2021: The Flash of Lightning
When your best friend suddenly dies when the year is just coming to an end, you struggle with coming to terms. You struggle with identifying with this kind of close grief; this that you have always though belonged to other people, and that you are immune. You struggle to pick broken pieces of your heart from the floor of your stomach. You struggle with stitching the pieces back together, so that in the end, when your heart starts to beat again, streams of blood seep out, caressing your skin, and reminding you of just how dark this darkness keeps getting.
When you bury your best friend on the last day of the year, you spend the day going round in circles, wondering why the world seems soo blurry, not knowing your tears haven’t stopped yet. Knowing fully this is going to be your life forever, this blurry vision, but still hoping it is a bad dream; you will wake up someday.
You spend the night tossing in bed, wishing the clock could stop its count, or go back just a few days, so you could hold her hand one last time. So you could listen to her soft voice one last time. So you could experience life, wholly, one last time; because you realise that whatever you do, there will never be a her ever again, and this emptiness you are feeling will only grow deeper as the years go by.
So when a new year starts, you are still stuck in darkness, groping your way through it, sometimes wishing it would just swallow you too. You are breathing, but it seems not enough. You are running away from sleep, too afraid that the images in your head will start manifesting in your dreams. You are looking at the calendar, and cursing the dates ushering you back to work. Nothing makes sense; not your job, not your people, not even yourself.
So you extend your stay home for 30 more days. You lock yourself in your mother’s house, and weep your heart out. The messages come in, but none of these words make sense. You shall be well. Take all the time you need. You need to live again, for her sake. Death is inevitable; we are all going that way. I understand the magnitude of your pain, how may I help?
Your phone is beeping with all these messages, and you are fighting the urge to rip your heart off your chest, and slam it in the faces of these people. You are fighting anxiety every time your phone rings, because you keep thinking that is another phone call announcing another death.
You are living in your own shadows, each day at a time, and thinking the world will stop just because you are mourning.
The ugliest thing about grief, I have come to learn, is it is personal. It is permanent in a distant longing way. It stays with you, forever. Time does not lessen its burden; you just learn how to better balance the burden. You sit with grief all day, until it leaves its scent all over you; darkness and pain. Outside, the world moves on, as if you do not exist. As if you are not in pain. As if these people do not see you at all.
I am forcefully jolted out of this darkness on 31st January 2021; I leave my mother’s house, albeit begrudgingly. I hate everything around me. I am trying to write but nothing makes sense; nothing seems worthy enough, nothing is drawing me back to sanity. People are calling to ask for my books, but I am too drained to arrange deliveries. I want, so bad, to ask for help, but everyone seems so engrossed in their happenings, so I fold into myself and cry my body into sleep.
I am on the verge of quitting my job because it has ceased to make sense to me. I am tired of writing these things, and having to go on a mini strike before I get paid. The messages in the Telegram group drive me to the edges of insanity, and I die a little bit on the inside when a work email salute starts with, ”Dear Eunniah”. Because it means these people are seeing the work I am doing. They are reading the things I am writing, and associating them with me. I want to tell them to stop, because they are the reason I am still holding on to this job I so much want to let go of. Then, they start finding me on LinkedIn and sending me offers. They find my blog, this one, then my email, and my boss starts to look at me with weird eyes; it is a rollercoaster I don’t want to ride in.
“I want to quit!” I casually say to my friend one day. They go silent, and ask me what plans I have after quitting. I have no plans; I just know I want out. It will not be the first time I leave a seemingly ‘lucrative’ job without any plans.
This line, this I want to quit, I say it to many people. They see the determination in my eyes, so they start sending me links to jobs they feel suit me. I apply, just because I know I will get it. Because I know I am overqualified. I apply because I am craving a change that will pull me out of this darkness I am wallowing in.
Before I know it, I am seated in a zoom meeting with a British guy. He is going on and on about how impressive my CV is, and how my writing stands out. He feels I will be a good addition to his team, bringing in the humanity in story telling. I am smiling at him, partly because his British accent is too strong that I miss out on some of his words, and partly because I begin to feel the darkness in my heart melting away.
However, one month in and I already know this is not meant for me. My anxiety has grown ten fold. I am losing sleep on weekdays because I keep wondering which kind of emails I will wake up to. My heart is beating wildly every time I sit at my desk, and asked to attend a zoom meeting. I am training my eyes on the clock because I badly want 5 p.m. to get here. I am writing more than I have ever done before, but everything is falling apart.
