Nnwa, it is Sunday…

 

Nyathiwa, today is Sunday. As I watch mama nani walk into church with her beautiful twins in tow, I cannot help but smile and think of you. I hope you will not be the kind that finds every reason to fuss because I cannot spend your first few months sitting at the back pew and walking out every few minutes. I can’t. But mostly, today I find myself thinking of you and faith and church and God.

I will teach you all I know to share about God, about love and about life. I pray each day they will be one of the foundations of your life. Foundation nnwa, that which you build the rest of your life on. I did not say lock and key. I did not say blinder. I did not say religion. I did not. Foundation, that which you build your life on because you will need a strong one if you are to grow as far as I see for you. I do not know any other stronger than faith.

I would love to teach you colour because contrary to what I may find verses to reinforce, life will never come in black and white. There is a disillusionment that overcomes those that feel that they ‘paid the price’ and have nothing of the life they had bought that I never want you to feel. It is dangerous, this faith business. Dangerous when you see it as currency. Nyathiwa, it is not. It is not. What I learnt with age I want you to learn with words. That is why I will teach you to be connected to faith not because it is a means to an end but because it is a floater that will keep you safe till you get to the shores no matter how high the tides. Faith more than people, faith more than community because faith you know will always be there.

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I do not think people separate you from God Nnwa. You separate yourself. Slowly but surely, you separate yourself. Like every relationship that dies, you stop talking, you stop arguing, and you stop spending time together. That is when you stop seeing them. Slowly but surely, they fade away and that is not because people stood in your way. It is because you did. With faith, like with many things in life, do not be afraid to lose your way. Do not be afraid to separate, to doubt and question, to stand in your way, to make mistakes and live a full life. There is no such thing as perfection Nnwa; keep away from such crippling thoughts. You were born to live and to live is to find a little bit of yourself each day and for this there is no shame. Never blame people; never blame yourself when you need to find cause because of the moments you cannot see God anymore. Move out of your way the same way you stood in it. Find it, wherever it will lead, the same way you lost it. There is nothing new under the sun.

I will take you to church. You will love it when you are younger because you will be that baby everyone fawns over and queues to carry. You will love it when you are old enough to sing and doodle and colour everywhere apart from inside the lines of the 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread drawn for you. You will love it when you begin to learn the outdoors and all you want is for Sunday school to be over so you can go out and play. Then you will start to think for yourself. To question. There is nothing wrong with that. Then maybe you will not like it so much anymore. Maybe we will fight about it, maybe we won’t. I do not know. All I know is I will need you to know this God. What you will do with that knowledge will be your own. If you will be anything like me, you will ask a lot of questions and I will do my best to help you understand what I can. You will take a faith sabbatical at some point perhaps because you are tired of feeling like you have to suffer to be ‘of the kingdom’. You will lose your way not once or twice, to find it again. When this happens, do not beat yourself up, it is what we call life and it is okay. Lose yourself again and again until you find that what you need is not religion. You will need more than a belief or a faith system; you will need a relationship. And when you find that to be true, then you will understand why mama said it is a foundation.

 

No Shame

It is not customary to speak of weakness Nnwa. It is not. Even if that weakness is not of your own, even if that weakness is what you need to let pass on its own. So I will tell you this once.

I remember clearly. That day. Ordinary, just enough sun, the perfect beginning for a weekend. I love to stay in bed when I can and catch up on a chapter or two, or one of the week’s papers, maybe even run through the online streets. And so I did. I knew I had been under a lot of pressure. Work, school, family – there was a lot of flipping events in that time but I always had it under control somehow and on that day, I just needed to kick back. I thought. When you are not attuned to chaos, you do not see that you are in the heart of a hurricane until it flings you out of its eye and on to the currents. At least that is what it felt like.

One trigger. That was all it took to bring the tower down. They do not teach you how to breathe when you are dying Nnwa. Some things, you will find out, you learn on your own. In retrospect, I do not know how I did not see it coming and for a long time after, this one thought battered me. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I read later that they can be sudden, frightening and often for no clear reason Nnwa. Panic attacks are sneaky like that. They like to take you by surprise. But how was I supposed to know they happened to regular people?

pan·ic at·tack

noun

a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.

I had my book in my hand but I figured it would make more sense to see if there was anything new online first. Ping. I cannot ignore notifications because for some strange reason I feel like it is akin to refusing to look someone in their eyes when they call your name. I would have been alright on any other day I think. Dealing with shitty emails is becoming an expected adulting skill these days anyways and me, I am quite the decorum slayer. But it just had to be sent on this one day I was closer to the edge than I thought possible.

I do not know if it was fury, disappointment or betrayal I felt first. There was too much emotion to separate one from another. I remember not being able to stop shaking. I remember letting my phone fling to the floor. I remember breathing and not breathing at the same time. I have seen movie scenes where an abducted child tried to scream and bang the windows so the neighbour jogging by would come and help. I figured that is what I felt like when I tried to cry and speak and nothing could make it out. I have no idea how long I lay there betrayed by my own body. Unable to move, unable to speak, unable to reach my phone and locked in because that is what you do when you go to bed every night – lock up. It was surreal mostly because I partly felt like an observer. My neighbour had a set of my keys so she could have helped but there was no way `i could reach her. And then what would I tell her was happening? ‘Hi, could you come over I am….what? Breaking down?’. There is no way to make that sound right…

When I did move, did breathe all I could do was cry. That was the first of a few. I only knew months later what they actually were. In between, I was mostly ashamed for losing control. Partly thought there was finally something wrong in my head. Funny how an attacker flips the blame on you; even funnier how you agree it is true.

