Dusk: Mudiake

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Come gather round people wherever you roam,
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it, that soon you’d be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
And you better start swimming or you’d sink like a stone
For the times they are a changing!

Bob Dylan. It’s become a hobby of mine to get songs from those old artists – the ones who wrote and sang songs when your Dad still had a mustache and a fro, and wore tight stretch pants and impressive heels (to facilitate the boogie woogie) – and just listen to what they had to say to whatever generation it was they spoke to. I happened to be listening to this particular song while I took a 15 minute walk from the cabin where I slept the night before, to the cabin where I was meant to work for the day. The walk was on a quiet graded road though what looks like secondary forest-growth – this walk tended to provide me with some quiet time to contemplate issues, or to simply let my mind wander without any focused or serious thought. The day before my Bob Dylan-day I had walked without music, because I wanted to think about what I would write when I finally had to summarize my 2013. I didn’t get very far. Nothing seemed to standout for me in 2013 really. I resorted to listening to the various bird sounds and entertaining myself with imaginations about being chased by some small slouching, furry, forest beast with sharp teeth. On the Bob Dylan day however, it came together for me – what my 2013 has been about. Maybe it was something in his song lyrics. I really am not sure. Now I would love for this to be some free-flowing writ of epic and dramatic proportions. It is not. It’s just me sitting at a desk, finding a quiet spot in my mind, and reflecting. So I offer apologies in advance. I usually think in short sentences. And I wrote it down just that way.

2013 for me was a year of people. I like taking pictures. While going through the ones I took this year I was amazed at how many people I met in 2013 that became part of my everyday life. I mean like really close friends who came to understand me quite well. I’m not sure I could possibly effectively summarize all I have taken away from the process of meeting new and different people, getting to know them at close range, and seeing their thoughts and experiences and histories played out in their actions and decisions. All I can say is: People are just people. They are not perfect. They misunderstand. We all like to appear strong, but we sometimes hurt inside and even manage to hide this from our conscious minds. We all have standards. We break them. At our most dishonest moments we berate those who fall short of our proclaimed standards. In out moments of truth, we admit we are just people – trying as everyone else to find our way. This year it struck me how much energy we expend on trying to please people who we don’t like, who care nothing for us, and would not ever come through in any sense if we found ourselves in trouble. We reserve our brightest smiles for them. We put on our most charismatic performance and even go ahead to devote a good portion of our time and money to the general “audience” we imagine is watching.

In 2013, I realized one thing. They are not watching. Not really. They do not care. You’re just spending all your time “pushing on a pull door”. They would most likely never love you back. I have it reinforced right now, that I have to try to pay attention and take care of mine. God has placed everyone in a context. If you are fortunate to have people that love and genuinely care for you, do not neglect them. If it seems that you don’t have any, evaluate yourself for starters and then follow up with a prayer about this perhaps. Do not let the heart become slow to respond due to years of bias or unforgiven details between you and those who genuinely care for you. Try to forgive those who have always been there for you and with you, and take care of them with all that is within reason. Mudi, pay attention. Not to sound preachy (I am more like speaking to myself here), but please pay attention and do not let that good woman or man get bent until she or he cracks and altogether breaks down, whatever the relationship be – married couples, simple friends or lovers. People are not metal. They do not live forever. When the times are “a-changing” it is my sentiment that we all would need some sense of stability: God and faith (absolute), family and true friends (relative). So care, when you have the chance. You won’t always have it. I say this to myself, for my parents, siblings by blood and by situation, and true family and friends. I thank God for them, and hope 2014 sees me doing more in this direction.

My birthday this year was different from the more recent ones I’ve had. My dad remarked on the phone when he called saying something to the effect of: “you’re pretty much a man now. Do you feel old?” I replied: “Oddly enough, I feel younger than I felt at my last birthday.” It seems at my last birthday I felt like an old boy, whereas now I feel like a young man. I hope that did not elicit a round of eye-rolling – but I really felt and feel like there had been some sort of transition; like a different phase of life was beginning: one that I was yet young to. I guess I could say that in 2013, I began to think in terms of the beginnings of things that would reflect what I eventually want to be remembered as and for. It was the year to begin partnerships I have a really good feeling about. I get the growing sense that life for me would change in the near future. Maybe I won’t be so carefree with little to think of besides just going to new places and chasing new adventures. Maybe I would actually have to be in a position where others actually expect me to provide some inspiration of a more direct kind. I guess when I write again in December 2014, we would find out about that.

