Music has been my company for almost everything in my life, whether it evokes people, places, emotions or events for me. My earliest memory of music which I loved was the Ipi ‘Ntombi album, specifically the song The Warrior, where I adored the strong drumming and it instilled a life-long love in me of a good rhythm to which to dance. There was Good Vibrations which was the soundtrack to many a family road trip to Durban for holidays.
There was the time when my father had an accident at work and badly damaged his hand. He had played the bagpipes and oboe for years and now was unable to play either. I felt my dad’s loss keenly. I remember playing Amazing Grace on repeat on the record player. The other song that resonated with me at that time was Close Every Door from Joseph. I used to play these over and over and weep endlessly. When I think of it now, I feel like I was crying for so much more, but have no recollection of what. Then again, there are large tracts of my childhood of which I have no memory.
Jump forward to my teenage years, where my love of music shot through the roof – everything from Bon Jovi to Def Leppard to Roxette to Tina Turner to country and basically anything that the church said we couldn’t listen to, was guaranteed of being passed around the Youth Group. I played in an orchestra, so also had a great love of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and a plethora of others. My parents loved musicals and so many of those have a fond place in my heart too. I went to Music Camp and danced to MC Hammer and did the running man to Snap and Technotronic. I can’t hear Vogue without thinking of a friend who knew all the dance moves.
There was the first time that I kissed my long time crush to, of all songs, Tarzan Boy by Baltimora. It still makes me smile. That kiss was a year in the making! I have always had a desperate wish to have the body and chutzpah of Cher to be able to perform If I Could Turn Back Time in THAT outfit! That’s a whole other level of confidence.
There are so many songs that I can’t put them all down here. Songs for my children, songs for my friends, songs that make me cry, songs that calm me down. Some people see the world in pictures, I see it in music. There is a song for everything is what I tell my kids. They laugh at me for all the times I break out in random songs because of something they have just said.
So, lastly, I loved the album Cinema by Elaine Paige, particularly The Rose and Windmills of My Mind. The latter has been on my mind a lot lately. (See what I did there?) It refers to the cyclical nature of things, in my opinion:
Like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning reel.
My brain feels a lot like that on many days. Just going round these circles and down tunnels that lead to more tunnels, without finding resolutions or answers. It got me wondering about how much of life is cyclical. Do the same things just keeping coming back forever? The same patterns occurring, over and over again.
I see them in my life. From one abusive relationship to another. From one neglectful relationship to another. My own patterns of behaviour; generational patterns; familial patterns. Have you ever stopped to think about how you have an expected role to play in your family? And how, when you are with them, you cycle right back into it? It is a tough one to break. I have done some work on this, but realised earlier this year, when a member of my family came to stay, that I hadn’t even begun to address the ones with her. When she left, I wondered why I felt disappointed and upset, then it dawned on me, that I had done what I always do and let her use me for her own ends. She needed me to be her support and I dropped everything to do that. But whenever I have needed her support, she mostly doesn’t show up. It cuts deeply. She is not aware that she does it and now that I am aware of my part, I can stop acting in this circus.
I see how depression has been around for large tracts of my life. There were periods when I was okay, but it was always just on the outskirts, waiting to come back into residence. It makes me question whether I have ever been normal. I see other people have periods of depression, but they are not forever dipping in and out. It is not always bubbling under the surface for them. For years and years, I have always had thoughts of dying in my brain. Death is something that is so present in my head, that it has no sway over me, in terms of fear and apprehension. There are days where it is in the far recesses of my brain and days when I think about the alternatives on how to die – natural or otherwise.
That said, the deaths of those I love haunt me. The nanny I had when I was growing up was not a nanny, she was my surrogate mother. I loved her dearly and wholeheartedly. She died from AIDS. She had a husband with a wandering eye. Not just his eye as it turned out. He contracted Aids from somewhere and gave it to her. She was the woman who escaped from her first husband who used to beat her. She overcame that and became strong. She was funny and witty and when things were really bad at home, she had a way of mimicking my father that made me laugh until my stomach ached. I was broken when she died. I was so angry at the injustice of it. I was so upset that loving her was not enough to save her. I was bitter that I couldn’t help her. And more than that, I missed her. My grief was crippling for a long time. To this day, I cry when I think of her. She had been so vital and had boundless energy. She protected me as best as she could. She helped me. She taught me all the useful skills that I have – how to do laundry and ironing and cleaning and making beds. How to sew on a button, fix a hem and bake biscuits. She would chase me out of bed during the holidays – no being lazy! She sat with me while I cried. She told me which of my boyfriends I must get rid of and which of my friends I should date. She pulled no punches in her critiques either! I felt my heart crumble when I heard she was gone. She was too young to die. The pain was excruciating. I have never got over that loss. I felt so alone without her in the world.
She may have not chosen to leave me, or maybe she did depending on your beliefs, but her choice or not, she left. She had been getting a bit better, so I had hope that the ARVs might be working and she would pull through.
