avoid crossing roads and grow eyes at the back of your head

Nnwa,

You will come to experience a lot of things. I pray you do not go through pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons you do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods you are told to keep fighting through when really, you no longer know what you are fighting for. This prayer is selfish, for what is life without the black, the white and the in between? At this point, I would say bliss but it is not my place to make that call. Yet still I pray you get to be an exception. Should my prayers fail, you will know at least I tried.

Someone said bad things come in three. I think this someone does not know how to count well enough because I would say three is an understatement. A week ago I was doing well. My head was in the right place and I was all set to kick ass. Then right out of nowhere, an okada had to speed right into me. When I was younger, used to fascinate about how it would feel like to faint. I had seen people faint in movies and it had looked cool – well it isn’t. That mix of lightheaded confusion in moments you cannot control your own body is nothing ‘cool’. The guy sped away of course as the throng of spectators watched. The only one that cared enough to help was this one lady who kept insisting on helping me carry my phone and my handbag while offering to take me to hospital. Did I let her? No. I was hurt and angry and half cognizant but I was not stupid. Later I asked God to forgive me if I mistook an angel for a swindler. But I foresaw the lack of energy to mourn the loss of my bag, documents and phone so I clutched them close and declined her offer. Politely I hope. So I hobbled to the nearest shop and sat on those chairs spread outside under wobbly umbrellas. You know, the ones you either pay to ‘hire’ or buy something from the shop. My first thought was that this time, I had busted my leg for sure. I. Even I thought it was my fault when in actuality, I was not the one speeding. I was not the one trying to maneuver through traffic when I should have been patient enough to keep to my lane. I was not the one that saw a car and a pedestrian and decided hitting the latter was the best call. I was only crossing the road, trying to get back to the office so I could file my field visit report.

It had not been a while since I cried. It had been a while since I cried under the gaze of a dozen or more people but I couldn’t help it. I was not crying because of the throbbing pain across my leg and from the bump on my head. I wasn’t crying because the idiot had not even bothered to find out if he had ruined my beauty of a leg. I wasn’t crying because I had such little trust in people and good intentions even when I clearly needed help. I was crying because I sat facing the scene of the accident, realizing there was about a hundred ways that scenario would have played out. None would have ended up with me being able to move, let alone limp my way to that spot. I cried because I was bruised, dusty, happy and relieved. Cried because even when the people in my head worried about broken bones, my spirit sang praises as my heart gave thanks for what I now call my miracle. I cried again when the doctor said there were no broken bones, just muscle/ tissue trauma. I was mad, did the why me whining for a minute and then sat amazed at how there is always a ray of light, even though thin and feeble, in the storm.

The following days were not so easy though. The pain, the fear of leaving the house because perhaps this time, it would be a speeding car and I wouldn’t make it through and the questions. There are always questions. Life happens Nnwa, we cannot control how and most times what you will need to remember is to keep the experiences from tricking your mind into caging you. You will try to avoid everything, try to be safer every way you can. But that is no way to live. For no matter how safe you will think you are, you will still be a prisoner of fate. I have had a rough couple of years and yes, I would change how some scenarios played out but I cannot. Neither can I shape what is to come. But I can commit my ways to the Lord. I can ask for his grace and the cover of He that never sleeps nor slumbers. I can lean on His strength because there are days I cannot even muster enough energy to get out of bed. I can live one day at a time, avoid crossing roads and grow a pair of eyes at the back of my head ☺

This is not the last I will see of pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons I do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods I am told to keep fighting through when really, I longer know what I am fighting for. But I will aspire to get up each day and live. Because I realize it is simple to be the one that locks me in a cage and throws away the keys.

