Perspectives

Several weeks ago as I was saying bye to friends who had decided to relocate back to their Caribbean isle; I lamented my inability to do the same due to the crime and racism/colourism on mine.

Fast forward a week and there was the vote to leave the European Union by the UK and the subsequent xenophobia, My emotions spiral into an abyss mirroring many others who unlike me were better able to articulate the feeling of being publicly whipped naked in a hail storm while hungry and being told all will be well. I thanked Divine Wisdom for me choosing not to vacation in my adopted home this summer but what about in the long run, when the GCC and I decide to part company…

My American colleague asks me about considering the USA as a place to set up home and I tell him how I once had a NY dream that involved living with my grandmother in Brooklyn, going to college in up-state Syracuse and working for Essence magazine. This was interrupted by my parents’ decision to move to the UK. Since then I’ve viewed America as Europeans do, with prejudice (I know), suspicion and superiority because of their two-week holidays, no statutory maternity pay and the death penalty in several states. We joke about ‘the-ranting-man-who-could-be-President’ and then with more sobriety I add that the land of the free filled me with fear being the mother of two black sons.

Fast forward a week and my daymare became the reality of two more mothers of black sons.

Another colleague is considering Australian citizenship. She was born here and will forever retain nationality of her parents’ birthplace. It’s not Syria yet it’s not a place she wants to return and raise her family. I find it hard to consider Australia – that island is too far from the other islands I call home and then there are the Aborigines.

Fast forward a week and I have just finished reading ‘The Invention of Wings’ by Sue Monk Kidd set in the 1800s as the Abolition of Slavery movement gets going in the USA. Just over two centuries ago. A long time ago or not so long ago? On both sides of the colour and gender lines, folks fought for progress, railing and rallying against the status quo. Feels familiar…

Fast forward a week or two and my boys will hopefully be off to Ghana to see family. Ah Ghana!  And suddenly things don’t look so dark.

2 U

It’s been too many days

Since you went away

Your life continues to resonate…

Awe-inducing talent and

Effort bringing creative vision to fruition, prodigiously.

Daring me to define and live my glamorous life with love.

Urging me to reach out for something new.

Reminding me that we are mortal and

Death comes unexpectedly to most.

 

Sharing my fears of becoming the worst aspects of my parents.

Exhorting me to party as if it’s the beginning of new millennia.

 

Contributing to the soundtrack of my life.

I wish u diamonds and pearls, heaven.

And the horses will not wonder who you are.

They will know that u r …

Taboo no mo’

A video post, paragraphs in a memoir, confidences of friends and I resisted considering to think about it. Memories of others’ secrets and my own suppressed recollections were sunrays breaching my psyche’s black-out curtain. I allowed the memories of unwanted advances and inappropriate conversations by family friends and others and thought it is not as bad as… Is a touch on the face better than a touch on the bum or the breasts? Subconscious subscription to a scandalous scale.  The keeping of the secrets exacerbates the suffering and protects perpetrators everywhere.

Confronting one’s own demons is challenging. Added to the demands of parenting and most fears are magnified.   I can shrug and say I am the mother of two boys but that would be ignorance of the fact that these acts are committed against boys as well. And of course I have relatives and friends who have daughters.

Is it time to question practices in cultures like mine and my husband’s where all adults are called aunty and uncle; potential perpetrators who can self-conceal in plain sight and trust as kids are warned of stranger danger?  One friend’s alternative is that all adults are called by their first name and Mr. or Ms. prefixed for respect and aunty and uncle are reserved for blood relatives or rule-breaking friends like me.

And what about pet names for body parts? flower, petal, front bottom and down there…

My parents and a special aunt encouraged discussion of topics that they would never have dreamt of discussing with their parents. They explained the reasoning behind some of their prohibitions and sometimes expressed that their concern over others’ motivation was more of a driver of their actions than their trust in me. This didn’t prevent the approaches nor my keeping some secret but it did empower me to make life-changing decisions including challenging unwarranted behaviour.

This is my legacy and my husband and I are trying to pass it on to our sons. We are trying to equip them with the intangible and the practical: self-sense and problem solving skills. I also try to be like my special aunt taking time to listen to the kids around me, hoping that they might be able to consider me that adult they could trust.  Sharing our experiences is crucial for self-healing and for prevention and protection of others. I believe our actions and interactions can also be powerful paths to redemption from the pains of our past.

