I am a word fiend. At any given point in time, there is one word that I am fixated on. I believe that this year, I found my lifelong word. I have a genuine, committed and vested interest in living out this word for the rest of my life.
The word is “wholesome”. “Whole” replaced “balance”, not only for the weight of its many meanings, but also because balance often implies relentless juggling. Balance suggests equal divides, round numbers and perfect equations. Quite frankly, balance and I didn’t work out because numbers and symmetry have never been my forte.
2017 broke me open. I’ve spent my whole life seeking purpose and greater certainty around who I truly am. Like many young people, I didn’t quite understand that identity is privileged information. The world never expected me to figure it out immediately, and eventually life led me to the answer anyway.
Childhood was remarkably busy. Between Enid Blyton novels, ice creams after church every Sunday and building cities out of mud, I had no time for contemplating my existence because I was thoroughly immersed in living it. In retrospect, I think childhood is a wholeness that we don’t quite realise and certainly one we fail to appreciate. It is bright and wonderful, and it evaporates in an instant.
Fragmentation descended upon me during my teenage years. I was plagued with a lengthy season of anger, loneliness and angst because I could not seem to make sense of myself and my place in this world.
I was trying to bridge the gap between my Western education, my Africanist father, our patriarchal household, my blackness, my femininity, my immigrant family, my bourgeois lifestyle, my stay at home mother, my Christian upbringing, my mother telling me to get an education and become an independent woman, my mother yelling at me to take a shower because girls should always be clean, my father telling me I should have the strength of a general, my father never giving his own wife the room to exercise the same strength … Guys, much like this grammatically incorrect sentence, I was confused.
My teenage years were an internal struggle. I spent the bulk of that time belittling myself, running away from the things that marked my identity and forever seeking out truths that did not belong to me. If this was not indication enough that I had left wholeness in my childhood, life at university made this abundantly clear.
At 19, the impasse between knowing nothing and believing I knew everything, I welcomed the first man I have ever loved into my life. In retrospect, man and woman were really just boy and girl, someone’s son and someone’s daughter. I had long decided I would love him and so when he showed up, Boy’s massive presence instantly dwarfed my own. I had never been told that even the love we give out must be careful and measured, so I put my whole heart on the table believing it would be safe there. Most of the story is made up of words that all mean “sad”. I don’t read from that book any longer. The last word said “resentment” and my heart had become so heavy with it, I had to put it down.
Boy, was neither perfect nor all-knowing, but he had an unwavering belief in his place in the world. Boy taught me the most powerful lesson I have learned in life thus far. The book is now buried among all the others. Putting it away was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I am so thankful that I did because I know that I would have lost myself to it forever. Binding my whole self to another person was the deepest form of brokenness I have ever known, but it also brought me to myself.
My revelation was faith. Faith in a God that my grandmother prayed to every Sunday, albeit that I wasn’t willing to call him Jesus. My heart had become incredibly ill, my spirit was suffering greatly and life had become an endless, empty expanse of pain. Everything ached with the effort of what one expects to be ordinary. Laughter remained caught at the back of my throat, words were hauled from my lips with force, and I woke up each morning to fresh tears on my pillow to remind me that while my body was very much alive, I was merely a shell of the self I ought to have been.
I kept descending; lowering myself further and further into the earth. Living on loveless love, lonely love, lazy love, no love; I repeat, NO LOVE. Till faith began to knock on my door each day to remind me to say thanks. Thank you for the air I breathed today God. Thank you for the food I ate today God. Thank you for the legs that carried me God. Thank you for the conversation I had with Mum today God. Thank you for the spurt of giggles I had this morning God. Gratitude for nothing and everything. A little gratitude and then a lot of gratitude. Enough gratitude to keep me on the earth rather than in it.
This post was supposed to be about exercise and nutrition because nutritious food and staying active have become a real source of joy for me. Instead, as I began to write about how in the joy of being broken open, I stumbled upon the biggest revelation of all: that faith in something, anything and thanks for nothing and everything will heal even the deepest form of broken that one can be.
In the spirit of this article, thank you to those who are moved to action by the pain of others. Thank you to those who recognise that depression is not an issue for white people or weak people but for people. Thank you to those who inspire wellness. Thank you for the joy of healing and letting go. Thank you for the divine peace that comes with finally recognising that you are the whole human, the whole package, the whole woman.
PS: The nutrition and exercise ramble is coming up soon.