Feeling …

 

Find Missing Missy Here (So! Worth! It!)

They say life begins at 40. Maybe it’s because so many things get clearer. Or murkier? For me it’s been the former – lots of weird revelations this year. But then again, here I am, 8 weeks from the Big Four-Oh and resuming therapy…

A lot of my peers turn 40 this year (#ElderMillennialsRus) so I guess the zeitgeist is floating around and stuff. It almost feels contagious, in a way. Or maybe corona sent the entire planet into a quarter-life crisis, arronno.

The thing that’s taking me back to my shrink is I’ve lost interest in life. Again. And I’ve sabotaged my career. Again. And I’ve been watching narcississm videos and going HAM on bibliotherapy. Again. And I’ve started getting stress cramps and migraines. Again. And I’ve stopped sleeping despite ol’ reliable. Again. And I’ve resumed eating so I’m afraid I’ll get all the weight back. Again.

(It wasn’t anorexia, it was just four years of zero appetite and female-pattern hair loss that left me 20 kilos lighter. Also, I have no issue with other people being fat. Or curvy. Or plus-size. Or slim-thicc. I just don’t want it for me.)

I’ve stopped a lot of things. I’ve stopped needing to be right. Or smart. Or nice. (I still do those things compulsively, but I’ve stopped feeling like I need to, and that’s something I guess.) I’ve stopped wanting to be known because it always ends in tears. I’ve stopped defending myself or wanting to be the ‘good guy’ in the story. Because people will think what they want to think, so I’ll stand in as the villain they want to see – why waste energy I don’t even have?

I stopped logging into Twitter because it kept making me sad and mad, but I still check some accounts off the browser to keep up with things. Sometimes. I find I do a lot less doom-scrolling that way. In theory at least. And I stopped expecting people to care. Because life is hard, and a lot of us don’t.

 

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I never leave my house, and when I do, I wear neon-coloured onesies and matching marvins to the kiosk. (Most days, the brighter I look outside, the darker I feel inside.) I know the things that are bugging me. And I know I need to just get over them. But god knows how. Or maybe my shrink does. And judging by her wait list, I’m guessing a lot of us are asking for extra sessions.

I don’t always feel like this. But it seems I keep coming back to this dark space. My shrink told me as much – that first session in 2015. She said the depression and anxiety I express is more about my world view and wiring, so it’s a matter of managing this shit, not curing it. I guess it’s time for routine servicing then.

TL;DR: Be safe. Pet a cat. See a shrink if you have the money. And tell a boy he’s pretty. Also, I need to learn PhP and clean this place up because chei!

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♫ Strip Me ♫ Natasha Beddingfield ♫

I have a theory …

A lot of people mistake me for a butch. Or at least a girly bi. I do recognise and appreciate sexy women. Especially curvy ones with hourglass figures and ample asses. I don’t want to have sex with them though. Or form romantic entanglements. Also, for a long time, I couldn’t wrap my head around same-sex attraction. I’m less puzzled now.

In my mind, love is love, and gender doesn’t come into it. We love who we love and we have a right to love. I don’t know if that makes me an ally – I’m told ally-ship is defined by the supported, not the supporter. But all this pre-amble shapes my perspective on life and relationships. Let me explain …

I have this theory about men and women. It mostly applies in hetero-normative interactions. I don’t know if it’s the same in the gay world, and I don’t have the lived experience to dig into that. And I’m not even straying into trans politics right now. I’ll restrict my musings to the typical cis guys ‘n gals.

And this isn’t just in dating. It cuts across to work, friendship, parenting, supermarket trips, any space where men and women mingle. So here’s the theory. Basically, a man’s superpower is compartmentalising his shit…

Mark Gungor explains it really well. Heads up: he’s a pastor, so you’ll find some bible verses in the full version, but you can mute those sections if you need to. The rest of what he says is dope, accurate, and funny as hell.

The clip below is just a teaser, but if you want to watch the whole two hours, you can find it here.  (There are 6 more hours of him online if you want to complete the series. It has a corny name but there are good nugs in there.)