My Engineer #2

Things were simpler when we were younger. We had the one best friend, the one favorite food. We had not seen enough movies to have a favorite one so the tape that didn’t get ‘eaten’ by the VCR became everyone’s go to by default. If you had a normal childhood, you never had clothes that were really yours. Most of them were someone else’s before they were yours. Woe unto you if you were a girl after two brothers and all that came your way were the supersized t-shirts that were all the rage that did not go with anything else you owned. So your favorite clothes were the ones you were only allowed to bring out on Sundays or for visits to your aunts where your mother had to make sure you out dressed your cousins, at least to show you were doing well. And even though you could not play because you knew not to break the commandment ‘thou shall not stain the lace frock’ or could not walk much because those pumps you saved for Christmas and other special occasions pinched all around because they never had the chance to be broken in – they were your favorite.

But we grew up and things became different. We made new memories everyday. We were no longer consumed with the unending wait to go to the rich neighbors house, the one with the Nintendo and the bicycle they did not know how to use -because why else would they not ride or play until they could no longer ignore their rumbling stomachs? We no longer had to find ways to dub over video tapes and cassettes so we could have our own channel O video mix or hits from whatever FM stations we listened to then without our mothers realizing that one of their ‘volume one to sixteen’ tapes was missing. We make new memories every day without even breaking a sweat. But still, those were the days.

If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then I just had a fifteen-minute conversation with my Engineer today. Fifteen. And I had done nothing wrong! Just a normal father – daughter catch up. I told him I had a massive back ache (because you do not tell your father that you are having cramps) and something close to malaria at the same time. We talked about how I was too young to start complaining about my back. Then he asked me how school was and I told him I was not sure – we complained that it was taking longer than we thought it would. 2 years they had said but now, it looks like it will be three. We talked about those math units from the last semester. The ones I did not think I would pass much. He said did I not know I was his daughter, I had part engineer brains and there was no way I would fail to scratch at least a pass. I laughed, not because I doubted my share of his gene pool but mostly because I remembered I needed to tell him about my friend. The one that keeps betting on sportspesa and has not won anything yet. And how the other day, he really could not sleep because his stomach ran and ran every time he thought that maybe he would lose that money he bet, the money he had told his wife he didn’t have. He is a funny guy my friend. He did not sleep. He did not win either, poor guy. We laughed not because we do not play but because we understood the wait and the disappointment of having that one team ruin your winning streak all too well. Us, we are waiting for the jackpot, we said as we agreed to send the other ‘kakitu’ when the big bucks came through.

Of course we went back to talks of school. It is what a good parent does. Focus on the big things. We talked about how these universities these days want to keep serving units like special diets, never enough to get you where you want to go so you can stay longer and they can make more money. We talked; and when I hung up, I saw the counter. Fifteen minutes.

We have come a long way, my Engineer and I. Today, I made him laugh. It takes technique to make Engineer laugh like that – that hearty chuckle that fades off but you can still picture him eyes closed (because we cannot laugh and open our eyes at the same time) and chest moving as his faded laughter tickles your ear. And I did it. For fifteen minutes. I did it. He called back a minute later and said he had forgotten to ask if I had a spare cable because the one he had for his phone got lost. I had made him forget that he had a question. I was on a roll. Of course I did not have a spare cable but I said yes and that I would send it the next day because why would I want to break our flow with unnecessary jargon?

I was talking about memories and how we make so many now that we can’t really hold on to them like we do those from way back when. Myself, I have decided I do not want to make any so soon. I want to savor this one for a day, or a week. A couple of months at least. You may not understand if your Engineer calls you just because or if you and your Engineer talk everyday for an hour and joke until your phone battery gives in. Me and mine have come a long way. Fifteen minutes. If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then, maybe I now can. We talked. I made him laugh. Fifteen minutes. And tomorrow, I will buy a cable. No, I will buy a charging unit and send it to him so that next time we can do twenty, maybe thirty. And I will be sure the battery will not die on us. Then, I will make my next memory.

Of Queer Habits | My Engineer #1

Nnwa,

Over the years I have picked up many queer habits. Or maybe I should start by telling you I have managed to piss off my engineer today. I did not pick up his call because I was in the middle of something. Not something –  a belated surprise birthday treat that…I digress. That is for another day. So I made him mad enough to send a mad text because he was mad. I did not pick up his call, I did not call back immediately. Queer habit number one.