Love, love, love. Did I fall in love? Yes: I discovered this capacity was still there. It even “appeared” to happen more than once in succession. I’m not sure I understand the dynamics of that. Did it, or could it possibly produce anything? I honestly don’t even know. The important thing is that I’m relieved that I did not become some cynical dude who carries over all the baggage of previous not-so-nice experiences to color and taint every new person he comes across. I just want to be happy, and to spread that happiness. I will say no more, and will entertain no questions -___-.

There is one curious, trivial thing I discovered about myself. It seems for some obscure reason, I have the knack for dancing to Latin American music: salsa, bachata, merengue etcetera. Now you need to understand that this boy does not usually dance. Well, we all dance, but I guess the question is whether we dance well or not. I usually dance only to make people laugh. It doesn’t matter how serious I am or how hard I try. It comes off as sort of awkward and the effect is people laughing. At least that was one plus. I stopped being embarrassed and I just go ahead to entertain when I feel like it with my funny waist wigglings from side to side. Well, in Latin America, I discovered that for some reason, I seem to dance to the local stuff pretty good. It’s that notable, believe me please. Notable enough to command a paragraph in a length restricted essay about my 2013. La Pasión things people!!!!!! ( Manos Arriba!!! \\(^_^)// (“Hands up in the air!”). They say I have it in my blood. But I am a Warri boy. I’m pretty certain none of my ancestors went beyond the hinterlands and creeks of the Niger Delta. So well, it appears that I have one more hobby, in addition to my love for “all things flying”.

Wrapping this up then, I can say in general things got better. I have a pretty good and constantly rising profile career wise; I’ve gotten a bit healthier, travelled yet more, had successes in dealing with difficult situations and personalities, and I lost no friends while gaining some pretty good ones. I however feel like I have lost my way spiritually – not that I have lost faith or hope, but I just need to find my way back there. The one thing about this aspect though is that I have little tolerance now for pretend religion and hypocritical sanctimoniousness – the very things that have eaten through all the religious expression that fills Nigeria – rendering all our dressing up and churchgoing useless and ineffective in doing anything to make things actually better. Looking back now I realize that I have been like that in some ways. The hope for the future is to be indeed true. Faith has to be true. How is it faith if it isn’t?

I hope 2014 brings me more internal unity, more purpose, more reaching out to those that matter, and more in terms of being a source of healing and inspiration to others, not just in word, but also in deed. I am truly thankful for all that I am and have today, and look forward to step changes in 2014. I also send out a prayer for all who are in pain. A prayer for healing. We are just flesh and blood and weak and frail, but we are made more than we are by love – the Love of God for us, and the love we give to one another.

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I love my brother Mudi. He wrote that poem and I feel this review is so close to my heart state that I can claim it as my favorite. Much love bro. Stand firm on the Rock.

Day 25: Jumoke

Write on me, 2014. I’m ready. Paint your art on me… No. Wait a minute or wait 7 days…

2013: A Season Of Seasons

When everyone shouted Happy New Year, I shouted, “It is sorted!” And ran into 2013 as prepared as a ready circus for the finale showdown. I ran in with my sewing machine and my high spirit. I was getting good with my fashion designing and tailoring, and people were advising me to start my own outfit and all. But no, I had other plans. After all, sewing isn’t the only thing I’ve come to do on earth. Did I say I was a freelance editor, too? Oh lovely stuff. Only that here, freelance meant most jobs were done for (yes you guessed right) freeeee. So I wanted a job. No, I needed a job. Thank God I got it. Summer came early. April.

After exactly 5 years (minus one month) of graduating from university, I got my first real job. Poor pay, but hey! I got a job! Three weeks into training, I got another job, out of the country. Joyful confusion. What do I do? What do I not do? Do I take it? Do I not? Decision making was a battle of some sort and before I was able to put my choice to paper, I got a third one. Now the training was to be out of my comfort zone too but who cares, I’m miles closer to my dreams and it isn’t even a dream at all. Finally my heavens had opened, and the sun had pierced the dark clouds. The wait was over, the year was high, and everything was rainbowy.

I had never been out of Lagos for more than two weeks. Training was supposed to be for a month. It was supposed to be a summertime kind of fun, with none of Lana Del Rey’s sadness. But was it? Well, maybe it would have, if the person I was meant to stay with didn’t send a text that she was heading out of town indefinitely as I got off the plane. Maybe it would have, if I didn’t have to stay in that over-priced hotel room on my first day in town, pray all night, and then strategize all morning so I could find an alternative accommodation. Still, maybe it somehow was, because a kind-hearted someone, technically a stranger, gladly took me in. Maybe it was, because B even took me to work most mornings and sometimes took me back home. Training started in earnest. It felt good. Summertime was mine once again.

