Yes, Nnwa. Selfish. Be Selfish.

Nnwa, it is said that if you lie down for them to walk on you, they will say you did not lie down flat enough. Nobody is born wise, but it should not take you half a lifetime to realise that you matter. And yes, for you, you should be first.

Selfish. Yes, I said it. Be selfish. Lack consideration of others enough to first consider yourself. Serve yourself first. No matter what the voices will tell you, there is no shame in putting yourself first.

You will be a girl first. And then you will be a woman. All will have to fight many demons in this life but none more than you. When I birth you, they will give me blinkers. They will tell me they are for your own good, blinders beautifully laced, but that will not change what they are. They will say you need them because you are a girl. You may be distracted or panicked by this life, and so you do not to see the side or the rear. They will tell me, and later you, that this or that is because you are a girl. You will be a woman. Therefore you have to be a certain way.

These unsolicited voices will tell you how to walk and who to walk with. They will tell you what you should look like and how you should be because a girl, who will become a woman needs to be a certain way. They will say a girl, who will become a woman many times as though such multiple declarations will stop you from being the shoe you were (unknown to your mother and to you), purposed to grow into.

They will be pleased when you succeed a little or enough. With the same voice cheer and feign pride, they will tsk tsk and say you are too much for a girl who will become a woman. Too loud. Too smart. Too decisive. Too aspiring. Too ambitious. Too feminine. Too much. They will say it with their words and with their eyes, and if they do not say it they will whisper it with their words and with their eyes, and if not, they will whisper it they will write it with their words and with their eyes. Because you are a girl, who will become a woman. And they will invariably say you need to be a certain way.

They will tell you to be selfless. To give of everything you can give because a girl who will become a woman should learn to give selflessly. Give without expecting to receive. It is just what a girl who will become a woman should know to do. They will tell you to do as told because questions about why now or why ever are not becoming of a girl who will become a woman. They will teach you how to say yes so much you will not know to say no is equally as freeing. They will show you a girl who will become a woman should shut her legs, but they will also teach you a woman is only as much as her bottom power. They will teach you to say yes Nnwa, they will teach you to give of yourself without abandon until they also ask why you gave so much, why you never said no. They are the voices. They will say this until they decide to say that.

You my child, will be a girl who will become a woman. And from the time we will have you until the time we will leave, you will be smothered by voices that will say this until they decide to say that because they will say but this is what a girl who will become a woman should be. Nnwa, this is why you should learn to be selfish. Yes, nnwa. Selfish. Be selfish but do not forget if you are filled with pride you will have no room for wisdom. I will not have a foolish child so listen proper Nnwa. You will not be proud or haughty or lack empathy. You will not lack love or happiness enough for you and others. You will be your mother’s child. What your mother is saying is that just as your right hand will be quick to offer to another, it should be ready to first give to your left. Just as you will build others, you will remember that first, always first – you build yourself.

No one will ever claim their neighbour’s house just because they laboured for its foundation. What is theirs is theirs. So even as you give, remember what is yours is yours.  Just as you will remember to love another, you will know to first, selfishly and unapologetically so, to love yourself.

Do not stand in the open fields and let the winds blow parts of you away. Run in the wind, lay in the sun and remember, when it blows it takes. When it shines, it burns. They do so not because they have no heart but because it is who they are. It is what they do. So run in the wind and lay in the sun but cloak yourself so even if some is taken or given, if some is burnt or lost, most remains.

At the end of the day, only you are responsible for you. And building every other at your expense will, like dusk, only heighten the crickets songs about you in the cool. But when the sun returns, they quiet. And you will be alone. What will you dance to if you do not know enough to have had your own song?

You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. That is why I am writing to you now. Before your ears learn to listen Nnwa, I have told you – be selfish. Concern yourself chiefly with what will fill you simply because in all truth no one else will.

 

 

 

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You Will be the Fire.

Nnwa, forgive your mother for her rambling. I would still my tongue if I was confident that when the time would come, I would forget nothing that ever I said I must speak to you of. Forgive me and listen for what you will not need today, you may need tomorrow. You will go through many seasons in this your life. Many seasons. Some will have plenty, others will have lack. Some will be just fine, and others would make a fool wish there would be no tomorrow. It is true what is said, one must learn to live with much and with little. For who is a man to say what his own will be tomorrow? To think fate is one’s friend is to set oneself on the path to an early grave. I wish more for you than that.

I hope you will have understanding, patience and the kind of soul that does not wait for the wind to fan its flames. Because this life is written by many hands. The gods will have their say. So will the voices in the winds and in the earth. And those of men deem themselves sculptors of what they do not fully understand. They will all want to spit and not have it dry because a man’s life, who is to say whose voice it will yield to? Even in these times, Nnwa let not your faith shiver in the cold because what shivers will surely die. Even when moved with great sorrows do not set the world on fire. A fool would burn his mat before nightfall or take a battle against the gods. And me, I will not bear a fool. Of that I am sure. So I beg, listen when you still have ears to hear because a time will come when even my voice will not stir you. Listen now and perhaps when it does, you will have heard enough to remember.

