Why Kintsugi?

6e559a606605.57a0aec34126c

[Image courtsey of teresacarnuccio.com]

We live in a world that teaches us to be hard. A world where we hide behind filters and sarcasm and never really state the truth: sometimes we come undone. The Kintsugi project is about finally shedding the person the world tells you to be and embracing the cracked, flawed, glorious person you really are.

Kintsugi is based on the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and precious metal – the idea being that it is the flaws that make it beautiful, that make it art. This page is about seeing our own flaws and brokenness as exactly that – art.

It is from Kintsugi that my book was born, out of a need to write down the journey from ash to gold. The blog was created as a way to start a conversation – a safe place to not have it all together. This is a place for us to bring our broken places and learn to heal – the book will be something physical to reach out and touch when we are looking for a little light.

This is a rallying call to all the hidden places – a personal, and universal conversation about the secret hurts of all people.

It is an honour to take this love journey with you.

 

Advertisements

If you are mentally ill, you are on your own

Being mentally ill while black is an extreme sport. From our well meaning grandmothers who don’t really get it, to our friends that can’t seem to understand that you are just not feeling up to it. The way we treat mental health in our homes, our communities, and our workplaces is with a lack of understanding, carelessness and a disdain that has our peers hiding their brokenness behind Instagram filters.

For many black people, we have been taught for much of our lives to endure because re tlameha ho “tsoara thipa ka bohaleng,” and that means grinning and bearing things that are quite frankly unbearable. We romanticise “enduring” in black culture and in the case of mental health this means lying, daily.  This is being unable to get out of bed in the morning because the walls are closing in and your mom dismissing it or telling you to stop with the mood swings, or it is the day I told my grandmother about my anxiety and she asked me to simply stop being anxious.

This “suppression of emotions” often leads to broken people in society masquerading as whole and healthy. This also speaks to a general understanding when growing up black that we do not have time to feel depressed or that anything can be fixed with determination and prayer. This contextualises mental illness as weakness (“you need to get up and get on with it”) and therefore reinforces it being seen as taboo. For example, toxic masculinity is one social ill that I feel is, in some instances, a culmination of numerous events of anxiety and suppression experienced by men throughout their lives. Because we teach our boys that vulnerability is something we leave for the women.

These undiagnosed traumas and the complete lack of support means that as a mentally ill individual, you will often struggle to recognise the signs and symptoms of your condition or dismiss your depression or anxiety as moodiness they can simply snap out of. This is problematic because it assumes that your feelings are necessarily predicated on a particular event and are therefore within your control, which is not necessarily the case. While some things or events can be triggers, it is overly simplistic to view mental health issues as based on self-control.

It is issues such as those that make it difficult to be frank and open about your problems. We fear the stigma, the embarrassment and the pity of being looked at as different or “other.” Very often this can feel like society has made an indictment on you which is why many people simply suffer in silence.

This can make black communities appear to be harsh and ill-equipped to deal with the sensitivities of mental health but this is not the case. Our mothers do not dismiss our pain because they are cruel, it is because they do not understand mental health and can often not differentiate between a tantrum and a cry for help. The fact is that illness in the black community is seen as solely physical, anything else has simply been beyond comprehension (outside of allegations of “witchcraft” and “the calling”).

I often wonder however, how thin the line is between a lack of education and burying your head in the sand, because the truth is that living with mental health issues is hard and the black experience is hard as well. It is feasible to me that our parents are often afraid to accept that there is yet another millstone around our necks making it harder to get out of bed and take what we deserve. Further, because of the stigma of issues such as witchcraft, families and communities would rather pretend it isn’t happening than accept the scorn of their communities.

My cousin’s best friend committed suicide. She died. And that was not because she was not loved or protected but because there are so few spaces to be heard and to cry yourself whole.

My varsity crush committed suicide. He died. A friend wrote about him on Instagram saying, “I wish I could have done more too keep you safe.”

I don’t want to feel that way, as a society we should strive to never feel that way, because we should be doing everything to keep them safe. There is no quick fix solution, but what is necessary is a shift in mindset – not just for our families and friends but also for ourselves.

There is a strength to vulnerability and this means swallowing the hard pill of fear and opening up as much as we can to the people that care about us. Even if it is just to give the next person the strength to examine their own mental health and maybe simply feel a little less alone. Perhaps that starts with a dialogue, with telling our stories, asking questions and interrogating our surroundings.

If you need help organisations such as @MphoFoundation  and @MentalWealthZA can help connect you to mental health professionals or just be a safe place to connect with people who understand the battle for wellness.

 

*This post was first published on http://www.power987.co.za 

The thing you are most afraid to write

Nayyirah Waheed says “the thing you are most afraid to write, write that”. I always found that so beautiful – the idea of living like an open wound, choosing the sharp edge of honesty, but in reality it is incredibly hard. One of the most difficult things about loving, and hurting and being unable to stay gone is that people see you. They see the humiliation. They see you getting the love you think you deserve and that is difficult. So we lie, little lies and big, gargantuan lies until we stay gone.

