Just so you know…

I am writing this to let it out of my system before the ugly malice of your words seeps through my pores, contaminates my blood and nestles into my marrow.

I am writing this to tell you I am not what you say I am and you will never define me; to tell you that I am proud of the mother I am and of the woman I am becoming.

To tell you that your words no longer have the power to wound, to hurt and that the sting they once had to puncture my self-esteem and make me doubt my own worth is gone.

I am writing to tell you I don’t have to listen to you talk about what you know nothing about; because when it comes to the topic called ‘ME’ you are several editions out of date.

Back off!

I am not the starry-eyed teenager I once was; I am not awed by you or your jaw breaking verbosity.

I have learned that in the greater scheme of things words without action are as inconsequential as flatulence lost in a whirlwind – so spare me the empty promises.

I don’t need your validation, your approval, your affirmation and I certainly don’t need to explain myself to you – so get over yourself.

I will not give you free reign in my life so that you desecrate my peace of mind or the tranquillity my soul enjoys with your mean-spirited remarks.

You didn’t make me and you don’t get to claim my success as your own or take credit for what I purchased with my own sweat, tears, struggles and sheer guts.

You don’t get to ‘collectivize’ my sacrifices, melt them down into the language of ‘we’ because if memory serves me right – you weren’t there when it mattered most.

You don’t know my story or my hopes and fears.

You cannot shame me or guilt me into becoming who or what you think I once was, or should be.

Let me introduce the real me to you – I am the woman who has too much courage to cower at the prospect of embracing the unknown.

So here I go …and you can hurl the rest of your insults to the part of my anatomy that couldn’t care less – my back!

Even if the only footprints on the sand are mine - I won't turn back thinking I've lost my way; no - I'll make my own way... always

…to disbelieve what you have lived

We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood. ~ William James

Reading, travelling and more recently – living abroad has taught me to question things I often took as given.

From the books I read since my childhood; I found a means of escaping my own world and roamed unfettered into what I considered to be the ‘imaginary’ worlds of others.

Imaginary in the sense that these worlds were intangible to me and what was real was only that which I experienced day by day.

What we live is often what we believe. Our idea of reality is so intricately woven into the fabric of our lived experience that it takes a lot to admit that our ‘truth’ is not the only truth there is.

When you encounter norms, values, customs, ideas, manners, traditions, cultures and ways of being that are nothing like your own – you are left with two choices.

To either hold on adamantly to what you have lived and now believe or to accept that what you believe can and should encompass more than just what you’ve lived.

I was startled last week during a seminar when one colleague from Syria (I think he should be 30 years at least) revealed that until July last year – he’d never seen a black person face to face.

Over the months, he and I have become acquaintances but I never realized what a fascinating species I must be to him. With my chocolate skin and my defiantly uncombed, African natural hair (which I recall, he once shyly touched with this look of perplexion and amused incomprehension).

He admitted how he had never associate beauty with a dark skinned person because where he comes from they identify as being ‘white’ and hence their standard of beauty is measure along paler hues of skin pigmentation.

And all the time he explained this, he kept glancing at me (the only black person in that seminar group) apologetically and lifting his palms up in a gesture of helplessness – it was what he’d lived therefore it informed what he believed.

I was rather bemused.

He then went on to confess to our pre-dominantly Chinese seminar group that he had a hard time telling their individual faces apart because to him they all looked alike. At that point, I had to burst out laughing because I simply couldn’t see how he could fail to tell them apart when their features were so distinct!

In any case, I was reminded of Lucky Dube’s song:

It got me thinking as well of the things I hold with such conviction – things that I use my own lived experience as a premise – things I hold to be true but that I now accept could never be the entirety of the truth.

Perhaps the definition of tolerance is simply to disbelieve what you have lived – to appreciate the limitations of your own world view and entertain the possibility that ours is just one version of reality as we have lived and experienced it.

Maybe Bertrand Russell shared similar sentiments when he stated – “I would never die for my beliefs because I could be wrong”.

I’m here….somewhere

This article started off as an email to a close friend of mine and ended up a deep introspection into the space I have found myself in these past few weeks. Sometimes you only realize that you were searching for something when you find it; at other times it finds you! Being far from my usual environs is the reason why I am able to finally start looking for myself…because I know I am here… somewhere.

I saw your missed call and got your text message thanks for checking on me but I am fine. Jus appreciating being by myself, with myself, for myself.

In this country I have no role to fulfil or play in anyone’s life. I’m a mother but I’m not ‘mothering’ anyone, technically married but practically living single, I am a sister, daughter, friend but the pressure of performing any of those roles is lessened by the distance.

Because I’m so far; all these people allow me time out – out of their immediate problems that (thankfully) they can no longer suck me into! Feels so liberating and great.

Here I am alone. But never lonely. I have responsibilities but only to myself; I have duties to perform but only the ones I choose to assume (like my midnight Library sessions).

I have pressures but only what I anticipated I’d have to handle. I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m loved by those that love me without my having to be an active or proximal participant in their lives! Or having them set up a similar vigil or immediate surveillance over my own life.

I’m 27 and for the first time since I was 19, I am myself. I am by myself – accountable to no one and accountable for no one. There’s a sweet sense of contentment I carry every day.

An appreciation that at last each day is all about ME. About MY needs and not those of others…

I am coming first, second and last – everything in my world revolves around me – no external roles, expectations or needs are on standby waiting to be met by me.

I am free. Its not an intoxicating thought but its very empowering and when I’m done here; I do not think I will be willing to surrender this. To give up the space I have marked out as “Me, Myself and I”.

