Welcome Home, Perusa Menanie!

Why hast thou

Held talent above my head 

And let me see it. O my God? – Peter Potter

 

A story was told to me by an off-centered individual called Perusa Menanie. And yes, I asked if that is her real name. To which she replied first with silence, followed by an icy glare and what seemed like sixty painful knocks to the head, but was actually the echo of my instantly loud wrist watch counting down the minute in which I was to be pinned beneath her gaze. After which for my trouble and discomfort, I was rewarded with the most generous smile.

“Yes of course, it is my real name”

She said as she took a step forward and closed the gap between us. Then she whispered, “Now listen silently and do not interrupt this tale, as it holds the key to your good fortune in life. You must run when I am done and tell as many people as you can; your fortune will be multiplied according to their numbers.”

It was a whisper that caused me to immediately hold my breath so not even the sound of breathing would to interrupt her. I was scared.

Perusa certain of my commitment, took two steps backwards and dramatically rose to the tip of her toes like a ballerina. Or more like a Phoenix rising out of ashes and did a mini twirl.

“You see this gorgeous body wasn’t always this gorgeous… It was more super, enthralling and spectacular.”

All I saw was what looked like a stick figure dressed in rags but I wasn’t about to argue. I nodded appropriately, cast a head to toe admiring glance and would have added a wolfish whistle if not for my promise of silence.

She looked around and then plopped down on the hard ground as though it was a soft cushion. I winced at the thought of the pain that must be reverberating through her but she instead folded her legs in pleasure as her eyes invited me to join her on the floor. A glazed look comes upon her eyes the moment I sit down, like the type you see in movies when a flash back is about to happen.

Perusa’s story begins with:

“I was born on a magnificent 19th July. It was magnificent because my father said, the sun personally came out to shine and smile for me as it had been absent for days.Even though my mother always argued that it was a normal occurrence of the rainy season, but my father would not be dissuaded. My mother was just jealous of the role I came to play as the only woman in my father’s life… I think”, She said willing me to agree.

I could only shrug my shoulders.

She continued by telling me about her life growing up which was also magnificent. An era that lasted until the confusion on what to do with her life set in at the beginning of her university studies. Medicine her main course of study bored her to death but kept her father extremely happy; so she kept at it.

“Sometimes I would stay awake all night and wonder, asking myself all the relevant questions my secondary school’s Guidance and Counselor officer didn’t bother with when I was filling my JAMB forms. I always got no answers from within myself but from without, I got the smelly farts from cousin who came to visit and shared my room,” she said wistfully.

But this was all to change when James asked her out on a date. James, a total babe and fellow misfit in the Department of Medicine. She thought, in him was to be found an understanding soul mate but with time saw in his actions the truth that came with her friends warnings. James only wanted to use and dump her as proof that he was indeed one of the boys.

She finished her story by saying, “In the end, and in a sense,  I was the one who used him and dumped him. First of all, I got the most expensive free meal at the university’s prized spot where only the bold with heavy pockets enter. It was called ‘The Rest Room’, which in hindsight, if I had paused to consider its name, I would have never eaten there. But like most university students, I lived and did little thinking; after all, what’s in a name?”

At that point I thought to myself, what’s in a name indeed!

“Secondly, for the first time during my University stay, I realized that the social center was also used as an open air theater. As I ate my expensive but not so appetizing meal, a group of students appeared out of no where and start practicing for a play.  Their lack of self-consciousness and they way they embraced their new identities arrested me. James said something about how he had been admiring me for a while, I heard that and then I heard nothing else. Two hours passed like two minutes, and James was long gone, at what point I didn’t know and could care less. I knew I had finally found my place in life.”

The glazed look lifted from her eyes and I knew the story had come to an end. Perusa looked directly at me and said her final words.

“That is the secret to unlocking your fortune in life, Find the place where you belong. You have heard it all, now go and share it with as many people as you can find.”

With that, she got up and walked away with a flourish, her tattered gown sweeping behind her like a stately queen walking towards her throne amidst loyal subjects.

When I was sure she was out of sight, I walked to the nurses’ station and asked the nurse on duty who she was,

“That’s our newest patient, Gloria Idongesit. She was found wandering about the National Theater. Apparently she goes there often, screaming at everyone and saying she is the best actress in the world and should be cast in their plays. This is actually the best place for her to be, with the drama that goes on in here, she will have her fill of roles,” the nurse ended with a laugh.

I walked away from the nurse with a revelation.