My engineer and I are not friends. We had no time for that. So he would not know that I do this sometimes, maybe many times. This postponing of talking. If we were friends, perhaps he would know that it is not just with him or that it means something apart from ‘Please, I will call you later’ or ‘Can’t talk now’ or ‘Had a day from hell, need to breathe’. But he does not know, so he thinks it is something that it is not and that is okay, because he does not know and I did not tell him.

Because of this queer habit, sometimes I do not call back for a day or two; or even until you call back and then I realise that was supposed to be something I did. It varies because it depends on the why. There are days that are longer than others and I cannot find my voice at the end. Then there are those that cover you with too many thoughts that you cannot even find yourself. Sometimes I just fell asleep too early – there are many things. Sometimes it is just because this queer habit has caused my mind to believe that you will know it is not a you-thing.  But sometimes later is not soon enough. Sometimes, they do not understand this thing that my mind does when it needs to breathe. I do not have many friends.

Those that understand this queer habit have somehow become those that I talk to very often. I don’t know, maybe it is because with their understanding they have made friends with my mind. Because when it gets back afloat it remembers who reached out. Only that sometimes they have moved on and can no longer be found.

I hope I find a way to break this habit soon. I do not want to cross my engineer’s path this way again. I do not want you to learn this from me. I don’t want you to pick it because not everyone will be your friend, not everyone will understand how it works – this queerness. This world moves fast Nnwa, too fast. Sometimes the moments you lose you do not get back. Do not have queer habits. Pick up your phone. Because you will have your Engineer, perhaps you will be friends but if you won’t be, he will not understand. So I will need you to pick your phone and I will start to learn how not to make this queerness make people mad because in my head, I did not mean to.

Red Dust

They are not hiring today.

That it what they said. It took them four hours to decide while we waited outside, hopeful souls in the yellow sun too afraid to think of what ifs. Now they tell us they are not hiring, maybe tomorrow. I can see others dragging away but myself, my feet are planted. Where will I drag them to anyway if I leave here now? Its too late to go queuing at the red gate, they must have taken whatever they needed by now. It must be closed by now. Nothing to sell, no work. What next?

At the front one man is arguing with the gate man, throwing big words around and when they seem not to work, even bigger tears, begging to go in even if just for today. He would take half pay, he says. Anything, just as long as they don’t let him go home empty. I did not know men could cry, beg even, and my eyes look away in what I think is respect in this his one-time show of weakness.

Is the sun getting hotter or is it just me? There is no one close enough to ask so I have no answer. The feet will not move, the mouth is beginning to feel cracked yet I am afraid that motion of any form will cause me drop the little hope I feel I am holding onto. Have faith, she had said. Today will be different, she said. Well maybe it was. This time I was standing at the green gate with the security what-not all around and not the other one two streets away. I wonder if this was the bright future mama had said her children would grow up to. I feel something in my eye. A tear? No, it is the wind playing tricks on me. Once I heard my father said men that cry will die. I do not know if he meant they will lose their breath when they allowed a tear drop or that they will die someday as all men would but baba was a bright enough man. I believed him anyway and now did not seem a good time to die, just in case he had meant the former. Not with the baby on the way, not with mama’s death still so fresh. I cannot cry, I am a man; and so I move.

There is no thud when I walk, no shuffling. Nothing anymore. Mother would have said I let the voices eat up everything inside. Whatever weight I hold is that of the clothes on my back and even those are thin and frail, not much. It is almost as if they are bidding just enough time for me to get work and get something else before their threads break.

Heh, this life. I am afraid if it insists on going on this way, I might have no choice but to cry. Maybe if I shed enough tears it will take me and keep my baby from coming, it is safer for her in heaven. It is safer for her I think. The red dust settles on my feet so comfortably, I notice it less and less everyday. It is almost as if my feet are bleeding from tarmacking too long. Maybe I will cry, but not today.