But while still in summer, winter snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking, and froze my smiles. Someone I thought I maybe had found without really looking, suddenly became an ‘almost had’. All the ‘don’t worry, it will be okays’, the little laughters that were so inconsequential, the expectations that I wasn’t even aware of vanished in one phone conversation. Was it my move to Abuja or the job or the timing or someone else? “You are too old.” That’s what he said. Honestly it didn’t sound crazy strange at first because it was a familiar line in some of the many job interviews I had attended. Sadly, this wasn’t a job role. Or was it? Maybe. “You are too old, blah blah blah.” He repeated it several times, punctuating it with some so-called logical statements. I didn’t really understand his rationale still. I mean, in my mind, I’m as fresh as a foetus; in the mirror, 19 would suit me just fine; my dressing, as fashionable as I could afford; my lifestyle, fits into a wide range of ages. Shrugs. I really didn’t understand. Then he said love wasn’t enough. Then he said he didn’t love me enough and he wouldn’t even try, because of the timing. Like, who sent me to come to the world so close to the time he did? Like I should hold my feelings and take a long stroll into oblivion. Like, what was I rushing to come do on earth anyway? He said I should have been borne at least 2 yrs later than him so that we won’t almost be age mates. That was our only snag, yet we couldn’t even try.

Feelings and their finiteness. It cut deep but it was fine. For two consecutive nights later, I stood under the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed, I don’t know what I expected but neither the water nor the tears cleansed my ache. I really didn’t know how people fall from great to zero without a warning. I only know that I couldn’t not be there for him when he suddenly lost someone. In the same season, for different reasons, hearts were breaking left and right. I was tending and mending. Really though, it was fine, till I started waking at about 3.45am, sweating, yet shivering. It wasn’t cold but I was. I was properly draped, yet I was uncovered. The MP and Widal tests I did stated I was physically ok. The bout didn’t stop. I decided I’d see a doctor, and then decided against it. What would I say? “Doctor, a man I was crazy about said I don’t meet his age cut-off, or catchment area, or whatever, and we are unable to talk about it because he lost someone”. Sighs. I don’t know.

It just ‘snowed’ and ‘snowed’. I was alone, without money or family, in a new city with people more comfortable speaking a different language. All I had was faith. I’d find myself looking hopelessly forward to the tea-break and lunch-break we had at training. I’d keep the apple we were given every day so I could give it to Purity, B’s baby. On days when she wasn’t interested in it, I’d eat it just before the moment I have to bargain with my belly to kindly accept the yellow garri I was about to drink with lots of sugar, tears and faith. You see, B took good care of me and tried to feed me well but I wasn’t paying for the accommodation, or rides to work and I didn’t want to deplete her food supply. I let my weight take the fall instead and I fed on faith. Suddenly, B was to relocate and I was to move out. Life decided to exercise its right to be torturous. I had no money! I saved every kobo of my nothingness because my organisation is one of those that don’t pay the first salary on time. The search for an apartment went on for a long and undulating time. Sometimes, I was all out, sometimes, not so much. My head ached all day; at night, my heart took its turn.

Advil. More Advil. I’d start praying so I could stop crying, hoping so much the fogginess would break into rain, because after the rain, comes sunshine. So, did it break? Not so quickly. Did I do anything about it? Yes. I fought it how I could. I struggled not to reach out. Then I struggled to reach out. Autumn. Falling leaves. Sometimes it got better, and I’d be an inch gone in the direction of euphoria, throw my hands up to whatever and revel in the moment. Other times I felt life was spinning, but I was at a still, like a clock with a dead battery. And for fear that it would all go tumbling downhill, I kept on praying. I launched my body and spirit into rigorous prayers. Days. Nights. I fasted and prayed without any answers I could see. Sometimes I couldn’t pray, I sang. Don Moen. I will sing. I grew lean, I prayed still. Tears, tears, scares, scars. I wondered with shaky surety. “Is God up there chuckling at me now or is He just sniggering like ‘what a mess!’?” A few weeks, some salary, some borrowed money and two tired, red eyes later, I became the proud owner of an apartment.

