When you are feeling low

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Spring has sprung. There are bright colours everywhere and plants are beginning to flower, but when you are low, everything turns to grey.

Your mind plays tricks on you depriving you of sleep and casting all sorts of shadows in your waking hours. You ask yourself questions that you cannot answer in your state of gloom. It is a cycle that many go through and you have to go through it thoroughly and be done with it rather than postpone it with superficial attempts at being positive.

Being positive requires thinking positively and the way to do it, is first to have your little pity party. For some it lasts five minutes, for others days and sometimes weeks.

Longer than that is probably dangerous. Before getting to acceptance, you must go through sufficient waves of agonising feelings, sufficient being the key word.

It is the same with a winning team by the way. When you have won a tournament for the first time, the feeling is euphoric, but you cannot sustain that feeling which you certainly have the right to savour.

After the feeling has faded and you are only left with a good memory, you still have to motivate yourself a year or four years later when the tournament comes round again and go beyond the feeling of “we have already got this medal” to one of “we can get our second medal”. It is difficult for champions and losers alike to rouse themselves from the “been there, done that” and get to the next level.

Many years ago, my friends from other African countries used to mock me saying Harare was not an African city. It was too well arranged, too British with our tea twice a day (even for municipal workers), too ordered and proper and did not have the vibe of a Maputo, Lagos, Kampala or Nairobi.

I would shoot back that Harare was a modern city on the move and that they should dispense with their stereotypes about what an African city ought to look like. Yet, today, despite spring being in the air, Harare looks sad in the general decay of the infrastructure.

Intersections are dusty or barely covered with yellow grass, buildings are badly in need of several coats of paint, traffic crawls along grimly but slowly and the number of kombis stopping where they shouldn’t in what would have been sacrilegious contravention of city by-laws a mere 20 years ago is increasing along the length of Second Street.

It is not a pretty sight. Harare has become an African city. It is looking more like the stereotype than modern. In its glory, we called it the Sunshine City and Little Joburg. Being low in this environment is probably crushing and suffocating.

Yet, Harare is on the move. Zimbabweans, who always make a plan, are still forging ahead. One innovative retail brand is opening new stores and restoring colour to shopping centres that are grey and morose.

There are people who refuse to lie down and die and this is where you look to inspiration and courage, if yours has deserted you. It is perhaps a good idea to visit such oases dotted throughout the capital and spending time walking around there to see what remains possible thereby lifting your spirits than staying mired in the depressing surroundings that heap woes heavy as lead on to your already sagging spirits.

Ask yourself continuously: “How do I escape from the sadness around me to a better place?”

Sometimes the answer lies within. For sure! But a little extra money makes it easier to be happy. Money may not buy you happiness, but it certainly gives you a bit more comfort.

With a bit more money, you can sink a borehole and have a green garden, a haven of peace that you look forward to reflecting in during evenings or over weekends, in the midst of a stultifying desert.

If you cannot afford the borehole let alone the house to sink the borehole at, your sanctuary could be in your thoughts and your plans to meet your current desires in your foreseeable future.

Of course, “wiser” heads will tell you to be content with what you have. I am afraid that goes against human nature. Progress is the default position of mankind otherwise cavemen would not have invented fire and we would not have the Internet, ipad, iphone or blackberry.

Your progress is born in your thoughts, but it could be inspired by what you see around you. So, admittedly, I was sad driving around Harare last week because of what I knew it to have once been and something I was happy to tell my friends from anywhere in the world about.

I was happy, nevertheless, to arrive at my friends’ house at the end of the day and be inspired at what is still possible. I still recommend Zimbabwe as a holiday destination to all my foreign friends to the point of planning an itinerary for them. Harare can be the Sunshine City again. It requires political and civic will.

You can start, one garden, broken window pane, intersection and council meeting at a time. The rest is in our minds. Think differently, the money is bound to follow. It is called lighting a candle, instead of cursing the darkness and it is not always easy.