Sharon Wakeford

In the sweat of the night

From time to time we feature guest contributors on our blog. Sharon Wakeford is an internationally accredited mediator and coach, who works in a wide range of settings and contexts, both inside South Africa and internationally. More than this, Sharon is a conversationalist, story catcher, explorer, seeker, and learner. She loves to listen to, and tell stories, write, dance, laugh, and play. She is deeply drawn into the space of questions and reflection that invite people, herself included, into being a touch bolder, a shade braver, and a little different in ‘who they be’ and ‘how they do’.  Here’s Sharon’s latest contribution:

A light dancing on the canvas covering of the Seattle Coffee Company. The car park brick exhales its hot heavy breath into the coffee shop’s corners, breath filled by the few drops of moisture the heavens deigned to release. Johannesburg, so thirsty, but when will her thirst be quenched? I swallow deeply into the dark Rwandan roast in its solid blue mug.  The end-of-September thunderstorms still not showing their faces, withholding their booming baritones. These tiptoes on the canvas, just a tease, nothing of significance, of substance.

How different is my personal weather pattern. Unequivocal. “In the still of the night” the crooning of Fred Parris and the Five Satins. But for me, a different tune and tone: ‘In the sweat of the night’ – sweating that began a few months back, with a few nightly drops, like those just landed on the tarpaulin above me. A mild presence. Manageable. Then, without a word of warning from a newsreader or weather app, sudden nightly skin-soaking baptisms. But the lazy pools collecting on my chest and in my eye sockets, and the streams trickling behind my ears and down my spine, do not feel like a blessing from above, or a receiving from the universe. Rather, an unwanted nightly disturbance, a washing, accompanied by wakefulness.

Relay of temperatures and textures. Cool passes the baton to warm, who passes to hot who passes to sweaty who passes to cold and so it goes on. In the adjacent lane: clinging damp T-shirt, to rough towel, to smooth powdering. My skin grateful to have crossed the finishing line, to be hugged by a fresh, cool T-shirt, ready to return to slumber, but now my mind is of another inclination.

Whir, whir, whir my hard drive comes spinning to life. The days’ folders re-open, documents and proposals line up for reviewing, but a review with the more critical eye of the early morning hours. Was there more that could have been said in the proposal? Different or more careful framing that would better support a ‘yes’? Or was it enough, as it seemed to be, prior to my finger tapping ‘send’ in the logic of the daylight hour? That proposal’s file closed, another document presents itself for re-editing. Tick. The done, redone. Good. But now, new entrants to the queue: the work that is coming. A facilitation essentially designed, but hey, why not a bit more thinking, another pinch of preparation as Beloved breathes her heavy sleep next to me? How long until I am sufficiently ‘updated’ and can ‘shut down’? A temporary ‘shut down’, until I am re-booted in a couple of hours’ time.

And what of this changing of my seasons, and the moods it brings. Is there one predominant mood?  A mood of resentment that fumes: “this is not right, it’s not what I signed up for, it shouldn’t have to be this way?” Or resentment’s more subversive sister – resignation: A sigh, a slump, “no point complaining, nothing’s going to change, so just ‘suck it up’ or in this case, mop it up.” Or is it anxiety that is leading the race? – the mood of uncertainty, of fear of the unknown: “how long are these nights going to be, how much worse will they get, how soon until they become days too? How is this going to play out in the work of my waking hours?” No, not one mood, but a revolving door – one giving way to another.

A question to swill around like the last mouthful of coffee at the bottom of the blue mug: is there some wisdom to be found along this unpredictable perspiring path? Wisdom that arrives on some undetermined date that makes it all worthwhile? Or an inching towards wisdom with change in my weather pattern? What will be required for me to travel this path with greater ease, if not in body, at least in mind and mood? Strategies or surrender, or a combination of both? Way too soon to tell. For now, it’s just about being in the sweat, and awaiting Joburg’s first thunderstorm.

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