Two months in, I am talking to my heart, telling it to let go. I so much want to let go, but dealing with a bipolar boss is something no one ever prepares you for. Today, the only words he says to you is, “This is rubbish. There is nothing you have written here. Delete everything and start over.” Next day, he cannot stop saying how a brilliant writer you are. How beautiful your words are. How your writing seeps into his body and quenches all his thirst. He does not know what the company would do with you.
The cycle continues, and I know deep down that I cannot do this. I tell myself I will wait for end month, get my pay, and leave. Meanwhile, I bring two of my friends on board. Sharon quits after one hour, because she does not even understand how I have survived this toxicity for close to two months.
My salary comes just in time for me to dash into a supermarket, and pay for a laundry machine I had been eying for such a long time; in memory of my struggle at the hands of a British guy!
Of course, Muthoni quits after a month or so, and the three of us agree that when we write our priority lists, even money does not come on top of our mental health.
I left that job and I like to think that all my doors just opened. I remember a friend coming to my place a week after I resigned and shouting, “Wueh. You even have time to watch TV!” Because even they had seen the much toll the job had taken on me.
I started living the life I have always craved: reading books and getting paid for it. Walking into bookstores and not worrying about having to break a bank before buying. My books are selling themselves without me moving an inch, without having to make noise about them. I am writing the most beautiful poetry I have ever written, or have ever come across. I am walking into big rooms and strangers are nodding and smiling, saying they have read about me. I am having the luxury to decline job offers, and the courage to ask for pay raises without batting an eyelid.
I don’t think there has ever been a year I have been contracted to edit as many great books as I have this year.
Sometime in the year, I am speaking to someone about reading, and writing, and books as a whole. Of course, most of my conversations are almost always about these things, so when she asks me for a clear picture of me and my books, I want to swallow my tongue and disappear.
What did 2021 teach me about myself? That I am deserve all the things I envision for myself. I am a big deal. I carry big dreams on my shoulders. My mind creates all these beautiful pictures of me in the future, and my hands work to bring them into fruition. That this journey I am walking is as beautiful as it will ever get. That I might stumble, and maybe fall at times, but my heart will still beat throughout.
That I am growing and nurturing the best kind of relationships. I am surrounded by people who respect the holiness of my existence. And while at it, it is okay for my heart and soul to let go of those who do not suit my dreams. It is not their fault, neither is it mine.
I am accepting that not everything is meant to last; not jobs, not situations, not people. Oh, I have walked out of two beautiful friendships this year, and not once have I beaten myself up for that. I understand it is not my fault. That it is not the end of life; it is just a journey that has come to an end. I understand that this next part of my journey will still go on as planned; it will flourish, watered by the magic of my hands, even without their presence.
I am holding close to things I have birthed; like the book club I am so proud of. This one that is growing too fast. This one that is becoming the greatest of the things I am growing. This one that has renowned people asking wether there is space to join. This one that melts my heart each day, each month.
My blog makes it to the finalists of Afrobloggers Awards 2021, and I cannot stop crying at the love my readers and friends are showing it. The love is too much, I am starting to worry maybe these people are seeing me from a lens I had never imagined existed. That they are giving me too much, and getting almost nothing in return. How can just my mere existence have this much impact on people?
The blog emerges among the top 3, and I have to steady my heart again, because I am still in disbelief. My writing is growing; I am being recognised further than I ever imagined.
I know, now, that I will always rise from darkness. The fear of the unknown will never shake my existence, and force me into places that hurt me. That everything I have wanted for myself, is here, or on its way. That my anxiety is teaching me to live softly, gifting myself niceness and softness, and allowing my heart and soul the rest they deserve.
That sometimes, these things I want, or these I worry about, come at me too fast, unexpectedly, like a flash of lightning. That I am bound to embrace them, fully and warmly, and let them grow in me.
Whatever it takes, I hope 2022 is even softer to my heart and soul. That its fruits fall on my roof without me having to reach out for them. Its scents bring me nothing but warmth, wholeness, and happiness. That its arms reach out to me, even in darkness, and caress my spirit to sleep. That my heart finds what it wants. That my body finds abundance and glow in rest. That I live even beyond my dreams and visions, taking in all the goodness that I deserve.
And its darkness, if any, doesn’t steer me away from the course of my journey.
(If you would like to read about my 2020, click here.)