Saturday, February 17, 2018

Grieving 101

I’ve been feeling like crap.

But that is not something you go round telling people. You smile and cheer at the good things and then go home and wonder where you got the energy to work, to talk, to even tell funny stories to people coz all you want to do now is knock yourself out and not think about all the things that are bugging you. And then you realise that actually there is a high power holding up your spine, keeping your person from collapsing into a pile of manure.

My friend texted me to ask- how are you, sorry I don’t ask but are you okay?-  I explained that  between experiencing three deaths in two weeks and catching a bacteria infection, I’m derailed but not too bad. She said that would put her out too.
 When I looked at the conversation it became clear that I have been grieving. Grieving the Kikuyu way. Stoically, tight lipped and dry eyed. 

There are people on this earth that get under your skin a few minutes after you meet them. Genuine people that wear no masks. Simple people that are not trying to be something they are not. Hard working people that haven’t figured out life yet, but are happy to share the few lessons they’ve learned with you.

I will not talk about all three people, they all had one thing in common-  struggling with a health condition – but that didn’t stop them from living life the best way they could. Dominic, my colleague and an artist, and Mama Shiru, the woman that has been looking after my grandmother for the last two years. The woman that helped restore our dog Tom’s leg after our insane neighbor slashed it. I will talk about my friend Millie.

Millie, when we first met I thought, ‘what a sophisticated woman, I wish we could be friends.’  She was a friend of my close friend. So when she actually sort me out and made friends, I was very happy.
Two things I remember about her is how one time she called me and explained a disappointment she had experienced. We talked for hours, then she said ‘I really appreciate how your patiently listened to me.’ All I did was listen, but I came to respect her very much because I am the complete opposite. I don’t talk about my disappointments. They just eat me up and make me lose trust in people.

Whenever  I met Millie with her friends, she would parade me in front of her very accomplished and fine friends and tell them, ‘this girl is doing this and that and she is so amazing in many ways.’ I would feel like I didn’t deserve all the praise and attention. But now when I think about it, how many people, better than you in many ways will stoop down to you level and see the little bits of positive things in you? I can count them in one hand , and two of them are not human.

The last time I visited her, she had found me, told me, ‘you are coming home with me.’ We bought drinks, warmed food and talked for hours. In the morning after I had my bath she told me, ‘I want to tell you something, don’t take it the wrong way please. When you share wash basins, remember always to clean them out before pouring in your bath water. Coz, really you can’t be sure if the person before you cleaned it out.’ I appreciated that lesson, simple but practical.

I was sad, but I also know that God is not unrighteous to forget the things these people did with their lives. I hope to see them again in future.

Next: A grieving manual for Kyuks, before Stoicism kills us all.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

5 lessons learnt on the commute

I spend an average of 3 hours a day in a matatu. That adds up to 21 hours in a week, 84 in a month. I spend 3 and half days in a month sitting a matatu.
So anyway, I started reading. From the minute I get a seat, even if it’s the crack between two seats, I get out a book and read. At night, I use the torch in my phone. I was actually blown when I noticed how many books I was churning out just by reading on my commute.

So if you don’t have time to read, maybe you should leave the car at home few days in a month.
  1. Your thoughts can derail perspective
One of the new things that people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts-just mere thoughts-are as powerful as electric batteries-as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body,,, If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
As long as Mistress Mary’s mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes and sour opinions of people and her determination not to be pleased by or interested in anything, she was a yellow-faced, sickly, bored and wretched child..but when her mind gradually filled itself with robins, a moor boy and his creatures, springtime,,,they was no room left for her disagreeable thoughts which affected her liver and her digestion and made her yellow and tired.
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The secret Garden. 1911.

  1. On Possessions
Everything should exist in the right place, in the right way. Store each thing carefully, giving attention to the fact that there are differences between caring for something by putting it in a safe place and hoarding it or imprisoning it. Storing items poorly or forgetting about them is no different from abandonment. Even if something is being put away for a great length of time, visit from time to time, remembering how it came to you, reminding yourself of its value, and checking on its condition. Make periodic inventories of any new possessions you’ve acquired. Lay them out and look at them. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge mistakes you may have made in selecting them. Above all, don’t ignore what you have.
Gary Thorp- The Sweeping Broom. 2000.

This little paragraph had me finally settle on a capsule wardrobe that works for my needs. When you accumulate stuff you stop appreciating it, and head out to Kawangware market to buy some more.
  1. Positive Thinking doesn’t  just come, you need practice
Ken, you know the world is full of unpleasant things. Pain and operations and sickness and discomfort. You mustn’t mind. That’s just the way life is. Besides all, there is health and goodness and soundness and fun and happiness too for horses as well as boys-much more of the good things than the bad-
My friend Flicka, Mary O’Hara- 1940

-Even soldiers don’t like to go to war-
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The little Princess-1905

  1.  What Love looks like
-I saw more than anything, that relationships are not sustained by violence but by love. Love is a creative act. When you love someone you create a new world for them. My mother did that for me, and with the progress I made and the things I learned, I came back and created a new world and new understanding for her.
Born a crime- Trevor Noah, 2016

If you find love-if a person or an animal finds love-it’s the same as finding safety, isn’t it? It’s comfort and friendliness and help. Everyone longs for it-any kind of love
But if Flicka-we’ll say-had found  it and yet didn’t have sense enough to know she’d found it-and went on being crazy and silly with fear-
Then she’s be loco?
Nelly noded.
My friend Flicka, Mary O’Hara- 1940

(I agree, if we let fear blind us from the safety of love, we are loco. Every dreamer should read this.  Also, your love towards a person or another life should have you fighting for their rights)
- I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to let no stranger shoot my dog.
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men- 1937

I won’t say we human beings still don’t have much to learn sometimes.
 We love and hate without thought. We expect too much from one another and often we are wrong.
Gail Tsukiyama, The Samurai’ Garden-1996

         5. Don’t be a loner if you can avoid it.

A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe reading books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin,’ an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me  if I was asleep, an’ then it would be all right. But I jus’ don’t know.’
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men- 1937

So, what did I learn?
Relationships are what makes us humans. With people, with ourselves, with animals, with things but we have got to be actively involved in all of these. It is our responsibility.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Plot 65: My grandmother’s holy water

Granny has always been quite religious.

