Level up

Like shadows on a plain
A solidarity in depth we share,
seemingly oblivious of our varying frame.

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Like rising shadows from the vale,

A disparity in height emerges,

youthful gale an illusive veil.

 

Like shadows in the dark,

A blade carving slowly through illusions heart 

reality dawns with a harsh bark.

 

Like shadows embracing the light,

A rebirthing occurs 

strengthened arms ready to write.

We assume to be on the same level with others based on the visible, however some have more room for growth than others. Thus some limit themselves whilst others overestimate their capacity for growth. 

Life is very smart. Under certain circumstances you’re on top and under others you’re limited or in need of more growth. Never become complacent.

 

 

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What change?

“On a micro and macro level, bad leadership gives birth to two individuals; imitators or dissenters. Both with a deeply seated weariness of leadership (good or bad), both unable to trust themselves or endure the reformative abilities of good leadership.” 

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want to be done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

An effective leader should aim to achieve the following:
1.Visualize the future i.e. have an inspiring vision of the future.
2.Communicate and inspire people to engage with his/her vision.
3.Strategize/structure the delivery of the vision.
4.Motivate and build a team, that can achieve the vision. 

2017 was an entertaining year, a year for re-defining leadership. Political, religious, business and cultural leaders were questioned, challenged on different platforms. Some leaders fell beneath the bar, while others excelled. However, I found their response to scrutiny more interesting than their actual performance, equally entertaining was the public reaction to these responses.

From the oval office to its North Korean equivalent, a better demonstration of tyrannical, unstable leadership cannot be found. In the past, tweets from the oval office were anticipated for a profound understanding of societies ills. Presently, however, they are anticipated for a horrendous display of insensitivity to global issues and at best for satirical humor and comic relief. On the other hand we wake up each day dreading to discover an entire country has been decimated by a leader whose ego supersedes his office. Here I was thinking, wonderful things come in small sizes.

While citizens governed by the oval office are divided into three camps; those disappointed by the lack of basic leadership etiquette, those who celebrate it as they had no faith in past leadership modules and those disillusioned by any form of leadership. A different populace exists across the globe in North Korea, citizens restricted from expressing their displeasure for a fear of bodily harm. Both leaders have received cautions and sanctions from the united nations, it’s populace, neighbours, friends and enemies alike, but, all to little or no avail. When we scream for change what do we mean? A departure from the norm, a drastic departure from altruistic leadership? Change on a one-way lane powered by a one size ego, headed to fulfil a single dimension fantasy. Is that what we mean?

Going back a few years to 2015, we cried for change in Nigeria, moving forward to 2017 one cannot help wondering if we got short-changed. The year saw Aso rock riddled with bio-hazards, long periods of sick leave, blatant disregard for certain regions in the country and projection of another regions agenda. Despite public outcry on several platforms decrying the poor state of leadership, the incumbent leader seeks to project himself for leadership in 2019. Is this the change we sort? Change which produced four members of parliament earning post-humus income; if we earn a living what are they earning? A dying?

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What you see, determines what you demand from tomorrow.

Religious leaders weren’t spared, people challenged the need for tithes and general giving to the church. Tithe and offerings of some form has been a part of most religious bodies, a way of sustaining  their physical edifice and structural representative.   However, this act of giving has been abused with some leaders making demands on members regardless of their economic status or wellbeing. Others disburse of said funds without proper transparency or accountability. 

Equally disturbing is the seeming indifference of these leaders to societies ills especially when opportune to speak up or make impact. The lifestyle and speech of some of these leaders often contrasts with the teachings of contentment found in the scriptures.  Thus, I am not surprised by those who view the church as a fraudulent business run by expert con men. With many of them demanding a review and change to the status of the church. What change I ask? That members stop giving? That ministers live in penury? Should we re-evaluate the principles of giving? Where does faith come in?

