bloodletting.

i.
Post-its on the wall.
I belong deeply to myself. ~ Warsan Shire
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself. ~ Michel de Montaigne
My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude. ~ Warsan Shire

ii.
Cape Town.
You flew in and out so that you could catch Laura Mvula and bask in her sweet melancholy. Something about her makes you want to hold up a board that reads, “It’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay”; so she can see it and know that she will, indeed, make it through. But you realise how superficial fan girl love is and maybe that message is for you, a note to self? So you don’t do it, but you do bask in her sad glow, and phew, she takes you to church. How glorious, she sings, this light in us – (the crowd raises their firsts in the power salute) – we are a wonder. And the congregation of natural haired girls with pretty eyes and bold lip colours said, Amen!

iii.
Solo.
You cut your hair. You’ve done it before, but all your friends say it’s because you’ve just had your heart broken. But I’ve been wanting this for a while, you reply. Yes, they say in response, but grief makes us do stupid things, makes things urgent.
You hate that they make sense. Damn them and their righteous attitudes.

iv.
Melancholy.
You swirl it around in your mouth and spit it out like a wine you didn’t like the taste of.

v.
Grief.
Days and days of agony. And opinions on how you should grieve. What is the right way to mourn? This bit is the worst.

vi.
Lemonade.
You were served lemons, and you cut your hair and danced in your underwear, wore a colourful shirt with clashing hues, felt the prettiest you have in a while, and beat your face. Your face. You’d forgotten about this beautiful chubby fat gorgeous FACE. And it’s yours. And you see now, again, because being bald (something about not having the distraction of hair and society’s beauty standards on your head leads you to confront your visage, I mean really look at it and examine every perfecter flaw and surface of flesh) always makes you remember that you are beautiful. My God you’re beautiful! Do you believe it? Believe it.

vii.

Intimacy.
There’s just me.
And all the thoughts screaming into the silence.
But there’s me. I found me, again. Or am trying.
And the taste of it is like smooth sweetness sultry silky
on my mouth.

-ends-

yours,

Dusty

“We’re writers – we bleed on the page.” – a character from BET’s “Rebel”

bloodletting
/ˈblʌdlɛtɪŋ/
noun
1
historical
the surgical removal of some of a patient’s blood for therapeutic purposes.
2
the violent killing and wounding of people during a war or conflict.
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the goodbye letters (final)

the goodbye letters

unforgiveness

noun

/ʌnfə fəˈɡɪvnɪs/

  • not willing to forgive or excuse people’s faults or wrongdoings
  • anger or resentment towards someone for an offence, flaw, or mistake
  • feel angry about or wish to punish an offence, flaw, or mistake

Dear Unforgiveness,

It’s so hard to say goodbye.

Holding onto you was how I punished the perpetrators of my hurt. It’s how I would mete out justice. Felt like if I let you go, they get away with it, and that just made me angry as hell.

But you’re too heavy for my shoulders, comrade. I don’t get to keep you and be free from pain, too. How’s that work? How’s joy and love and peace live in the same house as vengeance and resentment and bitterness?

The weight of your presence makes me a prisoner.

The wrongdoing isn’t mine to punish – you had me believing I was qualified to play judge and executioner, but I won’t be fooled anymore – I have better things to do than to hate the people who (and the things that) stole my joy from me.

Even sans apologies – I choose to forgive.

I acknowledge all the harm done against me, but I will not be held hostage by it!

This is for my emotional wellness. This is for victory.

Listen man, I’m not about to be besties with the people who hurt me, but I can release them from the really big, really unhealthy room they’ve occupied in my heart.

And I’m forgiving me, too. Yes – I forgive myself – over and over again. I am worthy of that bit of kindness.

