Why I Constantly Do Stupid Things.

Every time I am asked about my life choices and decisions, and why they don’t seem to align with what is seemingly wise or acceptable; I always lack the words to express my reasons and my vocabulary suddenly seems limited.

And so I had taken to blaming genetics and my nomadic ancestry by an extended way of explanation. Because I mean it has to take a specialized skill of insanity to get up with nothing but a keg of water, some bread and nuts to walk the earth, albeit with fore-knowledge of what you expect the land to provide for you; but I mean with no control or mastery over earth and sky, you are basically throwing yourself into a great unknown.

Therefore, I felt that must be explanation enough. But you see, when you belong to a family of uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, cousins, and nephews who seem to have it together; the raised eyebrows translate to, “na only you get the genes?” Yeah… just to say my explanation only works in limited circles.

This explanation by the way is an improvement on my fall back phrase, “I am from Jos”, which I use to explain naivete and weirdness away. But you see, when you are now talking with a fellow Jos person, born and raised in the same sandbox… Let’s just say it does not fly.

Needless to say, I have been in search of a worldwide explanation because I know people generally don’t ask this question to shame you or be mean but to have an understanding or should I say a clarification of whether you are practising courage. I truly believe this because if there is any commonality among us human beings, it is our wish to have mastery over fear.

The good news, for me at least is that I have finally found someone who has the vocabulary and the articulation to express what I have been trying to explain all this while. And it is Trevoh Noah.

In his autobiographical book, Born A Crime, which I just finished reading and recommend to all of you; He writes this:

‘I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made.

But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say.

We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most.

Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.

“What if…” “If only….” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.’   

Essentially for me it will be; Non, je ne regrette rien… or at least not so much.

You? Why do you do “stupid” things?

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The Beauty That Is Luke Cage

Not long ago, I shared a Keke Napep (Rickshaw/ Tuk Tuk, my main source of transportation and inspiration) with two of the most unpleasant human beings I have ever encountered.

I was on my way to a wedding on the outskirts of town. Baffling as it was, it didn’t occur to these two people that since the area is remote, we just may be going to the same venue; which we were. And so they went on with one demeaning word after another about the couple, whose wedding they travelled from another State to attend, and for whom they  bought a humongous gift. I was shocked and thought I had heard the worst till the guy said:

“And after acting all polished and classy in school, see the kind of extremely black man she is marrying.” 

At that point my jaw dropped and my head pivoted of its own accord to have a proper look at the guy. My intent was obviously clear to him because the next thing he said was:

“I know I am dark skinned but I am not that black.”

#Speechless but not really.

Many times, I have said and proven that the most disparaging remarks about dark skinned men with characteristic African features, have come from dark skinned men with characteristic African features.

Every time I stumble on conversations where black men are being mocked for the darkness of their skin, their “wide” nose and “full lips”, it is usually done by the darkest skinned man in the room. This is the same guy that you would find posting a picture of a very dark skinned guy on Facebook marrying a white woman or lighter skinned girl with the caption, “HOW???” or something worse that strips all the layers of humanity off the skin of the man in the picture. Don’t believe me, take your own survey and listen to the data speak.

Do I blame dark skinned men that do this? Do we even want to retrace the origins back to slavery when darker skinned men were assumed to be the strongest and then chained to ships to be slowly dehumanised based on the quality of skin that got them selected in the first place? Do we even want to go the way of the visuals that focused more on making black men more disgusting and comical to look at and infusing that into the collective conciousness of the whole world? Or even worst, the visual representation that made dark skinned African men irrelevant and obscure characters in stories so they were therefore forgettable?

Do I blame them? No, because even in my own life, I have been accused of dating only light skinned guys. Meanwhile the truth is I have also dated really dark skinned guys and those coincidentally have been my longest relationships. Let that sink in for a minute… Remember what I said about dark skinned men and the word forgettable… Yeah…

These accusations have been from close relatives; and it is done in a way that I am forced to defend myself by mentioning the names of the dark skinned Ex’s. And then I get:

“Oh I forgot you dated him, and you were so happy then fa!”

But do I blame them???

Yes, because I believe as human beings we are meant to think hard, challenge ideas and status quos. We are also not meant to forget the golden rule, ‘do unto others what you want to be done to you’. 

It seems in this reaction by black people against black people, we forget it is a continued perpetuation of crimes against ourselves and a constant alienation of people that look just like us.
However, hope has arrived in the package of a delirious gorgeous dark black skinned super hero; Marvel’s Luke Cage. 