It makes sense that men have boxes which never touch and women’s brains intermingle everything. That’s why when a man treats you badly (particularly sexual assault or rape), we say, ‘What if it was your mother? Or daughter? Or sister?’ Feminists believe this is reductive. After all, in our intermingled female minds, every woman is someone’s daughter, sister, mother. DUH!

So I don’t have to be your mother / daughter / sister to earn safety and respect and – you know – NOT BE RAPED. But to him, he has a mama box, a baby girl box, a kid sister box, an ‘other women’ box … and the boxes never touch.

In fact, he does everything in his power to keep them far apart. It may also explain why he dates and/or socialises with one type of woman – the ‘smart, modern, enlightened’ one then marries a more domestic kind of woman who will cook, clean, maintain demurity, and be nice to his mum.

Women he beds vs women he weds. #WifeMaterial vs #EntertainementValue. #NurturingVsMentalStimulation. #Patriarchy. Mind you, I’m the kind if feminist that believes all women’s choices are valid, and it’s her right to be whomever and whatever she chooses. But your choices dictate your box …

This is kind of a survival mechanism for him. Because – if he’s a good guy – and he saw his sister / mama / daughter in every woman, he’d never get erect. Then you (as the woman that’s trying to fuck him) would have a whole other problem on your hands, not to mention your thirsty lady bits.

Disclaimer: I’m talking about good men, because yes, I believe they exist. I’m not talking about the ‘kuma ni kuma’ creatures. Those ones deserve nothing but castration with rusty slashers. This theory only applies to the good guys.

Anyway, because a man’s boxes don’t touch, and he has all his women in different boxes, he doesn’t find it weird to keep them separate. That’s why he can tell you loves you and still cheat. You and his mistress are in different boxes, and the boxes never touch. You shouldn’t even know that box exists.

Now us, women, everything is connected. My car can make a blinking noise (yes, I know blinking has no sound) and I’ll suddenly be yelling at my kid because the blinking light reminded of how she bats her eyelashes when she’s being sarcastic. So now I’m screaming about five hours of labour while he sits quietly and wonders if he should call the mechanic or drive to Mathare …

This plays out in relationships – whether they’re romantic or casual. A man has his boxes. He has one for each of his women – and for each of his men too. He’ll never call Toma for beer because Toma is his computer guy. And he won’t invite Dwayne on a road trip coz Dwayne gets drunk and refuses to share driving hours. Kila mtu anapewa lane na anafaa kubaki kwa lane yake.

Now, for women, everything is connected. So yes, we have a hair-friend, but we can still talk to her about cows and shoes. And we have a mummy-friend, but we’ll still chew out or child-free pals with baby pictures. And we have a biashara buddy but we’ll still whine to her about boy drama. It’s all intricately connected, and we have a birds’ eye view of everything, pun intended.

So when we come into a man’s life, whether as a kinyozi, a platonic pal, or a daddy’s girl, we want to be his everything. And we’ll often to do this by spotting the other women in his life and hunting them down. Then we vanquish them in uniquely female ways that – if the genders were reversed – would be counted as abuse … but we’ll talk about that later.

For now, I might get so cosy with his mum that she starts to take my side in fights. I might charm his sister and make her my best friend. I might mark my territory with dramatic PDA. Or I might befriend his pals behind his back and subtly warn them off. Either way, the plan is to be the last woman standing.

This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, its just a thing. Or rather, a theory. And yes, many of these ‘uniquely female tactics’ and thinly veiled emotional abuse. But because this type of psychological manipulation is subtle and insidious, you don’t see it for what it is. Plus, it doesn’t leave visible scars, so it’s harder to spot, address, resolve, or recover from. Also, many women do it, so in a way, it seems … normal. It’s just how women are, right? Men can be trash and women can be evil. Boys can boys and girls can fuck you up before you even know it …

So while ‘rival men’ will strut and pose and throw punches, competing women will perform spy-level surveillance and cold war psychological techniques. Half the time, the dude won’t even know what’s happening til’ he dials that gal pal he hasn’t talked to in ages and she refuses to pick his call. Or he bumps into his (female) barber on the street and she’s hostile, standoffish, and bitchy. He’s thinking wtf kumbe Dada Manywele kaambiwa ‘back off sis, he’s mine!’

