Pride, and a Gilded cage.

This is what happens when a self-assured human meets a colorful proud bird:

Imagine this: A man who is so assured of his place on the planet comes by a beautiful flutter of color and feathers. That being a gorgeous, bold bird of color and song. The colorful bird turns out to be proud as well. And is so assured of its swiftness of flight, powerful wings, and the strength of its shrill whistle. Man will stop to admire the sight. Bird will fly nearby in a dance the man will find daunting and flirtatious.

In his pride and high opinion of himself, the man will watch the bird’s graceful flight and listen to its inborn melody. After getting over his awe, the vanity that is so characteristic of man will deem him worthy of more than admiring beauty. He will consider himself deserving of possessing that beauty. He will call it, taming. And he will set forth to capture the bird who was too confident in its swift flight and powerful wings and was therefore too slow for the clever trap set by man.

The next part of the encounter sees the man standing by a gilded cage that contains the bird. He is quite pleased with himself for having captured beauty and satisfied that he now has the bird for himself. He might even congratulate himself for supplying such beauty to the eye, forgetting that he did not create it. The bird upon realizing its new position shrieks its outrage and flies upon the cage battling for its freedom. But the strong wings and sharp beak that were shields of confidence and might in a jungle are useless against metal. The bird will only come to accept this reality after painful collisions. What started as cries of outrage slowly turn into pleas and even prayers sent to the heavens for release.

Man will watch the bird’s fight in the cage and find the noise unpleasant. So, he will think of what to appease the bird with or at least get it to cease the endless flutter that’s denying him peace to observe the colorful view he covets. So, he will decide to limit the bird’s struggles by snipping the tips of the feathered wings. He will also find nuts, fruits, and seeds to appease the bird and control the screeching and the scratching. And he will call this discipline. He will call this teaching. And he will be pleased with himself.

The bird after consoling itself with the treats will understand the bribe. It will notice that the treats come to appease its cries. So that the cries that were once of outrage and prayer turn to demanding shrieks. It will soon teach the man what treats are pleasing by cawing in anger when the least favorite ones are given. The proud bird will tell itself that it still makes the choices on what it wants to eat and when.  It will now crack away on the nuts and hop around the cage under an imaginative vapor of its glory days. And it will call that freedom. It will be pleased with itself.

We’ll reach a point that man and bird face each other.

Man is now bent by the spine feeding a bird just to keep it quiet and peaceful. He looks at the now docile bird and wonders why he can’t see those beautiful colors and graceful movements anymore. It sometimes occurs to him that the colors are hidden under the flightless wings. And sadly still, the graceful swings of the bird are rusty from restricted hops and limps within the cage. He will search his memory to reconcile the fascinating creature he met with the now defeated but still proud one in the cage. He will feel wistful, but we don’t know if the man could one day set his self-importance and pride aside. We don’t know also if he will come to admit and understand that there’s no beauty in a confined bird but just the responsibility to feed it. Or if he’d come to the humbling conclusion that beauty is not his to tame or possess to begin with.

Bird is now crippled, ill-tempered, and entitled. After consoling itself with being in the cage by thinking it was being served and pampered, its plight reveals itself with time.  We don’t know if the bird remembers the days when it had true freedom. Or if it’ll convince itself that it had a better view and provisions that outweigh its choices. We don’t know if it bothers to caw for its treats anymore. We don’t know if songs burst from its breast from the lightness of its flight and rising of the sun.

It is at this point that man and bird face each other. Their pride stares on the surface mingled with slight regret, morose, and nostalgia. Man looks at bird, bird looks at man and this goes on and on until we don’t know where man ends and bird starts. We don’t know anymore which is bird and which is man. We don’t even know that they are two entities anymore as their demise swirls and coils into one messy structure.

And this, my dear, is what happens when a self-righteousness man encounters a colorful proud bird.

Tracing Chalk Doors

O, hello there stranger! Hello, you fascinating passerby who so randomly wandered by my home. It’s incredible how life brought you here today of all days. I also find it remarkable how among millions and millions of paths and courses, yours and mine connect at this point. This point where I stand inside my home staring out through the window and seeing you. Hello, bright eyes. Hello, friendly smile.
I want to get to know you. So, we talk to each other. We stare at each other and share our stories. And as typical to us humans, we share a lot in a short while of finding a connection. In the little time since you walked by my home, we have shared smiles and laughter. Our smiles shy and secretive at first, then slowly broadening to bright acknowledgments of each other. Our laughter before controlled and secretive is now a burst of mirth that throws our heads back and waters our eyes. We are connected, we are kindred spirits. We want more…
I reach out through my window and grasp your reaching arm. We stare, smile, laugh, and touch. We both wonder if there could be more. Could we dance to the same music, for instance? Or, would we walk with equal steps? Also, would our silences be light if we sat in a quiet room together? There must be more to a connection, don’t you think? We need to make a move to broaden this connection…

