Category Archives: Lesson learned

Burning bridges – Part 2

When dad suggested he was going to bring his mom home, we all voiced our disapproval. For starters, she has never acknowledged us as her grandchildren. The last time she passed by for less than hour, in the company of her three other children, things got ugly when she started attacking mom, treating her like an outsider. She threatened to take her son away, from mom…

We couldn’t fathom living with her under the same room indefinitely.

If God-forbid she came down with a cold or something, especially now that her health is frail, we could be accused of poisoning her or something. So to be on the safe side, we’re all avoiding the responsibility of taking care of her. God knows we’d really want to, even if for humanity’s sake, but that would most likely be to our detriment.

Now would even be the worst time to bring her to live with us since we all leave in the morning and come back home in the evening and as we’re in a financially tight situation, we can’t afford to seek the services of a private nurse. That means she would never have anyone to take care of her and that could earn us her eternal wrath. I doubt anyone in their right mind would want that.

Ironically, when my maternal grandma was alive, we were the ones begging her to let us take care of her. We had a tight relationship with her and because she was naturally kind-hearted, we didn’t have to fake anything with her. Whatever problems we faced in her presence, we knew she wouldn’t judge us; she wouldn’t resent us. We went to her for guidance and she was only too eager to give it.

When mom and dad fought, she never took sides. She would admonish whoever of the two was at fault. That’s something dad’s mom has been incapable of for ages. Where her children are concerned, she effortlessly takes their side. And that explains the wanting relationship she has with her daughters-in-law. According to her, they have always been the enemies.

The one daughter-in-law who at least seemed to like her a bit is the one she encouraged her son to ditch because she favoured another woman over her. So now, nature has put her in a position where she needs help, and though four generations have sprouted from her, she has had trouble finding a safe haven where she can spend her sunset years.

She called too many shots when she was strong and able, without caring whose toes she stepped on. Now those same people whose feelings she bruised are the same ones whose helps she needs. Life really has a way of shuffling things around. Problem is, tolerance and trust don’t just bloom overnight. Worse still, where trust is absent, in its place there’s too much suspicion, which could be disastrous when it’s unrestrained, like in my family.

What I’ve learned from all these is that no man’s an island. Furthermore, even when someone feels invincible because they’re financially stable and are in good health, they shouldn’t take others for granted because no one knows how tomorrow will be. We might need to use the same bridges we burned to get to the other side of the river.

never-burn-bridges

In addition to that, sometimes it’s better for parents to let their children make their own choices, however wrong they feel those choices might be. It would be too bad if a parent and their child are separated later in life simply because the parent couldn’t respect their child’s decisions. That happens to most people, especially where there are new members being introduced into the family by virtue of marriage.

The truth of the matter is, once the child grows up and leaves the nest, their better half will in most cases have a say in the decisions they make. That therefore means that when a child chooses a partner, if they insist that’s who they want to share their life with, their parents should respect that. For everyone’s sake.

I don’t know if dad’s mom regrets her past choices, but I can almost bet she’s feeling their effect now and I find it a tremendously sad situation. From what I’ve seen in my family, that simple act of parents not meddling in their children’s relationships could save generations tonnes of rancour. It could also spare aging parents the misery of having to spend those final days in utter solitude because they burned all bridges and therefore have no one to turn to when they’re too old to take care of themselves.

All we have to keep reminding ourselves is that tomorrow might be a very different day from today and the people we seem to despise or take for granted are the same ones we’ll be running to for help. That’s just how life is. Sod’s law of some sought.

Letter to my husband: Part 4

Experience has taught me a few things. One of them being that there’ll be at least one person who judges someone for some misfortune that befell them; and personally, I’m not big on sob stories. In any case, I avoid circumstances that will make people want to pity me…or think I’m weird. In light of that I figured I couldn’t tell every guy I attempt dating the issues that cause me anguish. I also figured on the same note that if I explained this to anyone, it would be my husband. The man I hope to share my life with.

Looking at the events that have happened in my life, this doesn’t even get close to putting it all into perspective. All I know is that after living for more than two decades, witnessing domestic violence, I came out of it relatively wiser; but damaged.