How do I  know that this new development will change anything? Because I know how much I was affected by the possibility of being a beautiful princess from watching Pocahontas as opposed to watching Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

In Pocahontas, I saw myself: a thinking intellectual princess questioning what was assumed to be the natural course of her life, questioning John Smith and the outsiders right to take her land and regard her as a savage just because she does not look like them. It had its hiccups as a story but it was like freshwater to my young drying soul.

So this is me being confident that the more dark skinned men see themselves in this super hero roles especially like Luke Cage who does not have a sordid past or even seeing more varied representations like I believe will happen with The Black Panther movie; the more they would be okay with their existence in this world. Not because they are perfect human beings but it certainly won’t be because of the shade of their skin.

Images via Flickr, Netflix and Disney


Tales From Behind A Dusty Window

via Daily Prompt: Quill

This is a story that will be well told, I know it; but a sadness engulfs me because I will never know it.

There is a distance and space between me and the writer, a barricade of tar and gravel that I am not allowed to cross. A unseen boundary that has been enforced by words. The very same words that might be in the writer’s story, “never cross the street alone!”

These words my Mother has imprinted in my brain which in turn has created invisible shackles for my feet. I will never cross the street alone… not until my mother says I can.

So now, I stand on the other side, in the disappearing light of the evening, staring across to the window of the bookstore; not seeing anything but the silhouette of a man at a desk. In this hands, clearly illuminated by the light from the lamp on the desk is a quill dancing from left to right on top of a book; leaving in its wake, the imprint of words that will shackle a reader to it, page by page.

 

Image courtesy Flickr Via Neil Conway

Mornings

via Daily Prompt: Tether

To be awake: is to be hooked to the sounds of the day, to the visions and images that unfold through the wandering of the body through the spaces it inhabits.

To be awake: is to be upright, steady and motivated into searching for the passages that direct the purpose of living.

To be awake: is to be emptied of the anxiety that brought the previous day to an end, as I float towards the slowly brightening promise of the new day.

But not before the morning coffee…

 

Image courtesy Flickr Via Lenny DiFranza

 

This Thing Called Love

For two mother loving long years, I tried to write a love story.

This is something I subconsciously avoided since I started writing. And as it is with one’s fears, to overcome it, I had to start at why.

Only I didn’t because…

One freezing night, feeling delusional and inspired; I switched on my computer and decided to ‘get to work!’. And instead of the sweet juices of love pouring from my fingertips on to the screen… all I could think of was the exact type of cup of tea that should accompany such a night. Mind you, I already had a cup of tea in front of me.

Thus the procrastination began until the wee hours of the morning…

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And at the crack of dawn, eyes twitching from exhaustion and coffee induced palpitation (I switched drinks), I realized why I could not write about love. It is too freaking difficult to be honest and therefore, vulnerable in matters of love. To prove my point, after two years, all I have to show for my effort are four pages of script.

I used to attend a meeting of artists and poets, let’s call it PASS. And I quit going after the third meeting. Every time I got home from the meeting, I’d spend the night having hot flashes and cringing from BAD  love poems. I complained relentlessly until my long-suffering Sister snapped and said, “You either shut up or stop going”.  So I stopped going.

In my defense, all the poets at PASS in their ode to Love, said “your eyes are like the moon and your smile is like the sun”. And there is just so much of that my already weary soul could take. But now that I have tried my hands at writing on love, I almost feel the need to find them and apologize.

From the beginning of time, I feel love has been presented to us as a facade, and never truly been defined. It is just an ineffable description of… with no better way to say it than how my science based mind can express it; the success of love has been made to feel like load over effort. In a way that seems to mean, one factor has to be largely inversely proportional to the other. This factor usually is effort. Therefore it feels like to succeed at love one needs to put in huge amounts of effort. This is the formula for the Mechanical Advantage required for work.   Ultimately it takes work to errr… make love work.

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For those Artist and Creatives, I lost in the preceding paragraph, welcome back! No more digressions, I promise.

Talking about Artists, the people who have done a better job at talking about love (my personal opinion) are the Musicians. Some of them have been able to roll out anguish, despair, passion and hope into timeless love classics like Bob Dylan’s ‘Make you feel my love’. Mostly the rockers and indie musicians have been so open and honest. Some with the help of pure talent while others guided by sheer luck (ahem, drugs).

What then is love? Does it have a definition that can effectively be worked into our consciousness as an aid or a guide? So we collectively know what we mean when we say, “I love you”?.

I have searched and oh boy, I have searched; no book, document (holy, philosophical, or good ol’ ancient text) seems to be able to define it. All I have found is a working instruction of what love does and what it is able to accomplish.

