Monday, March 26, 2018

embracing vulnerability- Phase 1

Few days ago I had a full minute of clear vision where it occurred to me in such distinct clarity that I am no longer a child needing to please every breathing thing on a 10,000km radius. I have grown into a human being that actually can make decisions and stick by them regardless of who thinks it's another mad idea. Grieving clears vision.

 It's when you are feeling lost and when your bottom falls that you know exactly who matters. And it's mostly people who call you up and immediately tell you they are coming over coz you are you sure you are okay? And sit with you listening to winding tales of- how you feel like you never catch a break- but they remind you that you have actually caught many breaks in your life, it's just that now they fade in the magnitude of the floods of feelings that overwhelm you but once all is over you will be okay but it's okay cry if you want to. And what do you mean you ate a banana this morning!!!!

Gosh I fear such punctuation, it send me right out of the house for groceries. And go to sleep now, Cecilia you need to be alert tomorrow.
People who remind you that life is not as we expect it to be  but it's no reason not to eat good food, go out dancing and wear a mini skirt if that's what you want to wear.
And then I gave up the fear of letting to. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the 1001 unmade decisions and what ifs that would be affected by that one decision you haven't made.
I crumbled. I think.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

no complications

I want to love
Not like our perfectionist working class parents
But like our primary school drop out cousins to our mothers
who gently cared and cheered us on,
Who dabbed our tear stained cheeks with warmed face towels
 as they sang nursery rhymes in their language.

I want to love,
not like our sophisticated older sisters
but like our class seven classmates from a small town
They shared their combs and brushes took us out of homesickness
listened to our heartbreak and gave comfort

I want to love
Not like the mean spirited sod I've been
I guess I want to love unselfishly
I guess I can love with less emotion
to be depended upon and not run away at will.



Because I am Ngugi wa Thiong’o or I have become Chinua Achebe? Or maybe I have risen in ranks to become the millennial version of Barbara Kimenye without knowing.
On further deep retrospect and many days of self appraisal, I have come to a conclusion that no one should be expected to write a grieving manual. Not for Kyuks, nor for Germans. Just leave grieve alone and let everybody do as they wish. If anyone needs help let them speak to a psychiatrist or to their local priest.

If that is not enough, run along and read this post by BikoZulu. It’s the closest one can get to understanding how Kuyks grieve and why I initially thought I could create a manual for them and weeks upon weeks as I watered the plants, played with the cat, crushed garlic to sooth the never ending 2018 flu, the story ran through my mind in different angles. 

I had my bullet points, a.k.a vidokezo below. But like in school when the Kiswahili teacher would go round the room checking each one’s insha paper to see that you spent five minutes writing down, vidokezo, the story died before it began.

1. Acknowledge the sorrow death brings with it.
2. Allow yourself to grief, stoicism is overrated, Jesus wept. 
3.Sit down and stop planning the tea, cabbage, mikate, mukimo.
4.Why do you need to dig up those old pictures of when I was a girl with snot in my face, scan them and create a brochure?
5. Give comfort to those who mourn, stop telling them wiyumiririe, wiyumiririe kitu gani. I want to roll on the floor and loose my decency if that will get the sad out of my chest.
 oh and No.6. No one owns grief. If I'm sobbing at my neighbour's cousin's funeral, let me be. 

So for now I don’t have anything. The task was too huge. Let me be satisfied writing about women and men, plants and cats and once in a while I might get a real brilliant shot of genius and write a how to article.

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.