Let me tell you what I’m going to do:
I’m going to excuse myself and run to search in my home. There I will find my welcoming chalk. The same chalk I used to trace the boundaries of my home. Then I will walk back to the window and wave it gleefully. I’ll proceed to trace a door large enough for your form, right next to the window. And then with a warm, hopeful smile, I will welcome you into my home. You will walk right through my chalk door and join me. Oh! What a joy!
We’ll sing, we’ll dance and we’ll be as merry as can be. And with time we’ll want to know and feel more. So, we’ll share much more than smiles and laughter. We will share our tears, pain, sadness, and much more of the deeper complexities of ourselves. We’ll learn that we cry when our happiness bubbles through our chests and sometimes we smile when it’s too sad to cry and too hard to fight. And being true to our nature, we choose a name for this connection among the many nouns for linked beings. We’ll call it something like: friendship, love, family, kinship. And we may start describing each other as friends, sisters, brothers, lovers.


We can go anywhere from here, dear stranger:
You could find belonging in my home and me in your being. And you would then decide to get your chalk and trace the boundaries of your own home within mine or right by it. and together we’ll have a home and be.
You could miss your wandering because you are a floating being who carries your home with you. And so, you would invite me to carry my chalk, walk away with you, wander with you and maybe someday we will trace our home together in a fantastic new place and build it there together.
You may also find the solid brick of my home too heavy for your wanderlust and bid me a sad but much-needed goodbye. And I will watch you walk away and wonder what great adventures await you.
You could also enter my home with muddy shoes and leave dirty traces all over my clean floor. And then proceed to dance and make such reckless merry that you broke my treasures and shook my home. You wouldn’t even be considerate enough to try and replace the chalk door with a permanent structure. So, one day I would realize that you are a threat to my home. That you did not come to build with me. That you are a fleeting wreck who sees not the value of my home boundaries. Then I shall remind you that you do not belong here. I will escort you to the chalk door and let you out. Then I will thoroughly wipe the traced door so that you would only hurt your forehead if you tried to walk back in. After storing my chalk and duster, I will walk back to the window and watch… and wait… and hope…
But you see, all these are just musings of what I am going to do and what may come out of it. just thoughts from this person tracing the boundaries and creating space for a home. I stand here with my chalk hoping that you know I have the absolute power to let you into my home, and the complete authority to let you or even push you, right out. At the same time, I hope you also understand that you have complete freedom on whether you want to come in, stand by the window, or walk right by. I truly wonder what your stand is in all this, oh, dear stranger.
So, go on and tell me:
What sets you wandering and venturing? What did you do to set fate upon our paths crossing? Do you carry your home with you? Will you dare to pause and see this world with me? Do you intend to live in goodness and be human?
Hello, there stranger! Hello, there bright eyes! It’s incredible to see you here… Don’t you think so?

Brother, cry…

Mama dear, my brothers don’t cry, neither do my uncles and fathers… and I’m not sure I know why…

I remember a shamefully beautiful, sunny day that also happened to be the day we lost a lady we loved. As you know, funerals in our home are big and sad affairs that go on for days. He was present from the beginning; organizing the family meeting, drafting the budget, and even lifting heavy material to erect temporary structures. I noticed him because he paused next to my hiding place under the shade, stretched his painful back and reached into his pocket for a handkerchief. He then proceeded to wipe hid sweaty brow, then quickly removed his dark sunglasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. He did this fast and discreetly before anyone could notice him crying. I did.

My own sniffing and silent sobs were interrupted by the few seconds that I saw this man allowing himself to wipe away hidden tears. I gazed at him as he burst around the place making sure everything was handled. This hidden sorrow that reminded me of my own brothers paused my mourning.

This man could have been like my brothers whose tears I have forgotten the sight of. They cried when they were young children, I recall them crying in pain after a fall. Sometimes, they cried in anger and frustration. Other times they cried when hungry or scared. They even cried when I poured cold water on their heads when washing them. And sometimes they cried for no good reason to manipulate or just be fussy. Little boys just cry.

There’s an invisible line that one crosses from one stage of life to another, I think. We woke up one day and these boys had crossed a line towards, not adults, but children too old to cry. I’m not sure when exactly that is, but one day the child would drop his favorite snack and cry, then a nearby figure would admonish;

“Stop crying like a baby! You are a big boy now!”