It took a while to realise I had too much on my mind than I needed; too much on my plate than I needed. Took even more time till I established my triggers and started from there. Dr. Google helped much. I did not know these were things people asked for help for. Also, I am not very attuned to talking through problems. I was cultured to know you keep your problems close until you think them through and solve them, then perhaps, talk about them.

Nnwa, you have a 50/50 chance of picking up a lot of who I am. This means you will have a great mind, you will be wired to achieve and think through everything and unfortunately, you might be, like me, ill prepared to think through anything that causes you pain. Those ones you will probably lock up until you have no choice but to unpackage and maybe then, finally think through them.  I will tell you how this system works someday. Your mind will be your blessing and your curse. I hope you do not keep so much that it bursts out. I hope somehow, you learn to let things go. Learn that even the strong ones need a rest sometime.

You will be strong. You will have a big heart. You will be an amazing woman. Always remember nothing is worth losing your peace over. You will not get to choose what you get from life most days; but you will get to choose to let go of things before they are too heavy to hold. You will get to choose to reach out and find help when you can. If ever you find you can’t, remember there is no shame, no shame in losing it when its too much. Let it pass over, breathe and let it go. Then start again. They say you should practice calm breathing, relax your body and what not – which is helpful but at that particular time, redundant. The best way there is is to be happy. Every day, choose happiness and peace; wire yourself in such a way that you have no time for anything but that which makes you happier, smarter and stronger. Run away from things only to gain enough strength to face them again. Do not be an ostrich Nnwa. The ground above the sand will catch fire. Fire has no mercy, when it does you will burn along with it.

There is an increasing pressure in my time to have it all and then some. To be at the best of it all all the time. It is ridiculous really, this notion. It sets us on paths of self-ignorance and causes us to push ourselves mercilessly beyond borders. The worst of it has to be that it makes us think of ourselves less and pushes us more toward the ‘bigger picture’ leaving most of us battered and disillusioned at many stops of life because we just cannot figure out why we give so much and get so little. Yet therein is the problem. We give so much that we have nothing left for us. I do not know how your own world will be Nnwa but I know you will need to learn to be a little selfish if you want to remain sane. Give of your time but have some for yourself. Give of your expertise, your joy, your energy but only after you hold back some for yourself. Because when you have more than you give, you are free to see when you are not well enough. Free to see when you need to stop and breathe and enjoy the sun.Because when you have given until they are full, it is you that remains a hollow shell.

We were not invincible because we are strong. We are because we fall many times, fall apart some times but always get it back together. Somehow. it is what the best of us do. Take a break once in a while (a lot), choose the energy you allow around you, do not let your work enslave you and the need for perfection, that we will need an entire sit down to go over because I fear many things amongst which is feeding you the lie that is living the perfect life in the hope of receiving a perfect end. The world does not work that way anymore; if ever it did.  You should come first and that is not selfishness or whatever else they will tell you. That is survival. If anything, I need you to believe there is no shame in striving to be happy and letting go of what you find to be your triggers Nnwa, no shame.

 

Do not Fear what you know Will come

Nnwa,

Your people say death is like a robe everyone has to wear. They say that life is the beginning of death. So as it is, my fear is unfounded because what I fear, i live. Yet I still cannot bring myself to think that I will one day lose you; no, you will one day lose me because it is not right for a mother to bury her child. If it tears me inside to lose whom I have not held, I know you can tell to lose who I already have is not twice or thrice that pain. It is a million times that then again.

I do not like to mention death. Even thinking about it I can’t. Unless it is one of these few times such as this that it forces me to look it in the eyes; eyes that demand I understand it is what it is. Even death cannot help itself. I call it a thief, yet I am no longer certain if it steals or it takes.

These have been tough days Nnwa. I find myself thinking if I could shield you from anything, any one thing. It would not be the pain of a broken heart. It would be the sting of death because a heart, we can mend. But the sickness that sting causes to invade a soul even I do not know how to cure, how to stop. They will tell you if you carry the egg basket, do not dance. But what is life without the shaking of shoulders, the swaying of hips, the claps and shouts and stomping of feet. What is life if lived in the fear that it will fall, that it will break. But what is life if it breaks anyway? I do not seek answers from you. Your mother just needed to speak and hear her own voice. To ease one door open and ease the voices in her head.

It is strange, this cycle of life. It is happiness, it is space, it is drifting to a better place. It is madness, it is joy, it is fear and it is pain. It is understanding and then it is not. It is birth, it is bliss, it is death. I can only hope that God will grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. And that He will grant you immortality or give you a heart like your father so you may not fear what you know will come. Perhaps this fear, will for me, become a heavy shroud, shielding me from the end.