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Weight-less and free,

Dusty

“Hard time forgiving/ Even harder forgetting/ Before you do something/ You might regret friend/ This time I will be/ Louder than my words/ Walk with lessons that/ Oh, that I have learned/ Show the scars I’ve earned/ In the light of day/ Shadows will be found/ I will hunt them down.” Seinabo Sey, Hard Time

“People withhold their forgiveness, thinking that it makes them badass. But really, the unwillingness to forgive is merely the wishing that things were better. You wish that you had better, you wish that someone else were better so they could have treated you better… it’s you making wishes. And that’s not badass. To forgive is to be able to look at the person and say “I accept that you weren’t any better than what you were”, “I accept that you were you and couldn’t have been what I wished you to be”, “I accept that things were the way they were and weren’t any better.” The ability to forgive is intertwined with the ability to accept the reality of the way things are/ the way a person is or was. You stop wishing things and you just accept. And hope is what says to you: “One day you’ll have what’s better.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

the goodbye letters (#4)

the goodbye letters

self-sabotage

/sɛlf/ and /ˈsabətɑːʒ/

noun

  • the act of undermining a personal cause
  • any underhanded interference with personal productivity and work
  • the act or process of hampering or hurting ourselves
  • the act of deliberately stopping ourselves from achieving success

Dear Self-Sabotage,

I’m a perfectionist. It’s a strength, and it’s a weakness. It’s a strength because it pushes me to excel, but it’s a weakness because if I weigh the chances of success, and decide that they are low, I tend to get stuck; or worse, I don’t even try.

You’re that inner voice that keeps telling me I should be working harder, and if I’m not, I’m already doomed. You’ve chained me to a work ethic that’s rooted in believing that I’m not doing enough because I myself am not enough. And so my efforts feel like I’m punching a wall.

I know some of your other lies, too: “No one will care about what you have to say!” and “It’s already been done – except better!” and the most severe, “You’re running out of time – your window of opportunity has already passed!” It’s the most defeating one because it kills hope; and well, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.

I can barely think for all the lies you scream at me. And that’s your whole point isn’t it? To stop me from thinking, and therefore doing, and being.

I’m enormously talented. Yep – I said it! The opposite has been so ingrained in me for so long that it even feels like a lie to say this – but it’s true. And it’s for that reason –my talent, my drive, my opportunity to give to a world so in need of love and beauty – that I am parting ways with you.

The enemy within, making way for the strength to fight the enemy without.

I will not doubt my success, anymore.

I will not expect to fall as I rise, just because rising feels so far from the ground.

I’m going to touch the sky!

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

More than a conqueror,

Dusty

“Unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves.” 
― Ja A. Jahannes, WordSong Poets

“So I forgive what was taken from me/ I will be free from the picture you paint you see / Tell them ‘these troubles are out of your hands’/ Tell them ‘you’re free to use them to clap and dance.’” – Seinabo Sey, Pretend

the goodbye letters (#3)

the goodbye letters

control

/kənˈtrəʊl/

noun

  • a means of limiting or regulating something
  • the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events

Dear Control,

The funny thing is that my struggle to let you go is part of the problem, isn’t it?

On Sundays when I lie in bed and think of the week ahead, I like to know that I’ve already sorted out what’s coming ahead. But sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we plan for it to.

Sometimes life is the maybe, the what if, the in the event that. Sometimes life is full to the brim with variables, and all we can do is let it be.

That drives me crazy. I like for things to go according to Plan A, to be set, to be certain. To complete the sentence with a full stop, not a question mark. Finality.

I lowkey think I wasn’t built for the variable, but I know that’s not the case, hard as it is to accept this truth.

So I’m breaking up with you. I’m letting you go because I know that if I do, I open myself up to a life of adventure.

I know that if I do, there is an endless world of surprises waiting for me. Some are good, some are bad, and that’s okay. Both these will make me better, if I learn from them. If I l view surprises as art, then I can appreciate the creativity of life.

I know that that a hand that is closed cannot receive.

I know that a mind that is bogged down with details and blueprints cannot expand.

It’s not me, it’s you.

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Forever free,

Dusty

“For now he knew what Shalimar knew: if you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.” -Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

the goodbye letters (#2)

shame

/ʃeɪm/

noun

  • a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour
  • dishonor or disgrace

Dear Shame,

I’m ashamed of you, how about that?!

I’ve carried you because it’s easier to sink into you than to fight you off. Then I have to imagine an existence that isn’t dependent on me fading away, and that takes a certain kind of creativity and courage I’m yet to master. I cannot master it, though, if I don’t try. Masters are merely students who kept trying. And didn’t stop learning.

You’re slick, you know that? Your biggest trick is that you make me feel embarrassed about not being able to fulfill obligations that were never mine to fulfill. Who said I had to be perfect?

