Now that I am living sober, the balance rights itself.
There are stressful days, ongoing anxieties, sleepless nights, conflict — but the compass swings true north and I sleep deeply at night and wake calm in the morning, able to take stock.
The years of political oppression still eat at me. The friends who died, the detention-without-trial, the constant threat and fear for friends on the run, the danger of exile or deportation, the abusive late-night phone calls. The friends who died. The police using live ammunition at Ashley Kriel’s funeral, smell of tear gas and women screaming. The friends murdered in the Eastern Cape. The torture and rape under interrogation, the broken spirits of so many brave people. At times it seemed to me the whole country was bleeding and howling with outrage under those States of Emergency, the armed casspirs patrolling the townships, the soldiers with military rifles deployed against unarmed civilians. The disappearances, the parcel bombs, the assassinations.
Memories have terrible power, but the present is simply what it is. ‘These fragments have I shored against my ruin.’ I go out and walk steadily up a mountainside, crush the leaf of roadside eucalyptus and smell menthol. I look out across a wide calm valley and sense inner spaciousness. Stop to greet friends and neighbours, admire magenta bougainvilleas, listen to the stream running like a gurgle of laughter through the undergrowth from the mountain above me. This stream ran from hidden rivers and waterfalls when the Khoi tribes were nomads following the eland into the valleys of sweet grass and aloe.
Balance is possible when the blood is not overheated, when there is no dependence, no alcoholic craziness. There will always be political oppression, prisoners beaten up in police cells, and there will always be the need to fight, to demand justice. But there is also time to breathe in the early morning air high on the mountain, pure and fresh, watching sugar birds on protea bushes. Time to regroup energies as a woman resisting the omipresence of rape in South Africa. I have come through and so will others.
Right now I am fine. Right now is all there is. And if I stay focused and sober for 24 hours there will be a tomorrow as there was a yesterday. Clear intention, clear purpose, solid ground beneath my feet.