Never In A Million Years…

Jedi Rmalapa
Jedi Ramalapa

Would I have ever  imagined that my life would turn out like this, in fact forget a million years, just a couple of months ago, I had a different picture of what it would be like – I am laughing out Loud!

And six months down the line I am left almost flabbergasted – I am left open-mouthed at the turn of events and  let’s not forget  – the ever-present  irony of life.

It may have not been a welcome gift at the time – when everything I wanted to happen didn’t happen – the way I wanted it to happen, because I felt like someone who was being punished by some heavy karmic force of life or something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  And this was even more frustrating for me to understand because I thought I was honestly doing the best I can with what I had been given.  But I now know how BIG this gift of TIME is, how MUCH of a gift that this time is for me.  How much I have GROWN and am growing in this time.  Just reflecting on this makes me feel so much more love that I have ever felt before.  It’s as if God him/herself is embracing me, as if the creator of this entire universe is giving me the biggest warmest hug! I am worthy! My pain, and the smallest scratch on my back matters even  the  smallest mark on my face,  everything about me matters just as much as everything  about you, my beloved, matters.  I am sorry for disregarding that. We just don’t take the time to really see just much how it does. I matter to somebody!  And so many people matter to me, too! In the most profound  ways. Now. We have the greatest gift of time. No-one, nobody can give you TIME. And I am forever grateful for it.  And because of this I have time for everything.  For you.

This year disarmed me in a way that makes me wonder if putting it into words would not somehow taint its meaning. Suddenly all I had was TIME to HEAL.   It has been a long hard road since 2006 when my grandmother  who raised me passed away soon after we were re-united after nearly 15 years of absence, in May, it was in the same year that I tried to kill myself, and 2006 was the year I volunteered to go to war in the Middle East in Beirut, a place I once told fellow Miss Pinetown contestants when I was 18 that I would like to go to as a journalist one day.  I was there , stood near falling buildings and wounded screaming  women, helpless men, lifeless babies, all  held up for pictures on mobile cameras,  for the media and anyone who could see,  to record, for the sake of news, of history, or memory,  of justice, it was in 2006 that my relationship with my mother and family took a turn for the worse,  it was in 2006 when I experienced the oppressive force of domestic violence and abuse, it was in 2006 that I found myself having to call the police to arrest someone I loved dearly in order to protect myself, my friend and  to protect him the perpetrator. The same year saw me drinking more than my normal share and in years to come soon become the only way I knew how to fall asleep it was the same year I fell in love with a woman, it was in 2006 that I traveled to China, and saw first-hand who really runs the world and who really counts in this journalism business I care so much about.  It was in 2006 that I had to make the toughest decision of my life – but I put on my big girl panties on and did it. I lost my baby. I changed in 2006.  Suddenly everything “bad” became “good” and “right” became “wrong” and “one” plus one equaled four. My world was turned on its Axis, upside down, inside out!  I stopped dreaming.   I stopped talking about anything that mattered to me, because suddenly it seemed what really mattered didn’t matter anymore after all. At 25 I was brave and full of courage and made choices and decisions even most people don’t dare do alone.  But in 2006 I was not aware of what all these events, these decisions, choices how everything would come back to me almost all at once like it happened  in 2006.