I do not wish to give up any inch of it jus so that it becomes a space darkened once more by the intrusive presence of others and by the taxing demands of sustaining familial, friendly or strenous love relationships.

I didn’t know I would write all this.

I just woke up, grabbed my phone to check the time and thought of passing you a greeting too but somehow it has morphed into this – this conversation with myself, this awareness of myself and unflinching acceptance that I am selfish and refuse to try to be otherwise.

That I am now first and no one else can reclaim this position in my life – only my child may fleetingly share it with me but even for him and to him, it is a temporary indulgence on my part – because he will grow and eventually not need to occupy so sacred a spot in my life.

Perhaps with more contemplation; I will consider surrendering this spot to God; whom I am certain will allow me to do more for, about and with myself than I could entrust myself to know how to do.

This email may have been meant for you initially but now its jus a private conversation with myself and sending this to you is jus my way of saying I want to be alone but sometimes; it would be nice to be joined by you in my ‘aloneness’.

Remember the day you were depressed and needed a pick-me-up motivational prep talk? You asked me what I admire about you; and I told you all the things I know I admire about you.

There’s one thing I did not mention because I had not realized at the time how much I was drawn to it; how refreshingly unthreatened it made me feel and how much I have wanted to associate myself with you thinking it was the only way I could possess it.

Your “aloneness”.

Your unencumbered emotional existence; loving freely but never having people take what you will not give. Your generous nature, balanced out by your ability to withhold whatever deep emotional attachments that would enslave you and make you bend to the will, wishes, whims and unsolicited expectations of others.

I like your aloneness. It makes me feel safe knowing that you will not sacrifice your aloneness to swallow up my self-hood or wish to bend me to your will or dominate me. And my self-hood has been swallowed up in a lot of things, in a lot of cares, roles, relationships and external expectations internalized over time.

So now each day is an opportunity to discover what I want or what I thought I wanted. Who I want or who I thought I wanted. Why I wanted it or whom I wanted it for.

Each day that goes by I fall in love with the only person here to love – myself.

It is an enlightening place to be in my life right now.

I am glad I thought of writing to you because it enabled me in the end to write for me.

It must have been a consequence of waking up with a rested mind, refreshed soul, clear conscious and the rare but precious commodity called inner piece.

I don’t know how long this has turned out to be but from the ache of my neck angled in one way for too long on this pillow and the discomfort in my wrist from excessive phone typing – I fear it is a very lengthy piece.

You are allowed to ignore it! I have no right to inflict it upon you or upon your ever hectic schedule or burden your half-a-decade old laptop with the weight of its contents.

Enough! I must stop!

...outside of the roles I've juggled over the years...there's gotta be "me" somewhere

I be what I be…

Under varying circumstances and prompted by differing events – my paternal uncles, my father’s two surviving brothers have affirmed my status as a rebel (read feminist).

...I be what I be --- living on my own terms; breaking free from the bonds of my anatomy

For years, I suppose my refusal to conform was mistaken for an ‘inability’ to do so – a handicap as it were.

It seemed I would be the object of pity, the misfit who just couldn’t make the mark but perhaps they have come to realize that I was never a misfit, that it was not a matter of me failing to follow the rules and live up to expectation – but rather a choice I made to never live by any dictates except my own.

Like the homosexual who is glad that their sexual orientation has been accepted, albeit with resignation, I feel as if my feminism has now become an acceptable ‘deformity’ in my family.

I have, without making the effort won their grudging respect.
So it amused me no end, when a year ago my youngest uncle called me and said that I should have been born a boy – amused me because
I knew he meant it as a compliment and it amused me because I knew that becoming a boy has never been a thing aspired for and to be told that I had reached the point of being ‘equal’ to a boy child told me a lot about my patriarchal parentage.

He was now deciding that I had not ‘turned out right’ for a girl and perhaps it could be that I was never meant to be one!
It gave him a measure of comfort to be able to explain my feminism as a weird twist of fate that trapped a boy’s mentality into the head and body of a girl child.


Then a few days ago, my other uncle makes a remark that I suspect was the result of hours of pondering and finally the conclusion was drawn – I had the ‘spirit’ of a man he said.

It amused me again that my feminist inclinations should be given male attributes and my modest achievements be given a masculine interpretation — for the remark belied that my being a woman was incongruent with the success, confidence and self-assurance with which I lead my life.

By the ‘spirit’ of a man, my uncle was trying no doubt, to excuse my ‘unfeminine’ approach to life, my ‘unwomanly’ convictions and my insistence on living life on my own terms – a thing that requires no small amount of courage in a society that rewards conformity and ostracizes those who deviate from the norm.

Yet I find irony in the fact that, I turned out the way I have without making much of an effort – my keen sense of justice has always made me sensitive to any forms of injustice, even the more subtle forms of it disguised as cultural pride and keeping tradition.

Questioning the status quo to me, did not derive from a desire to stand in antagonism but emanated from a desire to understand why the world I lived in was so hell-bent on denying me the space to define myself – why was I being boxed in and silenced?

And what did my anatomy have to do with it? Everything!
I was born a girl in a society that celebrated boys and I had to fight to be recognized as a worthy individual; outside the constraints of the roles assigned to me and away from the domestic sphere from which I was raised to believe was my one true domain.

So now these men, who fathered me since birth – they find traces of the rebellious child I was in the militant woman I have become and they – finally, they come to terms with the fact that I will never change and that it is they who must change – who must accept me as I am.

And they call me a man — because it would violate everything they have believed in to admit that I am a woman; for the patriarchal edifice must be preserved.

But I am not a man neither am I a boy – I be what I am.