Thoughts Behind the Gratitude Journal: 2020

Maybe we’ll wither and die. Well, of course we will. But maybe we will be mocked, stones hurled our way because we don’t own houses and pot plants. Maybe our skeletons will lie in our graves long after we’re gone, mourning all the success we could have had -success valued via the quality of the couches we could have had, the threadcounts of the sheets we could have owned, the extra cars and holidays we could have flaunted.

Or maybe our skeletons will be grateful that we dared to choose. That we even realised there was a choice.

No, this is not a poor man’s anthem. This is a recognition of the value of choice. The choice to value life over and above the assumed value of life. That living and existing is enough over and above the thing we call net worth. That a human being can be weighed by the beauty of their choices, the various colours of their love, the honour of their free will -rather than what that all amounted to in dollars and cents.

…the honour of free will, the will to live the life we each want – regardless of how lowly it may be perceived by family, friends and the masses. The will to be a plumber in a world of white collar dreams. The will to happily own nothing in a world that is calling for a fight against ‘owning nothing yet being happy’. The will to be a housewife when the future of work has been proclaimed female -if not automated. The will to strive for a house in the suburbs, a spouse and two children when that can be looked upon as accomplished brainwashing. The will to wander, a nomad in a culture that pushes us to settle down.

Maybe our skeletons will be grateful for having lived at a time when they could be anything they wanted (when whoever said that could actually mean it): the acting-accommodation for a soul that was old-fashioned or trendsetting or comfortably mundane or in the middle or world-renowned or on the fringes. All we needed to do was choose, those of us who could choose.

We know ourselves, the ones who were lucky enough to be in an environment where we could find out that we could choose. Where our liberties are not as few and far between as the world would like us to believe. Where the Sub-Saharan sun shines on landscapes populated by unpredictable economies, stubborn cultures and even more stubborn subcultures that insist, “But did you know you could…?”

And you wouldn’t believe the breadths of the coulds. Things unimaginable to my mother – just one generation away. And I know what you’re thinking: it’s always like this. From the beginning of time, the first family: the generations were broken up by cracks and gaps -gaping differences each issuing out sensitive and sensible arguments, at times waging all out war -pressing fissures deep into, against our roots. But then why does this time feel different?

With us, it’s not a matter of free will. Not anymore. Now, we have the privilege of free will. We don’t have a few options open here and there. We have a wealth of options. But we know it, this time. We know it. It’s not something we will find out from our children. The coulds have been revealed to us and now we live them. Whomever so chooses – if she dares, if he dares – may live them.

And more and more, some of us don’t have to die for our chosen coulds…

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Copyright © 2021 Tebogo Ndlovu

PS: This article is based on my concept for my gratitude journal in 2020. Every year, I set a theme for what I should remember to be grateful for. My 2020 theme was based on some of the thoughts above.

Stolen Joys

My gratitude goal for 2020 was to learn to appreciate free will by exercising it.

I’m quite lucky. I live in a country that many wouldn’t want to belong to at this moment in history.

Yet I do have certain freedoms. A lot of people in this country don’t have the freedom to dream. Life is all about survival for most. Seeing beyond that is difficult under such circumstances. But for some, we can deal with the issue of survival and dream about what comes after that at the same time. We have the privilege of free will. If my job torments me, I can figure out how to supplement that income and leave – especially now that this volatile country is experiencing an upswing. If I have an abusive husband, divorce is a possible option. I was not born into the kind of circumstances where child marriage was ever something that could happen to me. I have had the opportunity to travel and experience totally different cultures. I could go on.

The long and short of it is that I would be lying if I said I had no choices in life, because in some ways, I have had the advantage of free will where someone else didn’t or where it would have been dangerous for that person to activate it.

So, at the beginning of the year, I dedicated 2020 to activating the freewill I do have and using the privilege of exercising this free will in order to straighten out a few things in my life. I thought that doing this would be a good way to show my appreciation for this gift. And I’m proud to say it worked. Not only did I manage to deal with key things that had been a thorn in my flesh for a few years now, I also was able to see where I could have taken responsibility but fell short.

It’s true what they say: a lot goes wrong while the rest of us are passively thinking there’s nothing we can do. I became the solution to problems I thought I was not equipped or positioned to handle. I learned how valuable each of us are. When we think we’re not, is when somebody needs us or when we need the best part of ourselves the most. Thinking we’re not important serves no one. It’s not that we’re insignificant, it’s that we opted out of significance: in our families, amongst our friends, at work, in our love lives, in achieving our goals, in being true to ourselves.

I also learned that shortchanging myself when times are good means that I’m definitely a victim whenever a crisis hits. If I’m a victim, I can’t help anyone who never really stood a chance. It’s a domino effect.