Wiser because now I know many things I didn’t know before; things they’ll never teach in school. For starters, I know what I want in a relationship. I know the qualities I seek in a man; and money and looks aren’t it. If those two counted for anything, my mom would be the happiest woman on earth; but we already established she’s not.

And damaged because, of the things that cause me anxiety, relationships top the list. I have met some men, who would possibly have made wonderful husbands, but the instant they started exhibiting traits that reminded me of my father, I cut loose before it got too real. Such, is the extent of my ‘damaged-ness’.

I could pay a professional shrink tonnes of money for them to tell me what’s wrong with me and how I could make things better, but as I said, I already figured myself out. Relationships are a hard limit for me. Mom’s miserable life makes me dread the sheer thought of vowing to spend the rest of my life tied to someone, because truth is, it’s not easy getting out when things start going downhill.

Unlike the younger, naïve version of me who hoped to be swept of her feet by a tall, dark and handsome guy, now I know what I want; or what I don’t want.

I don’t want a man who will take me for granted. I need someone who will love and cherish me for me, without hoping to turn me into something I’m not for his own convenience. I realized, if mom had her own money from the beginning, her fights with dad wouldn’t have been too frequent. They fought a lot because she was dependent on him; and he was too tight-fisted. I would love to have a career, and for it not to be affected by our family life.

I don’t want a man, who wouldn’t be moved by our children’s grief, when they’re hungry, or crying because he is abusing me. I would want a man who wouldn’t eat or go on a binge-drinking spree when our kids can’t sleep because they are too hungry.

I would want a man who smiles at least, when his daughter tells him she’s graduating magna cum laude, or seem moved in the least when another one tells him she’s done working on her novel. Sometimes people think it’s all about money, when all one needs is just a simple hug. I would want a man who can spare a thought for our children; how his actions affect them.

I don’t want a man who will fill our children’s heads with sad Christmas and New Year’s day memories, because he just couldn’t help throwing punches at me; and on the same note, I would want a man who respects my mother, because were it not for her love and sacrifice, I wouldn’t be there to be his for the taking in the first place.

I wouldn’t want a man, who makes our children develop anxiety disorders and some other stress related illnesses like depression and peptic ulcers because they are afraid he will kill me when they’re in school.

And when eventually we decide to get married, I would be happy to have just a small wedding with just us, our witnesses and the priest.

So, unlike my younger self, I’m not interested in looks and money. All I want is someone with whom I can spend a happy forever with; someone who will give our children the happiness I didn’t have growing up; the lack of which has caused me so much anxiety.

I don’t have any children yet, but when I get them, I hope to raise them in a love-filled home, so they won’t dread marriages and relationships like I do. Truth is, if I had to choose, I would opt for a life of utter solitude, rather than live the miserable life my mom has lived. It’s not one I would wish, even on my worst enemy.

All I want is happiness…and love…and some peace of mind.

My beloved husband-to-be, if you can give me that, then I too will go out of my way to make you the happiest man on earth.

Shoddy first date: Part 3

online dating 3

He excused himself and left with the package he had with him, while I found my way to the nearest couch, leaving the door wide open in case I needed to make a quick exit. For the few minutes he was gone, I pondered over my actions. If anything happened to me, God-forbid-I figured I would be entirely to blame for my poor judgement.

Trying to keep myself occupied lest I started panicking, I went through his collection of music CDs appreciating his choice of songs. Other than the fact that I was already pissed for having let myself get tricked into going to his house, and was already over cautious, waiting for just about anything to happen, I acknowledged he had a good taste in clothes, music, interior decor…if we became more than online acquaintances, we would have very little to argue about.

“Feel free sweetie, this is your home now,” he pacified me when he walked in. He took his jacket off, exposing his muscled chest that was only covered in a black fitting t-shirt. Then he stretched out his arms, taking my hands in his and he pulled me up to my feet. Releasing one of my hands, he reached for the remote and switched the TV on, bringing the room to life as soft music played.

He put his arms around my waist and I curved mine round his neck and slowly we swayed to the tuneful music.

“So did you think about my proposal?” He asked me.

“What proposal?” I asked in reply.

“To marry me.”

“But you hardly know me.”

“I feel I know you enough to want you to be my wife.”