You blow everything out of proportion. Damn it! Why didn’t I see it sooner? You’re just trying to make me miserable, because you’re miserable too.

Oh, dear Shame – you rob me of intimacy. I can’t be in community and covered in shame, too. You’re a leech like that (“Shame is a soul eating emotion,” CG Jung said. Gosh it’s true!). You take wellness as your sacrifice like the spiteful witch that you are.

I deserve to laugh without feeling like I’m cheating.

I deserve to hope without remembering how I failed in the past.

I deserve to dream without fear that I don’t have what it takes.

I deserve to be me without being disappointed that I’m not someone else.

I deserve better.

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Living in love,

Dusty

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” – Brene Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

the goodbye letters (intro)

the goodbye letters

fear

/fɪə/

noun

  • an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm
  • a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety of someone

Dear Fear,

And what will happen if I don’t?

I wish I’d asked myself that more often than the debilitating, “What if I do, and I fail?”

What’s wrong with failing, anyway? Failure is common. What is exceptional is getting up again. All I need to do to get to victory is to try again, with a better strategy of course, but I need to keep moving forward.

What will happen if I don’t, is I will fail for sure, because I didn’t even try.

What will happen if I don’t, is I will never realise my dreams.

What will happen if I don’t, is I will carry potential like rot in my soul.

Look dude, I can’t be held back by you anymore, I have so much work to do still.

So this is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Fearless and fierce,

Dusty

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

“The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid.” – Psalm 118:6

For the ones who refuse to stifle their roar

“This ability to hold on, even in very simple ways, is work black women have done for a very long time.” ~ Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens

For you,

I would do anything. This is my note of love and light to you. I have tried to write you a letter, but the words keep getting stuck in my throat. All I have for you is  solidarity, is a thought, is a prayer.

So many of us need healing. Seek yours with a stubbornness only heaven can shake. Don’t hang around in the hurt, no matter how seductive that may be. You are not what you have been through.

Strength and power,

Dusty

“Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” ~ Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“The Secret Castle” by Ben Okri (audio book)

Ben Okri’s short story as narrated by theDustySoul.

Lunch-with-Ben-Okri-011

An illustration of Ben Okri. Source: here

Love,

DustySoul

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour. Aristotle

water (part 3): Zaneliza – How the Water Moves

22

I remember the year the Tsunami hit. It was the early 2000s, and we were in primary school. Suddenly we all had to discuss what a Tsunami is, why and how it happens, and how many people had died versus how many had survived. We were astounded at the determination of that tide, and the powerlessness of those running from it, weak in the face of such a frightening and mighty moving body of water.

But destruction is not water’s only expression. In thinking about Msaki’s latest offering, Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, I had this – the strength of water, and how it can take on a life of its own, and even (joy!) give you life – foremost in my mind.

So I called her up and we had a young chat about “loss, hope and the wave-like rhythms in between those two states of being”.

Dusty: Cool! How are you?

Msaki: I’m good. I’m (pauses) hectic. I’m trying to leave for Cape Town so I’m trying to wrap up things today. And I need a PA, so I’m tryna put out an ad.

Dusty: I was actually wondering, how do you survive? I hate admin, personally, and I’m like ‘How does she survive, how does she raise a baby, be a wife, be an artist –’

[Msaki is an independent artist and does all her own management and bookings through her company, One Shushu Day  Artistry. She’s basically superwoman. Jokes. But close 😉 She has also been featured on popular house tracks.]

Msaki: Am I surviving?

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: I’m up between 3 [AM] and 5 [AM], doing my stuff, like I said.

Dusty: Ja you can’t get me up at that hour for anything, except if the house is burning.

Msaki: (laughs) Ja that’s my time. I actually wrote a song this morning because I was just like uh-uh, need to block off all the nonsense of the admin that’s creeping up and I just had to sing.

Dusty: Yeah. (pause) Okay well the last time I wrote about you, I wrote about the EP [Nal’ithemba], this was when it had just come out –

Msaki: I love that blog post!

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: Ja, EP indala mfondini, what was it – like 2013?

Dusty: Yeah it was 2013, I remember because I was listening to it a lot in my last year at Rhodes.

[The EP sold over 3000 copies – all independently. Msaki plays for mostly smaller audiences, and prefers to connect with listeners this way. Her latest project was crowd-funded largely in part by her network of supporters, people she has met and connected with over the years, musicians and music-lovers alike, her “Golden Circle”.]

