Pirates über wanky princesses: Rebecca Davis on past lives

When Rebecca Davis decided to quit drinking, she made it her mission to find 'alternative' options to stay sane inside an insane world. Here's Part Two (of 11) of our conversation with her about this arduous odyssey

09 May 2019 - 11:29 By Mila de Villiers
Rebecca Davis, author of 'Self-Helpless'.
Rebecca Davis, author of 'Self-Helpless'.
Image: Leila Dougan
The cover of Rebecca Davis's book.
The cover of Rebecca Davis's book.
Image: Pan Macmillan

Think "Rebecca Davis".

Adjectives including "South Africa's very best white" (merci for that one, Marianne Thamm), "award-winning journalist" and "the woman who puts the 'wit' in Twitter" ought to be conjured.

But "self-help author"?

If "nah, bru" is your initial response, not to worry. This born cynic would agree hands down.

Self-Helpless, Davis's latest contribution to the local literary scene, chronicling her year-long "journey" of immersing herself in the world of auras, chakras, sweat lodges, mindfulness and (much) more, was sparked when she resolved to undertake "one of the most difficult things I've ever done": quit drinking.

Intrigued as to why the struggle was so onerous? Take a look at the facts:

The former Rhodent (all together now: "eat, sleep, mare, repeat!") discovered alcohol at 18 and pursed her newfound hobby with such a "passionate intensity" that by the time she reached 34 she calculated that she had spent roughly 9,984 hours of her 16 years as an imbiber, well, drinking.

Abstaining from the demon drink made Davis question How. The. Hell. Do sober people cope with an increasingly insane world? (And, as she writes, there's plenty to worry about - giraffes are facing extinction, Day Zero remains a shaky reality, the world is running out of sand ... Things are even bleaker now than in '87, R.E.M.)

Cue the alternative-method quest to stay sane inside insanity.

Keen to hear how that went down? Take a deep breath ... Hold for three ... Exhale ... Aaaaand read:

Pirates › Wanky Princesses: A Past Life Bedtime Story by Rebecca Davis

Davis's sober quest for sanity included a trip to a hypnotherapist who promised an insightful revelation about who you were in your past life.

With a touch of trepidation, the teetotalling sceptic allowed herself to be hypnotised and, in her fugue-like state, saw herself barefoot, frolicking with a herd of goats, surrounded by mountains, with an avalanche gooi'd in for extra measure, because why not?

Turns out that the idyllic scenes she witnessed were amalgamations of images she had come across in books she'd read, movies she'd watched and TV series she'd seen.

Basically, she writes, this exercise revealed her inner plagiarist.

"So what I say in the book," Davis explains, "is that it's very clear that everyone who invests in the idea of past lives believes that they were someone puh-retty special in a past life."

After a moment of pondering, Davis divulges that if she did have control over who she'd  liked to have been in her past life "my default answer would be Joan of Arc, but that doesn't really appeal to me ..."

She contemplates her "proper" answer with a prolonged "umm", an introspective "hmm", and intermittent lip-smacking.

"The problem is, of course, that history has not always been kind to women," she eventually says.

"So, the problem is that if you're going to be a woman in history, it's very hard to think of a better time than in the last hundred years 'cause otherwise you're going to be a chambermaid or some wanky princess or a slave," Davis states, with obvious displeasure.

"I think that ... If I could be a dude, then maybe, like, a pirate."

She perks up upon being reminded that gender is a social construct, before trailing off with a "leave that question with me ..."

Stay tuned for Part Three: Apps for reckoning with death...