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. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lessons of my thirtieth year: part 1

So when I turned 30 I decided that i would start collating some of the important lessons I've learnt in my life. I'll try and put together the 30 top ones when I turn 31. This is the beginning...

What my thirtieth year has taught me so far...
1. Never say never! Life is very unpredictable and, even in the decisions we make, life can happen to us where and when we least expect it. The most important thing is to own your decisions and be strong in them. 
2. Life is great and terrible all at the same time and for the same reasons (equal and opposite direction reactions).
3. No-one can or will love you or understand you in the way you get yourself because no one has experienced your life like you have. 
4. I still need to learn a lot about self-assertion! I need to assert my agency to live out the adventures of MY life.
5. I need to learn to let go of the responsibility I feel for the happiness and joy of other people, except my children and those of my mother.
6. I need to learn to hear and listen apart from my ears. To learn that silence is not a negative space - it is NOt the absence of joy  or positivity
7. In so many ways you make the life you live through the decisions you make and those you choose not to make. Fear can keep you company and make you feel justified but will desert you as your companion when it counts the most. If you are driven by fear, you will crash at the sharp bends because fear itself is scared. If you're full of fear you will feel empty when it counts. I have learnt this but still have to learn to live with it. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Dreaming with a broken heart

I wish I didn't cry when I get angry. I stole that line from the blog of a friend I greatly admire, and it hit me again this morning as my eyes stung from what I felt was a great injustice. Even after checking on my role in the issue I felt justified, like I haven't done anything wrong, yet there I was angry and crying. In hindsight I realise that I've always been an emotional person, prone to spilling tears when overwhelmed by anything. But my failure to explain or describe this has led me to hide my emotionality so that it can't be misunderstood as blackmail (only a guy could see it as that!), or weakness, but as a way of relieving pressure and making room to process and deal with the issue with the emotions out of the way. Most girls know that nothing is as cleansing or empowering as a good cry - over anything! Even if it's a good cry over a hearty laugh. Perhaps we should schedule times when we all just get together and weep then give good hugs and carry on with our lives. Cos sometimes all you need is a cry and a hug.

Monday, 11 February 2013

27 January 2013 - Love and Betrayal

Betrayal first. Cos I hope it will be a shorter write.
Was talking to Shep last night about friendship and just being on the cusp of ending one. The betrayal I felt/ feel went deep - it wasn't about the act but about the perceived lack of consideration behind it. If this person can take 7 years of friendship and put their feelings before that, not even before my feelings but before the investment and all of our selves that we have poured into it, then what's the point? Why continue investing if I can no longer have the assurance that they will stand up for me when I'm not there? Why continue sleeping with someone I feel could kill me in my sleep? I know I should find it in my heart to forgive and move on - and that may be my biggest achievement of 2013 - but to get to that point I most overcome Mistrust and its associate Fear and, knowing God, it's going to be a hard journey to become that big a person!

Now on to love! Yay!
It's dawned on me that after 5 years I love my husband SO MUCH MORE than I did back then, and I thought I COULDN'T love him more than the day I gave myself to him, then the day I married him, then the day I realized we had survived the first 2 years and it had been worth it! Now the love I feel for him is intense and explosive! It also means that as far as it goes in one direction it also goes hard in the opposite direction when that time comes. That's the part I will learn to overcome in 2013. I love being ruled by my positive emotions but I need to learn to rule my negative ones. I say I must rule them not get rid of them because they have cleansing abilities. They give me a chance to have a fresh look when it's called for. But they can also cloud me and force me to stand still so I don't destroy something I love in a frivolous and indulgent moment. But back to love! I find that my love for this crazy amazing man is both wide and deep. It's generally large. Its width is about the varied things I love about him, the him I've come to know who exists only (mostly?) between him and me - the intense philosopher who feels things deeply, the one where I get to see how he thinks and not just what. I love seeing him live out the potential I saw in him from the beginning. He justifies my love for stationery and the potential that it holds! Lol! I love the him who is constant and unchanging. Who decided who he was and continued to be that person. That calms me in its contrast to my ever changing, never stable self. I love his him-ness. That he walks into a room and I feel complete. Safe. Like I can lay my burdens down cos he's there to get them. Like I no longer have to try so hard cos here walks full acceptance. I hope that he feels the same with me.

The depth of my love for him is in the respect I have for him. His brilliant and sharp mind. His big, warm heart. His generosity - which can be a large part of my insanity because I DO NOT like to share him and he is generous with himself. I love this man who is excellent in a crisis and always looks at everyone's interests! What mind can juggle so many things at once??? It's like multi tasking on drugs! (Or it emphasizes the simplicity of my mind!!) I'm constantly excited for the adventures that our life will take us on - both physical and mental (not so much the emotional ones to be honest!). And there's noone i would rather have beside me as we do it all.

27 January 2013 - life lessons

I never thought I'd be this gutted with the death of a pet. For all our complaining about him and accusing him of being in the way, Brutus was such a part of our family. He is sorely missed.
With all the drama of the past week, with Tanaka discipline issues, various financial and relational minefields, to Brutus's illness, I'm constantly grateful for my husband who is there to share the burdens of life with me. But every time I think of how much I have I think of the same sized gaping hole in the life of the widow of my friend. None of us, when we signed up for marriage, ever imagined widowhood before our 30th birthday. I don't even know where I'd start if it happened to me. But I guess I do have a form of survivor's guilt for enjoying my hubby when she doesn't have one and she didn't ask for him to go or even have time to prepare for his departure. Sometimes life just hurts!

2013 catchup

Hello dear readers - who in my mind is just a future me!!
I've been quite slack and unconfident with posting this year but I've still be writing. So I'll post some stuff with the dates they were written.
Enjoy the ramblings...