Msaki: For some reason when you’re playing to smaller crowds, it’s easier for people to want to buy at the end of the show, ‘cos they really get to connect, you know? Like I’ll do shows in someone’s lounge for 60 people, and almost everyone will walk out with the EP. Stuff like that happens, because it’s difficult to hide your soul, it’s difficult to hide the message [in that atmosphere]. The proximity physically also lends itself to a proximity spiritually because people are examining you from up close and the energy is right there. It almost beckons you to share the essence of the music more. I find that in small gigs I’ve got less disclaimers, I’m less stressed about what people think, you know? But in the festival gigs I’m always like, ‘Oh my gosh – are people bored? Am I playing enough upbeat songs?’ and I’m wondering if they’re not twiddling their toes waiting for Zahara.

Dusty: (laughs) So the message of the EP [the first offering] was hope and love – what’s the message of this [album]?Is it resistance, water …?

Msaki: Oh man (pause). I didn’t realise how much loss I was processing through this album, and trying to figure out how you express or share that without it being full of despair. Just thinking of the waves coming in and the lapses in between and the ebb and the flow – there’s something about the water, cleansing, that made the loss bearable. So the theme of hope is always there, it seems like it will be a central theme to all my work. At the same time this album…it kinda like leaves you in the middle of the sea there bobbing wondering if a rescue mission is coming or not, you’ve gotta sorta figure it out for yourself. (laughs)

Dusty: Ja.

Msaki: It’s more real life. There is a song full of hope but it’s also like, ‘What next? Where do we go from here? And what do I do with all the stuff that’s sore? It’s asking more questions, and I guess I’m imperfectly processing some of the things that make me sad about being young, about being in this country, about the reality of losing people and the reality of losing dreams and having to pick yourself up and do another day when things aren’t working out.

Dusty: The line “Living water for the war over your heart/ Waterfall” [from Weight (for the war] stuck out to me, and it gave me a sense of watering in your life, watering the dry spaces, watering the dryness.

Msaki: If you listen to the pressing of a waterfall when you’re right there against it, you can’t mistake the power that’s there. Continuing from the EP; even using the water metaphor, I spoke about how You are not my strength/ You rock the cliff, the edge, the drop, my landing of love, I almost pictured myself jumping into a waterfall, like free falling into a waterfall, when I wrote that. If you think you’re jumping from the cliff into water (and the water is meant to be a metaphor for love), you’re mistaken because you’re standing on love, the rock is love, the cliff is love, the water is love, the great force around you when you’re in the water…that was when I decided to become a musician full-time because I realized that grace had been covering me the whole way and it will continue to do so, and that love is ready to meet me if I take the leap. So that water theme extends itself into this album, but now it’s looking at the different qualities of water and also what that speaks to my heart. Waterfall, nyani – you realise that God is fighting for you. There are clues that are telling you this all the time. You’ve got your own inner turmoil but there’s an outer fight that also manifests itself on the inside. But there are so many clues on the outside saying ‘Look around, keep going’. That whole line, that’s kind of where it’s from. The waterfall was a very obvious sign that love is fighting for me. The power, the rushing noise, and…thing of a war cry. Hence that line that you’re talking about.

[Weight (for the war) is the first single off of the new album. It begins with Msaki chanting the words “FRIEND FIRE FREEDOM FEEL/ WISDOM WONDER WORRY WISH/ BLESSING BURDEN BROTHER BREATHE/ WAIT WAIT WAIT WEIGHT” acapella. In later verses, she changes the last line to the refrain, “WADE WADE WADE WADE”. The pause after the acapella intro is followed by a guitar playing a note suspended over a bar as she sings about the blues. Enter the drum, which together with the chorus, creates a marching sound that increases the urgency of the song. As it progresses, more instruments are layered in, until the point when the song reaches its dramatic turn, ushered in by a stripping back of all the instruments save for the urgent drum, and the subsequent introduction of a soaring orchestration. By the time my favourite line, “LIVING WATER FOR THE WAR OVER YOUR HEART/ WATERFALL” is sung; the battle has raged, and the war –punctuated by the rousing, rallying cries “ZIYADILIKA IZINDONGA!” and “MAKULIWE!” – is steady on the way to victory. An earnest ‘call to arms’ that’ll rouse the faith of even the most doubtful Thomas. If you haven’t already, listen to it below.]