Re-knowing…

I am in a challenging space in my life and it is as if  the river of creativity has been dammed. Yet I know that as surely as we need air, I need to write. So I sought inspiration from myself because when I’m in this fog, reading others’ works just makes me more fogged… I need to be reminded that I am capable of putting one word in front the other in a sensible manner…

I looked into my trove and found a piece I wrote which was published (external validation – we all need it from time to time) in the How Women Work conference magazine 2013 … I think

Pushing Past Resistance to Living your Dream Life

My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of self help volumes promising the elixir of self-actualisation. So why am I still no closer to living the life of my dreams?

Knowing your heart’s desire is kindergarten, mine is writing. Actually doing it is like high school: all those swirling emotions that frequently paralyzed you.  My feelings prevent me from pursuing, never mind realizing my potential. The most potent of these emotions goes by different names. Some say its fear and others resistance. I’m going to call it resistance and define it as the fear of pursuing what you were born to do.

Resistance is like treacle and it offers choices: submit or overcome; live in anxiety or live with freedom; wear a mask or be your authentic self.

My choice of degree and career was motivated by a desire for economic security and subtle but effective familial pressure. In the UK, a fifty-sixty hour work week plus 2 hours a day of commuting was the norm. Here, I tend to work regular hours and have had time to reflect, to remember and rediscover my purpose.

I excel at what I do and this is part of the reason I was able to secure my job in Qatar but it is not my true calling. This is the life am living but there is an unlived life, a dream life and between the two, as Steven Pressfield says in the ‘War of Art’, there is resistance.

Everyone who is following their true calling experiences resistance. The difference between the achievers and the rest is that they act despite the fear. In the last three years I have been swimming out of the swamp sometimes successfully and other times less so. Do I write as often as I should or would like to? Not always but I am making progress. I’ve distilled these actions from the numerous books. They’re helping me move through the molasses, I wish the same for you.

9 Actions to help push past the resistance

  1. Recognise that resistance exists as the sun exists.
  2. Recognise what it looks like for you – societal norms, family expectations, self-fulfilling myths, media projections/suggestions.
  3. Recognise your avoidance activities: internet surfing, eating, retail therapy.
  4. Feel the feeling. Go ahead allow yourself to truly feel the resistance, the anxiety, the fear. Let it rise up in you and let it wash over you. Hold it and own it. Now let it go.
  5. Record the feelings. Even those who claim to not be reflective, find writing out their thoughts cathartic.
  6. Get over yourself. The world needs you to live your passion so stop denying the world your gift. As Marianne Williamson, says in ‘Return to Love’, your playing small does not serve the world.
  7. Record the feelings you would like to experience or think you will have when you are living your dream life. These are usually the opposite of the feelings recorded in point 4. You’ll probably be thinking of ease instead of anxiety, openness instead of blockage, and clarity instead of confusion.
  8. Reach out to others. We are meant for community so if you want to write join or start a writers’ group. Remember two is a group. If you want to get fit, find a class that is calling out to you, be it spin or zumba and do that one class. Better yet invite a friend along and share the babysitting costs.
  9. Get a supporting cast. You are the star of your life. Find people to be your mentors: at work, via their books or their blogs, at seminars and workshops.

However, resistance is a recurring visitor so regular repetition is required. In doing so you will have the most amazing adventure of all: living the life you were born to live.

 

Every day is women’s day

Ashamedly, I had not heard of International Women’s Day before I came to the desert. It took getting involved with How Women Work and its founder Carolin to make me aware of this recognition and celebration of women.

Embarassingly, I knew very little of the suffragette movement until a few weeks ago on a flight I watched the movie Suffragette which gives insight into the movement and its impact on characters who were of different classes.

Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention to the feminist movement whether it’s the still resonating Germaine or the latest ralliers like Chimamanda.

Aware of my privileges, I conferred the praise on my family. The mother who moved countries to ensure my post-high school education, the grandmothers who worked away and the great-grandmother whose wisdom seemed magnified by her lack of formal education. The men too, the father who told me, at maybe too young an age, that men only want one thing and the importance of my own source of income and a grandfather who educated four girls despite being ridiculed.

Yet, I am increasingly cognizant that I am a beneficiary of the endeavours of many unknown or forgotten thinkers and movers. Not so much a debt but a call to co-create a future where ceilings are removed and boundaries are erased. This future is being created in the present one thought and one action at a time by all genders.

Are you a co-creator of this vision of the future?

Pausing a bit more

After my gym session yesterday, I went to the changing rooms, to have a shower. I turned the tap clockwise but after a minute it was still running cold, so I turned it towards the cold setting, in case it had been fitted wrongly – this happens here! Still no warm water.

I got angry that I could not have a shower. Then, I started to plan how I could get home, have a shower and still make it to work. Then, I panicked as it would mean missing the Sunday morning huddle attended by the Senior Exec team – so my absence would be noted. Then, I panicked some more as I remembered that I had the gift vouchers for the employee of the month that would be awarded at the huddle. Then, I got angrier.