This same sentence will alter until it one day becomes;

“Be a man!”

And just like that, that small boy gradually transfigures into a man whose tears are warned to not fall and label him weak and out of control. This small boy turns into a man who holds his tears until his eyes burn. This man who had just lost the woman who raised him as her own was now single-handedly organizing her funeral. He will work tirelessly and we will all praise him. We will think of what a great, strong man we have in the family. We will even feel quite thankful for his manly presence and authority. But this man hides his sorrows, just like my brothers.

And this brings me back to that shamefully beautiful day where the man planned and planned. And with everything fixed, he took himself to the pub and sat with his friends with a big bottle. They talked, laughed and made loud jokes about everything and nothing. They downed the good liquor until it was early the next morning, then they drunk a little more. His friends did not give him lingering hugs, or arm squeezes. His friends didn’t ask how he was feeling and if he wanted to talk about it. They didn’t dare to ask if he wanted to talk about the loss of someone so dear to him. His friends just commented on the football scores and joked about their growing bellies and shrinking hairlines. They were handling everything like MEN.

The man then went home with only enough time to shower and change into a somber black suit for the burial. The burial where he and his brothers will carry their beloved to her final resting place. I find it ironic that they will carry the weight of their lost loved one above the weight of all the tears they were taught to hold in. The man will go through the funeral with red eyes that his friends and family will attribute to the previous night of heavy MANLY drinking. And a dripping sweat that they’ll call a hangover. Mama dear, that is the same sweat the man will use as an excuse to wipe away his tears with a handkerchief before fixing his dark glasses on as the last song is sung for his beloved.

Oh, mama! My brothers don’t cry, neither do my uncles and fathers… do you have any idea why?

Beloved cactus

I am a creature of the shade.
I thrive in a place of gentleness and care. I live under the shade where I can access nourishment and water. I live in the quiet warmth of moderation where the heat is mild, and the cold doesn’t bite. Where there’s enough sound to ward off loneliness but not too loud to overwhelm the senses. I live in a simple sheltered world and all is well.

I am, however, a curious creature who ventures out of my shade searching for new experiences and sights. I met you during one of my explorations and my simple being was struck!
You who stands as a symbol of strength and resilience. You who grows against all odds. You who requires no gardener to tend to you with irrigation and pruning. You who decided that you’ll need only that which is freely given to grow, the sunlight. You who adorn yourself in prickly thorns and rare blossoms that fruit — My dear, dear Cactus, I was in awe of you!

You seemed so self-sufficient. You needed little, gave little and asked for little. I stood before you and watched the elements rage at you. You stood alone and exposed, on a harsh spot where the sand storms are frequent. The heat of the sun unforgivingly shone upon you. You didn’t wilt, you didn’t bend. You just stood with your thorns stretched towards the world as if daring anyone or anything to come at you.

I walked towards you closer, and closer, with my hands, stretched wide. You stood before me proud and unyielding. You gave me nothing much but the acknowledgment that I was allowed to approach you. I found that enough… I moved forward until we were face to face, on the brink of an embrace.

Then we made contact, and my whole being was lit with sensations! My skin burned as your sharp thorns pierced their way through me. My self-preservation warning me to let go of the pain but a weaker part of me marveled at the strength and strange comfort of standing with your support. I made a decision that I loved the stability more than I feared the pain, and so I moved closer, and closer until we formed a tight hug. I felt the thorns piercing deep and sure, but the pain was numbed by relief. I had found such a strong stand with you that I could slump and relax but remain upright. I didn’t want to stand alone anymore and so, I moved and covered the last distance between us wrapping my arms around you. We then stood as one. I was you, you were me. You were strength, pride, and resilience, and I was softness and warmth. We made sense together.
we faced it all; the rain, the stormy winds, the unforgiving scorch of the sun…We faced it all in our stronghold of each other. The elements couldn’t tear us apart.

Us being creatures from different places, however, was a sobering reality. I missed the shade. I thirsted for cool water, but you could only give a sap when your strong bark chipped. This sap burned and had me wiggling for relief. The wiggling twisted the thorns lodged into my skin and together they formed a hot dance of pain. I willed myself to stay still, breathe softly until the burning stopped. This would have been easy if you bled from one chipped spot. You, however, accumulated chips with time, and what once was a drop of burning pain turned into a trickle, then a shower of agony.

I couldn’t control my yelps while I yanked myself off of you.
My skin protested the sudden separation. I stood on weak limbs that were accustomed to your support. The thorns left open gushes on my skin that were now bleeding while my skin burned still.

