker for pity and my boyfriend always telling me to stop whining and get my act together, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to say or what not to say without seeming like I am whining or complaining about my life.
I held a meeting between me myself and I and we all agreed that I should stop complaining and start looking at the bright side of life. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do but the more I locked my feelings of dissatisfaction and frustrations the more overwhelmed I got and suddenly the switch went off.
I stopped laughing, crying, caring about anything or anyone, I became numb. If someone ever talked to me about their problems I would give them the look of “do I look like I care?’and the would walk away swiftly. I barely talked to anyone neither at work or anywhere else. I vowed to mind my own business altogether and only spoke when required. People in the office secretly complained about my attitude but no one ever approached me to find out what was going on. I got wind of it but I did nothing about it after all it’s not like they were my friends anyway.
I stopped attending any social gathering that may prompt me to speak or socialize. I hated the task of having small talk with anyone including my family and friends. I stopped going to church I felt like God gave up on me a long time ago. I kept off prayer as well. I could hardly utter a single word with the idea that I may be whining to God and nobody wants a whiner. So I just stopped praying altogether. The only person I could try and talk to was my mother but the rest of the family, I hardly picked their calls and soon, we became strangers. My mother was sick at that moment battling with Kidney failure and I didnt have the funds to help with the medical procedures or her medications hence my siblings branded me as selfish. I didn’t want to tell mum exactly what was going on and eventually she gave in to my siblings notion that I didn’t care about her nor the family. I couldnt do much to protect my name against the accusations. I too had come to terms with them and believed that I was truly a selfish person hence that’s why my life sucked this much.
Day in day out, I struggled with this odd version of myself. I needed to feel wanted or even loved by just one person. One person who saw beyond the sad angry face, one person who saw the aching heart that needed healing, one person who was ready to listen to me whine and complain away then maybe I wouldn’t have been this bitter. Maybe I would have been saved from all these pain, darkness and loneliness.
My phone rang, it was an unknown number. For some weird reason, I wanted to know who was on the other end of the line. I picked it up, it was my childhood friend. Someone who didn’t know of what I had become. A friend I hadn’t talked to in years. It felt like a refreshing voice to hear. Almost like a new sound that bore no judgment but excitement and eagerness. My friend wanted to know where I was. He had just come from the UK and had my number from his facebook inbox. “I want to see you! It’s been too long!”
This was the first time I felt a tinge of excitement in 8months. Looking forward to something and not knowing the outcome. It was something I expected but it came right on time. We met right after I left the office. I was ecstatic to meet him. All grownup and years later after our childhood shenanigans.
We sat at a local restaurant and sang away our memories. For the first time in a long time, I felt free to speak, to say of all the things that held me back, to tell of the tale of my wounds, to speak of my disappointing journey and feel not like am ruining anyone’s life. He told me of his shortcomings, he spoke of his struggle and his journey into life as an adult. His fiancé leaving two months before the wedding. Him being homeless for three months in a foreign country. His mom passing on and he couldn’t even afford to fly in for the funeral. I felt sad but I felt happy at the same time. That for once, someone was willing to listen to the bad as well. Someone did not expect good fairy tales and victory stories because the world has taught you to only allow positive people in your life. If we all act like the bad doesn’t exist and complaining is a sign of bad energy how are we expected to deal with the disappointment at the end of the day. Life is not always OK. For others it is more overwhelming and disappointing than for others. Holding it in can make the world a bitter place. In my opinion, I think its only wise to rant and speak your problems away once in a while.
Problem shared is a problem half solved.
What is your take?