I became the proud receiver of countless phone calls, too. Mammii, with her unbelievable thoughtfulness. Friends that erstwhile seemed to have been left in another world. Men. Gasshh! So many men, too many men. Pappii, giving challengeable orders from another city, sending me inspiring dps he had saved from his bb contacts. Smiles. People and their steadfastness. But I was really busy, so I couldn’t initially answer many of the calls. I was busy trying not to look like a moving fountain by applying dollops of foundation. I was busy trying to stop being so low and so high at once. I was busy trying to be sure. Because I wasn’t sure where to find the bridge between being hyper bubbly and super troughed. I wasn’t sure it was the best to sit for hours, by the door, on my bedroom floor, in that spot that had become my refuge. I wasn’t sure why there’s such a long line outside who all think they deserve me or I, them. I wasn’t sure if I was listening for a certain footstep or not. I was just really busy trying to be sure. Some stayed, others left. Steadfastness.

While I was busy being busy, I got a call that a family friend got separated from her 5-years, 2-kids marriage; and another call that an old friend is separated from his 1 year, 3 months, and 1 kid marriage. God. There were hours of ruminating on what went wrong, and days of counselling for humans to be wise. As the apartment got filled with things and my office desk piled up with tasks to be done, my eyes emptied out the saline in its bags. I kept on, holding everything together but in time I realised that my hands, my arms are indeed too small to even wrap around myself. So instead, I stretched my hands out to others who needed someone. And when I tell those people it will be okay, I’m telling myself it will be okay. When they tell me thank you, I tell them thank you. My ‘busy’ had a new meaning. Work was excellent and I stayed back so late partially taking care of the company’s interests, partially taking care of people who required it since the network in my house was so poor. Sometimes I’d have a couple of drinks here and there afterwards. I loved every minute of it. I’d get home so exhausted that I forgot about my corner in my room.

If there’s anything to take out of this year, it is that, of the two uncertainties the entirety of life is doused in, ‘maybe not’ is the wiser choice. Pessimistic? Maybe not. Will your numbness dissipate into thin air immediately you immerse yourself in people and activities? Maybe not. Will anger settle comfortably in the heart of someone who cares for you? Maybe not. Will love stay on the blank pages of your diary waiting to be inked? Maybe not. Will the one that refused to choose you be chosen by the one they chose? Maybe not. Will that realisation make you happy? Surprisingly, maybe not.

There’s the occasional impulse to be mean or rude or downright reckless, and I gave in to it sometimes, it made me feel invincible for a while but not for very long. It’s other things that got me through most of the time, like dancing to Selebobo/J.Martin’s Yoyo after running 4kms in the mornings, like music, solemn or bubbly, like the sound of mammii’s laughter as I complain they took the light (which they almost never take), like pappii’s emotional nature of ordering me to do something all the way from another city, like Purity asking very seriously why animals don’t wear clothes, like my cranky, domineering boss no. 2  finally admitting he needs my input on a matrix, like Charlie offering to send me her cooker so I don’t have to buy, like watching an EPL match with Yewie at Hootas after walking fruitlessly round El-Rufai Plaza trying to locate a free manicure shop, like my neighbour’s son banging on their door when I turn the key in mine and smiling so brightly when he sees my face.. And @iamsupervillian’s body after the Delatere Roulette! Did you see his new abs? Man! I was inspired! Yes indeed, everything can and will get better. Yes indeed, there’s hope. Those little things remind me that God is not unkind. Those little things remind me to have depth enough to know joy is mostly ingrained in the silliest moments; to be perfect enough to listen when people tell me about my flaws; to be foolish enough to know my wisdom is not enough to sail me smoothly on the streams of life. And because of all these, somehow I believe the grass on the side of 2014 must be greener. Spring.

This was certainly the quickest, longest year ever and now that the mess around me has finally cleared, I almost feel the same way now as I did a year ago. I’m sorely pleased that the firewood jollof rice I and my aunt-in-law cooked turned out delicious. It’s been 7 months since I’ve been shuttling Abuja and Lagos but it doesn’t feel that way at all. I’ve been home for 2 days now and it feels as though I never even left here. Time and its magnitude. The calendar keeps saying a lot of time has passed. But when did it? When really did it? For the seconds took forever to become an hour during all the painful days and today came so fast I can hardly remember yesterday.

I don’t want tomorrow to leave me behind now, so, cheers to the meantime.

Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas with lots of clarity & serenity & the hope of an Iron-Board flat stomach.

Jk.

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Merry Christmas everyone!