What I am starting to learn is that there is freedom in the truth, in standing naked and bruised and not quite healed. There is power in honesty, even if the truth feels ugly. I am always so incredibly afraid that people will read Kintsugi and think that I have reached Nirvana, that I somehow know better, I do not. The thing that I am most afraid to write? Sometimes nostalgia ties me to a bed and forces me to forget myself. Sometimes I am drawn to the fire even though I know it to be an inferno. Sometimes, I do not choose myself. Sometimes I drunk dial.

I think that is what is so important to me about this blog, for the first time really owning the journey, the flaws, and standing in front of a jury of my peers and finding them more loving and understanding than I could have imagined.

Love and light to everyone still trying to unravel.

 

Love is not love that alters

I hope someday I can say it’s over.

That this love that trips head over heels will stop bruising it’s knees trying to rush back to you

That you will stop playing chest cavity Nascar with my heart

That this caterpillar love in the pit of my stomach would either blossom or cry itself crushed butterflies

 

God, I hope it can be over

God. I hope it can be over

GOD.

 

But my god, the way you look at me stops me dead in my tracks.

But my god, the way you look at me.

On group chats and hyper-masculinity

[Image courtesy of @thejpgvibe

There is nothing new – about men banding together to share nudes and violate women in a plethora of little ways. It’s not a big deal right? People are just letting off steam, having a bit of a laugh. But no, my existence cannot be a punchline in your conversation.

I have often found that hyper-masculinity in the 2018 world is so often amplified by technology – whether this is the faux feminism of some men on Twitter or the open sexism in these all men group chats. Very often these all male group chats operate as sort of microcosms of the “old boys club” mentality. Women cannot join because? I am willing to say it is because men know that women would not be ok with the conversations they have there and that is because so much of those conversations expose men as being sexist, misogynistic, patriarchal and rapey.

The group chat is the final safe space for men to peddle their privilege and hatred without any fear for what people will think – think white people at a dinner table. The problem with this all boys club is it normalises what is fundamentally problematic behaviour. It allows men to hide their true selves in the proverbial closet while masquerading as feminists and writing “Black women are beautiful” under our Instagram pictures.

The all male group chat phenomenon is really the worst kept secret of our generation and yet somehow no one really speaks about the core of what it means. There are so many times I or other women I know have been the subject of problematic male behaviour in these hallowed halls of masculinity.

My most recent experience of male whatsapp groups and aggression brought into sharp focus the bigger discussion. It reminded me that I can be friend, lover, partner, wife, mother but when it comes down to it men will almost always see you as JUST a woman. It reminded me, as aptly put by one of my favourite women, that at the end of the day you are still just a sexual play thing that if the “opportunity” presents itself they would still “hit”.

When it comes to this particular issue I am happy not to generalise, I think some men do try to unlearn the nurture that has taught them to see women as as sub-citizens. I also think however, that the concept of men “growing” and “unlearning” is so often used as an excuse to be ok with ill treatment and that I will not do, anymore.

I will not excuse lovers who treat me as though my vagina makes me a less important component of the relationship, or male friends who expect me to hold their hands as they unlearn and unravel their misogyny at the expense of my own trauma, or myself for standing for it. I will no longer make even one more excuse.

There is an unlearning there too. Unlearning the internalised behaviours that have made us complicit in our own pain, as women and as people. Today we must each choose, ourselves. We must choose ourselves vigorously, wildly, and with abandon.

Letter for my sister, and yours

Dear Josephine,

In a world filled with angst and anger and insecurity it is ok to be confused, I am so often confused. Do not let the bad moments and the bad people consume you. I have often thought about the things I wish someone had said to me, the words to soothe me on the days when I have felt like less, so I am writing this to you and to every young woman walking on the eggshells of life.

On Friendship

Do not worry about others’ friendship so much, people will be who they will be and sometimes that will hurt, be more concerned about who you are. Be a good friend, a deliberate friend, be careful with how you love those close to you. That won’t always be easy, but the important things never are. Often you will hurt people and often it is because you were careless with them, you were not deliberate. Be deliberate.

Know when to walk away, know when to run and never look back. Sometimes you will love parasites, sometimes your best friend will sleep with the love of your life and act like it’s a Wednesday, do not place too much importance on that. You will meet and keep the people you are supposed to. It’s ok.

On these niggas

Do not let bad love make you cruel. I wish I could protect you from the heartbreak of loving someone and it doesn’t work out, I wish I could remove the men who will make an altar at your feet only to desecrate your temple but I can’t. What I can tell you is you will need to fight, to get on with the everyday things, to love again, to love yourself again. Do not let the process change you so much that you cannot be good and open to the next person. Realise that bad love feels personal but it is not about you, it is about someone fighting the brokenness in themselves in your arena. Forgive them, but not enough to go back. Please, do not go back.