Then, I..paused. There were two more showers, I tried one and it had hot water. While showering, I reflected on how many times I let my emotions dictate my reactions and cloud my decisions.

I’m preparing for a conference at work. It’s huge. I’m having many ‘firsts’ and being tested in my not-so-new communications role. I’ve been putting pressure on myself to make instant decisions or to know all the answers.

My shower experience reminded me, even in and often especially in the midst of the busyness, it is important to pause.

So, today and in the days leading up to the conference and even during the conference, I’m going to…pause.

Do you need to… pause?

Pausing to Ponder

In these twilight days between Christmas of the West and of the East (7 January), am imitating Mary and pondering things in my heart. (Luke 2:19 – ‘ But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’) Pondering is usually the domain of the mind but to do so with the heart renders it more mystical and complete.

 

I am pondering:

Starting 2015 in Ghana with my father in law in church and with friends – Banku and tilapia with pepper – street food at its best.

Celebrating my Mum’s 60th birthday with afternoon tea and a musical, mass and lunch at Oceano.

The reggae band at the St Regis hotel serenading me (and a couple hundred other people) on my birthday.

Having a break in Dubai and returning to my bit of the desert and saying to Dubai exiles, now I get it.

Completing the first 12 000 words of the first draft of my novel thanks to Faber on line writing course.

Getting and feeling fitter, though appearance still deceives, thanks to netball and personal training.

Doing a Ramadan detox and only cheating about 10% resulting in the first weight loss I remember experiencing.

Having an amazing 6 weeks in the UK and Trinidad yet still feeling like we didn’t spend enough time with each person but happy we were able to.

Forging new skills in Marketing and Communications. Himalayan learning curve…

Celebrating 10 years as a … married couple – lived it up with a staycation at the Grand Hyatt Doha.

Putting my bossiness, uhmm, organizational skills (comms skills still nascent), and volunteering for the organizing committee of doha netball.

All my older son’s achievements: academic, sporting and musical.

My younger son being a great mix of charm and mischief.

Though Christmasing away from family still had sorrel (thanks A and P), ponche a crème (thanks P), black cake (thanks P), pastille (thanks T), ham (well done me) and parang (thanks to all those who have time to upload Daisy et al).

 

There were disappointments and deaths and I let them rest with the waning year. I move forward with a gratitude filled heart, a joyful spirit and a renewed mind.  I connect to Spirit and ponder its fruits. Three resonate and I decide, in the beckoning year, to experience more of them in my life: love, perseverance and self-control.

 

What are you pondering, at this time of year?

Red ribbons

There were no red ribbons here yesterday

Survivors and their families were not celebrated

Has this modern plague avoided these shores?

Temptation to compare with worthier afflictions

I resist

Knowing circumstance and chance

Makes it not my fate

No ribbons in my hair

Today red I wear

Meditations in the Mundane II

Cleansing can leave you feeling a bit well cleansed – stripped. If you’ve got dry skin like me, moisturiser is a must. I’ve looked on with a cocktail of annoyance, arrogance and amusement as the beauty industry has ‘discovered’, like how Columbus discovered Trinidad, cocoa butter, shea butter and argan oil.

I’ve been using organic, pure cocoa butter since my teens thanks to relatives in ‘de country’. I was introduced to shea over 20 years ago by my mother-in-law. I mix it with oil (the latest discovery) to make it spreadable at room temperature. Previously, I used baby oil before I knew that mineral oil just sits on the skin. Now, I simply mix a bit of 100% organic, extra virgin olive oil (which you can pick up from the grocery) with some 100% pure organic shea butter, supplied by aforementioned mother-in-law or other Ghana connected person. I know my sisters-in-law do a concoction including, at least, the oils of castor, almond and coconut. But steady supply of these can be a challenge in the wilderness.

Every so often, I, like any lady, can get drawn in by shiny bottles and wild claims. But I am getting more armoured against that sort of thing.

Similarly, my soul can feel dry if I don’t constantly mositurise it. One of my favourite descriptions of Spirit is the ‘balm of Gilead’.

Some days a few minutes of meditation and a blast of Mandisa and I’m good to go. Other times, I seek out a Bible verse or four and marinade in it for up to an hour. Then for the really tricky challenges, there’s nothing quite like a novena, 9 hours or 9 days of praying for a specific breakthrough.

Like my skin, I’ve realized I have to moisturize my soul every day and some days, more than once.

 

Should you moisturize your body and soul more often?