And because men’s boxes don’t touch, even if you – as a woman – explain what’s going on, he still doesn’t get it. For him, it simply doesn’t compute. Of course there are exceptions. There are men who have power. Or money. Or charm. Or magic sticks. These men have entire harems at their disposal.

And they get women, pun intended. They wield us and manage us like a pro. And they still keep us in our designated boxes. You may think you’re his whole world until you jump out of your box and spot all the other pretty boxes. And if you try to peek into them, he will stubbornly shove you back into your box.

I don’t know how to bridge the boxes and the wires. I don’t know what the middle ground is between male segregation and female interminglement. And I thought I’d avoid the mess because I’m a platonic. I thought I could dodge all the relationship drama because I’m not in his bed. I thought I could dip into all his boxes because I’m his best friend. I thought I could ignore his women’s attempts to push me out of his life. I thought I was safe in #BFFB.

But guess what – I’m a still woman. I may not want his dick and he may not want my kitty, but in the same way his girlfriends want to be his everything, I want to be in all his boxes. Except – of course – the box where he keeps his boxers. Hiyo hata sikaribii. Naachia the ones who deal with his dick.

But yes, I want the keys to all his other boxes. Not so I can keep his women out, but so I can find my way in. And yes, I do want access to his #NothingBox, even though I know it never ends well. I want him to talk to me, especially when he doesn’t want to. Mostly when he just wants me to go away.

So that’s my theory. Do with it what you will.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

♫ Good lives ♫ Eve 6 ♫

Content … ment?

Yes, I know it’s not a word. But the beauty of being a writer – at least for me – is I get to invent shit and tell stories. Also, yes, all words have meaning – even clichés. But I can invent words with special meaning to me. And as a content writer, I feel it’s meant to be (pun intended). Plus, as a person who doesn’t believe in the random, this all makes sense to me. Let me explain …

A lot of times, I write for me. Well, most of the time I write for me. At least when I’m not writing for money. And even when I’m writing for money, I slip in some triple-entendre that I know the client will reject. But I sneak it in there anyway – because it makes me happy. And sometimes, my cheeky bits make it to the big screen, yay! But I digress. I was talking about contentment.

I’m a December Baby, and mid-year is always big for me career-wise. I’ve quit a lot of jobs in June and started many new ones in July. My last one was in 2017 when I left agency. I recently rejoined agency … in March … and recently re-quit agency … last week. I wanted the money, but I didn’t need the drama.

I guess I’ve outgrown the BS, since I hadn’t intended to resign so soon. It just sort of … happened. I had explained all the reasons to my boss. Several times. In person. In writing. On text. But he’s an ad guy. A lifer. So he didn’t see my concerns as a big deal. But here’s the thing. In retrospect, I don’t regret going back. I needed to rejoin the agency. Because I had started to doubt myself.

Ten years ago, I moved to Nai after a 4-year stint in Dar. I had worked as a textbook editor and just wanted to be back home. I freelanced online for a year while part-timing at Kwani Trust. But I couldn’t make it work. I missed deadlines, fell into depression, got suicidal (though a lot of that was due to my Jadelle Implants. Story for another day). So I joined the ad industry til’ 2017.

When I finally quit advertising, I went back to content writing. And for a while, it was amazing. But then life happened. My main client got promoted and I didn’t get along with her replacement so I quit. Twice. I fell behind on deadlines. Drowned in debt. Fell into depression. (Unintentionally) lost weight.