The first people to leave me were my parents. They were around physically, but I was abandoned by them. My mother has a whole list of reasons as to why that was, especially in my first few years on this planet, which a part of me understands, however, situations changed and she never came back. My father was so caught up with trying to please her, while she told him endlessly (and to this day), that he was so lucky that she picked him out of the 2 marriage offers she had, that he didn’t show up either. He arrived on my doorstep when he needed something, in particular when he wanted me to be the peacemaker and get my mother to unlock the bedroom door and to talk her out of her rage of whatever thing had pissed her off on that day. It involved sitting on the floor outside of the bedroom, begging her to please let me in, to just speak to her. Going in and apologising repeatedly for the shitty day that she had had and asking her to just try and forgive us.
I have strong memories of being under 12 years of age and crying for the mother that I had never had – the one who didn’t shout, was loving and caring and who enjoyed spending time with me. I have one photograph that seems to portray those things that I wanted, but my adult mind wonders if any of that were real. Was she just posing for the picture? Narcissists do like to look good to the outside world after all.
The first boyfriend that I truly loved, cheated on me. Not once, but three times. I loved him so much and was so desperate to not have him leave me, that I just forgave him and moved on. I worked harder at loving him and at trying to show him that I cared. I tried to be everything that I thought he wanted. Then I found the note that he had written to his latest bit on the side, where, in reference to him and me, he quoted a bit of Meatloaf’s song, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way that I am ever going to love you, but don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad”. So, I left. He took me to the airport and cried as hard as I did. I wondered for a long time if he had ever loved me.
I didn’t date for a number of years after that. Eventually, with a lot of peer pressure from friends, I headed back out into the world of singles. I met a doctor who was busy with his qualification to be an ophthalmologist. We did the rounds of the the coffee shops, theatres, movies, restaurants and he helped me with sorting out a roof leak and some other household issues. I cooked him dinners in return. We used to speak on the phone often and easily pass an hour or two while doing so. After 3 or 4 months, he invited me to movies and then said he would cook me dinner. He collected me from my place and we had a fun evening with much laughter. We ended up in bed together for the first time. He drove me home the next day and then ghosted me. When I eventually got hold of him, he told me that I had given him an STD and he couldn’t be around someone like that. I told him that it was impossible as I had not slept with anyone in a very long time, plus I had zero symptoms of anything and I had also recently had an annual check-up. I asked him which one it was and he replied that he didn’t know. I asked him what the symptoms were and he described a rash on his stomach that went down into his pubic area. I was in such a state of shock that I ended the call. I went to see my GP and explained everything to her. She told me that doctors can be sods to date and the fact that he was one and couldn’t name the alleged STD, was highly suspicious. I described to her what he told me and she said that it sounded like the kind of reaction you get to wearing scrubs in the OR for hours. I forget the name. I wondered what I had done wrong. He had seemed so interested. Why go to all those lengths to take me out and help fix up the house for as long as he did? I felt confused and abandoned, again.
I look at my relationships and there seem to be recurring trends of cheating or just being downright shitty. Of telling or showing me that I am not sufficient for their needs. I thought that my ex-husband was finally the one that would break the mould. The one that wouldn’t leave me or discard me or accuse me of things that I hadn’t done. Ha. I laugh at my naivety. My desperate desire to be loved, just for being me, without recriminations and reprisal, was not met. I have lost hope that it ever will be. I can never be enough.
Covid has brought about a different sort of loss. After 16 months of running at a loss, with retrenchments scattered across my landscape like blood spatters on snow, my business partner and I retrenched the last two employees today. It was heartbreaking. They have both been with us for 9 years. They have seen my children go from babies to toddlers to teenager. They have worked all hours to get through the busy season and we have had our fair share of laughs, tears and grind. I am closing down a business that has been running for nearly 15 years. It is a business that has seen more than its fair share of my tears and sweat, that I literally was tied to by my ex’s threat and actions, but it provided a steady and good income. Now, I have no income and no prospect of income for now. I have to go back to being an employee myself. I am yet to see a job on the market, for which I qualify, that will cover my monthly expenses. I am in a state of shock that I am in this place. I know I have to get my CV out urgently, but I feel hamstrung with sadness and loss. I don’t feel confident about getting a job. In fact I feel downright terrified.
I feel so numb, not helped by the feeling that I am floating away. Have you ever had that cough mixture that makes you feel a bit dizzy and woozy, like you are losing control of your faculties? A bit like the effects of the nitrous oxide used in labour. Well, that is how my head has felt for the last week. I am trying to tether myself to my body. But my mind wants to leave. To just drift away and not come back. Never in a million years did I think that I would be starting over again in my late forties.
For the first time in years, I wished last week that I wasn’t divorced. I wondered if he would take me back if I asked. At least then this situation would be the problem for two people instead of just mine alone. I don’t know which way to turn and it is so, so lonely. I truly envy those who have a family or spouse / partner to just lean on. I feel like I am Elijah wandering in the wilderness – the landscape looks barren and inhospitable and dry. There is no sustenance to be seen and water is in short supply.
I see the beauty in the natural world around me and parts of me can completely accept the splendid, unparalleled vistas in front of me, but it doesn’t touch my soul for more than a few minutes. I can’t hold onto the joy and peace. I am so frustrated that I can’t manage it. Yet another thing that I fail at doing. It feels like breathing freely for those parcels of time and then the crushing weight of life sits itself firmly back down on my chest. Unrelenting sadness.
Why get up everyday to fight when you have been doing that for years and you are no further along? If this is living, then why do it?