From the streets of Hollywood to the doors of Sub Sahara Africa, women made their opinions known. A male dominated world wasn’t the way forward anymore, it wasn’t enough to set the table, it wasn’t enough to sit at the table, women want  the right to; restructure the table, populate the table, or simply change the entire setting. Feminism was redefined, sexual harassment was re-evaluated and the merits of marriage scrutinized. Once again the echo of change reverberated through the world, should we be weary of every man? Are all women innocent? If we are equals why are men still largely expected to propose? Why do we silently expect women to back down when an impasse occurs in relationships. Why not stick to merits? Why not take gender off the table?

When we cry for change we must consider the impact of such movements on the future. We must consider the goals of those against us but most importantly we must consider those who are with us, else we wake up to find the prize stolen by another. Must we pull down the entire system, isn’t there something to salvage? Perhaps more importantly we should give our best to understand the system, walking in the shoes of those held by the system before attempting to reform the system, lest we become armchair critics. People who speak for change but do not work for change, either have nothing to lose or have a lot to gain indirectly.

What change do you want?

From 2017 with love

Dear CHIOMA,

It’s good to see you once again at the brink of a new dawn; it is interesting to see how you have faired through your journey. I remember the last time we met, you had some doubts about the future but I was certain the end had drawn neigh for you. Alas we both forgot the one who stands before and within you, me moreso than you. I will never forget the moment He interrupted our dance, the moment our little tete a tete spun out of my control and settled nicely into His. Darn Him for having your deep seated attention.

All the same I will always cherish my little victories; moments when you cried, moments when you made a mountain out of a mole hill, times when you swore never to hope again. But like every good thing those moments came swiftly to an end and you sprang back into action despite your scars. If I hadn’t promised to feast on your joy I would have cheered for you and the strength that brought you to where you’re right now. Things never seem to go my way, and it’s all because of those silly words, you know the ones

‘all things work together for the good of them that love the lord blah blah blah….’

It was still fun watching you stumble and fall while you learnt the lessons He cleverly scripted into my scheme. Like when you learnt to not fear the worst possible outcome in that particular situation. I had hoped to hold that over you, to riddle you with guilt, shame, and despair. You mortals often feel failure is the end, the truth as you have learnt is rather much simpler. ‘The acceptance of failure as defined by oneself or society as an identity is the end.’ If you reject the label, the identity then you can rewrite the end of your story, which in real terms never ends until you breath your last. I guess once you discovered that lesson my grip on your reality took a nose dive.

But I still had to try, didn’t I? I mean it’s not a victory until your opponent fails to rise again and by jove that’s what you kept doing. 20171226_151906.jpgAnd as you watched your daughters bubbles fall to the ground rather than rise into the skies you acknowledged the single truth that time, chance and motive is indeed all that separates heroes from villains, mediocrity from success. You understood that though the bubbles had the inherent ability to soar they lacked the momentum and conducive environment to rise into the sky. But you also learnt that fallen bubbles regardless of stagnant conditions harbour an ability to bring joy to a little girl as she popped them even in the harsh winter breeze. Again it reminds me of words from that book again,

‘for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.’

I am not a sore looser or at least I like to think I am not but I have to say I am not pleased you got away. You can be sure  I will be visiting you again although my name will be a bit different.

Goodbye from sultry seven

Get ready to welcome sexy Eight.

 

My girl child

To my darling bud of May,

Today has been set aside to celebrate the girl child across the world so I thought why not write a note to you my very own girl child. When I first found out I was pregnant, I remember hoping with all my heart for a boy and until the sonographer said “congratulations it’s a girl,” I held unto that hope fiercely. I had nothing against the girl child, however, being a woman I had terrible premonitions of what the future would look like for you, for us as a mother-daughter team. 

See I never really understood myself as a pre-teen or teenager and if I am completely honest I still haven’t figured out everything about myself. I had visions of screaming matches, temper tantrums, pink powder explosions and dark moods vibrating off the walls. I guess the common rhetoric’s across the world hasn’t done much to calm my frayed nerves with respect to raising a girl child in today’s society.