8/8/15

Nnwa,

From the time you will be born, people will want to shape your mind. At first, it will be because you cannot walk on your own. Because you will need to learn how to be. Later, it may be because they would like you to become a certain way or remain a given way; or even none of the above. There are many reasons people do the things they do. I cannot think of all of them now; but people will always have a reason. It is not always easy to tell what these reasons are. The kindest intentions have led many down wicked paths, so i cannot tell you which is which. That would be for you to determine. I only pray that you o this one thing for me – colonise your mind. Explore every edge of who you are, understand it and conquer it. Not for me, not for anyone but yourself. It is the knowledge of yourself that will help you decide what hands to let mould you. It is the understanding of who you are that will help you choose your paths.

It is every mother’s wish to plan their child’s life for them. It is not because we are possessive – that is a myth, it is because we have seen enough to know what you would want and even though I will forget, I know it would be wrong for me to pen your own story for you. So listen to me, colonise your own self. You do not need to take in what you do not need; you do not need to alter yourself to fit to any mould, walk away when your gut tells you to and remember that no one can discover what is already your own better than you would. Even your mother may sometimes not understand your vision. It is your course to chart. I will meddle but you will chose. Chose yourself. Many times, chose yourself. You will want to live your life and be who you were made to be. It is not selfish, it is necessary.

It will not be easy to watch you make mistakes. But because it would be harder to watch who you are die under too much direction, I will be there to dust you when you fall, cheer you on when you start again. May God grant me the grace to let you grow and may he grant you the strength to find your own voice and to fight for who you will be meant to be.

Some Notes on Letting Go

This ‘ So, let it rain. Decide that you’re done with whining, complaining and wishing for a change in the weather. Let it rain and look at the dark clouds knowing that they’re serving you far more good than harm. It might keep coming down, but it’s not going to sweep you away. You won’t drown, just know that.’

ASHLIN HORNE

It has been that kind of month.

The kind where your insurance gets randomly deactivated. The kind where you get a migraine so bad that your head is in the trash can. The kind where someone changes their mind faster than you can catch your breath.

The kind where you are stuck having conversations that you swore you’d never get close to having again.

Let it rain.

Put your palms out and throw your head back and stop trying to build makeshift umbrellas.

Welcome to the there’s-nowhere-else-to-run club. I am the ring leader and I’m here to tell you this: you are where you are and the faster you accept that, the easier you’ll start to breathe.

I was nine years old the year that Matthew Mcconaughey’s southern drawl became the nighttime lullaby for young girls everywhere. All my friends kept The Wedding Planner in their DVD player and let it play as they fell asleep.

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Something for ‘When You Want to Quit’

Even the ones with the corner office walk along this path sometimes so yes, you are okay and no, you may not need therapy for this. What you need is a few days in, a rerun of The Office and perhaps this:

q5

Warning : Dosage indicated varies per case. If symptoms persist, remember – everyone is moving into graphics and web design, photography etc So you need to be sure your idea has what it takes and then some – the world does not need another t-shirt making enterprise…or maybe it does?

q2

Okay – maybe you do have the t-shirt enterprise that will blow every other t-shirt making, photo taking, graphic designing start up out of the water – great! Now get your mind, your spirit and your bank account in line because it will probably take a while before it breaks even, maybe not. But in those first few months you will need to remember abs are built in a day said no one ever.

q1

You may walk down this road and maybe learn it wasn’t really for you or you may discover there is more beyond the cubicle and that’s the stuff you were made for. Truth is, you can never really know which side of the coin you will get until you’re looking at it. Whatever it is, whatever decision you finally make after the day you want to quit, own it. There are only a few things more worthwhile than making the best out of everything. So while you’re at it:

walled

Repeat dosage as often as required. The key is to discover and live out your life’s passion(s) well before you are 65 and realise you need to start living when what you really ought to be doing, is taking it all in.

avoid crossing roads and grow eyes at the back of your head

Nnwa,

You will come to experience a lot of things. I pray you do not go through pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons you do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods you are told to keep fighting through when really, you no longer know what you are fighting for. This prayer is selfish, for what is life without the black, the white and the in between? At this point, I would say bliss but it is not my place to make that call. Yet still I pray you get to be an exception. Should my prayers fail, you will know at least I tried.