On success

You will never feel like you are where you are supposed to be in your life. Your career will move slower than you had planned, you will be more broke than you thought and it will seem as though everyone else is so much closer to their dreams. It is at that very moment that you must slow down, stop. Take stock of your own journey, of the little wins, of how hard you have fought to be just where you are. That, right there, is success too. I believe that winners win, and mama didn’t raise any losers, so relax (but not too much).

On family

Bear with them, even when you think they are being too hard or too soft or too anything. Family is the one thing that is constant. Mama has always said to me “you are not in exile, if you need to breathe come home.” When things get to be too much and you feel as though you are losing yourself in the noise, go home. Do not be too proud to pick up the phone, or your bags, and simply go home.

On being black

Embrace it, even the hurtful things. Embrace your black spaces, celebrate your culture and your skin and your nappy hair – not just because it’s trendy but because it is who you are and it is beautiful. Learn that being told you are “well spoken” is racist and that as awful as it is, you really will have to work twice as hard. What I have learned the hard way is that success and happiness do not worry about the cards that are stacked against us as a people, but on the daily toil of simply getting ahead and then giving every black person you trust a seat at the table. Don’t let the race debate distract you so you spend your life explaining who you are, use that time to win.

On being a feminist

Be a feminist, please. Don’t fall into the trap of “I wouldn’t really call myself a feminist because feminists are X”. By virtue of being a woman, a black woman, believing in yourself as whole and important and worthy is the only thing that will help you in this world. But be careful about your feminism. Make sure it takes into consideration your culture and religion and anything else that is important to you. Real feminism is about the choice to build the life you want. If that life is as a stay at home mom, or as a woman who “sleeps around” then that is amazing, as long as the choice is wholly yours. Do not let anyone, even me, decide the kind of woman you should be. But watch other women, your friends, your mom, your loud aunts, watch and learn. Rinse and repeat.

On being a good person

Be accountable to yourself. Always have the hard conversations about who you are and why you are. Call yourself out daily. Being an honest, kind, present person is so important and so difficult. Whilst you are doing all this, find time to be kind to yourself, to forgive yourself, to celebrate yourself.

Lastly, I love you. You are my sister, and I am here. On the day I’m not and the walls are closing in, understand that every black woman is trying to build a world for you where we are all your sisters, lean into that. There is life there, there is hope.

Love and light, sis.

 

On turning into my mother

By Genevieve Beyleveld

The earliest memories I have of my mother were of her sitting in her office working.  Her office was next to my bedroom and I would always feel at peace drifting off to sleep, with a slither of gold light peering tentatively through my door. Most nights I would fall asleep long before the light went off. These nights were my favorite. She would sit at her desk past midnight, humming to herself as she worked.  It was only when I was 11 years old that I realized my mother didn’t have a job.

Every house we lived in, my mother would carve out an office of some sort for herself. When the house did not have a designated room for her work, she created a small office on the mezzanine floor, dangling precariously above the family room. Each morning, after she dropped my sister and me at school she would come home and get ready for her day. She showered and washed her hair, most days curling it into a wild bush of coils. She would apply her make- up religiously and finish off the look with a bright red lipstick. She was in her forties and home alone with five dogs.

When I returned from school, I would find her sitting behind her desk, sometimes with a glue gun and mosaic tiles, other times with an easel and paintbrush, and on the odd occasion with a note pad and pen. She glued each tile with no less importance than the last; accurately and carefully, breathing a slight sigh of relief when it stuck perfectly to her canvas.

I had always meant to ask her what she did in her office until late at night, but I never did.  On a deeper level, I realized that this office was hers and that the work which she created within those four, butter colored walls, was for no one but herself. It was her room of creation, a room to which she could escape the mundaneness of suburban housewifery.  I don’t think it was that she believed in her art, as much as the fact that she believed in her self-worth. She knew that in order to survive twenty years of marriage, three children (one lost), five dogs and a parrot, she needed a place of her own in which to create.

As someone who wishes to be a writer, I am always asked the same frightening question, “how are you going to make money?”  Those words never cease to jolt me out of my creative security. In truth, I have no idea how I am going to earn a living, or whether the words I tussle with daily, shall find a place on someone’s bookshelf between Stein and Nabokov. Perhaps I will be a housewife, who spends her days reading her work to a Schnauzer, only to crumple it up and throw it in the bin numerous times before her children come home from school.

I am uncertain about many things regarding my career choice, except for one. Why I have chosen it.  I choose it because I cannot picture myself doing anything else with my days. It is important – going boldly in the direction of your dreams –  and for this reason, I created a writers chopping block for myself. My white desk stands in the corner of my room, piled high with books. A black and white photograph of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” hangs on the wall above my desk, and a pristine white orchid finishes off the cleanly cluttered look. A dog’s bed is at my feet, in which Master Fifi, my Chihuahua snores loudly. This is where I sit and engage in a torrid love affair with words.

Many nights, long after the sun has set, one can find me, sitting at my desk with the night lamp burning. Sometimes I am reading, other times writing. If you had to stand and peer at me through the door, you would notice just how much I look like my mother.