Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Way My Life Changed in 2014

This is probably the most personal post I will ever put here. But as part of a healing process I'm going through right now I feel there is no other way... Here goes:

The week my grandmother died:
I didn't cry as much as I should have
I wasn't sure why I was sad
I kept busy to keep from thinking, like she would have done I assume
I learnt the value of friendship in terms of time and energy expended 
I learnt my mode of grieving - private and intermittent 
I didn't see much of my kids and I didn't check much homework 
I felt so alone 
I felt lost 
I realised that I didn't know how to use my voice 
I worried about my dad but knew he was handling it his way, not burying it
I discovered how close my dad and I are, despite the seeming drifting apart over the years 
I knew God's provision. 

The day they buried my grandmother:
I'd cut myself the night before and wondered if it was some sort of blood covenant 
I felt like I missed the funeral but also that I wouldn't have managed to attend it
Family drama annoyed and disappointed me. I cut some people out of my heart 
I didn't say goodbye to my grandfather when I left
I wondered how Khulu really felt and wondered if it mattered. 

The day after they buried my grandmother:
I wondered if her life was worth the three that came into the world around the time of her death. I realised that God had known 9 months before that He was going to take her and I felt slightly betrayed 
I wondered if I would ever recover from her death though I knew I didn't want to 

I discovered that none of the words of sympathy I received actually comforted me, but seeing people around did as it reminded me that so many people loved her too 

23rd March 2014

The Return

Well, I've been incognito for the last two years. And what whirlwind years they have been!! Since my last post my world fell apart and came back together again - yes, that extreme! I like to think I've grown up a lot, changed somewhat, and I'm excited to get to know myself in the thick of my thirties. I'm enjoying my dirty, flirty thirties, as they call them. Feel so much freedom from external expectations, though I've certainly put a lot more on myself. Perhaps it's trying to wrap up things I felt I should have finished in my twenties: a Masters degree or two (hopefully!), having beautiful babies, etc. Anyway, I'm back. And I hope I'm back for a long while now.

If anyone out there is reading this, even if it's just future me, Thanks!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

My Two Cents towards the Anti-Gay Debate...

The Anti-gay Law Debate
About 100 years ago missionaries brought Christianity to Africa, changing the names and ways of many objects and processes. Those changes caused the upheaval of many systems and introduced new ways of thinking about things. In many ways they essentially insisted that Africans stop thinking for themselves and take on the 'better' ways. A significant introduction made by the missionaries was morality about all things, including sexuality. The Bible was used to decide what was right and wrong, with specific, accepted interpretations. Particularly, the notion that homosexuality was a sin worse than others was indisputable. 

Fast forward a hundred years and the western thinking has changed. Information, rules and new ways of thinking continue to be 'suggested' to Africans, who are still expected to take it all on without thinking about it. The work of missionaries is now being done by politicians and intellectuals, but the intention is still the same: to make sure that Africa continues to serve the development of the West. The Bible is no longer the ruling text and the ideas on homosexuality have changed. Africa is therefore required to keep up with the changing thinking as we have had to do on all other issues as they have evolved in the West: women's rights, health and nutrition, human rights, justice, environmental conservation. The most glaring thing to me is that we fail to negotiate for our ideas of right and wrong because we don't know what they are. As we have shed our own African ness - both by force and by choice - we have failed to record what we are removing so that we know where we came from. We have spent so much time allowing ourselves to be upgraded and contributed our energies towards stripping ourselves of our history and identity.

The African debate on homosexuality is so directionless and weak because we don't quite know what it is that we think about it. We are debating what we are being told to do based on what we have been told to do in the past. In Microsoft excel that type of circular reasoning doesn't work. I don't think it works in life either. 

This isn't the first debate that has highlighted how adrift we are as a people (feminism, food security, health, social dynamics, leadership are still raging unresolved), and it won't be the last. I wonder if we are doomed as a people. If it's true that you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you come from then I'm not sure what hope there is for us. Because from my limited analysis it is glaring that our history, our true selves and identity, has been totally lost. 

The Year 30 Series lives on!!

So the 30 by 30 series didn't quite work out, mostly because I spent my 30th year learning some important lessons. Now that I am older I can write about them :-)) 

My key lessons of 2013 were about love. I'll try and share them with you now. 

Firstly, love is that fluttering in your stomach, that tightening of your heart, that involuntary grin, that extra bounce in your step. Love is the feeling of great fortune and unmerited favour. It's a reminder that you're a great person and worthy of much affection. 

Love is a series of actions. It is a doing word that is shown through its actions. It's the shout that keeps peace. It's the silence that makes a point. It's letting go of the person or the moment or the object that you thought you couldn't live without. 

Love is a choice. Sometimes it's a moment in which we decide to take a chance, in order to love ourselves or love someone else. Sometimes it is a choice that we make over a long time as we determine the type of person we will love even when we haven't met them yet. Then when we meet them we may feel like we have no choice, but the truth is that we will have been deciding it all along. It's the choice to do the thing that will soften and delight someone else's heart, when it puts our schedule out of sync. It's the choice to do nothing when that suits you least. 