Someone said bad things come in three. I think this someone does not know how to count well enough because I would say three is an understatement. A week ago today I was doing well. My head was in the right place and I was all set to kick the proverbial ass – i was having a yellow start to the week. Then right out of nowhere, an okada had to speed right into me. When I was younger, used to fascinate about how it would feel like to faint. I had seen people faint in movies and it had looked cool – well it isn’t. That mix of lightheaded confusion in moments you cannot control your own body is nothing ‘cool’. The guy sped away of course as the throng of spectators watched. The only one that cared enough to help was this one lady who kept insisting on helping me carry my phone and my handbag while offering to take me to hospital. Did I let her? No. I was hurt and angry and half cognizant but I was not stupid. Later I asked God to forgive me if I mistook an angel for a swindler. But I foresaw the lack of energy to mourn the loss of my bag, documents and phone so I clutched them close and declined her offer. Politely I hope. So I hobbled to the nearest shop and sat on those chairs spread outside under wobbly umbrellas. You know, the ones you either pay to ‘hire’ or buy something from the shop. My first thought was that this time, I had busted my leg for sure. I. Even I thought it was my fault when in actuality, I was not the one speeding. I was not the one trying to maneuver through traffic when I should have been patient enough to keep to my lane. I was not the one that saw a car and a pedestrian and decided hitting the latter was the best call. I was only crossing the road, trying to get back to the office so I could file my field visit report.

It had not been a while since I cried. It had been a while since I cried under the gaze of a dozen or more people but I couldn’t help it. I was not crying because of the throbbing pain across my leg and from the bump on my head. I wasn’t crying because the idiot had not even bothered to find out if he had ruined my beauty of a leg. I wasn’t crying because I had such little trust in people and good intentions even when I clearly needed help. I was crying because I sat facing the scene of the accident, realizing there was about a hundred ways that scenario would have played out. None would have ended up with me being able to move, let alone limp my way to that spot. I cried because I was bruised, dusty, happy and relieved. Cried because even when the people in my head worried about broken bones, my spirit sang praises as my heart gave thanks for what I now call my miracle. I cried again when the doctor said there were no broken bones, just muscle/ tissue trauma. I was mad, did the why me whining for a minute and then sat amazed at how there is always a ray of light, even though thin and feeble, in the storm. It could have been way worse but it wasn’t.

The following days were not so easy though. The pain, the fear of leaving the house because perhaps this time, it would be a speeding car and I wouldn’t make it through and the questions. There are always questions. Life happens Nnwa, we cannot control how and most times what you will need to remember is to keep the experiences from tricking your mind into caging you. You will try to avoid everything, try to be safer every way you can. But that is no way to live. For no matter how safe you will think you are, you will still be a prisoner of fate. I have had a rough couple of years and yes, I would change how some scenarios played out but I cannot. Neither can I shape what is to come. But I can commit my ways to the Lord. I can ask for his grace and the cover of He that never sleeps nor slumbers. I can lean on His strength because there are days I cannot even muster enough energy to get out of bed. I can live one day at a time, avoid crossing roads and grow a pair of eyes at the back of my head ☺

This is not the last I will see of pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons I do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods I am told to keep fighting through when really, I longer know what I am fighting for. But I will aspire to get up each day and live. Because I realize it is simple to be the one that locks me in a cage and throws away the keys.

b9e3548d65bfb43ed92932510fa04249

It’s a while now, since we lost 147 young souls and it troubles me that the dust seems to have settled especially in the corridors whose voices would make a difference. At least it seems that way. They have not spoken much about it. Surprising? No. We were not told or taught but most of us have come to the silent understanding that when the only voices you hear are the cries of the broken, you accept the fact that they may never say anything more. Perhaps nothing more than the contents of a letter. One though well meaning, holds no solace to the blood that calls out for justice.

