I’ve been making heavy use of the rotation feature on my music apps lately. I have a tendency of finding the most amazing music, and then having the same playlist on repeat for months on end. Almost obsessively. I mean if it’s good, it’s good, right?
Then one day I will wake up feeling like I might most certainly punch a wall if I have to listen to certain songs one more time. So I drift, often in a completely new musical direction. And that’s how I end up stumbling on the best new music. That’s the creative process for my carefully -curated playlists.
Recently, my ennui has taken me to Denmark 🇩🇰, where I discovered CHINAH. I don’t know how best to categorise them, but I would classify them as a folk band with a pop leaning coupled with electronic and classical contemporary sounds. It’s a delightful mix.
The sounds of Chinah are mellow and frosty. It’s a very minimalist sound over a rich instrumental. There is an almost eerie feel to their music. You find yourself listening for hours on end, thinking about some long-suppressed past. It’s haunting and engaging- draws you in and holds you and before you know it, you have the entire EP on repeat for a couple of hours when you really only wanted to listen to one song. It’s melancholic but pithy, and just the sort of thing you need for winter blues.
Listen to the rest of the EP. It’s very ” Sunday-afternoon-in-bed-watching-the-grey-sky-from-your-bedroom-and-ruminating-on-a-lover-who-did-you-wrong.”
Confession time: I truly disliked the period of Lent when I was younger. It felt tedious and restrictive to me, a headstrong child who did not enjoy being told what to do by anyone; a quality I retain to this day. What I knew about Lent was that we didn’t sing the Gloria for about a month (which was the best part of Church to me); I couldn’t have meat on Fridays (chicken?) and I had to go to church more (snooze-fest.) Additionally, I usually had to give up chocolate and sweets and was scolded more by my mother for not being restrained enough during the period. I didn’t fully understand it so I was a tad resentful.
As I got older, I began to take an active interest in my faith and actually pay attention and understand what it meant. I am still learning. I won’t lie, my turning point came a few years ago when a certain priest mentioned that Lent did not necessarily require giving up anything.
What? Why had no one told me this before?
It reminded me of the first time the Priest mentioned that verse about children respecting their parents and then added the next verse encouraging parents to not irritate their children lest they became discouraged. No one had ever mentioned that before! Amazing.
Colosssians 3: 20 and 21.
“Yes,” he continued. “Instead of quitting something, one can elect to take up something else!”
Yaay! You can imagine my excitement. I learnt that I could choose to take up something of my choice and focus on that. I was excited. I stopped giving up things, which had been really hard and unenjoyable for me, and tried to take up healthier habits. Looking back, I still gave up something; it was just framed differently and triggered a mindset change. I could say, I give up being rude and selfish, or I could declare that I was taking up being kinder and more careful with my words and sharing more with others who did not have as much as I do. The latter necessarily encompassed the first option, but to my mind, it was infinitely more desirable and do-able. Instead of giving up sweets, I was saving my money to help someone else. It completely changed Lent for me.
Nowadays, my Lenten period is often a combination of actively giving something up- swearing, impatience on the road, alcohol (welp)– and taking something else up- being kinder and softer with people, being less judgmental, giving to the poorer, donating my clothes; that sort of thing. It was and remains a work in progress. As I have gotten older, I have been able to redefine the limits of my faith and to make my own independent decisions about what I want and need to do to be right with the Lord. As with most things, the way that people will observe Lent, if at all, is dependent on personal preferences, family situations, tradition, religion and upbringing. Some people will fast and pray; others will fast on certain days or abstain from certain things on certain days or for the entire period. The Church is not overly prescriptive and merely sets guidelines, such as: no eating meat on Fridays and on Ash Wednesday; fish is permissible; fast, give alms and pray. But there is no specific requirement. It really is all up to you in a way.