In my blind struggle, I convinced myself that: I want your embrace back. I want the support and the cover to my open wounds even though they’d be covered by the same thorns that created them. I want to stand with you, strong and proud with a burning skin. I prefer that to standing alone, bleeding, weak and still burning.

I walked back to you, braced myself for the piercing thorns…

We now make contact, my senses scream, too loud for me to ignore them. I take a step back. You stare at me, strong and proud. You don’t take even the tiniest step towards me. I know you miss my warmth, my softness and how it compliments your strength and acid sap. But you stare at me proud, unyielding and ungiving. Your posture speaks of no compromise, no sacrifices. You are what you are and are not about to change for a soft creature from the water and shade. I realize now that I have to take the steps, I have to hold on to you, I have to embody you and bear you. Even if that takes my being away…

I take another step back; your thorns painfully release my skin. I take another step back; my open wounds start to bleed. I take another step back; my limbs start shaking from the weight they had forgotten to carry. I keep taking these steps back and each one of them is pure agony. I keep taking these steps until I find my shade again. Until I find the water and green trees that nourish my existence. There, I sit and slowly will learn to heal myself. There I will learn to have faith in the creature that I am and stand on my own. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to bleed, but it’s the only way to myself. Memories of you are bitter-sweet. I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m relieved, I’m grateful. But one thing I’m pretty sure of is this:

You are a beautiful lesson, dear Cactus.

IMG_20190111_142212

Craaaasshh…!

Vase

Remember the beautiful, crystal vase that stood in our home?
It was such a pretty sight! It stood on a raised platform on the best-lit spot in the house. Everyone who visited our home saw it and complimented its beauty and grandeur. We all adored it and made a family goal to keep it well polished and shiny. We took it upon ourselves to keep it safe and warned anyone who danced near it. No one shook the raised platform that the vase stood on. Even our pets knew better than to play near that spot. And so, there stood a beautiful, delicate crystal vase in our home.

Mama, do you remember the vase, that you so proudly displayed to your friends and family? The one you made sure we all took turns polishing? It was your dignity and delight!

Papa, do you remember pointing it out to your colleagues when they visited and talking long and boastfully to everyone who could listen about it? Do you remember the threats you made to anyone who came too close to breaking it?

Brother, do you remember stopping on your tracks just in time to not touch the platform and shake the vase? Do you remember never banging the door in your anger, in case it rattled the walls and toppled the vase over?

Sister, do you remember your silence? Do you remember swallowing your screams when angry because you somehow feared that loud noises would shake the delicate vase? Do you remember when you stopped dancing because your merry lightness let you so close to the raised platform that you shook the vase?

Aunts, uncles, neighbors! Do you all remember our quiet household with no tantrums, no raised voices, no banged doors or dancing feet? Do you remember admiring the tranquility?

I remember taking turns with everyone in the family to polish the vase. I also remember covering my nose every time I stood close to the vase because it stank! That beautiful crystal smelled like lifelessness. From deep inside its soft, shiny mold came the smell of rot! The smell of an accumulation of decomposed matter. Only we who stood close enough could smell the stench, and it grew stronger, spread wider with time. I sensed that the neighbors and frequent visitors started smelling it too. But everyone ignored that dead-matter smell because it was coming from such a beautiful, delicate vase!

I remember one day standing next to the vase with my duster and polisher ready to give it a good shine. I started polishing with dread in my gut and my breath held. When I allowed myself a lungful of air, I inhaled a foul stench! This time the decay of so much had brewed into a marvelous lung-piercing stench. My gut couldn’t hold itself together; and so, I turned and watched you all going about your subtle activities with shallow breaths, I moved my hand to give the vase a mighty shove and watched it crash with a satisfying sound…
I expected your unbelieving, shocked faces… I didn’t expect the glorious relief in my belly.

We stand now staring at the shattered pieces as an ugly smell rises from the floor and spreads throughout the house:

Mama, that’s the smell of accumulated secrets. That’s the smell of the many times you warned your daughters to cover their legs while welcoming predators into your house. Smells of also the many times you swallowed dams of tears for the sake of keeping the family together.

Papa, that’s the smell of your dissatisfaction for marrying, for settling and shrinking your dreams into fatherhood. The smell of your resentment that reminded her she was never enough. That’s the smell of the pride you strapped so tightly around your core that you wouldn’t let your son be a mere boy.

Brother, that’s the smell of your lost childhood. That’s the smell of your anger and insecurities buried so deep that you will miss them when you finally let go. That’s the smell of your manliness that doesn’t allow you to cry or ask for help.

