KUFUNGISISA

I have always loved words. When I was little, about eleven or twelve, my grandmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her that I wanted a dictionary. I received my first Webster’s. It was a school edition, but I loved it. Sometimes I would sit with the dictionary open to a page and read all the words on that page with their definitions.

My grandmother knew I loved words, so she also gave me her very own Roget’s International Thesaurus – the 1941 edition (which makes it a year older than I am). My first dictionary went the way of all good books (which means I have no idea where it is after having given it to my son when he went away to school in the States) but I still have the Thesaurus and use it frequently, although I have acquired a new edition dated 1978 and today I generally prefer to google the word because internet offers all kinds of fascinating connections.

Yesterday, somewhere on Facebook -or maybe it was a TED talk- I heard and saw the word that forms the title of this page; kufungisisa. It is Zimbabwe for ‘depression’ and literally it means ‘thinking too much’ which –of course- hits the nail on the head. If I am constantly thinking gloomy thoughts (nobody loves me, the world is in a terrible state, everything is wrong, I’m all alone, I’ll never have enough money) and believing these thoughts, I create a state of kufungisisa, I get the ‘thinking disease’ which in the west we call ‘depression’.

To depress means to deject, to make despondent, to exhaust, afflict, beat down, bother, dampen, daunt, discourage, dishearten, dismay, dispirit, disturb, dull, lower, reduce, sadden, sap, trouble, upset, weaken, weigh down. Or, in a sense, to abase, cow, darken, debase, debilitate, degrade, desolate, devitalize, distress, drain, enervate, faze, mock, mortify, oppress, perturb, scorn, torment, try, weary, to reduce to tears… which is exactly what depression or kufungisisa does.

Well, today –despite the fact that the lights have gone off and on four times and made me rewrite entire paragraphs of this post- I am not in a state of kufungisisa, although I very well could be if I did not regularly question my thoughts.

For instance: the other day someone said to my face that they considered me despicable. Now that is a word I don’t remember ever using either in my conversation or my writing. Despicable is a word that apparently can and did make me rankle for a moment as I withdrew from the speaker and sat with. For a while, I was definitely nettled, peeved, piqued, ruffled and put out, but as soon as I was able to find how that person might have seen me as despicable, and realize that what I had done to provoke her wrath might have been done in a kinder way, I was free to apologize for my part and move on to simply finding exactly what the adjective meant and how it did for synonyms. It was a rich field of investigation and one that had a personal motive: I wanted to see if I really had been despicable, as the other person had suggested.

Despicable is an adjective meaning very unpleasant or bad, causing strong feelings of dislike. It is said of someone deserving to be despised or regarded with distaste, disgust or disdain; contemptible. This person might be so worthless or obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation (oh dear me, what I had done wasn’t really that bad!!!); a wretched or wicked person (not me at all, no, at least not in this case).

According to internet, if you say a person is despicable, you are emphasizing that they are extremely nasty, cruel or evil. I looked closely at myself and certainly did not find that I had acted in any way that made me abominable, abysmal, apocalyptic, appalling, awful, corrosive, grisly, grotesque, gruesome, maybe just a little bit hateful, but certainly not rotten, shitty, shockingly stinking, wretched, vile, perhaps a bit mean, but in no way detestable nor contemptible, low, base, cheap, worthless, disgraceful, shameful or abject, perhaps just a mite reprehensible, but in no way ignominious, disreputable, beyond contempt and deserving of hatred and contempt. To say the least, I found that the person who called me despicable had exaggerated (as in amplified, distorted, falsified, inflated, misrepresented and overdone it just a wee bit, and with this the rankling, bother, hurt, vexness desisted.

So, seeing that the sun has finally come out and the despicable weather (as in appalling) has passed, I think I will take this just slightly abominable self out for a walk with my lovable (as in adorable, captivating, cute, delightful, darling) dog, Salomé.

ARROGANCE, DEPRESSION, THE WHOLE ENCHILADA…

 

It was definitely a stroke of arrogance that made me write out a sign that reads: “WHAT CAN I DO TODAY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”, like that, in redcof letters, and pin it on my door to remind me as I leave the apartment that I have a debt with existence and that I can actually do something about it. How do I know it was arrogance? Because immediately after placing said sign in the designated place, I went to Facebook and found a video progressively describing, first the planets, then the stars, then the galaxies, and finally the infinite universes in the MULTIVERSE, which brought tears to my eyes and led me to ‘share’ it under the heading: “…and then there is me…”  (https://www.facebook.com/100008390564556/videos/2053435061612826/).  Did I get the imagesW9SQ371Wmessage and leave well enough alone? You know damn well I didn’t! No! Actually, I completely ignored the message -which in no uncertain terms showed me my actual importance- and began to feel all puffed up and proud of my act of generosity in wanting to do my part in making the world a better place, Me… Yes, the same me.