On some Sundays she was that woman with a yellow head wrap and a basket of maize or beans in her basket for her 10% of first fruits from her farm, heading to mid-morning mass.
Due to her good standing in her church, it also meant we had to behave.  Once or twice I would go to her Catholic Church but generally we had an understanding, I could go into whatever Church as long as I was back by 4pm.

 If I came at 4.01, I had to be escorted home by her friend’s daughters. I only ever visited this one homestead but regardless, curfews were curfews.
On one of those special mass Sundays when I went with her, Granny was up early looking for a plastic bottle. She got a juice bottle and cleaned it and dried in the utensils’ rack. At church, it was refilled with Holy water. 

After Church we went to – makumbusho- the best hotel in Endarasha then and had tea and mandazi. Everything else was forgotten as I watched the waiter swirling my tea in a pan to cool it down. It had bubbles as it was poured into my cup. I still like bubbles in tea. Grown-ups drunk their tea from glasses.

I am not sure what the Holy water was for, whether she sprinkled it around the house, bathed in it or sipped a little everyday but truth is I forgot all about it.
One hot afternoon coming from school, the sun was hot and down the path, the hot moist air rose in wisps. The butterflies danced across my path as I kicked clods of earth in front of me, completely lost in thought dreaming of worlds I would yet discover.  When I reached the junction- Mĩteero- my grandmother’s friend’s daughters were in the farm and called out to me.

-Good girl of Nyawĩra, please run home and bring us some tea-
I was bought.
 I wanted to be a good girl.
 Usually it was:
Kĩirĩtu kĩa Nyawĩra, or ndũrĩka ya mwana in the same sentence.

Our home is about 10 minutes from this junction so I run. No one was within the homestead and I didn’t want to call about and be delayed. I changed into home clothes and of course there was tea in every kettle; tea with sugar, sugarless tea and nylon (milk, water and sugar).
I picked up the sugared tea but realized it was pouring from the spout. I needed a container that would reduce spills. A search up and down the houses found me a two litre plastic bottle. I smelled it, it didn’t contain Kerosine just water, perfect.

I emptied the water at the base of the plum tree that grew next to the granary and refilled it with tea. My mother had planted the plum tree so I favoured it. I locked the house, the gate to the farm, the gate into the compound and delivered the tea pleased with my self-sacrificing acts of kindness and generosity.

The following afternoon I skipped home from school. It was Friday and I was happy about all the things that awaited me. I could plant things, play with the cat, feed the rabbits, let the dog chase me around the farm, cook chapo in shoe polish tins behind the house…aahh nice. But the dream went poof when granny appeared from behind the water tank, looking like WW11.

-Eh, so you have become the tea supplier-?
Yes- Aunt nani asked me to bring them-
-Eh, how many cows did you have to milk?
-But there was a lot of tea-
-I’m not concerned about the tea. This! She shouted pointing to an empty plastic bottle. It was in an uchumi supermarket plastic bag-

-o, it was brought back?- I asked brightening up.
I had thought perhaps she was mad because I forgot to bring it back.
-Meekũ maaĩ?!-
 I was very confused at this point. Which water? But of course I could not ask that, grandmother’s questions were rhetorical unless you had the correct answer.
And as I stood there trying to understand why all of a sudden giving away tea was such an issue, I felt pinches start to wash all over my body.

-I’m asking where you put the water!-
-I,,,I poured it there-
-You poured my water under the plum tree?!-
I recoiled from the bottle, was there an upcoming drought?
-Me, you child you scare me. That water we got it very well from Church together. And then you come and pour it. Do you have satan? Do you have demons?
Oh no, I now remembered. Holy water , yes, I really was  a bad child.
 More pinching came
 I said- I forgot-
Woi, I should have kept quiet.

-You forgot! Do you forget to drink tea? Eh? You forgot, forgetting is as good as negligence-
 The proverbs came, more pinches, more how thankless sort of a child I was.
 I just kept quiet and hang my head low. I felt bad. If I knew where the main Mũbĩa lived I could have tried to approach him for a bottle refill.
I think that water had been a one off thing, it must have cost quite a bit too coz I never saw the likes of it ever again.

Kĩriganĩro no ta ũtũrĩka- forgetting is as good as being negligent
When you forget things, you are being negligent. I guess this applies to important things. You should try to remember those things that have an effect.

Monday, November 13, 2017

a poem

Come here you strange girl

You are not one to let go and have  some fun.

But I stared you in the face

You stared back and glared.

 I smirked and you said:

Let’s wrestle it out.

 I obliged so we wrestled.

 You had me on the ground. You did.

 But I heal quick

So I sprung back up

Spurn you down.

Maybe we can be friends, I said.

We’ll pour ourselves a drink

 We’ll drink it stiff

 We don’t even have to talk.

You are a strange girl October.

a 2010 poem but still relevant.