The last couple of weeks my life had been filled with sadness and discontent. I felt lost, hated my job but did not know what else to do with my life. Once again, I complained to my best friend who finally snapped and yelled,

“Visit the psychiatric hospital and I bet you will stop feeling lost. Because then you will really know what it means to be lost.”

Now my eyes have cleared and I can see clearly. I realize that all I need to do  is to keep searching for my place till I find it. My present position might actually be right on course to where I am meant to be. I just need to keep seeking and not lose my mind in the process. Seems easy right? Well, one step at a time.

That day, as I walked towards the exit, I saw her standing in front of a window. She was staring at her features and rearranging them as though transforming into a character. I summoned all my courage, walked up to her and said…

“Welcome home Perusa Menanie! You may seem lost to the world but you have found a home… let’s hope it is temporary.”

 

Featured image via Flickr. Tom Green, The Loony Bin, town street, Armley.

 

Who Is A Hater?

If you are of Nigerian descent and believe you have haters, you are not paranoid just reflecting your true feelings about other peoples success… yeah I said it.

STOP! Don’t close this post because you are already pissed at the first paragraph; it is not your fault, you are after all a product of our environment. There is a really good and unavoidable reason for how you are feeling and don’t worry, you are in the majority.

A post explaining why, precedes this and you can pause on this one, read it Here and then come back.

If you have read the preceding post, come on in, today is the day of liberation. Freedom from the shackles of envy is yours for the taking.

Do haters exist? Well… why not, I have lived with and met some people that have given me the heebie Jeebies ( an idiom I have been dying to use it). People that could not even pretend to be happy at my success. You can just imagine how truly unhappy they must have been not to pull of pretense; we after all have made a culture of  pretending.

However, my thing is an individual is innocent until proven guilty. And if someone doesn’t walk up to you, use their words and express their hate, then you cannot assume they are a hater. If their silent actions make you really uncomfortable then my friend, you run and you run fast far away from them.

Fortunately, not unlike being envious, believing you have haters who are sitting in their dark cupboards staring at your Facebook updates and trying to light those ‘God bless me plenty’ photos on fire with the green light of envy blazing from their pupils, also has its importance in the scheme of things.

These are:

a) To help distract you from that true sense of failure you would otherwise be feeling: Common, admit it, when you were a child did you dream about a Hyundai whatsits-name or did you dream of being an astronaut? But since that dream hasn’t come true on account of all the challenges thrown your way that you haven’t been able to overcome; a banker is what you settled for. Now you need to show the world some kind of success and silence that inner voice still trying to speak  on behalf of your hopes and dreams.

Denial that crafty snake, sliders by and whispers in your ears, assuring you that you have achieved… something. And this is evident by those imaginary Hyundai-less people squeezing their face at your acquisition while silently weeping over their lack.

The Bad News: Unfortunately, Bonnie Ware an Australian Nurse who spent several years in Palliative care looking after patients in the last twelve weeks of their life says, the top expressed regret is, ” I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This means in the end, no true comfort will be received from ‘stuff’ unless they were gotten while living out your dreams.

The Good News! Now you know. What are you going to do about it?

b) To feed the darkness in you: There is no human incapable of great evil. The most notorious recorded criminals in history are all human beings. This basically means we all have tendencies. And the reason some of us don’t succumb, I personally feel is not out of fear of jail or death; it is just that we just haven’t allowed the desire to consume us beyond reason.

As a Christian, I lean on the grace of God and walk solely in the light of Christ. And this light fills me with love. Love is a powerful tool, don’t believe me, ask the little guy below.

TwImg-20141208-023045

Seriously the trap is, the moment you start thinking of your haters, you need to create reasons for their alleged hatred. And since they haven’t verbally given you one, guess where you begin to search? In the inner recess of your own evil tendencies; by creating reasons and scenarios why their hate must have been triggered. And this is a never ending well.

The Bad News: When digging a well, previously buried sands and other things will be brought up to the surface; and you will never know what will be uncovered.

The Good News! Buried sand and other things remain buried when not dug up. If restlessness and itchy fingers are your worry and you need to dig something, dig into your capacity for love and expand that hole, it is the better alternative.

c) It indicates you are totally sold to the societal machine, conditioning and whatever expectations are put on individuals in that decade (it keeps changing and that alone should tell us something) :

Personally, and my friends know this, I do not have a dream car or plan on personally owning one. I do know the ease and comfort having one brings. And whenever it is raining and I get to borrow my Mom’s car, it is with deep gratitude that she owns one. And in the event I end up having a car, it will definitely not be for daily use.