For some still bizarre reason I thought I was fine, and had bounced back – that all the trauma of 2006 was gone with 2006. Only to discover that not only was the Trauma not gone it was growing and accumulating, mixing the personal with the professionally until finally it all came tumbling down in 2010.  It was in 2010 that I was left with two choices. Die or Deal. It was in 2010 that I became fully aware that something terrible had happened to me and it is then that I embarked on a  reluctant journey of recovery.  Because it was in 2010 when my most important relationship at the time ended, the love was gone. I could not change it. It was in 2010 that I came face to face not once but twice with real and tangible possibility of losing my mother to death, and I didn’t know how to deal. When the trauma of working editing, writing, hearing over and over,  stories of women dying while giving birth, suffering from all matter of life’s tragedies and just general neglect etc, around the clock,  brought back every pain, every hurt, all the anger, turmoil, everything I had suppressed and never dealt with professionally and personally came tumbling down and I was suffocating.  Everything I had suppressed since and before 2006 – to my early years of childhood everything came back and my life, this life, suddenly did not make any sense.  That is when  I began to ask myself the five questions I had asked so many people before: Who, what, when, where, why and How did I get here.  I  Unbeknown to me, the last seven years have been about the trauma of 2006 and subsequent additional traumas, left untreated, in the years that followed, the anger, the great sadness that I tried so much to hide, to run from – to be “strong” about. I found myself in the mud increasingly waddling enormous criticism from friends near and far, family, “you are selfish, inconsiderate, rude, distant, unreliable, not trustworthy, a gossip, a liar, a cheat, a bad friend, sister, lover, colleague and just in general an awful somebody to be avoided like a plague, bad luck.” – “you deserve it what’s coming to you, Jedi; you did this all to yourself”.  I had become quite unlike my sunflower whimsical, loving self.  The hurt in their eyes was too much, too real to bear, the pain and hurt ran like hot blood through my veins. I was alone. Somewhere someone took my hand, and the me I had forgotten, and told me she’s still there, she’s just hurting and that love would help me through it to Heal. I had no choice but to dive deep into the most painful part of myself, to the ugliest. But found that on Love’s shoulders, everything was perfectly fine. I saw that even all my well-meaning friends, even those who cared most and hurt most, the ones I had hurt most, could not help me even if they tried. I understood for the first time my own pain and learnt that it’s in acknowledging my own pain that I can acknowledge the pain I have caused in others. That it is in caring – lovingly for myself that I can care lovingly for others. I saw for the first time, how wounded I was, how bruised and gashed in so many places it was hard to do just the simplest things, much less do loving things for others.  I saw myself as if for the first time, wounded and bruised, hungry and thirsty for any love or understanding.  Unable to rest, to hold on or let go. Even though I walked many miles on my own love had already had taken over my healing – love is the only one that never left me, a leper in my own home, town, city, country.  Left with nothing I surrendered to the healing power of love, saw me beautiful in bandages with bad breath, and loved myself in my weakest stinking moments, each time I felt alone, LOVE physically walked with me…and physically held my hands, nursed me to health, by giving me what I needed, and not want I wanted  or thought best. Oh what a journey!!! For years I could not sleep, could not eat, could not relax, or know how to be happy without the aid of people, material things, the thing we call love or sex, money, popularity, alcohol, food etc. For years I sought to mask my pain with my career, which sent me to even worse states of despair, with my friends, trying to be a “do gooder” a “people pleaser” trying to ““fit in” to be “loved” and “accepted” and repeatedly found that I was met with empty stares, I was never enough for them, for you, because I was not enough, inside.  I had cold sweats, and thought I was going through menopause in my 20’s, hot flashes in winters, and cold body shaking chills in the midst of summer. I panicked, could not breathe, froze could not open my eyes or mouth to speak my truth. Oh please somebody stop the noise in my head! My heart raced as if I had run the comrades marathon when it was time to sleep. What if I didn’t wake up? Where would I be – where would I go? But each time, the sun rose, and little by little oh my father, my protector, my LOVE embraced me and told me how beautiful I was, a treasure, because only love could find such a mess – beautiful. I stopped asking if there is a God, if LOVE exists, because there was no doubt in my mind.  My existence was EVIDENCE OF LOVE. Love is the only one who cared or could help. Ah shame man even some of your harshest words paled in comparison to the judgment I put on myself, to the punishment I put myself through – believe me when I say however little you thought of me, I thought myself a hundred times worse  than that. I no longer thought myself to be of any use to anyone, I could not be of any help, I no longer though I mattered.  Even my parents who love me dearly found it hard to deal with the new harsher harder me, found themselves helplessly watching their daughter disappear. Yet I thought that’s what it meant to be brave, to be strong to have courage, to make tough decisions.  To keep it all to myself and move on. I judged myself for being hurt; I scolded myself for being bruised and abused. “Who do you think you are – to bail out? You’re the not the only one in pain” came the words from my loving friends. I was scared, afraid, of what I could be, do to hurt –though I never meant any harm, the harm felt was so real, I hated myself. I thought my “absence” would heal the pain, would provide a solution. But soon learned and  discovered that it was the opposite, that it is my presence, in the present that can do that. I never took the time to feel, to deal, to face, the cause.  To talk about what happened, to understand the lessons. But love is with me and has been helping me through it, I learnt to forgive everyone I blamed for my misery and then realized that they were not to blame in the first place anyway! How ironic is that!  I forgave everyone, who has ever  shared my life, for hurting me, whether they knew  it , were aware of or  even cared, It didn’t matter, I needed to forgive them so I could forgive myself for hurting them too.   I am happy to share this, to have emerged stronger from all of it, not many in the journalism profession do or ever get the chance to Recognize, Acknowledge, and Seek help. We are soldiers, working around the clock forever on standby, like all the emergency response services, police, doctors, and paramedics at times, councilors the list goes on, without any of the “benefits” that come with those titles.

This week as I face yet another of those exciting life challenges, stepping into new shoes, into the real me, I know that my life will never be the same again. It is BETTER than my wildest dreams. I am happy to be Jedi, Jedidiah, Lindiwe, Popane Ramalapa, I embrace all of me.  Even those ugly scars, the tread marks of abuse, of war, of lies, of discrimination, of violence, disease, death, trauma, tragedy and despair of my profession and personal life have all turned into the invaluable lessons of my life. I am in love and it feels so good.  I now get it.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder –PTSD – is no joke and it’s REAL in the profession, it’s real for many people  too who are not journalists, but it worse for journalist who are  required , whose job it is to be always and consistently in the frontlines,  to expose, reveal  everything that is “wrong/negative” with humanity/ society.