I “enjoy” Lent because it is akin to the beginning of the week or month or year. A fresh start. It is a chance to break bad habits and consciously try again. The world we live in is incredibly distracting. It will distract you if you do not pay attention and you will wake up wondering how on earth you ended up in that situation when it would have been crystal clear to you if you were only a little less distracted. If we never acknowledge the bad in us and the need to rebuild where we are broken, we can never recover.Humility and acknowledging that one is human and weak and can fail, then workingto redress that. I have heard several people who aren’t even Catholic state that the Lenten principles are still applicable and they take the time to reflect and make some changes. I imagine if you fervently made New Year’s Resolutions and have fallen off the wagon, you can kick-start them again in month 3 without too much damage.
Lent is a time to rebuild the broken. Broken hearts, spirits, relationships, bodies. We break so that we can rebuild. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to be happy. I have been actively pursuing my joy and happiness and am using this time to consolidate that.
“It is not necessary to “give up something” but it would be a tragedy to do nothing. “
This year, for Lent, I have committed to various things. Some of them were spiritual, like dedicating more time to my relationship with God, which requires unplugging earlier and resting my body and meditating and praying. This also involves stressing less and letting go of anxiety and reading my Bible where I would normally be on the internet. Some of them were to make secular changes such as changing my gym and finding a new space to work out in . Another is to avoid getting angry on the road which will help me be calmer and more relaxed in my commutes and interactions. It’s just little things which I hope will help me establish a new routine which will extend even beyond Lent. Overall I hope they will contribute to my spiritual growth and holistic health.
What exactly is Lent?
Lent: etymology- English word Lenten- springtime- the time of lengthening days. The most important holiday in the Church is not actually Christmas; it is Easter. The Lenten period is a time of fasting, prayer, abstinence and patience as the great day approaches. It is worth noting that Catholics do not normally fast, but in this period, it is greatly encouraged, particularly on the Holy Days such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Throughout history, Christians have embraced prayer, fasting and giving alms as necessary components of repentance and forgiveness. Even in pre-Christian times, to show repentance, people would dress in sackcloth and sprinkle themselves with ashes to show humility and repentance. What could be deemed more humble than donning sackcloth and rolling around on the ground? Over the years, emphasis was placed on not making a show of humility and repentance, but actually being sorry and making amends, even without the external showing of it. Nowadays, the ash ritual is limited to Ash Wednesday where a cross is made on the forehead of believers, a reminder that you are ash and you will return to ash. The ashes are from the burnt offerings of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday- another important Church holiday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the (technically) forty days of Lent. Lent is a period of humility and sacrifice; a solemn period where you get back to basics about faith.
The forty days of Lent are reminiscent of the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent being tempted and provoked by the Devil in the wilderness while he prayed and fasted after his baptism by John the Baptist and before he began his teachings. Jesus knew that he had a serious job ahead of him and needed to prepare himself. In the same way, Catholics prepare themselves for the joy that is coming. It’s a period of self-reflection and examination to allow you to emerge free of ugliness and ready to celebrate Easter renewed and joyous. I think that’s quite a beautiful concept.
Weeping may tarry for the night, butjoy comes with the morning.
It was my birthday two days ago and I truly had such a lovely day! I was supposed to go on a girl’s trip for my birthday but that fell through. There was a lot of drama in the lead up to my birthday and I got really frustrated and irritated at how everything that could go wrong, was going wrong, so I decided to cancel all my plans and spend most of the day alone just to make sure it went exactly how I wanted it to go; control I suppose. Low expectations, no disappointment. Funnily enough, I actually ended up spending only a relatively small part of the day alone. I spent the day not with the people I would have expected to, but it was a day full of so much love, effort, intention and good wishes that I actually felt a little overwhelmed! I certainly was not disappointed. I chose to focus only on the positivity and joy instead of those little niggling ugly feelings that always seem to crop up. I can’t be the only one who gets a little weepy, sensitive and nostalgic around my birthday.