I have thought of what I would have done if I were there. Would I have made it out? Nnwa, I will not lie. I do not think I would. I have seen the light flicker then die in the eyes of the parents who had to seek out who was theirs from the rubbles of bodies – the only memories they could get back of what was once their child.

I have never seen your grandfather mourn. I have seen him angry but he has always been strong. This would have shattered him. I do not know that he can cry or wail. When I try to imagine what he would have done, the only thing that comes to mind is a snuffed candle whose only memory of the flame is the winding curl of white smoke. It would have killed a part of him. Your grandmother – I fear to even consider what this experience would have meant for her. So I do not. Even the thought of it, of a mother’s loss, is too fierce an emotion to try and stir.

I have been shocked. I have been angry. Now I feel like a drop of rain trying to quench parched soil – helpless. For many families across our land, tears still run and for the lives we lost, blood still cries out. I am afraid that these tears will run till they run dry as the cries turn into screams and maybe then, someone will hear. Someone will speak for them. A voice that will bring not just promise but will evoke the justice that is said to be our shield and defender.

Everyday seems to paint a picture of a world I am no longer sure you will be safe in. Yet still I trust that He that keeps me will do the same for you. It is the one thing that keeps us going – faith. Tonight I pray for the families they left behind. I pray that somehow, faith will ease their pain, restore their faith in brighter days and help them through this darkness for. I cannot begin to understand what they are going through; that is all I know to offer. Pray for them too Nnwa, my own may fail to reach beyond the skies but yours, yours will.

Live a little

When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor. In retrospect, I do not think this was because I loved the practice or anything; I actually realized later on I could not stand the sight of blood. I wanted to be a doctor because growing up, we were told both at home and at school, that doctors, lawyers, pilots and engineers were the ‘sky limit careers’ we should aim for. That was the bar. Teachers were considered a poor lot and teaching the last, last option. Now I’m a Human Resource Management Graduate working as a Program Assistant is a community Development oriented organization running mostly communication, monitoring and evaluation tasks. Go figure. When I was little, I had no idea either existed. My fall back plan was law ☺
When I was younger, I would never walk around after the lights went off and everyone was asleep. See, mum was – still is- an avid reader and she got us this big bedtime storybook with 365 stories. I read one story each night. In one of the stories, this little girl would hear noises in the night when everyone was asleep. Unlike me, she was a brave one. She walked up to the kitchen door and snuck a peek and voila their whole kitchen had come to life! It was the spoons, the stove, the pans….that were doing all the talking and get this-having a party! They would go ‘back to normal’ at first light. My little mind was excited when the story was read but froze over when I heard any sound after lights out. I would cover my head, hide under the covers and sing myself to sleep because in my version, the house and all in it were now alive and they might be coming for me. Haha! Yes, I did and still do have a mind with a life of its own ☺
When I was younger, I had a single view of many things. What Chimamanda would call my ‘one story’. I only knew one way of how to do things. What I knew, I saw and what I believed, I heard from those around me. So I would probably be a blood fearing doctor just now (haha!) and I would still believe things came alive at night, and therefore be afraid of the dark…and of the kitchen. In many ways, we had one story, one view of something that we only discovered was not the actual truth after we travelled down a different path. Such is what growing up brings.
I realize I have many ‘single stories’, attitudes and beliefs on a lot of things, experiences, people, places…of myself that don’t really hold water. Slowly, I’m learning new perspectives, forming new belief systems, understanding people, things and situations differently and maybe, dare I say, better because I’m getting to hear other stories. I’m getting to write one too….my own. We will always fear the unknown in a way but not everything in the unknown is out to get us right? There is nothing that comes alive in the darkness that is the unknown to ‘get you’ (well maybe there is but I’m setting a motivating aura here haha) …there is no reason to hide under the covers and sing ourselves away from embracing what could be our next big thing. And there is the light switch that is opening up our minds to the possibility that where not everything we know works, perhaps something waiting to be known will.
Here’s to learning new stories, breaking free of the danger that is living, believing and never questioning the single story. Here’s to learning, to creating change, to living a little – just a little. ☺