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I have also asked many people what they think love can be defined as, and that was an education in itself. It was disappointing and frankly frightening to note the avoidance of many to dig deeper for themselves about what love is beyond what has been written by somebody else about it. On the flip side, quite heartening was it to find fellow explorers who had so much to share.

Therefore I have finally (and I will confess its only recently) come up with my own personal definition of love. Love for me, is the high value that I accord to a person or a thing; simple. This, along with my Christian mandate and values on love is to be understood the more I live, love and discover the true place of love in life.

The truth is there are dark and light places love takes us to, especially in a relationship.  Most of us are very afraid to take that journey. We escape the dark and exaggerate the light. A minuscule few have dug into both places and found ways of expressing their discoveries and sharing it with the world.

I believe there is what love is and then, there is how love is, two notions I am trying to reconcile. I may just be digging unnecessarily deep into this, something the right kind of psychologist might call an avoidance issue. But what ever the case is, it is a journey I am on… and at least He will have the full picture of what I have to give.

What is your definition of love? I want to know.

 

Images via Flickr

Open Letter To My Father

A very beautiful read…

Forward With Faltering Steps

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Dear Dad,

This letter is an act of remembering.

I think of you as a person thinks of a sweet scent that he has smelled briefly only once and  yearns for because he will never smell it again. All I am left with are weak traces of what that smell was. I fear that the greater the distance between the last time I saw you and the present, the harder it is to pull together the details of your existence into an act of remembering. Still I shall try.

You died seventeen years ago, today. May 25, 1998. I was a month away from turning 12. I didn’t know you had died until about three days later, or so. Remembering can be hard, even impossible. But I don’t want to dwell on the occasion of your death, and how it was the bitterest thing I had ever tasted, and how…

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Multiple Choice Answer

In the land of life lies the book of the living; and in the book of the living lies a question to be answered for a name to be recorded.

“How do you live a life of purpose?”, do you a) Face the danger that comes with your choice or b) draw from deep waters for strength and courage.

You must do both and that is just one of the things you do.

 

I really love this picture, and therefore could not resist the challenge to participate in this weeks Three Line Tales. Sonya’s pick for the week is just great. Click here and participate.

Don’t Mind Your Business: Help End Violence Against Women.

I was asked to speak about violence against women and my brain immediately shut down. This usually happens when a topic or theme seems bigger than me and encompasses the whole universe. It also happens when I am scared to death because suddenly something that is meant to come out of my mouth is suppose to make sense and provide answers.

“What will be your point of view?”

This was the next thing asked of me which fortunately started to unravel my brain and ease my fears. The question helped me narrow my focus. The suggestion of a point of view relayed to my brain that it was okay to pick one thing as a starting place for the discussion that will help end violence against women.

Lo and behold my answer to that same question when it came out was:

“My point of view will be philosophical, psychological, shared humanity, social commentary … if it makes any sense… type point of view.”

Well, needless to say the organizer took a chance which inadvertently caused me to explore the process by which I was allowed to BE and my starting place was from the question, what will be your point of view?

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What should be my point of view?

For those who know me, one of my many life philosophies is to question everything; and being asked about how I planned to explore violence against women led me to think about the questions and statements put to us daily and their effect on us.

So on the day of the talk, this was how I approached it:

I first asked the audience to help me with some insight into something that has been nagging at me for a while, which is also one of the most useless statement ever in life. I asked what brain processes would make an individual, who on seeing another individual that they are acquainted with after a long time of absence, would say to the them in amazement, YOU ARE FAT!!! 

Actually this happened to me one very great day when I was happily taking a stroll, and feeling extremely good about myself. Suddenly this Keke Napep (Rickshaw/Tuk Tuk) passes by me, then a girl screams my name followed by the “You are fat!” statement and for the next two minutes, I stood rooted to a spot not knowing what to do with myself.

After I recovered from the incident, it occurred to me that the girl called me by what my family calls my official name. This means it only appears on legal documents and most people do not even know it is my name, unless, you were in my secondary or primary school. So according to my calculations, she was most likely in my secondary school, not my friend and most likely not in my set.

I finished secondary school at fifteen, some eighteen years ago looking like a scarecrow due to health battles. And here we have some thoughtless and frankly not well-intention person expecting me to look exactly the same eighteen years later. I mean who has finished growing at fifteen?

And as I wondered at statements and questions, relating it to that experience (one of many), I immediately saw something that flies under the radar. It is not so obvious but I now consider it one of the biggest enablers of violence against women. This is the fact that from growing up to adulthood we are constantly bombarded with questions and statements that we are not allowed to engage with. We are somehow expected (without engaging with these statements and questions) to accept them as normal and therefore harmless. We are also to ignore their effect on our mental and emotional health because of that unspoken rule that as a female, you do not respond to such things in order not to be tagged as defensive, angry or aggressive.