They say it’s a mans world and my darling I must say they are not far from the truth, but who’s truth is that really? God made the world, placing male and female side by side to govern it. I guess when he told Adam to identify and name the animals, Adam decided to go one step further to name the earth calling it -Man’s world. I have no doubt he stood atop some precipice holding a branch from an oak tree while he made this life changing declaration.

I wonder what Eve was doing during this monumentus occasion? Perhaps sitting in the tree listening to the serpent mock Adam, reminding her that with the sway of her hips , the toss of her hair and puckered lips she could get Adam to do as she pleased. Sadly, she probably never considered the lengths to which her male offspring would take that declaration or how the sway of hips would end up biting her female offspring on the butt  literally. 

So is it really a man’s world? I think I will let you come to your own conclusion as you learn more about the world. However, as you observe this world I hope to show you the beauty that lies within it, but also the pain that attempts to overshadow that beauty. I hope to show you that whatever label they slap on the world, with a little hope, a little contentment, a  heart full of prayers and a sturdy cheerleading squad (ME !!!) you can make your little niche as peaceful and wholesome as one possibly can.

They say vehemently back home in Nigeria that a woman is nothing without a man. To a given extent they have started to question that line of thought, you can’t imagine how grateful I am for that slight change. But has it really changed? If the man treats the woman right as he ought they say “the woman is NOTHING without a good man” but if he treats her wrong they say “the woman is not-a-thing with a bad man”, or “the woman is nothing with a bad man”. What do they mean by all this, again I will let you decipher the meaning. 

In line with the above thoughts my daughter, I hope to show you that a woman is SOMETHING, something, some-times-a-thing, depending on how she sees herself, and how those around see her. If I don’t give you anything else my lovely child, I hope through your formative years to give you an inner voice that speaks calming and loving through corrections, and applauses alike. This I hope will draw you closer to your inner self, a self capable of shutting out the different precedents barked at the woman depending on where she finds herself. A peaceful voice that leaves no doubt in your mind that you are SOMETHING, and that sometimes in other to precipitate change it’s okay to be ‘something’ but that it is never ever okay to let yourself or anyone else make you feel like a ‘thing’.

Finally they declare strongly in the United Kingdom that the woman is equal to man. This sounds ways better than what we have back home, but is it really better? From my understanding this places the sum total of a woman’s worth subject to how the man values himself. Why isn’t she worth something simply based on who she is? Is man the zenith of perfection? The entire definition of success? Please do not misunderstand me my darling child, I am not here to preach heresy but the way I see it, Man IS, Woman IS, because God IS. If we are in his image then the only person I should desire to look like or be ‘equal’ to in potential, in right to advocate a better life for myself should be God. Once again I emphasize that I do not preach heresy, but if I must strive to attain any freedom, any height it must be to live the best godly life that I am capable of living regardless of who’s beside me.

So my darling child on this day when we celebrate the girl child I want you to know without a doubt that I will walk through the tantrums with you, I will supply the powder for the pink powder explosions and the permanent ink for colouring in the dark moods whenever they show up, if they show up. I was scared at the start but with each day I become bolder as my love for you grows. Bolder and hopefully wiser to face all our tomorrows regardless of what it throws up before us. 

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The story that is us.

The story that is us, is the story

of delicate tendrils stretching through red soil.

The gods foretold its future,

‘cursed is the seed left un-watered 

beneath the haze of golden rays.

For though it carries the future,

it shall wither like

the cracks on the heels of a sojourner in the desert.

The story that is us, is a story

of angry tears beating down viciously on a smile.

The gods declare 

it is a rainbow 

hope in the midst

of opposing yet interlinked natural events.

Tomorrow shall yet come,

as surely as the tortoise has a home in its shell.

The story that is us, is a story

of shoots reaching out to golden rays

beckoning for a hug.

