Guided Africa

Hi!

Welcome to another edition of A Love Letter – where you get what you get.

It’s been a very challenging and incredible few months for me and our family because we relocated from Johannesburg to the Midlands in KZN, via my home with my parents for 3 months. As far as I see it, I simply moved back to KZN but my family relocated because Tim had lived in JHB since the 90s, and all our children were born in Johannesburg.

Living with my parents for 3 months was a balm I so desperately needed after years of city living and raising children without much family support since 2013. 

We all needed those 3 months together. We all need to live closer together. We all need one another. 

2020 and 2021 were shitty years. Tough and heartbreaking. I made a commitment to myself that I would eat life with a teaspoon because there were so many moments where I thought I wouldn’t make it. I also lost people I thought I would still have the pleasure of being with. I have become more deliberate and considered, I am seeking fulfilment in my experiences, and most of all – I have made a more deliberate effort to uphold peace for myself and our families.

I won’t be philosophizing on the importance of intergenerational living, raising children in a rural setting, and divesting from the cutthroat pace of city living, or even the perils of status aspirations. My commitment to eating life with a teaspoon is simply a commitment to being a person amongst people. A people with people. Umuntu wabantu. Ubuntu ngabantu.

Ubuntu and Isintu are practical and considered in ways English can’t always capture… I feel like we have theorised and philosophised enough about life. I feel like we have theorised ourselves into a standstill. I am personally tired of putting words to things and ways just require understanding, acceptance, action and effort. I know words are important. But I think putting words to life can also get in the way of putting life to life. 

Eating life with a teaspoon is as much about savouring each moment, as it is about taking myself and life (the positive, challenging, victorious and heartbreaking) in small, manageable bits. Small effort, small steps, small prayers. Everyday. 

I think we all just want to be fulfilled, but somehow, the world we live in has managed to turn this basic right and desire into yet another hurdle in our lives. As always, I blame capitalism. Capitalism has turned every aspect of our humanity into a labour of suffering and strife where we have to toil, labour and buy our way back to ourselves. Do you want love? Joy? Peace? Ok – first of all you’re not good enough so do this work, use this language and buy these things. Do you want to have fun? Ok, but can you make money from that? Also – this fun costs money…by the way, are you the very best at this fun? No? ha. You’re a flop. Give up rather. You deserve your anxiety, fear and fatigue. 

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t spend our money on things we enjoy, I am simply saying that we don’t have to a) turn everything into a hustle b) we ourselves shouldn’t succumb to the pressure to hustle until until – life is hard enough as it is. I am saying that we can and should find joy and fun in the lives we have, and have fun where is possible without letting aspirationalism, competitiveness and the productivity myth steal our joy and time any more than they already have. We don’t have to earn our right to fun, rest or frivolity. Those things are ours for the taking, so let us claim them.

When can we just enjoy things? When can we have fun? When we stop giving a fuck and doing what we like – even if we don’t make money from it, and especially when we embrace that what we do doesn’t need to become an aspect of our personality. We can just do things, and enjoy things while still being complex and dynamic beings. Not everything we do requires us to perform the thing for an audience to consume and approve of. 

Who we are is so intimately tied to others, in the best and worst ways…there is no I without we. But we are still who we are, and we have a right to seek and enjoy fulfilment in a way that is pleasing and affirming to us. The more positively fulfilled we are, the better we are. Our better selves are an asset to our families and communities too. 

Enjoyment and fun are central to the human experience. There is no virtue in suffering and there is no moral or intellectual superiority in being bored or boring. There is no accomplishment in limiting ourselves to narrow definitions of success and achievements based on competitiveness and self-betrayal. Our sphere of influence might be limited, and we have to play the cards we are dealt but we can give life our own sugar and spice. We can also give life our own chillies if we have to. 

Women’s desires and enjoyment are mocked, ridiculed and diminished. Women’s pleasure is, too. In my life, I am reclaiming my girly and womanly pleasures with no explanation and no apology. I am enjoying romance novels while crocheting. I am drinking tea from nice cups and basking in my husband’s care and children’s affections. I am working endumbeni, in the kitchen and in the garden with gratitude, joy and patience. I am welcoming support and generosity.

I am embracing fun and frivolity to honour my life, the love and support of my family and community, and also to honour my ancestors. My ancestors prioritised beauty, adornment, crafts, art, storytelling, music, pleasure, decoration and celebration throughout generations, through perils, uncertainty, death and pain. My ancestors laughed and did whatever they liked, too, while fighting for survival. I don’t believe they always had to choose between the full expressions of their humanity or making it to see another day, moon or season. They were just people. This is all I want. Just to be a person – no matter how I show up on that day.

Dedicating this song to you: Gloria Gaynor – I am what I am.

Love x

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