As a matter of fact, I began feeling so good about it, that there was a moment of euphoria (always a bad sign) during which I convinced myself that my idea was so good it was actually worth sharing. Supposing –the argument in my head went-, just supposing that my little brainstorm was sooo inspiring as to get others to do the same, as to start a movement, as to actually influence the state of affairs of the world. I began to get excited, to feel importantme (yup, same one). So I went back to Facebook and clicked on the ‘create a Facebook page’, images 2or whatever it’s called, button; I thought up a name (A GRAIN of SAND) without imagining that there probably were umpteen pages with that same name and similar purposes already on Facebook; I looked for a photograph of a beach and cut it down to size for the page; and I wrote out what seemed to me to be a purpose (do small acts that better the world and record them on the page). Then I happily ticked off everyone on my “friends” list and asked them to like and join the page. There was a ‘rush’, a ripple of excitement and self-importance as I pushed the fleeting thought of a million followers to the back of my mind (it interfered with my assumed humility) and saw the world being transformed because of my one simple inspiration.

Then I realized that –as I was administering the page and inviting everyone to share- I should begin by writing what I had done that day ‘to make the world a better place’. And that was when reality stepped back in. What had I done, precisely, to make the world a better place? Blank… Lamely I wrote that ‘I had started the Facebook page as my oneedf grain of sand’. It sounded so presumptuous! Then I remembered I had picked up some empty beer cans that somebody –probably a group of young men out on the town which in Salies is not very exciting- had left on the lawn of a nearby nursing home, so I noted that down, but instead of the expected feel-good (me… look what I did!!!), I experienced the act as useless. After all, there was undoubtedly someone in charge of the green areas around the nursing home as the grass was cut and the bushes trimmed, so I was just doing what someone else would do when he or she came around. Lamely, I added that my grain of sand that day included smiling at everyone I passed on the street on my way to coffee in the morning. That cinched it. By that time, I was feeling miserable, lower than low. After all, I can smile at people because I have the advantage of living in a small town; if I did that in a big city, like Madrid or Paris, I would probably be considered looney rather than ‘kind’ or plain indecent. I know: I’ve tried it.imagesNQF3S8VV

I clicked ‘Publish’ and saw my lame ‘contribution’ go up on the page and suddenly everything that had inflated, deflated; my chest caved in, my stomach twisted up. Who… just who did I think I was. If I had known how to erase the whole thing I would have in that moment, but the invitation sent out was being responded to by loving people who perhaps didn’t see how ridiculous I was or did and just wanted to make me feel better, and I had no idea how to eliminate everything anyway (I hadn’t even known how to create it adequately and somehow had made a ‘commercial’ page which FB kept asking me to promote). I went to bed that evening feeling lonely and useless and ridiculous, in other words: totally depressed. Nightmares of frustration and despair populated my sleeping hours to the point where it was a relief to wake up.

026 (2)This morning I realized that the only way to make the world a better place today was to take care of myself, so I let myself have a little cry hugging me tightly all the while, finally smiled at my innocence, told myself that the silly FB page would do no one any harm, not even me and set off for my morning coffee with faithful Salomé who –in her dog world- does not suffer from these insane flights of ego (up and down, always up and then down). On the way, what did I see but a little grain of sand for me to add to the world’s beach: the wind –which has continued to blow all day- had swept the black garbage bagcof out of one of the town’s blue waste baskets (light blue is the Béarnaise color and shows up in most of the public fixtures) where I was about to place the poo-bag I had used to clean up after Salomé. I placed the poo-bag on the ground, picked up the black plastic garbage bag –which was empty- and replaced it in the light blue waste basket; cofthen I put the poo-bag inside to weigh it down.

My contribution to making the world a better place, I thought to myself, smiling as I continued my walk noticing at every step how absolutely perfect the world is without me tending to it.

cof

 

THE DOWNS

We’re so used to running from discomfort,

and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it,

we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves.

We want to have security and certainty of some

kind when actually we have no ground to stand

on at all. (When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron)

In the excitement of realizing what seemed like so many dreams at once, I did not think much of what was to come, so I felt no fear. Continue reading