Odes to the soul promise that if someone seriously wants to be a part of your life, they will make the effort to be in it. This is true, yes. It also however flies dangerously close to issues of unrequited love on one hand, and Stalker Ville behaviour on the other. These two are dubiously linked and you should never aspire to be a part of either one.
I have willingly been a part of both.
It must be said that it is with genuine surprise that I face unrequited love. What’s not to love? I then face that gauntlet with such ferocity and determination to turn the drought’s tide that it is only by the time that I am too exhausted to do anything else, do I actually look at the object of my affection very closely and realise he’s so pedestrian anyway. All I have left in me is the ‘what was I thinking?’ sigh before I pass out into my hot chocolate (read Vodka blackout).
Loved ones and people you’ve never met before will come up to you, rub your back and tell you to cheer up and move on because you’re better than him or her anyway. This is as special as being told to stop doing something by somebody who does more of it than you do. Now if I was lighting up a crystal meth filled crack-pipe and Charlie Sheen came along to tell me drugs were bad, I’d want to see some credentials. It’s the same in real life. When people who don’t have relationships give you advice on how to look for, live in or recover from your own, I want to slap them across the face with a catfish. Opinions are only occasionally respected and these occasions are directly proportionate to how useful the opinion is.
I do love free speech though. Mine, mostly. And if you disagree and deny that yours is best for you then you’re just another lying heathen. This is the precise reason we have ‘ignore’ and ‘block’ buttons on social media. Everyone has a point and if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. But wait! There’s a catch. Boundaries may be blurred and lines may be crossed. I don’t mean the kind of boundaries where your maid was poached by the neighbour and Sibongile hasn’t clicked ‘like’ on a single one of your status updates since – I’m talking about bigger boundaries. Ones drawn and demarcated by the growth of… I don’t know… say… a five-year relationship.
They say it’s extremely childish to insist that you adopt an I-keep-my-friends, you-keep-your-friends situation after a breakup. I’m only moderately childish so I would like to have assumed that my nearest and dearest realtives just be a little less gushy with an ex. I said just a ‘little less gushy’ … not violently obliterating. But the hurt and affronting that this request returned was akin to that look your school librarian gave you when you returned a book back late. So it is no wonder then that I find the reactions I received by my ilk to be so obtuse that I thought perhaps I had sent my request to the wrong crowd altogether.
People get all hefty for the wrong reasons at completely the wrong times. You didn’t create a home with the person and then have to face unravelling that intertwined heart-infused-and-lifestyle-DNA. You saw him at every second Christmas and a handful of gatherings throughout the year. Think. If you really liked him that much, you could send a text message or actually make a phone call. You don’t have to keep the candle burning on a forum so mainstream that even Julius Malema knows how to use it. But thinking is evidently not available to take my call at this time, please leave a message after the beep and no one will get back to you, blah blah and so on. To plead that it’s just too hard to imagine not having contact with him is as honest as Woolworths’ promise on its Ripe & Ready Avos. Unless you live in a culture or community that encourages the early loss of teeth, eating a Woolworths Avo on the same day you bought it is just looking for trouble. Pick your battles petals. I pick mine. And I would never eat those Avos until at least two sleeps after purchase.
Odes to the soul promise that if someone seriously wants to be a part of your life, they will make the effort to be in it. But… because I am the most impatient person on earth, I will yield that perhaps the ‘effort’ I deem appropriate may look different from someone else’s perspective and that benefits-of-doubt should be given. I am also the most generous person I know, so, with those benefits I’ll throw in a bonus factoid. Here it is: I don’t care what you think of me. I care how you treat me. So before you poach my maid, buy me Woolworths’ Avos or sign up to work in a library, think carefully.
© Dylan Balkind
When I needed a hug and instead got only silence – the shadowed dither I limboed in is something I felt – alone. I remember trips on yachts, long distance phone calls and letter-faxes. I remember love, care and happiness, but… I don’t remember ever being this sad about you.
When I needed your care and instead got only distance – the shadowed dither I limboed in is something I felt – alone. I remember bicycle rides in the sun, sailing on the dam and learning to drive. I remember love, care and happiness, but… I don’t remember ever being this sad about you.