Chanting  ‘I know not when nor how

but one day I shall spread my branches high to the heavens

and my roots down to squash hades.

The gods are bemused,

for the story that is us

is not theirs to write but for the future to unravel.

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As thy self …

I got to the bus stop minutes ahead of the bus, did my regular inventory:

Ticket ……..  X

Purse ………  X

Shopping bag …… X

Phone ….. X

Everything was in place, ready to board the bus. There’s only two of us waiting for the bus, which reduces any likelihood of having to stand for the journey. The bus pulls up right on time and my fellow passenger courteously indicates that I should board first. I confidently place my prepaid ticket on the scanner and it’s not long before reality sinks in; my ticket has expired. I reach into my purse only to discover I didn’t have enough change to pay the fare. Oh well, turns out I hadn’t done the most important inventory after all, have I? Turning to disembark from the bus, I hear the other passenger calling me back and without much ado my fare is paid.  I felt the tears start to pool in my eyes.

I could say the passenger paid my fares for several different reasons

  1. He had excess money
  2. He took pit on my bump
  3. He wanted to show he wasn’t racist (I know right, how much more political can the mind get?)
  4. Or simply it was a kind act sent my way, a reminder that the universe still had atoms of agape love floating through the stratosphere.

One could also wonder why I would get on the bus without a valid ticket or cash in my purse:

  1. Baby brain (yeap a reliable get out of jail free card)
  2. I was hoping for a miracle.( I hope for one every morning anyways)
  3. Or I thought my week long ticket would run from Tuesday to Tuesday rather than Tuesday to Monday (having only bought this for the first time). And I don’t carry extra cash because I  keep looking for random things to buy. 

Thankfully I didn’t repeat the same mistake again on my way home, however I made a different one. As a student I am entitled to a discount on my fares, but I need my identity card to get this discount. I guess you know by now how that went today, I didn’t have my ID card at hand so no discount for me. Having paid my fare, I sat down for a short reflective ride home.

I wondered how trivial life issues can be and how we sometimes derive false value and identity from the things we have and the circumstances that surround us. I could view everything that happened to me today as a serious turn of misfortune and sad occurrences in my life. I could overlook the kind act in the morning by thinking of how it should not be happening to someone like me at this stage of my life. I should have a car, I should, I should ….. 

In life our self image is revolved around three things

I am ….. who we are and whose we are. Our strengths, our weaknesses.

I have ….. what resources we have:  family, friends, money, property etc never devalue anything.

I can …. how we pull things together to help us.

But we must never anchor who we are on what we have or what we can pull together. Our core should be based on the ‘I AM’. Every other thing is subject to change and depreciation. A friend who carries you at 20 (both mentally and physically) might not be available to carry you at 60/80 for several different reasons (death, old age, falling apart, distance etc). Isn’t it amazing how the ‘I AM’ controls how you relate with the I have and I can components. You can’t receive or give what you’re not.

Love thy neighbour as thy self.

You will value your neighbour as you value your self.

I will be back …..

20170711_110003.jpgMy new car spied on my way home.

 

 

 

(RIP) Here lies …. a bundle of reactions.

As the last child it’s often impossible to escape the shadows cast by your siblings. Your name becomes obscure as many refer to you as XYZ’s little sister. The chances of people remembering your name are not very high, this is not necessarily because they don’t know it or forget it, rather they have fallen into the habit of seeing your elder ones before they see you, thus their names (your elder ones) come to mind first. I found the spoken and sometimes unspoken expectation to have me mirror the ideals, behaviours and traits of my siblings the most frustrating aspect of this shadowing effect.

I really wanted to escape the canopy effect my siblings had on my life and the opportunity to do so came in the form of university choices. I chose a school many miles from home and although my elder brother had attended the same school he had graduated long enough to dispel all shadowing effects on my life. Physically distancing myself from this phenomenon refereed to as shadowing, to a certain extent did me a world of good. It helped me find myself, to test the strength and bases of my belief, but it also highlighted how intrinsic the values and personality traits I had tried to escape were a part of me.