9 out of 10 times, when “You are fat!” is said to a woman, she smiles uncomfortably and might even go the extra mile not to be ‘that’ kind of female and say thank you. Some even say, “it is good living,” even though they have been dieting and exercising for weeks to lose the weight they do not like. But God forbid they should own up to being an ordinary human; super women do not gain weight, they are naturally forever thin regardless of their station in life. I find it more amazing when I hear this same statement being said to women who have had kids, I mean what is up with that. To think we are a culture that is meant to mind our own business.

I believe the reason for making these thoughtless statements is because it absolves an individual of responding to the possible call of their words. For example, if after telling someone they are fat, they respond that it is due to depression and eating for comfort; you will have to engage further into the matter. It will be inhumane for an individual to express this to you and you nod and then walk away. This is because like it or not, the call that comes after your statement requires action and you will have to deal with the consequences of your action or inaction after hearing it. So we say thoughtless things and move on because they require nothing of us.

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When you can’t comment in a conversation about you but are forced to be a ‘smiling bystander.

 

Why are women also the main perpetrators of these thoughtless statements against other women?  These are the same people in our culture who will be reluctant or might never engage with a woman being abused because they are trying to mind their business. There is another unspoken rule, that you do not interfere in peoples issues because your interference may end up bringing shame on you. But we have no problem interfering with issues that concern peoples bodies which sometimes does things they have zero control over like expand due to age and genetics.

So why do we keep saying things to women that they cannot engage with in order to decide for themselves how they feel about it. How do we not think this has inadvertently caused women to permit abuse on themselves because when it subtly begins, even though they know it is wrong; they do nothing because they have little experience engaging with wrong done to them.

It has been told that abusers do not just begin with physical abuse. They start first with verbal abuse and then proceed to emotional abuse before they graduate to physical abuse. If women were generally used to engaging with verbally uncomfortable statements against their person will they not immediately know how to engage with it in any kind of relationship and put a stop to it. Instead we smile politely and by extension reward the bad behavior of potential abusers.

My neighbor, a man I do not really interact with, once told me i had lost weight in the same no greeting no preamble “You are fat,” way. And I immediately knew to start avoiding him because yes I had lost some weight but in opinion, it was three not so noticeable pounds. My first thought was how closely have you male neighbor, been looking at my body to notice? I didn’t smile politely but I eyed him disapprovingly and walked away,   angry because i wanted to engage but I knew how fast the script would be flipped on me and it was not worth the trouble… yet.

I am just using one of the more common statements used on women which most times forces them to be silent even though it is a violation and a cruelty to the issues going on in their lives. But there many more examples I could give.

What to do then? Well, be thoughtful and mindful about what you say in a conversation to a woman. Do not make statements that forces her to be silent. Do not ask questions she is ‘not’ allowed to answer. Say things that engage her so she can make a decision and contribute towards the discourse of life, especially her own life. And the biggest one of all, if you do not like a particular woman then please find that humanity in you and leave her alone, don’t pretend to be a friend; because like it or not that side of you will always find ammunition to use against her. We women tend to be each others worst enemies. We need to learn to honestly love each other.

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There are also other kinds of these types of statements which I can give examples of to say how we are also unkind to men and force them to be silent when it would be ten times more helpful if they could engage with these statements, questions and thoughts and this also leads to violence against men…But I will not. As big Sister Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said, we spend too much time as women talking about men.

It is time we look inward more; there is a lot of work to be done.

 

Images via Flickr: David Woo, Morgan, Ron Mader, Davide Vizzini

Who We Were…

A time not too long ago, we lived in a place of flourish, in an evergreen house, in a sanctuary.

However, the world outside beckoned relentlessly, promising to be a vast land for the exploration of dreams and the mining of visions.

And so we prepared ourselves, we wrapped hope around us, we were fully clothed for adventure: but our first step outside had us face to face with something unfamiliar, something not quite green.

 

This picture was quite tricky but as always with Sonya’s prompt, it’s fulfilling fun. Try it!

An Illusion of Choice

The realtor said with a smile as wide as her outstretched arms: “Look! You have so much choice and options, take your pick.”

I looked carefully, from side to side and asked, “Are they not all the same width and height? Do they not have the same functionality and number of rooms? Is there any difference between one or the other?”

She shook her head slowly in apprehension, as my steely gaze met her uncertain eyes and spoke what did not need to be said.

 

I hope you enjoyed my take on Sonya’s picture prompt, read more here.