As a writer, I have gotten tons of my material from the goldmine of public transportation. This is one mine I will not readily relinquish. Whatever society’s expectation is for someone my age, unless ‘they’ will become Scheherazade, visit me daily and tell great tales I could never come up with no matter my effort, there is zero interest in me to please that expectation.

You may hate driving or feel inadequate to be someone’s life partner; but you do it either way because it is expected. And this hater accusations just perpetuates the circle of misery as you are inadvertently reinforcing the so called standard.

The Bad News: Our culture is one of relentless probing. People that can barely spell your name will look you in the eye and list all the wrong things in your life; and this is not to mention the liberties taken by family members. Its tough out on these streets.

The Somewhat Good News! Valid rebellion is your only course of action. It eventually earns you respect and reluctant support. It is doubly tough to make your rebellion work but the victory is delicious.

I will stop for now.

You can argue for the validity of the existence of haters but I support my stand; they only exist because of us. There is a potential hater in everyone except when we always choose to respond in love and kindness; not easy but doable.

So choose love always.

I love you with the love of the Lord; my own human love is work in constant progress.

 

Featured Image Via Flick (Pink Marina)

The Importance of Envy.

If you grew up in a Nigerian home and do not have what I will call ‘Foundational Envy’, then go find your parents wherever they are, hug them tight and say a loud ‘thank you!’ And if unfortunately, they are no longer here with us, fill your heart with mountain sized gratitude and offer it up to them. You are one of the saved.

A typical Nigerian upbringing ensures from day one you are aware that friends, family, neighbors and generally anyone in close proximity (within your age group) is a potential foe. This is because you are constantly being compared to one or the other. If you ‘lack’ manners, you are compared to your well mannered cousin. If you do not do well in school, you are compared to a neighbor or parents friend’s child who did well. And I pity you if they are financially less fortunate and do not have the opportunities/privileges given to you.  Sometimes this comparison doesn’t even have true merit. And by this I mean,  you maybe came 5th out of 45 and the neighbor’s child maybe came 2nd out of 30. No one does the math to asses that based on numbers, you are pretty much on the same spot, 2nd sounds better than 5th and that’s all there is to it. So your holidays are pretty much spent doing time in your room surrounded by books.

Okay, so let’s say you survived Foundational envy by virtue of your upbringing, but do you think you have survived Environmental envy?

Environmental envy is the one you encounter on the daily constant by those struggling with Foundational envy. If you’ve lived in this environment then all your interactions are done within it. And there is no way, you haven’t at some point worked with, lived with and probably been in a relationship with someone suffering with Foundational envy; you do have relatives right?

Unfortunately, constantly brushing up against this thing heightens your sense of awareness of it. And unless some force field is shielding you or  you are drenched in the love of Christ, slight traces of envy-like behavior might show up every now and then in your behavior. Like refusing to compliment an individual who refuses to compliment you (just a mild example).

Like all things conceptually meant for good, this ‘getting an individual to do better as a result of comparison with their successful peers’ has turned out to be one of the most damaging and unproductive techniques. And its uselessness is increased by the confusing message that one is meant to always be there for their family, kin and the entire village.

The ‘wise’ forefather that came up with this concept obviously did not think it through.

How do I support someone whose success means my life is immediately going under a microscope, and misery might ensue shortly thereafter? How is that suppose to work I wonder? Most importantly, how do I honestly love, encourage and help validate another’s life purpose when them succeeding at it according to some measure automatically means I am failing at mine?

These are questions those of us who want to do better probably grapple with daily.

In questioning myself, I have come to understand that understanding the function of envy is the best way to get over it and eventually be unaffected by it. Paradoxically, it starts with measuring things against themselves.

So therefore, Envy helps us measure:

Our true conditioning. By this I mean our propensity to love or even our understanding of it. I will be bold to say that envy shows just how much you have encountered love in your life. Have you slightly brushed up against it or truly felt its incredible powers? It is true books, philosophers and scientists have characterized love into different forms; but for the purpose of understanding envy, we will sum them all up into one and plainly call it LOVE.

There is a wide range of ways we display envy but I will simplify it into low end and high end which are:

a) Twinge envy: This is just a slight twinge when you see someone that has something you really want for yourself. It does not linger or last and can almost pass for wishful thinking. This is on the low end and inversely means you do have a lot of love in your heart and life but you can only claim this when it is measured against someone you know getting something you really want.