“I still feel we don’t know each other well,” I said firmly.

I had already crossed very many lines on our first date. I was in his living room, in his arms, discussing marriage, and even though he didn’t seem like he had any intentions of hurting me, I felt we weren’t following the ‘proper procedure’. We had hit the ground running, instead of taking time to get the basics.

“Come with me,” he said, urging me to follow him to a room I supposed was his bedroom. “I left in a hurry. I didn’t get time to make my bed.”

“No,” I refused, breaking free from his embrace.

“Just come,” he begged, almost sweetly, “you’re just going to help me. I promise you nothing will happen.”

“No!” Finally, angry me surfaced. At that point I didn’t even care about first impressions anymore. I just couldn’t take more of it. “This is definitely not going according to plan. You showed up late, tricked me into coming to your house, we haven’t had lunch and it’s way past lunch time, and now you want to sleep with me? This doesn’t feel like a first date anymore.”

It was already past three and I didn’t feel like we were making any progress. I always doubted he was celibate as he claimed to be and even after he asked me to marry him, I felt he was only looking for a woman he could legally sleep with as he also claimed to be saved. That had me feeling he hadn’t put much thought into the proposal. It didn’t matter if it was me, or any other woman he picked from the streets, so long as it was a woman; someone who could relieve his carnal urges. That thought alone had me infuriated.

In his defence, he said he was so aroused, and the more I listened to him speak the more I was convinced I had unknowingly availed myself for a booty call. “I am not sleeping with you,” I told him crossly.

“Then why did you come here?” He retorted. “I left another girl so I could come meet you.”

“We both know you deceived me into coming here. Even if I was to sleep with you, it definitely wouldn’t be today. Not after we just met.”

“What kind of men do you go out with?” He bit back in his diva tone that hurt me in ways so unimaginable.

“You don’t know me, I don’t know you. That’s why.”

“I know you,” he maintained.

“Fine then, you know me. So what’s my real name?”

Feeling cornered, he slumped himself on the couch, rubbing his forehead frantically. “What’s my name?” I repeated, although I knew I had never told him my real name. I just wanted to drive a point home; that we didn’t know each other well enough to be engaging in coitus. “You don’t know my name, and you still want to sleep with me.”

Hurt, and knowing there was nothing he could say to make it better, I grabbed my bag and left. Months of talking and chatting online had ended within three hours of our meeting. I had hoped he would be different from all the messed up dating stories I had heard of before, but that encounter only convinced me more, that online dating never really amounts to anything serious.

First thing I did after I left his house, I logged into FB and unfriended and blocked him, hoping I would never hear from him or see him again. He didn’t call or text me that day or the next but weeks later he called and I refused to pick up. I’ve never talked to him ever since.

When I look back, I always count my blessings. I left a stranger’s house unharmed. I know I agreed to go with him because I was hopeful he was a genuine guy. Talking with him constantly had put me under the impression he was trustworthy, sweet, caring, charming; but in all honesty, I know that was a very foolish mistake I made. I shouldn’t have been so gullible.

 

The Fourth Commandment

the fourth commandment

Back in the day, when God used to communicate with His people through prophets, He gave Moses the laws inscribed on stone, commonly known as the Ten Commandments. On the top of Mount Sinai, He came down on a cloud of smoke in fire and spoke in thunder as He gave the laws. In my own understanding, the commandments are subject to people’s varying interpretations and as a result, people decipher them differently.

The commandment I particularly want to delve into at this point is the fourth commandment: Respect your father and mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you (Exodus 20:12). Notice He didn’t ask parents to respect their children? That’s how many people interpret it. But then, based on my own understanding, that brings me to another verse in the Bible: (Colossians 3: 21) Parents, do not irritate your children, or they will become discouraged.

That’s the thing about respect; it’s a two way thing. One can’t expect to disrespect someone and still expect that same person to respect them. As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I am not a mother yet, so most of my posts are written from a daughter’s perspective. Growing up, I had some dreadful moments where I just felt small; not by size, but because I felt my opinion on some issues wasn’t taken seriously. I often felt it was the, ‘I’m big, you’re small; I’m right you’re wrong’ patronizing attitude parents have towards their kids at times.