Perhaps one of the many lessons of growing older is the gradual realization that we are a large picture comprising of different puzzle pieces. Puzzle pieces shaped by our varied life experiences, human and cosmic encounters. The best part of the puzzle lies in the fact that different pieces can be moved around to fit the edges of our life or form the core of who we are. Secondly we can afford through due diligence to eliminate and replace certain pieces as we please, however unlike a cardboard puzzle there will always be an imprint of that  piece in our memory. 

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Memory, emotions, the mind … I suppose that’s what makes us different from the people who have shaped our lives. This ideology is supported by Karl Rogers and Erickson’s ideologies on human growth and development. Yes we are a sum of everything that happens to and around us, this might be considered by some as our true self’s. However, perhaps our true self’s doesn’t stop at this level but goes further to how we interpret those events and what we do with that interpretation.

If the saying that “we have only 10 percent control over  what happens to us and 90 percent control over how we react” is true, would  it be  safe to assume that people who live in self denial haven’t embraced their true selves? How about those who live life trying to anticipate the moves of others, basing every action or thought on the anticipated moves of another? Are they cautious, manipulative or untrue to self? 

When we anticipate people’s moves and act accordingly aren’t we short changing ourselves from learning who they really are? More importantly aren’t we short changing ourselves, as only life experiences can truly expose the foundations our true ourselves. I am by no means advocating a careless lifestyle or a rude personality. I just find myself wondering if such a cautious life isn’t a limiting and unrealistic one. I question the validity and dependability of principles lived by being a bundle of reaction to for everyone around you.

Isn’t that what we become when everything we do is foreshadowed by our anticipated or pre- planned outcomes. We consistently respond not in the way we really want to but in the way that ensures we have absolute control of the 10 percent which really belongs to others. Sadly I think in doing that we give over control of the 90 percent without knowing.  We hedge ourselves into a corner which never spreads out into a large square, rather like a column we wrap ourselves round in people’s reaction until we become invisible. Often times when that environment becomes stifling we burst open like a house hit by a tornado.

Don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be everything to all men, as each man desires sometime different from everyone each time. I rather be something to some people and accept that I might never be anything to some others. Would it be better to die a bundle of reactions or a bundle of actions?

To a fair maiden at court.

Where loyalty means naught,

gossip runs amok the corridors of gentry.

‘Tis wisdom to fold the tongue within

lest a knife they find beneath your breast at morn.

Alas not a soul will be held to ransom

for this ghastly deed; for it is the way of the gentry,

is it not?

To kill in the shades of darkness

 for the sake of a ale come ‘morrows eve.

Oh fair maiden ’tis the truth I speak

say not to one ’tis such that ails me.

What help is a Samaritan to a Jew

or a Jew to a Samaritan

if the oath of humanity is not revered by both.

‘Do unto another … as you will them do unto you’

Tis not help they seek to offer my beloved

but a morsel of fat they hope to gain

an offering to grease the sizzling pans of gossip.

For to truly help another

the sands on their heels must not be ignored

nor the scars on their backs.

From this they have been shaped

From this they must shape the future

guided with dignity

and not the arms of a narcissistic saviour.

Oh fair maiden heed my advice

Stay far from the morsel of gossip

it breeds you nothing but a soul fattened with maggots.

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Daily bread

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……….give us this day our daily bread

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some have food, but cannot eat

some can eat, but have no food.

We found food and we can eat

Glory be to thee oh lord.20170531_074320

Once was a time, when daily bread was a major need

from eras marked by; boars roasted over open fires,

fruits picked fresh from forest floors

broths made in pans enough to feed a neighbourhood.

To new one’s filed with; fancy dishes vibrant with colours

fruits grown in air filled with who knows what

meals that leave your tongue tingly with pleasure

but bellies hollow with churning walls.

What then was the essence of daily bread?