When I screamed like a mute for you to let me know you cared and instead never heard back from you for months – the shadowed dither I limboed in is something I felt – alone. I remember being kids, playing blind-man’s-bluff, performing plays and singing and dancing with hairbrushes. I remember love, care and happiness, but… I don’t remember ever being this sad about you.
When I decided I wanted more fun with my friends in my life and instead got stuffy, rushed dinners with people now gone – the shadowed dither I limboed in is something I felt – alone. I remember our life, our affinity, overseas adventures and a care-connection umbilical-like. I remember love, care and happiness, but… I don’t remember ever being this sad about you.
When I said I missed the magic and the glitter of my friends and instead got your workaholic homebody cavalier back – it died.
I will remember the love, the care and the happiness. But I am not going to be this sad about you, anymore.
Any of you, anymore.
© Dylan Balkind
I didn’t know it was four years ago but, looking back, I realise now that it was. I see the point at which ‘it’ was woken from its not-entirely-harmless slumber. ‘It’ being a deeply toxic pain-in-the-ass sludge from a childhood of being told I wasn’t good enough. That’s bound to fester – and it did. A decade and a half of festering later, the tipping point came from being beaten underneath a car and fetched in an ambulance. Having your best friend and boyfriend come to your rescue is not a great end to a fun night out.
A week or so later, I went to an interview at a new agency. They loved me and I was offered the job. Several months into the role, I saw that the milk could sometimes be sour and the honey may come with the odd bee sting; I realised the man I respected was the same man I feared. After some psychological counseling (I know, so American of me, right?), it came to light that he represented the bullies I had faced for all those years back at school. So? I could leave in a blaze of drama or stay in that environment. Like a psychological cilice, I stayed…
Things have improved – and then some – but not without the scars. We have been on one hell of a journey. I alone have been on one hell of a journey. A journey that was seldom along a straight line because a) I’m not straight, and b) I was almost always drunk. Okay not that often, but whenever I wasn’t sober, I was very definitely drunk.
Then I had a car accident, got arrested and got dumped – in that order. Another night that didn’t end well at all but still, life went on. Boyfriend had bailed. Work rallied. Strong bonds were obliterated and what may have appeared to be tenuous ones were proven stronger than I had originally thought. I then spent some time investing in my soul with other souls like mine: learning, listening, recognising, admitting, feeling, hating and loving again.
Not one to get too snug in the smug – and in the grey of that transition – I bought two brand new things: a car and a puppy.
One of them changed my life.
Six months later, I was walking Finn on the grassy knolls of a place we happen to be big fans of. I stopped and looked around me. I thought about how many years I had stared at pictures of international cities with beautiful parks and people to match, and how I had imagined the lifestyles of those people and the beauty of the lives that they were living there. I wanted for it so badly. To live in a pretty city like that. To be a successful writer in a pretty city like that. And to walk my puppy in a park that belonged to a pretty city like that. In a good-minute, I felt God drench me with an ice cold slushy. She then threw her head back and laughed at me, mumbled ‘moron’ and traipsed off to take care of some really important stuff. Not being particularly religious, I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, until I was.
I was already living the life I was trying so hard to convince myself I could have, one day, someday. Silly, isn’t it? All that time, wasted. All that energy misspent. All that self loathing, all those temporary arrangements, all those castles in the sky, all those super hard-on-myself days. Ridiculous. Never mind how nasty we can be to others, no one teaches us about being kinder to ourselves. And if they did, I must have been absent on that day.
So here I am. And I like it.
© Dylan Balkind
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
They said that I wasn’t supposed to take things without asking. But where I come from my nose tells me what I must take. That nose of mine is very clever because it’s almost always right and the things that it tells me to take are super yummy.
But still, there have been times where my nose told me what to do and then I heard the shouting and they were all so cross with me. I had always counted on my nose with trust and most of all reliability. I was even gonna ask my Dad for a bangle with the letters WWND on it: What Would Nose Do?
I have been thinking lately because things haven’t always gone so well. When I do this thinking is when I have been locked out and have to sit in my outside bed and look in through the windows with my sad eyes and think about what I’ve done.
They said that I have Felon-Finn-tendencies and that if I don’t try to stop my stealing ways, I will have to go to the puppy detention place called SPCA.
