Two sides to that sparkle

Is there such a thing as a real sense of freedom, I wonder. What on earth do we want?

I found myself preparing for a good session of self-loathing after my return from a busy week in Cape Town. “There you are after a wonderful weekend of ease and opulence, sitting here, tired, bored and lacking inspiration.
How dare you have these feelings when you are not sitting at a desk every day, churning out spreadsheets, reports and ­articles?’’ (Apparently there is no pleasure in that.)

My time in Cape Town was spent talking, or as my friends and I like to call it, “sparkling”. That is most of what the work I do entails. It is a kind of performance characterised by a higher pitch to the voice, a bubbly disposition that opens up the whites of the eyes and pinks of the mouth and allows one to easily navigate a room, going from person to person, champagne or whisky in hand.

They help in the fetching and carrying of thoughts, charms and energy as one goes about one’s work.

It is disgusting when I think about it, but it is what it is. It may not feel like work, but it certainly is. The free invitations, flights and accommodation are not really free.

The cost is performance, the ­performance is the ­sparkle and the sparkle is the work. I do not know how I feel about it, because it ceases to come naturally when it is expected.

Happiness is hard to maintain. Sometimes, when I have too much of it, I feel as though it is something too heavy to carry. I should not complain about anything, yet all I want to do this week is lie in bed and write love letters.

It is not exhaustion. Does exhaustion not come from laborious work? Does it not come from physical strain? Does it not come from things deemed unpleasant? Nothing has been unpleasant, so where has the sense of freedom gone?

Is freedom experiencing the sporadic moments of pleasure we allow ourselves? I am most happy when I am eating a McDonald’s burger. I wonder whether the joy lies in the fact that I like the shitty taste, or because I am doing something I know is not good for me.

“It’s not that we fear the place of darkness, but that we don’t think we are worth the effort to find the place of light,” says my favourite self-help author, Hugh Prather. Could it be, then, that I feel as though I do not deserve perpetual happiness?

Take the words of trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, whose seminar I attended last weekend: “Stop being so rational always.”

This wisdom has not left me since she spoke on Saturday morning. I think the freedom lies in these moments of pure indulgence, when you do not ration the irrational.

There is a comfort in knowing that it is okay to feel flat, to have the ­effervescence fizzle out. Because, sooner or later, the natural desire to sparkle will come again—and do so without any effort.

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardian's arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project. Read more from Milisuthando Bongela

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