Sister, that’s the smell of your stifled sobs from the nights that you cried yourself to sleep because the burden your mothers asked you to bear wasn’t yours. That’s the smell of your confusion and sense of betrayal. It’s also a smell of your resolve to carry this burden to your children so you may finally sleep.

These dear family, are the smells of the secrets we kept even though everyone knew about them but chose to look away. This smell is the reality of our lives behind the mask of perfection and still waters. And as we stand looking down at the shattered hypocrisy on our feet, the smells rise and wisp towards every room in the house. It’s hard to breathe. Someone better open a window and let in some fresh air. And I’m pretty sure someone is about to scream at me for deciding to break this vase. This beautiful, delicate, crystal vase that stank of dead matter… Somebody is going to do something. And to that I say; let there be noise.

The Beaded Necklace.

Koku received the last-minute phone invitation from one of her sisters. She had a lot of them, sisters, because her parents made children together and made children with other partners before and after their marriage. They gave her many sisters and a few brothers. And because she was tired of explaining the abundance of siblings in her life stories and how they connected, she opted to call them simply sisters or brothers, not half-siblings. She only met most of them in her adulthood and went through the usual stages of searching for common ground after the initial introduction. She had more connection to some than others, and she figured that was normal sibling dynamics.

The phone call was from one of the sisters closest to her, Side, inviting her to a wedding. The wedding of her niece Fifi, who was a good two years older than her. Fifi’s mother, Jula, being the eldest of all the sisters and way older than Side who had called.

“There are just so many sisters!” she thought to herself.

There was an entangled rope of siblings and relations, she was right in the deep of it. So many different people, each intertwined to the other, through the other, with different dilutes of the same blood. Old, new and renewed relations. She had to relate to them all, in so many different levels… just thinking of it heated her brain.

Still she sat there after the phone call and wondered why and how to attend the wedding. She had clear instruction to not show up in her preferred trousers which meant looking for a fussy dress.

What was the reason for her to attend? Well, she did like Fifi, her niece, who she had bonded with when they shared a room for a few nights during a family visit. She wondered if marriage was a first choice for Fifi. They were only two years apart and she, Koku herself, was still trying to complete her degree. How does one attend a niece’s wedding as a single aunt in her twenties even though her niece is slightly older than her? Why didn’t the bride’s mother or the bride herself send an invitation?

As she sat doubting and questioning, her grandmother’s voice echoed in her memory;

“…because this is our family, no matter how unconventional, scattered or strange it is…”

She rolled her eyes at the mental picture of her grandmother, went out to rent a sparkly fussy dress, bought a glittering present, packed her bag, grabbed her passport and squeezed her student budget into a bus ticket to another country. 

The wedding was a fussy, blown up affair that included the extended family members, their friends and friends of their friends. Plus, it happened in the church, so all the church members and church friends were there too. It was a principle in the family that same gender relatives were closer in relation. For instance, her being female meant the daughter of her sister is her daughter. Her mother’s sister is not an aunt but rather a second mother, making her children brothers and sisters and not cousins. That distinction therefore identified her as the mother of the bride, and she found herself right at the front of the church next to her sisters Jula and Side. Three mothers to the bride!

The bride walked in, a vision of lace and sash. Looking beautiful and somehow lost in all the makeup and frills. Koku watched her niece, or daughter if you may, walk up to the isle and take her vows holding on to her soon to be husband’s hand. In a shaking voice, Fifi recited her vows. Then her voice cracked as she sobbed through her words. Something pulled on Koku’s chest at that instant, something so deep and natural. A hand reached from across and offered her a tissue making her realize that she was crying, she took it and turned to find her two sisters also crying into their tissues. Their eyes met in a trio of tearful eyes and she finally understood…

She will later wonder what made Fifi sob through her vows. She wondered if it was out of fear of the new and unknown journey. It could have been a love, uncertainty or the typical emotions shown by brides on their wedding days. It could have been anything! No one knows for sure… but Koku was so sure of the chest-pull that had shocked her. Her sister was also so sure that she would be in tears that she had passed the tissue without having to look or confirm. At that moment they had all been sure of something that connected them deep down. She could picture all the scattered members of her family sitting there on that day and they all would have felt it. Especially her grandmother, who would have been on the front row in her favorite kitenge outfit and beaded necklace… oh! she understood then, her family was never a tangled web of threads… it was just like a beaded necklace.

Speak, Child!

This is my story, told by my aunt Lulu who knew me from the day I was born. 

Babies and young children were bathed in basins in my family. Hot water would be poured into the basin, followed by cold water. You then poured a bit of the mixed water on the soft inner skin of your wrist. That is how you know if it’s not too hot for the baby’s skin. Every woman and young girl in my family knew that. 