These are the things they say I have Felon’d:
- A bottle of Gingko Biloba tablets
- A bottle of Milk Thistle tablets
- A can of shaving foam
- A brick of cheddar cheese
- My Grandad’s belt
- My Grandad’s slip-slops
- My Gogo’s sandals
- My Dad’s socks
- My Gogo’s socks
- My Gogo’s panties
- My Grandad’s nuts-and-bolts set
- The Kitty’s milk
- Coffee (that I knocked over so I could drink it up)
- Tea (that I knocked over so I could drink it up)
- Hot Chocolate (that I knocked over so I could drink it up)
- Beer (that I knocked over so I could drink it up)
I really don’t want to go to puppy detention place so every night I snuggle with my Dad and sleep on my back and snore. I think he loves it when I do that.
If I get a WWND bangle I am going to give it to the Kitty.
My name is Finn. Finn the Felon.
© Dylan Balkind
Let me describe a typical deadline-day to you. It goes like this: switch on computer. Open Word. Quickly check email. Go back to Word. Read what you’d written yesterday before saving and closing. It’s only three sentences so it doesn’t take very long. Quickly check twitter. Thirty-nine minutes later you realise you better get back to Word. You stare at it for a long time. It’s not bad. It should be better. You feel your eyes glaze over. What’s in the fridge? I like these undies – they’re comfy. Okay let me try some pinspiration. Open Pinterest. Nice things. Nice homes. Nice travel. Nice boys. Nice bodies. Nice funnies. Nice destinations.
Enough inspiration to get back to Word yet? Nope. Nada.
Deadlines are funny things – especially ones we impose on ourselves. They are always about external conditions. The day you are going to start that diet, when you will go back to gym, how long you will do this detox for or how many days it is that you won’t be consuming alcohol. Rather than the sentiment of what it is we are doing – or why we have decided to do it – we peg it to timelines and talk about them to anyone who will listen, right? Right.
Dale Carnegie said that happiness doesn’t depend on external conditions but that it is governed by our mental attitude. No. I didn’t know who he was either but I do like what he said. In this time of resolutions, queuing for the treadmill, purging the fridge of all temptation and pulling your creased yoga matt out from under everything else in your wardrobe, isn’t it more about what’s happening upstairs rather than the ones you’re promising to climb?
So? What is happening upstairs? The thing about an idle mind is that it’s never really idle. It’s usually a symptom of some real thinking you are probably avoiding. Too much of the he-said-she-saids and not enough of the this-and-that of how you really feel about this-and-that. Then… suddenly! Excellent! Say Yes to the Dress is on TLC. Orange faces. Sweet girls. Nasty girls. Irritated by bitchy girls pushing over nice girls. Poor mothers of poor girls. Rich mothers of poor girls. Boys who wish they were girls so that they could also say yes to the dress. Gaaaad! Don’t these people ever work? Ooh! Must get back to work.
So you go back to Word. Back to this loose document that is still way too much a work in progress. It has a few stable sentiments in place and some other italicized pointers, one or two thought-provokers and a lot of empty space; it’s as if you’ve barely looked at it at all. But isn’t that sometimes the best place to start? Whoever said that you couldn’t edit a blank page never knew the power of the invitation to throw paint onto it. There’s a lot to be said about the opportunity of an empty space – however and wherever yours exists.
So it’s January. So you have a few failed promises, are carrying some extra kilos and own some unmet deadlines – so what? Thinking about making plans is still thinking and it’s still planning. If it’s not according to your schedule, nothing needs to be rushed! As long as you’re still thinking. And be kind to yourself because the pendulum can be both torturous and tactful, condescending or courteous. You’ll have days where you think who the hell am I and what is it I’m doing with my life? And then you’ll have days where an unsuspecting moment sneaks up on you as you catch yourself in the mirror and you say: ah, there you are. Living. You’re all good.
And it is. It’s all good. You’re all good.
Whatever you do with all your thinking, underthinking and overthinking, don’t put yourself on too much of a deadline. Teach yourself new ways to dream and give yourself permission to embrace being uniquely you – with all those mistakes and determinations that you experience daily. Goals? Yes. Timelines? Sure. But a deadline on discovering who you are and where you ought to be when some roster says so?
Life doesn’t have to work like that.
© Dylan Balkind