That was 2020. I learned to take charge of my free will in order to give myself what I need by putting my advantages to good use. I don’t regret them, I don’t apologise for them, but I do take on the responsibility that they come with. I’ve learned to enjoy that freedom and responsibility. I acknowledged all my good and bad points, owned them, built some good stuff on them. This way, I don’t get to blame anyone else for my mistakes. I don’t get to blame my culture, my upbringing, my environment, somebody else. Instead, I build my life on my strengths and the advantages that all these things gave me – while I dull my weaknesses and, eventually, transcend the bad hands that were dealt me. And, in the first place, I’m actually alive. I’m so relieved I’m still healthy and breathing (and still around to think about what to do with my hair next.) I get to wake up and run my life, eat, be silly and fantastic in the little ways I’m silly and fantastic. I get to be able to even be myself. So many don’t have that privilege.

I titled this post ‘Stolen Joys’ because what I got from this year was snatched from the jaws and clutches of a year that was supposed to be horrible. Yet such fine pearls and life came from it, things I haven’t even mentioned here.

I’m truly grateful.

All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu

There’s A Song For This

2020 has been a horrendous year for various reasons, some of which I’ve been encountering over the last two weeks or so. The most common problem we may have experienced this year is the outbreak and consequences of the COVID19 pandemic. It’s possible we all know people who lost their lives due to the virus. It’s been a devastating year for some also because of job losses, being on lockdown with an abusive person, succumbing to depression and other mental health issues as a result of isolation, dealing with disturbed plans, delayed academic progress. The list goes on. So yes, this has been a challenging year.

However, I think it’s fair to say some of us have salvaged something from this year. Others have not fared so badly thus far. We still have our sources of income. Despite many opportunities to catch something, we still haven’t caught the virus (as far as we know?). We restarted projects we previously claimed not to have time for. We realised what or who we can’t do without and mended relationships before it was too late. Some introverts managed to have life their way for a while, lol, and got to enjoy the peace that came with lockdown restrictions. Some got to know their children better.

I like to think that out of every survived crisis is a silver lining – like surviving a war having discovered a secret version of yourself in the middle of the upheaval and being able to witness all the development and social change that at times comes afterwards. Because what is life without optimism, especially at times like this? One of my silver linings was restarting this blog and finally figuring my way out of a long, long spell of writer’s block. It’s amazing what idle time can do if you can afford any. I’m even more grateful that anyone came to read what I publish here. Several times, I’ve hesitated to click on ‘publish’ but I’d put myself in a corner so I had no choice. I had told myself I’d publish everyday until I felt I had become a writer -regardless of whether or not I had anything good to publish. Now I write constantly and have a few projects I’m actively working on -regardless of how busy the rest of my life gets. So, according to whoever said you’re only a writer if you’re writing, I think it’s safe to say I’ve happily, finally accepted the vocation. Took years but I’m happy it happened at all.

On that note, I’d like to thank you so much for visiting the village I’ve built here -with its stories and characters and whatever you may have picked up while passing through. I appreciate every second you’ve spent reading my posts, commenting, liking. I’ll be taking another tour around your blogs as I haven’t done it in a while and miss it. One of the last times I did it, Ivon got ‘The Sound of Silence’ (Pentatonix version) stuck in my head, Keith had a hilarious story out, I found out about Rosaliene’s ‘Under the Tamarind Tree’ -which I’m psyching myself to read; I think it’s one of those that will make me an angry, crying mess but in a good way- and Melody Chen blew me away with her imagery and flow. I cannot get over the way she writes.

I’m truly looking forward to reading your work. And please know that each and every one of you has made a major, unexpected difference in my life. Every action you’ve performed on this blog has helped me rebuild a vital part of myself I thought I had lost. The kindness or interest of strangers is invaluable. I hope you’ve gained something from visiting here.

Before this point, I was publishing to hold myself accountable so that I wouldn’t stop writing. Now my focus is shifting to reading more (Rosaliene, Paul and River, I’m getting to your books. So excited about that.), doing better research, and improving on the quality of my writing. I want to become better at writing and have had to rearrange my life accordingly as it’s so easy to fall into not getting time to read and write. The demands on our time can be numerous. So some changes had to be made.

Jai Lynn had some writing plans out and I thought it would be a good way to continue to hold myself accountable so my top 5 are:

  1. To complete the race series by 1 October, continuing to publish on weekends
  2. To complete my current writing projects by 1 November
  3. To post consistently (every day) until 15 October when I’ll evaluate and make whatever changes are necessary
  4. To embark on ‘The Historians’ which I’ll be carrying out here soon (it’s NOT about regurgitating historical facts -even though that can be fun to do, especially with history that’s not well-known)
  5. To change the blog name and update the blog in general.

Those are my major goals right now….That’s one of my 2020 silver linings: the year I started writing again and met you all. And yes, there’s a song for that.