It is what life is for everyone; to have both day and night, both sunshine and rain. It is what it is for every man Nnwa and your own will not be different. But it has always been the reserve of man that which he will do with what he has of each. Decide early enough you will go under, over or through until you get to the next field of air where your soul can breathe until you have to move again. Always decide early because death comes swiftly. Death does not know to knock and give one time to open his own door.

I told you before that I wish you the kind of soul that needs not the winds to fan its flames. If anything nyathiwa, I wish you this. You may not understand your mother now, but she knows enough to know it is the riskiest thing to be set alight but it is not living when you are not burning long enough to be formed of fire herself. For who can burn fire? Not even winter when it comes, and it surely will. Who can stop a soul that burns for itself? Not even magic can tame it. Not even men that think themselves gods.

Perhaps I wish many things for you because I fear. I find myself afraid more than I care to admit. It is strange. This caring of another you have not even met more than you could ever find to care for yourself. Perhaps it is because I fear the very death I have warned you about and yet; still find I wouldn’t mind this dying so much if I knew for certain this to be true. That for a lifetime Nnwa, you will be the fire.

My Madam

Mirror, mirror on the wall; am I, my mother, after all?

Growing up, I always wanted to be just like my mum. To my little eyes, she defined perfection – except of course when I was getting spanked for running off to the neighbour without seeking her consent first (not that I was doing anything at home anyway).

My mum didn’t respond to tantrums; so I didn’t throw many. She believed in loving her kids, bringing them up in the fear and knowledge of God (to my little self, mostly fear), spoiling them when she could and spanking them when she should. And there was always a gift for me under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, there always was that ladybird book or that dress she made.

When I was growing up, mum was always on the move. She was a teacher, still is, a tailor and self-made farmer on the side. I have pictures of me in home knit sweaters and dresses she stitched up herself and yes; I believe growing ‘sukuma’ and keeping a few chicken always comes in handy because it’s the only way I know how. I remember the afternoons she was neither in church or chama, when I had her all to myself, and we’d watch an old movie or read old copies of Readers’ Digests. One of us always fell asleep halfway, and it was the others ‘responsibility’ to fill the other in on how the movie ended.

I’m not so little anymore. I don’t want to be a teacher or a tailor, but I love to read, and I sure do love clothes! I don’t prefer tantrums, I still don’t throw many, but I’ve been known to give in to a few to keep the peace. I still believe in kitchen gardens and keeping some chicken. I still read too much, watch movies and sometimes fall asleep somewhere in between. I believe in Christmas and Christmas trees with gifts from ‘Santa’ underneath because what’s Christmas without gift wrappings and the scent of fresh pine filling the house? I read when I can, even as I eat, and if you stay around her long enough; you’d see that she does too. Best of all, she laughs, and she loves; and of these, I did learn from the best.

Mirror, mirror on the wall; am I, my mother, after all?

Am I growing up into her? No. Pieces of the same fabrics, different quilt all together. And boy am I glad that when I look at her, I see parts of what I will be. Is she perfect? No, she’s human; one human I’m glad I’m almost growing up into.

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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 in 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. Trust faith more than people, faith more than community because faith you know will always be there.

1

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, stop spending time together, and you stop caring. 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 a cause in 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’d 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 are 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 calm 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 a 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 thick shroud, shielding me from the end.

Move some of that Clutter Around

I read today that a teenage instagram celebrity had quit social media but/and launched a website to raise awareness on how much it can take its toll on you (if I remember correctly). Beyond her article, video and frankness on some of the captions she edited to show what was really going on behind the scenes with all the pressure she was under to paint these perfect pictures, the commentaries made an interesting read. I think what tickled and surprised me in equal measure was the seeming shock that came as a result of her brave announcement. It made me recall this picture where there’s someone reading, lost in an actual book in a plane and everyone around her taking photos because that is how swimming against the current looks now.  It had not occurred to me that being ‘live’ has become a thing (I had also not known we have instagram models or celebrities, now I do) but that this is not really about Essena  (you can catch up on her story here.) Its about how she made me think of what else I have not thought about as ‘a thing’ that has now crowded the space that is my life.