I went to church in the morning and thanked God for all the blessings he has given me so far; my family, my friends, my health, my job, my capabilities and my love. I got home to a giant delivery of the prettiest flowers; I couldn’t stop geeking out over how big the bouquet was! Everyone knows how much I love flowers and plants and it was really lovely that someone remembered and actually did something about it!
Then I went to the spa all alone and had the most delectable experience. I was so relaxed and warm and calm. I even fell asleep a little during my massage! I think you get the point; it was amazing. Afterwards I had a late lunch with a friend who insists on calling it “lunner “at a quaint little Greek deli which we have now decided is our new favourite joint. Unbelievably tasty food at a great price. Double winner! We had Mezedakia, a trio of tzatziki, hummus and skirdalia. Then we had Skara Sti Pita, which is a carb-loaded traditional Greek pita filled with meat, tzatziki, chips(!) and a salad. I had the bifteki and my friend opted for the pork. Hands down the most delicious thing I have eaten in a while. Then we had a giant plate of beautiful lemon-flavoured prawns. Gin and Vodka also made an appearance. It was just so good! Unfortunately my phone died so I didn’t get to take any decent pictures of the amazing food, but when we go back next time, I will definitely share with you. I think it deserves its own feature.
On my way home, I unfortunately hit the most massive pothole while attempting to avoid another pothole.Sigh. That’s how these things go. My tyre completely gave in and I was really lucky I hadn’t been going faster. Two young men stopped and helped me change the tyre; they even waited for my Mom to come when we realised one of the things we needed for the jack was missing. I was so grateful and touched by the kindness of complete strangers. They didn’t have to do that for me, but they did, without expecting anything. People can really surprise you like that.
I got home safe, happy and fed, to a few more presents and lovely words.My friend was laughing at me that I could remain cheerful after such an awful experience, but it is part of my new strategy to enjoy my life in 2017. I am not very good at letting things go and at having things be out of my control. I have been beating myself up mentally for not paying more attention when I was driving, despite knowing how awful the roads are and that it was bound to happen at some point.
I like to plan, yes even to the point of over-planning. I can even drive myself crazy second-guessing myself; it is exhausting. I am learning to relax a little and let it all fall together. I have had to learn that is not always possible, especially when you are dealing with other people and they have their own lives going on. No one owes you anything. A difficult but necessary lesson, and what better time to learn it than going into a new year on my birthday?
Look at me. A year older and already wiser. Thankful and glowing.
At the end of 2016, I was exhausted. My sleeping habits were a mess and my appetite was virtually non-existent; I was deeply stressed, unhappy, emotional and harassed. People were bullying and manipulating me, lying to me, hurting me, and I was going out of my mind wondering what on earth was going in my life. I was completely depleted and crawled through the last two months of the year. I won’t lie; with each day, it was harder and harder for me to get out of bed. I was going to the gym pretty much daily, but I felt really weak. Wake up, shower, get dressed; neat bun, lipstick, fix on a smile and try harder than I normally had to, to concentrate on my work. It was one of the hardest periods of my life as an emerging adult. No matter how tearful and broken you are, you still have to show up, clean, polished, smiling and charming. Get through an entire day without cracking, then go home and prepare for a repeat. There was so much negativity and ugly energy in my life. I was hurt, angry, frustrated and heartbroken. I really needed a break.
I knew what I needed: a get-away. Somewhere deep in the mountains, remote and mysterious; still; a little fresh stream running by the side of a white cottage, hunks of firewood hewn and sitting by the side of a rock fireplace ready for the night. I could picture it. Somewhere cold, clean and fresh. Extra blue sky, thick, billowing milky white clouds sighing gently and lazily pushing each other side to side, mist weaving through the thick tree-trunks. A new start. I wanted to purge every single emotion, bawl my eyes out, go running until I couldn’t breathe from the cold air piercing my lungs and could only concentrate on my next breath and nothing more. Eat some fresh fruit, drink icy-cold hard water, immerse my body in even colder water, pray for deliverance and reflect on my life. Shake off the pain, hurt, fear and loss of the year.