I remember my nephew as a big-eyed, beautiful baby who rarely cried. Those eyes said a lot and grew to different sizes depending on his need or emotions. I dotted on him and loved looking into those big, expressive eyes. Such a delightful baby! I recall walking into the room one evening when his dada (nanny) was getting him ready for a bath. She cooed at him and sat him in the water basin. The baby immediately looked at me with the biggest, glassy eyes and an unknown feeling forced me to lift him off the basin and onto my chest. Only to notice the red, hot scald spreading on his bottom. Dada had forgotten to cool the bathwater! I held the child while Dada made profuse apologetic sounds to him and tearfully ran off to get the cold water. Standing there holding the child trying to sooth him, I suddenly realized he hadn’t cried or whimpered. The two adults in the room, Dada and I, were in tears and a panic but the baby just clung to my chest without making a sound. Is it strange to wish for a baby to cry?

He was six years old this time. A healthy boy running around with his siblings and friends. He learned well, ate well and behaved well. There was nothing for any sensible parent to worry about, but a small part of me did. He loved mangoes. I called the children in one day for mango slices and they could all pick a piece. I watched him walk towards the plate first staring with longing but not making a move to pick one. I saw him watch his favorite pieces disappear into his sibling’s mouths fast. I saved a piece for him and handed it to him where his mischievous sister grabbed it. He looked at her, his resentment and longing evident in his eyes. He made a move as if to grab his mango back but said nothing. The sister paused for a second as if daring him to say something. I held my breath and silently urged him; “Speak, Child…”

He didn’t, and she swiftly popped the fruit into her mouth. 

I watched him go through so much in silence. I am not saying my nephew didn’t speak, he did! my nephew just didn’t speak when it was most important for him to speak. I don’t know why! His silence during these important or urgent moments put him in awkward situations. I silently urged him to speak up for himself, until my age was too advanced for me to hold on to my thoughts. I thus started whispering and later on loudly requesting him to speak up. When his father firmly said he would study Engineering, he stared quietly at the biology leaflet on the table. When his mother introduced him to a good girl, he stared with a frozen smile and threw away letters from his sweetheart. When she later announced their wedding date, he stared long at her sparkling ring. In all these moments, I looked him right in the eye and said,

“Speak, Child”.

He did not.

This is my story told by me, who still doesn’t know himself. 

A lot of things do not make sense to me. I for example, don’t understand why someone can willingly induce hurt. It doesn’t make sense to me that a parent can hurt a child willingly. Or anyone would take what he doesn’t need to deprive someone of it. I just assumed everyone would share this perspective, but life taught me differently. A very big part of me still believed in fairness. I trusted the universe, the forces, the planet, God, to align life into a perfect balance. I had faith…

It however took me a lifetime of regrets and mishaps to realize that faith alone doesn’t stand time. The faith I have in the love between my siblings and I don’t stop them from grabbing my favorite toy and keep it away from me. Faith doesn’t stop pain and misunderstandings; faith just IS and what we do with it moves life into different paths.

I made the mistake of thinking questioning faith is a direct stab that dissolves it into nothing. So, I lived life with limited choices in the name of keeping faith. I wouldn’t dare to question it out loud. My faith in my parents therefore put me in a study I wasn’t passionate about and paved my entire life career. I hid behind faith and let decisions happen to me instead of taking charge of them. On a time of great decision making, I froze and screamed my desire loud within myself, willing faith to take charge and allow it to happen. It didn’t happen often; my life was therefore a collection of everyone’s and everything’s choice but mine.

Those around me accepted it. When deciding on what to eat in a restaurant for example, my fiancée would simply order what she believed was my most likely choice. She was often wrong, no matter how silently I willed her to pick what I wanted. I ate a lot of things I don’t like, for many times. She accepted my silent nods. So did my family, friends and most who knew me. My aunt Lulu however, did not.

I remember her intense eyes seeking mine out when I got lost in my internal decision battles. When I was younger, she simply looked me straight in the eyes as if waiting, pushing for me to say something. With time, the intense looks turned into gentle whispers, then grew louder with the years always saying the same little sentence. This same sentence was shouted to me on my wedding day as I stood holding the hand of the bride I barely knew. She looked radiant, smiled at me sweetly as the question rang out: 

“Do you take this woman as your lawfully wedded wife….”

I blinked, with my heart willed the universe to understand that I don’t know this beautiful woman and have no idea why we are getting married. I willed the universe to give me time. I willed it with all my heart…

That’s when aunt Lulu’s voice rang out strong and raspy from old age, “Speak, child!”