But I also started to heal from old traumas and develop new ones. A lot of this has to do with my best friend, and I want to believe it’s why he came into my life. See, I have anxious depression. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. And I’ve handled it in different ways. Religion. Landmark. Yoga. Meditation. Pranic healing. Traditional medicine.  Antidepressants. CBT. Projects. Cats.

I told my shrink I wanted her to fix me. I told her I want my default to be happy. Because people describe me as bubbly and outgoing, but I see myself as lost and dark. I don’t see myself like they do. I don’t see me as they see me.

My shrink said there are different types of depression. Some are caused by head injuries. Or illness. Or emotional trauma. Or extended grief. Or ‘bad’ brain chemistry. Some come and go. Some stay forever. My shrink felt mine was a life-long depression. MDD, with anxiety and dysthmia. This type of depression never goes away. It can’t be cured, but it can be managed.

So I manage it as best I can. Some days I forget to actively stay balanced. Then I lose myself for weeks. Months. Years? Years. But then I find myself again. Often with a lot of help from the people that I love. When I started therapy in 2015, I told my shrink I want to be happy. I told her I’m sad all the time, it feels like I’ve always been sad, and I don’t want to be broken anymore.

She said the way my mind is wired, she doesn’t know if I can be happy, but she believes I can learn to be content. And after three years with her, I made it. I achieved content-ment. We used to assess my mood on a scale of 1 to 10, where 0 was suicidal and 10 was the dream. I wanted an 8. My shrink aimed for a 6. Most days I’m a 4. Twice a day I’m -73. But right now, I’m good.

I don’t know what made the shift. A few weeks ago, I almost lost my best friend. A few months ago, I almost walked out of his life, and he didn’t even know it. A few days ago, I was barely speaking to my daughter after a huge fight. And now, here I am, at 3.00 a.m. on Hump Day feeling content.

It’s not any one thing, but last night, for the first time ever, I looked at myself and I loved it. I saw me. I liked me. I loved me. I still love me. And for the first time, I said it aloud. And I meant it. That was a big thing for me. That is a big thing for me. Because while I come off as a don’t-care rebel who lives on my own terms, I’ve never loved the person I am. I liked the person I am, sure.

But I had never – before last night – fully loved and accepted myself. There are lots reasons for this. Mummy issues mostly. And  few daddy ones. Chronically comparing myself to others, but only in the ways I fall short. Setting impossible goals, just for the unconscious twisted pleasure of failing.

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In a way, I seek scenarios to purposely hurt myself. I put myself in situations where I’ll fail so I can see myself as the loser I think I am. I was so ready to give others the intimacy, validation, and regard I felt unworthy of.

I spread out the affection I was so unwilling to give myself because I didn’t feel I deserved my own love. I struggled to make others feel seen because in my own mind and heart, I was invisible. I couldn’t see me. So I figured if I just loved them hard enough and got them to love me back, then maybe I could see myself the way they saw me. Maybe they could convince me I’m worth it.

I especially had an issue pitting myself against other women. Women I thought were prettier, more popular, better at ‘playing the game’. I felt I was superior because ‘I don’t play games’ … but I secretly(?) resented the success of (men and) women who do play games. It gets them so far in life!

But yesterday I realised I don’t have to compare. I’ve heard it said in the past, obviously. I’ve even said it myself, so the futility of comparison is nothing new. But yesterday, it properly sank in. We don’t have to be the same.

And we don’t have to change. I can be loved for who I am and she can be loved for who she is. I don’t have to intrinsically paint people ‘bad’ for me to see myself as ‘good’. And even if they think I’m bad, I can still see myself as good.

That’s the adage – love yourself before expecting others to love you. Some people see this as healthy advice, because it’s where most of us go wrong. We don’t feel worthy of our own love, but we’re sure if someone else can love us, then we have value. So when that person leaves us, we become destroyed.

Them leaving proves what we knew all along – that we’re un-love-able. And even while they’re with us, we constantly nitpick, taking the slightest disagreement as criticism, obsessing on that unworthy feeling, struggling to ‘win back’ their regard. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Thing is … even before they left, we probably weighed heavier on them than we realised, because we made them the source of all the love and happiness in our lives. And that’s a lot to carry. It’s why we’re told to love ourselves first before seeking love outside. We’re not to use others to fill the self-shaped hole.