Maybe I’ll understand it when I get my own children, but until now I still don’t get it. In my opinion, everyone deserves respect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a homeless person, or a small baby. And being older doesn’t automatically mean one’s right. Sometimes parents feel like they’ve been around longer and for that they know how things work, but truth is sometimes children see things clearly, better than adults and for that they should also be heard. They may not always be right, but giving them a chance to share their opinion makes them feel valued and respected.

During one of my dark pubescent phases, I argued with my parents about everything; at some point I even contemplated running away from home, until a quick look into the future showed me I would screw up the rest of my life if I carried on with my plan. I decided that would be a foolish move so I scratched it. However, the misunderstandings didn’t stop there; they continued because the root cause hadn’t been addressed. It’s during that time that I suffered from some stress-related illnesses; depression and all.

At some point I got tired of all the fighting, and just decided to stop arguing, even if every part of me was itching to say something. I don’t feel my parents changed at all; they still look at things the same way they did back then. Sometimes I feel I grew up; that’s why I lost the urge to always fight back.

The other day my big sister was having a tête-à tête with dad. She asked him to look back and picture himself at the age she is now, and to remember how he wanted to be treated at the time. That, she told him, would help him know how to treat us. It would stop him from treating us like kids, just because he’s older than us.

When all’s said and done, I believe parents should also respect their children. Just because they’re younger than them doesn’t mean they’re indisputably wrong. And if a parent wants their child (ren) to respect them, the best thing would be to show them how; by respecting them back. Foster mutual parent-child (ren) respect because if it’s one-sided it won’t last long; it won’t be long before the child gets tired of always being the one to give.

Something I learnt when I was still a kid was that one doesn’t ask for respect, they earn it. It just happens that sometimes grown- ups do some shoddy things yet expect kids to still accord them the respect they deserve as adults. It doesn’t work like that. If parents or adults want children to respect them, they must carry themselves in a respectable manner.

However one chooses to look at it, God did ask children to respect their parents, but the same parents have a duty to help their kids live by that fourth commandment.

Kids have never failed to imitate.

Kids have never failed to imitate

Kids might not be so good at following instructions, but they have- for ages- been good at copy pasting what they hear or see. The other day, some kids were discussing one of their friends’ houses that they had recently visited, and one asked, “Have you been to their house? It’s so empty; you could play football in it”. Now any adult will tell you that not even the darkest kid will independently conceive such a statement in their minds; and if they did, it would mostly be based on something they had previously overheard.

One might try to argue that nowadays kids are so ‘digital’; they seem to know everything, thanks to technology.  That to some extent would be correct, but of importance here is the fact that when a baby is growing up, one of the major factors that shape them into who/what they grow into would be the environment they’re brought up in. The age of the kids on focus here would also be of massive importance; based on my sheer knowledge, none of them was above six.

With that in mind, how would one expect a kid to grow up if s/he often hears his parents/grownups around  him criticizing other people, what they have and what not…? To some, this concept might seem alien, but not to me. I’ve been un/lucky enough (depending on how you choose to look at it) to be caught in an extremely uncomfortable moment where I, or my family rather, was the topic of such a distasteful conversation…

A few years ago, my family was to meet up with my extended (paternal) kin at one of my uncles’ place since we all lived in different parts of the city so we could travel together to the countryside to visit my paternal grandma. At the time there was some sought of tension between my mom and her in-laws; the beef runs way back, before I was even conceived but I don’t wanna delve into that at the moment. It’s for that precise reason that my mom had opted to sit out of any family get-togethers, to avoid any altercations that could inflict more wounds on the already existing ones.

My dad, the gentleman he is (when he wants to be…) couldn’t leave mom alone; he also chose to remain behind, to keep her company when my sisters and I were gone. Ergo, we made arrangements to have our uncle (the host) pick us up because we were not so familiar with the place; we had only been there once before.

My uncle, whom we’re not so close with, came to pick us up. He was alone. He came into our house, which he’d never been into before, to help us carry our luggage. In case you’re wondering, we have a very strained relationship with our paternal relatives. I’ve mentioned that in some previous posts. In my own understanding, I have over time attributed it to the fact that dad married mom against his family’s wishes; apparently dad’s family is affluent, whereas mom’s family isn’t so endowed.