Talk to God.
When I was younger, my closest cousins lived everywhere around the country. They moved from Chindunduma to Madziva to Chiredzi and to countless other places I no longer recall. I remember travelling to see them- for a birthday party, for a holiday visit. But what I remember most was when they moved to the mountains. At some point my uncle finally decided to settle and chose the Eastern Highlands region. They still moved around from time to time, but it was now concentrated within the region. It was closer than other places they had lived in, so when we had the chance, we would travel down to their side of the world. It was then that I first fell in love.
I have been to the Eastern Highlands numerous times over the years. I remember for our Grade Seven trip we went to a camp called Far and Wide. Unfortunately there was a cyclone passing through the region and most of the trip for the teachers and chaperones involved panicked parents checking in to make sure their beloved children had not been swept away. Blissfully unaware of the drama, we swam in the Mtarazi River every morning mispronouncing it like the white lady who ran the place did. It was only a few years later that we realised that the correct pronunciation is actually the Shona Mutarazi and not Mmm… Tarahziii. Those morning sessions before we hit the team building poles and trails were brutally freezing and supposedly character-building; I don’t remember where the certificate I got for lasting the week is, today. But I remember how great a time we had, completely oblivious of the panic our parents were apparently going through. Youth!! I’m not sure if Far and Wide is still functional, but it still looked pretty good when we drove past on the way to the Mtarazi Falls, so I am hopeful that it is still serving other children.
I love to travel; I always have. My mom enjoys reminding me that when I was younger I would confidently declare that I wanted to be a tourist when I grew up. We traveled quite a lot when we were younger and I guess it has just stuck. I love the idea of packing up and going far away for a bit, to find a different piece of myself. It calms and centres me. And I always look forward to coming home to my bed after a healthy jaunt full of overexertion, love and reflection. I hate not having the money to do it more, but it is something that I have prioritised going forward, so I pray it works out.
The Eastern Highlands remains one of my favourite spaces, and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the world. I always feel at peace when I am there. Completely light and magical. Time moves slower, the air is cleaner, the company keener, the earth feels more solid beneath my feet. I can breathe again. I think in a few years once I have made my first few hundred thousands in the corporate rat race, I will be investing in a cottage property deep in the mountains far away from the stress of daily life. It really is a hermit life. There isn’t even a supermarket anywhere close! Everything is locally sourced. Fish, fresh fruit, vegetables, wild mushrooms.
I went for early morning runs through the mud and dew with my Dad; pointlessly winding explorations with my sisters while my mom slept soundly and graciously declined all invitations to go outside until the rain stopped or at least until the bacon was fried and safely in her stomach! I was glad everyone was getting what they needed. You don’t know how wonderful it is to wander and to get lost in whatever you are doing with no conception of time and schedules and deadlines. Bitterly cold air, breathtaking sights, overwhelming greenery, earthy new potatoes, sweet white wine and scalding local tea. Finally putting the off-road vehicle to full use and not just navigating the gaping potholes in the city. Family and love. It was calming and a beautiful end to an unbelievably ugly year. Even writing about it now is making me happy and calm.
More than anything, I was happy. My phone was reduced to a fantastic camera and not a source of stress. For a change, my earphones were not semi-permanently attached to my ears blocking out the noise as there was no noise! I was not running. Not figuratively at least. I was calm, restful and peaceful. I was happy. You have no idea how important it is to have those things in your life. The men who had been stressing me out were the last thing on my mind. No one was making demands of me or angering me. Zero distractions. It was one of the purest experiences I enjoyed the whole year, and I returned clean and soft and glowing, inside-out, determined to cling to those feelings for as long as possible.
One of my colleagues asked me what my resolutions are for the year.
“To be happy,” I replied.
“Wow. That’s a lot. In a way, it’s everything,” was his response.