But self-love is hard. A lot of people who claim to love themselves are simply using it as an excuse to hurt others. They tout self-acceptance to a point of arrogance and narcissism, but it’s a shield for self-loathing. Genuine self-love, that’s hard to spot and tough to find. It’s something you lost in your childhood, your troubled teens, your puzzled twenties. You have to re-learn.

When I walked out of my therapist’s office in 2016, I had achieved contentment. I went back for two more rounds to deal with a broken engagement and general anxiety, but my shrink said I already have the tools to manage my mental health. She told me I’d be fine. And I was. I will be. I am. But it’s been a while since I achieved Level 6 Contentment.

I’m no saint. I know there are discussions happening today. Yesterday. Last week. Last year. Conversations where I’m the villain. I’m so invested in other people’s feelings that I often bend over backwards to keep them comfy. But in their eyes, I’m still the bad guy because we (don’t?) want the same thing.

And I’m finally okay with that. I’m finally in a space where I don’t need to find their faults and make them ‘bad’. I’ve always done that subconsciously to convince myself I’m ‘good’. But now I see that misplaced flaw-seeking for what it is – petty jealousy. And I’m finally at a place where I don’t need it anymore.

I forgive myself for being such a spiter (yes, I know that’s bad grammar). And while I don’t expect them to believe me, I no longer need them to forgive me. I’m happy …. no … content to let them be and to focus on me.

When I left agency in 2017, I was tired of the drama. I had just taken my second pay cut and had resumed online content work to recover the lost income. Within a few months, the side gig was paying more than the main gig, so I quit. But in 2018 and 2019, things slowed and life happened, so I started doubting myself. I wondered why I had left a ‘good job’ for an iffy one. It hit especially hard when my income dipped and I fell into debt.

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So when my former agency boss called me back to ‘help out for a month’, it made sense. And the timing was awesome! Still, it’s agency. And agency is, well, agency. But because I don’t believe in life being random, I think there’s a reason I went back. Three reasons, actually, and they worked out pretty well.

One, it got me into a new house where no matter how shitty everything is, I wake up, see hummingbirds, and smile. Two, it showed me things have changed, and that ‘going back to agency’ wouldn’t guarantee the income I was beating myself up about. This is key, because in my lowest freelancing moments, I would really flagellate myself over the income factor.

I would constantly remind myself that I left a relatively steady salary for more money. So now that my income was negative – largely due to my own unwise decisions – I  could no longer justify  leaving agency. And I was sorely tempted to go grovelling back. Which brings me to Reason Three.

I got lucky. I wasn’t forced to go beg for my old job. Instead, the universe (Thank you Amma) sent my old boss to find me. I agreed to work ‘for one month only’ at like half my prior pay. I ended up staying three months.

Then I got my 4th pay-cut and by the time I walked out, I remembered all the reasons I’d left agency in the first place. My writing confidence was so shaken I could barely hold a pen – there’s something about writing the same headline thirteen times and suggesting seventy-eleven rejected product names that makes you wonder why you call yourself a wordsmith. And lemme tell you Maina, I was ready to trash my computer and grab a hoe. Any hoe. Human or otherwise. So I figured it’s time to quit, because I was starting to hate the thing I love most. I was losing my passion for words, and it was breaking me.

But it made me take a closer look at me, and to actively seek new things in there to love. Today, as I type this, I can honestly say I love me, and I’m saying it for the first time. I love my gifts and accept my flaws. I see where I need to improve, and where to cut myself some slack. And I realise – maybe for the first time ever – that I don’t have to demonise someone just to feel good about myself. I don’t have to spot the bad in them so I can see the good in me. I’m free. For now. So I’m going to enjoy it. And I’ll do my best to hold on to it.

Love, Me.

♫ you’re not alone ♫ saosin ♫