In all honesty I thought that kind of prejudice only happens in telenovelas: rich hunk falls head over heels in love with a beautiful girl from a very humble background; his family objects vehemently, branding the innocent girl a social climber, and subsequently they all conspire to make the girl’s life a living nightmare…Smh!

A few minutes later we were on the road, headed to my uncle’s. On the way we stopped at a mall, where his wife had been shopping, to pick her up. Under different circumstances, we would have jumped at the idea of meeting our aunt especially after such a long time, but at that moment it only meant we would have a pretty hellish ride.

As we had envisaged, the ride was quite unpleasant; and it had nothing to do with the car’s upholstery or bumpy roads. It was all my aunt’s doing. See, in a nutshell, she’s very outspoken and if you ask me, she doesn’t really give a rat’s ass whose toes she steps on. I remember her asking my uncle in hushed murmurs, how our house looked. That didn’t catch me off guard because I knew she was capable of that and more but I was disappointed because I thought she would have the decency to ask that discretely, preferably in our absence. Then again, maybe she thought we didn’t hear.

“It’s big,” my uncle replied reluctantly. I bet he too felt uneasy about his wife’s indiscretion.

Hungry for information, she went ahead to ask- in her own words- what the house was ‘filled’ with since it was really big. The blatant derision in her voice irked me. At that time, I didn’t know how to react; I was torn between bursting into a fit of laughter at such barbarism, and cutting in the conversation just to express my outrage; but I knew better. I don’t recall my uncle answering her; I guessed he didn’t want to partake in such unmitigated savagery. I respected him for that.

Now in reference to James A. Baldwin’s quote, I try to imagine what would have happened had my sisters and I been at an impressionable age? If we weren’t the ones on the receiving end. We would have possibly repeated my aunt’s scathing words later, when mingling with other kids, just like my neighbours’ kids had.

In my opinion, if you want to know how people refer to others behind closed doors, just listen to their kids or see how they act while in the midst of other kids… They’ve never failed to imitate. My take here may be deemed uninformed, but if my cousins (my aunt’s children) are anything to go by, then I know I’m right…

Negative competition

When I was a kid, the main reason I loved celebrating birthdays, Easter and Christmas was because we (my sisters and I) always got new clothes, and most of the time they were matching Cinderella dresses. Mom always bought us the dresses that were in vogue at that time, and as we grew up it became a little tradition. The best part was when it came to attending mass on Christmas day, because then we’d get to wear our cute ‘princessy’ dresses. In that light, my least favourite Christmas was year 2000’s because we didn’t get new clothes; mom didn’t have a job and dad wasn’t willing to part with his money.

Given the circumstances, we were so disappointed; we refused to attend mass. It felt weird not wearing new clothes to church. Mom was so strict when it came to matters church, but I guess that day she understood our frustrations so she didn’t force us to go. In my family, Christmas has always been treated like an extended family affair so most of the time we hold our annual get-togethers around that time. That Christmas was being celebrated at one of my uncles’ place. Dad went alone.

Seeing as we didn’t attend mass that day, one of our second class cousins, who lived nearby passed by our place. Maybe the frustrations of not having new dresses made us myopic, because I remember feeling like she had only come to see what kind of clothes we had.

It sounds foolish when I think about it now, but we made that deduction based on three facts: firstly, their house was a thirty minutes’ walk away from ours. Secondly, she brought us an old black card with a wine bottle on the front page and it wasn’t even enveloped. It didn’t seem like a Christmas card and given that I’ve never seen it since then, I’m assuming we threw it away that same day. Thirdly, we weren’t really that close. The relationship we had with them was a very unhealthy one; it was more of a competition; seeing who went to the best schools, who lived in a fancier house, who got a boyfriend first (we were still very young but that was also an issue), seeing whose parents drove the best cars, who got the best grades in school…

Based on that, it was difficult to believe she’d walked all the way just to bring an old card; but maybe we were just being paranoid… the only good thing about that day was that one of our aunts-she was estranged from her husband at the time so she also didn’t attend the get-together- brought my sisters and I some cute knickers.