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Man has indeed come a very long way

from meeting basic needs to creating greedy vacuums

Man has indeed come a long way

from conquering the wild to conquering his neighbour

Man has travelled far…..

very far from the person he was or sort to become to the person he despised.

In the search of daily bread

steal not the flour for todays child.

Lazy, confused or maladjusted…. just not depressed.

A dark cloud hanging over me.

A heavy cloak sloping the angles of my shoulder.

A weight I can’t lift regardless of my hours in the mental gym.

That’s how depression feels to me and it’s a dark a place to be in. I think everyone suffers from a bout of depression at some point in life. How long and intense the bout  is will differ for each person. I think my first memory of something akin to depression was at the monthly visit from nasty Aunty Flo and her mumbling child cousin red. I never had  any major physical pain at that time of the month, but I experienced huge emotional upsets. One minute I was happy, the next I was quite irritable and very sensitive to tactile sensation.

I craved my own personal space. I became a lot more solemn and for a young person who was already drawn into herself that was not a good place to be. It made me uncomfortable to be around and left me feeling guilt over how I snapped at people during those times. At first  the guilt made me apologetic to the point of self-depreciation but with time it emboldened me to shut people out of my life who couldn’t be patient or demanded too much to be around. I guess because I didn’t have any physical pain it took me a while to come to terms with these monthly mood swings who’s side effects lingered almost to the start of another cycle.

Regardless of my several short-term encounters with mood swings and depression nothing prepared me for the descent into the black hole when I moved to the UK. I have always thought of myself as an adventurous person; a -jump-into the pond head first kind of girl. I guess in the past it had always paid off such that I never really sat back to think of the ways I could have done better or eliminated more risk and stress factors. And it was such reassurance that emboldened and perhaps exaggerated my expectations beyond realistic limits.

Please watch the video.

First there was the drastic change in weather, I felt like someone had moved the walls of the sauna and fitted a freezer in without telling me.  So there’s me sitting all comfy and relaxed in my towel, but when I try to move I find my butt frozen stiff on the chair. For some people the weather change was a welcome reprieve but for a girl who rarely, if ever had the air-condition on a hot sunny day in Nigeria it was hell literally. I know right why bother moving, didn’t I know about the weather? Well yes I did, but that’s were my unrealistic expectation streaks start to show in my perfect armour of confidence.

The situation only got worse with the increasing expectations of marriage, motherhood, an unclear career path and a poor support system. I couldn’t think straight or clearly. I just wanted ‘to be’, a state of existence that allows you hold your breath until the storm ebbs. Life however rarely gives you the space to just ‘be’, it goes on. Through all this I have learnt certain things:

  • Depression isn’t anyone’s identity; how it makes you feel or act isn’t you. In the same way you aren’t the flu, you are not depression.
  • Acknowledging that you’re depressed won’t make you less black, less stronger than your ancestors who got traded as slaves or more selfish than your neighbour who lays her life down daily for everyone.
  • Battling daily or occasionally with depression doesn’t disappoint God, just as praying and working everyday for a better future doesn’t make Him think of us as ingrates.
  • Depression puts a sad twist to normal life occurrences, it blows normal conflicts and everyday mishaps out of proportion. Making us run away from dealing with them, procrastinating and hoping it goes away.
  • It drains us of physical and mental energy. You literally feel drab. Feeling tired and stressed are open pathways for depression. Rest when you need it.

Certain things helped me through those days, I went back to the things I simply loved doing and things that brought me comfort. I needed to grow my confidence, to find my inner strength and trust there was a future out there for me. One were I could trust my judgement again and my inner voice. It’s a daily task to keep the black dog away, but slowly I know it can be done. Never be afraid of criticism or negative words, will they hurt? Most definitely, but make sure you have a support network that helps you sieve through things objectively. Ask questions and be willing to move ahead. More than anything else stay true to your inner self and never wish anyone ill as it only spirals inwards eventually.

Please watch the video.

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