Msaki: Can you hear Kwanda? She’s trying to pull off my ears, can you hear her in the background?

Dusty: (laughs) Yes I can hear her with her little sounds every now and then.

Kwanda: *indistinguishable baby talk*

Dusty: (laughs) She’s so cute.

Msaki: Hayi sana ubusy ubusy ubusy.

Dusty: (laughs) I have one more question. You were saying [elsewhere] that it is hard in the music industry, to keep the message central, to not get distracted by the machine. What are the things that you do to remind yourself that the message is important, and to keep the message intact inside of you?

Msaki: First thing is to surround yourself with a community that isn’t afraid to point out your blind spots to you. I’m in an industry where ego is king, and depending on who you’re working with, that kind of stuff can become more apparent than the inner journey. If I spend my time with like-minded people that know what music is for, and have a heart for artistry and creativity, and community, then I think I’m in a safe space to go explore, to go to different places and come back and know ba kukhona abantu that are gonna be able to tell me that I’m going astray. That’s sort of the outer section. But now…Like this morning I had to wake up at three and fight for my own union, you know? Because that’s what music started as for me – it started as a way of communion, a way of communing with myself and with God. It’s a space where I can also listen for what song is being played to me. It’s so easy to stumble into every day and completely be absorbed by your To Do List and everything that you’re chasing as well, and things like trying to organize an event for a friend. All those things can still be good and you’re busying yourself with things that are good, but it still might mean that you’re distracted and you’re missing out. Sometimes I need to reset, to listen to God even more than myself. And sometimes these songs are not even to be shared, they are just for me to get something, the things that I need to meditate on and think about and acknowledge as truth for myself. Especially with so many messages that are telling us that we’re worthless, that we’re unlovable – that’s pretty much a very strong message out there. ‘You’re only good as your next this…’ There’s so many things, and I have to fight for a space that’s more real, and that’s where I’m writing from. Uhm, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with writing from a point of confusion, or from a point of being hurt, or processing the stuff that’s out there, I think it’s really important; but my reality, wholeheartedly, should come from the secret place, or the place where I’m quiet. (laughs) I don’t know how to say some of these things, because even that, I’m exploring it through my music.

Dusty: (laughs) It makes sense. Thank you.

*This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

*Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, will be available in stores April 16th, 2016. If you struggle to find a copy, email oneshushuday@gmail.com to inquire.

Love and warm waves,

DustySoul

“The tides are in our veins.” ― Robinson Jeffers

“Though I walk through the valley low, I’ll fear no evil. By the water, fill my soul, no matter where I go.” ― SUTRA, The Water

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.”
― E.E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems

 

water (part 2): “…we have come to be baptised here…”

22

2952018405

Koleka Putuma. Photo: Andy Mkosi

 

I often wonder why I feel as if I am drowning every time I look out into the sea

This and feeling incredibly small 

[…]

Every time our skin goes under

The reeds remember that they were once chains

And the water, restless, wishes it could spew all of the slaves and ships onto shore

Whole as they had boarded, sailed and sunk

Their tears are what have turned the ocean salty

This is why our irises burn every time we go under

Every December sixteenth, December 24th and December 31st

Our skin traumatises the sea

They mock us

For not being able to throw ourselves into something that was instrumental in trying to execute our extinction

For you, the ocean  is for surf boards, boats and tans

And all the cool stuff you do under there in your suits and goggles

But we, we come to be baptised here

We have come to stir the other world here

We have come to cleanse ourselves here

We have come to connect our living to the dead here

Our respect for water is what you have termed fear

The audacity to trade and murder us over water

Then mock us for being scared of it

Koleka Putuma, Water

I’ve been thinking about Koleka Putuma’s “Water” (seriously, do we walk the same earth as her? Her poetry is out of this world) and the line, “We have come to be baptised here” is playing on repeat in my mind, and I feel my body and soul craving a baptismal of sorts. A watering. A watering to halt the withering.

Yours,

DustySoul

“Take me to the water/ To be baptized […] I’m going back home, going back home/
To be baptized.” ~ Nina Simone, Take Me to the Water