As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, the things-habit wise- we pick up as kids stay with us longer. In that respect, I’ve always detested any form of competition I deem negative; with my cousins for instance. The madness stopped when we moved to different parts of the city. I don’t think the competitiveness stopped, on their part atleast, because even when we meet one can still feel the tension; the only thing is that distance brought some sanity.

When I was a kid, the relationship we had with the rest of the family didn’t feel any different and as I grew up I started appreciating the distance. We only met up when it was inevitable. For the better part of our preteen and early teenage years we still were linked by the mere fact that somehow my sisters, female cousins and I all went to the same boarding school. So even if we lived far from each other we’d still meet in school.

Slowly, I started hating anything that felt like a competition, because if whatever I had/did wasn’t the best, I’d lie so I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Luckily we went to different high schools and seeing as we were old enough to make our own choices we (my sisters and I) avoided any unnecessary meetings. Sometimes distancing oneself from negative influence is the best solution.

Someone who reads my posts regularly might think I hate my extended paternal family. Truth is I don’t hate them. I just don’t like the person I am when I’m with them. Our relationship hasn’t changed. It has always felt like a competition, and looking back at the life I had as a kid, I know I wouldn’t want to go back to that. If I have to constantly tell lies or lash out at someone because they make it their business to pry into my life, making me feel bad about what I don’t have or what I have, just because they’re not okay with it, I would rather sever all ties with them than do something I might regret for the rest of my life, in an attempt to always top the charts.

second chances

Weight Issues

weight issues

The last time I met up with some of my relatives from my paternal side a few weeks ago at my uncle’s birthday, I had a hard time bonding with some of them because whatever came out of their mouths was infelicitous as usual. One of my cousins approached me asking, “Where’s the baby?”

I was in the kitchen when she came up to me. With an eyebrow arched I was like, “Seriously? What the F…?” Only I was courteous enough not to say it out loud. Lifting my head up I smiled at her, “Why do you ask?” I already knew why she was asking that-another one of my cousins had asked that same question earlier-but I just wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Well, you’ve put on so much weight,” she explained, “the last time I saw you, you looked like a stick.” Such polite words you have there cousin, I thought. I would be lying if I said those words didn’t irritate me, but knowing she was just being herself- failing to be courteous and all-I calmly reminded her the last time we’d met was about three years ago. My sisters and I had deliberately skipped all family functions; it takes so much energy pretending one’s happy when they’re not, putting up with crap when one feels like they would explode. We didn’t have the grace to turn the other cheek, so we avoided attending the functions entirely.

Like I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, this ‘funny’ relationship we have with them dates back to when my parents were dating; dad’s family was rich, mom’s was poor, so we automatically earned the ‘poor cousins tag’. Even when God bridged that gap the tag still remained. Initially I used to feel bugged by it, but as I grew up I realized judging people based on what they have/don’t have, or where they stand socially is just tacky.

“There’s no baby, it’s all food,” I added, straight-faced. I let it pass without making a fuss.

I wouldn’t take any offence if I thought she only asked that in jest, because honestly some people have a ‘painful’ sense of humour, but I could tell, it was actually sarky.

That’s one of the reasons I hate attending any family get-togethers; from my paternal side especially, because it’s like every one of the members has been gifted in offending others, and we (my sisters and I) always have to play it cool; taking it all stoically. With my cousin for instance, I was so tempted to give her a piece of my mind, but I didn’t see the point. I didn’t want to be the better villain. It’s something I’m trying to overcome, given the circumstances-my ‘violent’ childhood. I chose to take the high road.

The last time I saw my cousin and the rest of the family, I really had lost too much weight; the job I had at the time was too strenuous; it was actually one of the reasons that made me opt to quit. I remember one of my uncles asking me why I looked that scrawny. “If it’s the job that’s taking such a toll on you, just quit,” he’d told me. I understood his concern.

Now three years later, a few of them found it an issue that I looked bigger than the previous time. One thing I’ve learnt in life is that it’s practically impossible to please everyone. If I decided to dance to their tunes, I’d lose myself, suffering from eating disorders because I’m either too big or too small for their liking; just not the right size. Good thing is, I couldn’t be happier with how I look, and to me, that’s all that matters; how I feel.