Living alone has its perks but one of the downsides are that after long days, when you are too tired to talk or text (yes, that is a thing), you catch up with people by following what they have been sharing all day. On a good day, there’s some interesting stuff in there. Not just the new car selfies or the fashion and foody pics or the relationship trails. Some days we learn you finally got that promotion or that you just watched a movie we all should (and hope that your review will not cost us  a fifty and hours we can never get back) or that you had a really awesome experience to share. Some days we laugh at the hilarious memes you share – where do you get those? Or sober up for a couple of minutes, thump our chests and soak in the encouragement when we read that quote you posted from pinterest on making it through the darkness or hanging in there because something good is in the making and what not. Then there are those days that we cry because we learn you lost someone or you’re going through a really rough patch or you just got out of surgery and we want to be there to cry and walk it out with you. We are not sad that we learnt of it online, we just want to be there. On those days, no matter how tired we are, we call, we text, we talk. So yes, I can understand how our online presence run parallel to our actual lives and sometimes even seem to take over more ground than we care to admit. I can only imagine how much more for a teenager born at the height of the info-age – it must be crazy.

I realized then that I understand why her announcement was that – an announcement and why it sent ripples across her world. She had it all but was choosing outside of the norm and right then, I wished her Godspeed. She might want to keep off the website part and detox for a little while but then again, she might not. Bottom line – we need more people that remember they can always make that daring turn to head upstream. No matter what poison you picked, it is worth it – that shot at getting away from it all.

So today I am thinking and looking to see what clutter is clogging this life. It is definitely not instagram (not on that pro-lane anyway) but it is something (s) and I need to make my own upstream choices soon; very soon. As it is, the whole superwoman, juggling thing is not working out so well. My system is shutting down alarmingly fast and not even several cups of tea can fix it. I need to find a new working formula to either keep me running for the next couple of months or overhaul the entire system – but then again where is the time (says one of the people in my head). As luck would have it, this months read is all about that focus. I should have figured it out in about the same time it will take to go through it twice. Wish me luck and pause the stalking today, call, text, talk to someone. Catch up. Move some of that clutter around. One of us should.

Move Some of that Clutter Around

I read today that a teenage instagram celebrity had quit social media but/and launched a website to raise awareness about its effects  and how it took a toll on her (if I remember correctly). Beyond her article and frankness on some of the captions she edited to show what was really going on behind the scenes and the pressure she was under at the time, the commentaries made an interesting read. Some called it a crisis of conscience by the teen insta-star. I think what tickled and surprised me in equal measure was the seeming shock levels that came as a result of her brave announcement. (You can find a couple of takes on it here)  It made me recall this picture where there’s someone reading, lost in an actual book in a plane and everyone around her taking photos because that is how swimming against the current looks now. It had not occurred to me that this would become a thing (I had not known we now have instagram models or celebrities, now I do) but that made me think of what else I have not thought about as ‘a thing’ that has now crowded the space that is my life.

Living alone has its perks but one of the downsides are that after long days, when you are too tired to talk or text (yes, that is a thing), you catch up with people by following what they have been sharing all day. On a good day, there’s some interesting stuff in there. Not just the new car selfies or the fashion and foody pics or the relationship trails (I try not to post so much of those because I am thinking of you 😀 ). Some days we learn you finally got that promotion or that you just watched a movie we all should (and hope that your review will not cost us hours we cannot get back) or that you had a really awesome experience to share. Some days we laugh at the hilarious memes you share – where do you get those? Or sober up for a couple of minutes, thump our chests and soak in the encouragement after we read that quote you posted from pinterest on making it through the darkness or hanging in there because something good is in the making and what not. Then there are those days that we cry because we learn you lost someone or you’re going through a really rough patch or you just got out of surgery and we want to be there to cry and walk it out with you. We are not sad that we learnt of it online, we just want to be there. On those days, no matter how tired or disconnected we are, we call, we text, we talk. So yes, I can understand how our online presence run parallel to our actual lives and sometimes even seem to take over more ground than we care to admit. I can only imagine how much more for a teenager born at the peak of the info-age – it must be crazy. I realized then that I understand why her announcement was that – an announcement and why it sent ripples across her world. She had it all but was choosing outside of the norm and I wished her Godspeed. She might want to keep off the website part and detox for a little while but then again, she might not. Bottom line – we need more people that remember they can always make that daring turn to head upstream. No matter what poison you picked, it is worth it – that shot at getting away from it all.

So today I am thinking and looking to see what clutter is clogging this life. It is definitely not instagram (not at that pro-level lane anyway) but it is something (s) and I need to make my own upstream choices soon; very soon. As it is, the whole superwoman, juggling thing is not working out so well. My system is shutting down and no, even tea has not been able to help. So I need to find a new working formula to either keep me running for the next couple of months or overhaul the entire system – but then again where is the time (says one of the people in my head). As luck would have it, this months read is all about that focus. I should have figured it out in about the same time it will take to go through it twice. Wish me luck and pause the stalking today, call, text, talk to someone. Catch up. Move some of that clutter around. One of us should.

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.