Love is a statement. It means 'I want the best for you. I love the way you make me feel. I love the way I make you feel.' Loving someone means making sure that your life is always saying something positive about yourself and about the object of your love. 

God is love. All we are and all we go through are about His love. We just have to open our hearts to see it. We have to think about it on a cosmic scale, beyond the day-to-day.

Love is unpredictable. It can never be fully known because trying to figure it out is part of the adventure and part of the charm. But there are things about love that we can know and trust: that love doesn't only work in the way we think it should. Love isn't only one-dimensional or one-directional. We need to open our minds up to let love teach us in the way that it will, all the while believing that love is good and for good. 

Love never fails. People may fail us. Trust may be broken. But if we are faithful to love it will never fail us. 

Finally, loving yourself is paramount, considering all the points above. It's important to understand that some day you will let yourself down, you will betray yourself, you will surprise yourself. But you must still forgive yourself and move on. You must express your love for yourself, to your self and to the world. 

Most of this may be old news to most people, but a lot of it was new when i learnt it. So i'm grateful for the lessons of my thirtieth year. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

For Resolutions

For all the flack that resolutions get every year, I for one am a fan. I relish the opportunity to restart every year, for a moment to feel hopeful about myself, as if I too can accomplish great things. I think we should focus less on how often we break our resolutions, and more on just how optimistic a people we can be. Let's embrace the hope that we have in ourselves, and commit to dusting ourselves off every New Years and trying to be better. Even if it lasts a day. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Poem from 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth….
But if in your fear you would only seek love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover you nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing floor,
Into a seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course…
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
~ from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran 

Dealing with grief the African way

Growing up I thought adults were stoic and overly formal about grief, but I had never lost anyone in a way that allowed me to own some loss and grief of my own. Now having lost 3 people in my young adult life that were significantly close to me so that I felt their loss, I finally understand how effective and efficient the African grieving system is. It is far from perfect, as most funerals have dramas of their own. But it is deigned to deal with the loss head on and comfort the grieving. 
The first step is the way people rally together when someone dies. It's not about how well you knew the deceased or how significant you are to those remaining, but that grief befalls us all at some point and there is comfort in people being around, either to keep you busy or distracted, or to make you believe that the deceased was well loved. People do their best to pool resources for a dignified send off and will do their best to make sure the affected family is not left alone during that time. 
Second is the process of greeting and touching the hands of all other mourners. It can be a great health risk in times of flu and cholera, but also a comforting reminder that while we have lost one, there are still so many alive. Along with the hand shaking come the perfunctory words 'we meet with this grief' and the response 'it's happened' or 'we have seen it'. Once again, done without much pomp but so significant in firstly allowing those who suffered the immediate loss to absolve others of responsibility for the death, and receiving the acknowledgement for their loss. But more than that, constantly having to say 'it has happened' allows those who grieve to accept the death. It may not happen instantly and much pain remains after a funeral. But acknowledging the death yourself over and over helps you to accept that your loved one is truly gone. That death is a part of our lives and that while life goes on, other people really do care about what you're going through. 
Thirdly, the tedium of the speeches at the gravesite gives us time to remember our loved one all together and say goodbye with our words and our tears. It also gives a chance to the family to highlight to everyone, especially the haters, that their loved one has been laid to rest with dignity, no matter what life they lived or what death they died. 
 After that we all go home together and wash hands at the entrance of the home, firstly to deal with that health risk from shaking hands all morning, to washing off the work we will have done, to preparing to share a meal together. Food is significant in all cultures and I believe it's significant at a funeral not just for nourishment after working and crying hard, but also to remind us to celebrate the life of the deceased. After the body has been put in the ground and bid farewell according to whatever religion is ascribed to (usually with prayer in case the Christians are right!), there is more of an atmosphere of celebration. Despite the sadness, funerals bring family and friends together and provide a platform for catching up and figuring out new relationships. This too is important. The final triumph of many deceased people is that bringing people together. 

I have yet to be part of proceedings after a funeral such as reading of wills and sharing of clothes and memorials, so I'm not sure what they add to the mix. 

A final note is on the dress code of funerals. I used to wonder why women had to cover up and men had to be decent (no shorts or slops) and I realized that its to keep the focus on the task at hand.  Head scarfs often come off when it's time to eat and hang out afterwards but during the funeral and the preceding mourning gatherings focus shouldn't be brought onto the individual but on the purpose of their presence. 

So that's what I've learnt. It may not be truly accurate but it's key to me as I grow up as an African in Africa, learning how to piece together the logic of our parents who don't explain these things but teach us by taking us along and showing us. I hope I'll be able to put these things into words for our children who are growing up in a world of words and will be so much more challenged than we are.