What to do: Further squash that tiny twinge by practicing magnanimity. You can call that person up or send them a message congratulating them. Take it a bit further and wish them more success. Admit also that you would love to encounter their good fortune as well. Can be difficult if you think to hard about doing it but trust me, it is great for wearing the edges off envy.

b) Volcanic envy: It is on the all consuming high end. You are obsessed by what is going on in this persons’s life. Thoughts of something wrong happening to them excites you; and sometimes you go out of your way to make sure something bad happens. My friend, I’m sorry to say this but the love in you can probably be measured with a teaspoon. And no, while we can say some people are a bit difficult to love and I should not generalize; this measure is solely based on your ability to acknowledge another person’s success.

What to do: As a Christian, I will say, if you believe in God, pray hard and confess it ALL. What usually happens is, you open the door to peace that brings knowledge and understanding. This helps you give out love that you were once incapable of and the more you give, the more you receive. And envy will soon become…” what envy?”

If you do not believe in God, the only thing I can say is you may have to fake it till you make it. Painfully acknowledge the envious feeling and immediately work in the opposite direction before it catches up and consumes you. With time your natural response might just be to be happy and gracious in acknowledging someone else’s success. Sorry if this is not too helpful, my filter and response to situations is the bible, anything outside of it is my human intuition and knowledge.

Who runs our lives: us or society?  The truth is every society has it rules and guidelines and they can be pronounced, nuanced or imagined. And there are these guardians that try to tell us what is right or wrong and in this case, who is successful or not. This is only a problem if you allow it to become one.

We all have the ability to question whatever society puts on us and whether it aligns with our core beliefs. But because of the normalization of society’s expectations, we somehow forget we can and sometimes we must question them.

We envy people that a little look into their lives will makes us feel nothing but pity. A dishonest politician’s child might make you envious because society claims being able to effortlessly afford stuff is success. But would you really sleep well knowing you are the sole cause of another’s hunger filled sleepless nights? probably not. Moreover, some of our most satisfying achievements were the ones we worked hard and had to overcome many obstacles to get.

What to do: Question every expectation put on you. Think for yourself and define your own measure of success. Make sure this measure is not a low-key escape from working out your true potential because you will not escape the regrets this will cause you at the end of your life.

Envy helps us tell the difference between Aspiration and Admiration.

The difference: To put it simply, admiration just likes what it is inspired to like in another person. If its a skill, talent or ability, admiration is more than okay with its existence because it provides something to be valued.

Aspiration on the other hand comes packed with motivation and ambition to be like the individual inspiring it.Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

With admiration, we might borrow a mannerism, life philosophy or sense of style from the individual but with aspiration, we see ourselves becoming like the individual, achieving what they have achieved and secretly wanting to surpass them.

Unfortunately for us, thanks to the first mentioned Nigerian bred foundational envy, we do not have the emotional construct to aspire to anyone especially our peers without some very negative side effects.

It is easy to aspire, even with this upbringing, to be like a Scarlet Johanson for example. This is because the physical, cultural and psychological distance between us helps our construct. Your life will never be compared with hers in the same merciless way even though she is your peer.

But to aspire to be like your successful next door neighbor, forget about it. Within a short time, no matter how hard you try to keep it clean, resentment along with envy will start brewing. You both grew up in the same soil and sandbox, and even if you are not told, you somehow wonder about your own short comings. Then you resent that somehow your neighbor was spared, then the blame game begins and in the end, you will be lucky if anyone takes any responsibility.

What to do: If you can tell that you do not want their life but appreciate its existence, then this is admiration. And the best way to build on it envy-free is to show the person you admire them and go further to wish them the best. But be careful that  you do not start veering into the creepy shadowy territory of being a mindless copy cat.

When you badly want to be at the spot they are in, that is aspiration. This is generally not a bad thing but take some time to examine your true motives. Is it just because of the success it brings to them or does it align with your own life’s purpose. Hint: When you picture your success throwing dust in the face of theirs as oppose to the sense of fulfillment it brings you; it time to take a step back.  You will have to do the work in finding your own true purpose. Hint: It is usually located in your natural abilities and your life story (the experiences both good and bad) 

At the end of the day, Envy is something that should bring us to self examination not self sabotage. Because the more we focus on bettering ourselves, the less likely we are to worry about another person’s success.

Instead, we might just have the clarity to see it for what it is and in time we may be able to change this false script of silently competing with each other.

It will be a great day indeed when our peers stop being potential enemies but fellow comrade in arms. A great day indeed.

 

Featured Image via Flickr