And I smiled because he got it. I am my top priority this year. My happiness, my peace of mind, my goals and success. Me. No compromises. Because what I learnt from my first real year of being an adult in an adult environment, was how easy it is to get lost and be drowning in things that have no place in your life. It sounds childlike to actively work for happiness, but I have found that the only way to get what you want and need, is to actively fight for it. It will never come to you while you sit and absorb the mundane unhappiness and drudgery of everyday life. You have to fight for it, and hang onto it for as long as it will have you. I am grateful I learnt that lesson.
[A reflection prompted by a corrugated roof; a wild body of flowers and plants.]
The first floor of my gym overlooks a golf course. It provides a view of the upper middle-class dream. The brand new executive cars that are always gleaming in the car park next to the club house. I mean, always gleaming. Rain, sun, wind; you name it, these cars are always glistening and spotless. It’s a phenomenon I have to look into. But that’s for another day. The members-only clubhouse. The very fit-conscious executives and their business partners- there is no one more self-conscious than the early middle-aged executive; no beer bellies here- trim and supreme. The caddies on the green. The expensive-looking clubs. The golf carts. Aspirational.
What really catches my eye however, is another view. It never fails to make me pause and reflect. I see it almost every day, but it makes me smile, stop and think a little about the beauty of life and nature, and to feel really grateful to be alive at that moment.
A rusted corrugated red roof of the outhouse garages where the little golf carts come home to rest after a long day of leisure. Peeling, long-exposed to the elements and corroding.
A sprouting of purple flowers on a leafy green bush. I have no idea what they are; I just know that I like them. Wild and overrun, uncut and droopy.
Usually by the time I make it to gym, the sun is setting. Golden delicious. With the advent of December, the rainy season has started in earnest. Often there will be a raging storm, a little hail sometimes or simply angry moody grey fluff gathering menacingly in the distance and making me impatient to work out and head home before I get caught in the mania of rain traffic in Harare.
Whichever it is, cooling rain after a heat-wave or the delicious golden shimmer of an impending dusk, I am always in awe of the beauty surrounding me. Perhaps I am altogether too romantic for my own good, but it is something I have made my own and make no apologies for; there are very few things as stunning as nature which we get for free in this world.
What makes this particular view special to me is the juxtaposition of man-made with nature’s design. Incredibly hard and unbelievably soft. As different as possible but making the most delicate and calming picture.
Our world is currently in a time of great polarization, divisiveness, intolerance and hatred; it is ugly and disconcerting. There is an obsession with having things done one way or not at all. One is either with us or they are against us, even if they have not said this much. There is no compromise or engagement. That is unsustainable. Even our environment shows us that the only way to move forward is by encouraging compromise and co-existence; allowing diversity to flourish. It is possible to accommodate everyone and everything; it just requires a little effort, understanding and a lot of empathy.
How many times do we angrily reject something or someone whom we feel is a threat to our comfortable existence? We fail to acknowledge their challenges, are dismissive and speak over them, silencing them and cowing them before our own views which we believe, for whatever reason, to be superior.
Ultimately, the most gorgeous picture is not created by only having one version of something. There has to be nuance and difference for anything interesting to result. The only reason this particular view makes me stop and think is the way that the rusty lazy red of the roof blends with the striking purple, the leafy black trees in the background as dusk approaches, and the yellow and green of the grassy knoll. I would not take a second look at a green field. As it is, I am writing almost a thousand words inspired by a little piece of land simply because of the richness it embraces.
In the same way, we need to learn to co-exist, to respect the differences which we have and to actually using them to enhance our relationships, realities and experiences. That is what makes this journey worth anything at all; the ability to see others for their realities and capabilities and respecting what makes them, them. Diversity and individualism are not dirty words. There cannot only be one truth and one point of view; what a sad and bland existence.
The freedom to live one’s truth unharmed by others, causing no harm to others; that is the true measure of tolerance and humanity.