I turned, looked at those sharp intense eyes as she looked at me from her seat. And I, for once in my life, spoke…

“I don’t.”

Her name…

I might claim to have known her for my whole life, because I have memories of her from a very young age. I don’t think however that would have been true. So, I say I have known her for as long as I can remember. She popped into my life to fill blank spaces, at least that’s how I see it. For instance, one of the first times I met her was when I was denied what I believed to be my right. My parent might have taken something from me without a good reason. I remember then the blankness that occupied my puzzled mind wondering why I couldn’t have it! Then she showed up, hot and demanding. She filled up the blankness and moved me to action. I threw a mighty tantrum, added some hot tears and shrieks that dissolved my parents into willing givers. Once I got my way, I looked at my new friend with awe and delight. I realized that she was a great friend to have and I made a decision to keep her close.

And thus, our friendship grew with my advancing age. She saw me through my first attempts to social interactions and even my first romance. And every time something went wrong, I could call on her. When I failed my first exam, she stood by me reminding me that I did everything right and the teacher might be threatened by me. When I lost my first best friend after telling her secret, she stood by me and reminded me that I did the right thing. She stood by me through a lot; so much that what started as hurt would dissolve into a solid resolve in my gut. She made me cry sometimes, but not light cleansing tears that clear the knots from your chest. She made me cry red, hot and acidic tears that fell from a tight chest and short breath. She made me scream sometimes, like a wounded beast cursing the universe for its misfortune. She even made me destructive at times, then I would want to spoil everything that happened; throw on walls, rip off fabric, tear through layers of flowers…

After she left to mind her own business, I would find myself surrounded by ruins; words I couldn’t take back, burned souvenirs I couldn’t get back, bleeding knuckles from hitting walls, swollen eyes from hot tears, sourness in my belly… So much destruction in such a short time! I didn’t like the aftermath, but I also didn’t want to lose my friend. Despite all that I broke because of her, her presence gave me strength. She lit a fire inside of me that set my being into motion like an engine. I honored her and gave her a name, ANGER.

Anger and I stayed friends for many, many years. She grew with me, she became a part of me. The longer I lived, the more and heavier tragedies I met. I lost a parent and every part of me deflated. Anger came and stood by me, lighting a fire in my belly so that I screamed and cursed, I cried and stormed. It didn’t feel better, it didn’t even feel good, but it was alive and better than blankness. So much happened, and the two of us grew closer and closer until we were almost one. She didn’t need to light a fire in my belly anymore, she shared it and became my belly. I walked with anger, I brewed inside my chest. I was anger myself.

One day after a strong moment of anger, I woke up in the middle of spoils and evidence of all my destruction. I looked around at the torn connections, wounded souls, destroyed relationships, broken glass, … for the first time I got scared by what I could do with anger. I started wondering why anger and I were friends. I tried to recall how she came to be my friend and a big part of me. Did I meet her through somebody I knew? How were we introduced? Did I find her on the side of the street?

I had so many questions for her and I realized that I didn’t know much about her aside from how I react with her. I realized that she might be with me for a reason. What made her so hot and restless? Why do I react like that with her? It occurred to me that I may have a better chance of finding the right answers if I got to know her better. So, I called her to me and introduced myself;

“Greetings, Anger. My name is Person”.

And she said;

“Hello dear Person, it’s so nice to finally know you. My name is GRIEF”.

Blossoms.

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I lost a friend while on vacation. This sentence already sounds complicated, I realize, so I will explain. I was on a short holiday at a beautiful place when my friend died. No, she was not with me on vacation. She was thousands of kilometers back home. There I was on a beautiful place, supposed to have a break and enjoy myself after a whole year when the news got to me. I spent the following minutes in absolute disbelief and started reaching out to everyone I could. There’s an explainable emotion that resembles panic and it pulls at the stomach when one is trying to confirm or validate bad news. I went through that as I waited for answers, holding on to my phone and wishing it transferred more than just electromagnetic signals.

The worst was confirmed after a few minutes and my heart sank. There are two sides to this situation; the first is the sadness and frustration of being too far and not able to do anything. The second is the unreality of the situation as one follows the updates through the phone and social media. These two leave your chest empty, gasping for air and dry heaving before the tears arrive.

I cried that day. I cried harder than I had allowed myself to in years and for so many reasons. Regret; all the time lost! I wasn’t very close to the deceased, even though we had every reason to be. Questions like; why? were heavy on my mind. Loss; because that’s exactly what it is and how it feels. I felt the loss of a friend and all those that went before her. Helplessness; because I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t mourn with loved ones or friends in common being so far. I couldn’t relive the moments with the departed. I was too far and too late.