Right now- I am being held so lovingly so gently so softly by LOVE.  Not only did I find that LOVE my creator has always been with me ,in me, is me, that  I am made of love,  just like you,  but I also found  love everywhere even in  places where no-one dares to go. When I was 13 I had an argument with a Buddhist school mate of mine about God/LOVE being everywhere, and she asked mockingly “is he in the toilet too”?? And suddenly I didn’t have an answer? God in the toilet? Where it stinks, and we take out that entire S&^%$T?! I was truly offended, but after having to physically carrying my own stuff with my own two hands, to change my nieces’ nappy –  I know that even there, there’s so much love , it is because we LOVE that we clean up, speak up, shout out, at injustice, at wrong. It is the presence of love that SAVES.  So I’m so glad Love is in the toilet too! I don’t know where I’d be if love didn’t come to the toilet with me! Haha so funny J. Today going to the toilet or anywhere is bearable, doable, even an immense pleasure. Because there is nothing  LOVE won’t do.  NOTHING. There’s no impossible with LOVE. Just learning to trust LOVE always. Oh and yes, RELIGION can’t hold me like LOVE does.  oh YES I am flabbergasted because I know that I am beautiful, inside and OUT, I am love inside and OUT, and I am because LOVE brought me here.  Now I know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can do to people, families’ friends and loved ones.   I have survived it. Whether you get it from work, or life and then only LOVE can SAVE us. I would love to contribute towards positive change where this is concerned, not only for me personally, but more especially for the journalism profession -because I LOVE being a journalist.

I would like to PUBLICLY EXPRESS my GRATITUDE and Love, to a few people. Not because they are super extraordinary, even though for me they are, not because they are perfect, even though in my eyes they are.  But because they are the ones who bore the worst of my PTSD, many of them unknowingly, in the dark just as I was, they dared to love me – to show love even when the toughest soldier would have given up. But most of all because they are the ones whose hurt I feel the most. Who bear the marks of my desperate fight to live.  Who were my mirrors, my suns and moons and stars. They are the ones who’ve taught me what love means in real terms. You all have been love personified for me.  Whose love literally pulled me through the worst of it. The people I mention here are my greatest teachers, they’ve all physically walked with me through some of my toughest milestones, darkest days, seen my ugliest,  and  simply held out a hand and that has made all the difference in my world. You know who you are and in no particular order of importance and because we are all one:

Noah! Not sure how to say I love you! Love you, love you, love you, I could say it a million times and still think it’s not enough – thank you!  Didi? THANK YOU!!! My sunshine! LOVE my heart is melting! Peace! I have never seen love like you have shown me my brother- we are one! Thank you!!! Hakima, by being yourself you showed me who I am (babe) love to you soldier. Thank you for being WISDOM.  Jamilla WOW, what a WOMAN, I get excited just thinking of how beautiful you are. Umuhle. Thank you. Phumi! Thank you for the love comrade – alupheli! Candice, thank you, for meeting me where you could.  Matebello and Mathuto the two lovely sisters! Thank you. Mahlatse! You are a beautiful Gift – Kealeboga. Phili, thank you so much  for being there, for dancing in the dark with me – even if it never made any sense.  AngieK – thank you for being my mentor! Love your work!!! Juan Carlos Gallo! Thank you for the love!  Miz Buttons – you will always be my beautiful flower -ngiyabonga. Lihle igama lakho. Vicky! Thank you for being My BIG sister!  For REAL! Janey, thank you for always believing in me. Immanuel, love, love, love you, who you are and becoming! Mom and Dad? You are the BEST! Love you guys. You are disarmingly beautiful mom – I hope I am one day able to love my (gifts) of children just like you love me (us) such FREEDOM! No words. You are Handsome Dad, in all the smallest perfect loving ways, I love you. Seeing you do love is the best gift anyone can give.  I hope to one day be blessed with a partner as tender  and gentle as you are to our mother J  Thandanani, thank you my sister-comrade – thank you for understanding. Bobo? Love grows, embrace it!  Oh Ntombinkosi Sisonke S’thandwa! Ngiyabonga.   Athini. Thokoza. Thank you LEBO, my twin sister, love you so much! Beautiful Ms Walker! Thank you( doing the happy dance!). Thank you, Alex.  Petit Carole, Merci bissou, bissou, bissou! Claude my sister from another mother – the greatest gratitude to you– always.  Merci ma grand souer. KG, thank you.  Thank you so much Neli! Love you!  Percy – thank you lover! Oh beautiful Naledi, Tetee, Love you my babies. JENNA! You’re the string my heart plays. To the best brother in-law in the world – Sibu- I take my hat off to you, thank you.  You are awesome people!! Christiane – nkem-I am thankful, blessed to have had you by my side for so long – So much love for you! Always.  Mbali! Thank you for the laughter!!! Lo o ne Happiness! Love you sister child!  Oh Mirriees! Who knew – Love to you my sister! Zukiswa- you’re such a charm darling SHINE! Ali – Thank you brother! Ibou Kane– thank you for being my best friend!  Begue Nala -Namenala, Je’taime. Adama  and Bas – jereejef  trop, trop! Amadou! You are beautiful. Zsofia and S’bu – You are AMAZING!  Ariane! No words – Thank you and sending you SO MUCH LOVE!!!!!   Thank You All for LOVING me for REAL. Thank you for being so STRONG in your love.   I can only hope to one day show, do love in a way that will make it grow, bigger and better, always.  I am because you ARE – LOVE.

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