Well, time moved and within a few days she was laid to rest and I faced life again. The question is however, how does one resume life? Do I recommence the holiday with gusto and live my best life even though there’s a slight bitterness on my tongue? Do I stay indoors and let grief and sadness run its course? How do I honor somebody’s memory and live? Are those two that different?

But then, life has a way of directing and redirecting itself against all odds. While sight-seeing the next day I started noticing flowering plants. I found them everywhere! Little flowers growing under rocks. Big majestic flowers by a valley. Bright blossoms above thorny cacti. A rose shaped cactus. There were flowers everywhere, in every size, shape and color. Some grew on fertile soil on beautifully cultivated gardens and thrived on the nurturing environment. Others grew on rocky roads, on fallen pots and dry patches of land without any care but their own will to blossom. Some grew wanted and others not, but against all odds they grew. I noticed one clear thing about these plants; they all just grew and regardless of their reason to exist, or how long they will exist, they were all beautiful.

It now dawns on me that we are all like that. Our lives are just like the gorgeous, vulnerable, majestic, colorful, resistant, … flowers. Our lives are meant to just be lived, just as the flowers ARE. We grow from different places and face different challenges and opportunities. And just like flowers we blossom, we bloom, not knowing when we’ll wither and fall dry. We don’t know if we’ll fill some hearts with joy, put smiles on passive faces. We don’t know if our lives will continue on the earth that we grew upon or on decorative vases, dried herbs packets, on hair and clothes as decoration or pressed in a book. We don’t know for how long we grow and bloom. We are not entirely sure if our seeds will spread and grow to continue our lives or start new life. We just ARE, and that could be the whole point. When the time comes for our blossoms to dry, the only thing that matters is; Did we bloom? Did we grow? Did we live?

When I see it this way, maybe there’s more than just pain and regret in loss. There’s also gratitude for life and what it means to us. There’s growth and beauty in our memories and these make us who we are. We are blossoms.

We LOVE, and we learn…

We are born in love. We are born with love. We are born to love. We are love.

I believe love starts with life, or rather life starts with love. It starts from the moment we take our first breathe and we start reflecting the love inside our beings into the life around us. We learn the comfort of a parent’s touch and the satisfaction of milk filling our bellies. We recognize the swooning voices around us and cling to their warmth. This is what slowly accumulate into manifestations of love.  As we grow and make sense of our place in the world, we experience love in different ways. We receive love and learn to give it back. We like hugs and find them soothing, that’s why we learn to give hugs for comfort. We collect love from around us and make it our own. This is how we learn to portray love.
We learn to love so we can love others and love ourselves. We learn to love so we can teach others to love us, after we love ourselves. Because our reflection of love is useless if doesn’t seep into our very own beings and start from within. And thus, we love, and we learn, and we live. Each one of us loving at their own pace and way.

One day I met you, darling. I met you and saw love dripping from your being so thickly. You have loved and learned abundantly. You loved yourself as fiercely as a human possibly can. So, I love you so much. We decide to love together and share life. It is beautiful and easy. I find it easy to love you because you already love yourself enough to teach me. You take my hand and show me how to love you. But, alas…love! My heart is breaking.

I love you, I live you but my heart breaks with every love serving you poor into me. My heart breaks for you, because I do not love myself yet. I loved and learned to love everything but myself. I love the rain. I love my friends. I love trains. I love you. Everyone believes me to be a loving person! The expression is, “Having a big heart”. I may be having a big heart, and I fill it with love for everything but myself. I didn’t learn to love myself enough. I reflect my love to many parts of life but cannot find the same within my very own self. I left myself torn and exhausted while I loved others. And my big heart is hollow and pale.
This is why my heart breaks when I see you trying to love me. You may think you have enough love for the both, but this is never true. Having love and being love are different things. And we need them both. I see you trying, and I’m very thankful. But you can never love me enough or right because I never loved myself enough to teach you how to love me. And I love you enough to not allow you to fight an invisible wall.

I shall retreat into a far place. I may have to leave you, darling. This may break both our hearts, mine twice for the both of us. Still, I will leave and go find myself. I am going to learn and love myself. I’m going to look into my darkest parts and secrets. I’m going to face my imperfections. I’m going to face the raw honesty of my ugly side. I’m going to learn to love my fears, regrets and shame. I’m going to love all of me. And when I finally have enough love for myself. I will come back to you. If you’ll have me, I’ll teach you how to love me. And learn how to love you some more. We’ll love and we’ll learn, Darling.