Category Archives: Memoirs

Why do you believe?

Why do you believe in God? If you heard, say through social media, that your religious leader/spiritual guide was involved in some very shady dealings, would you stop believing in God? Would you stop going to your place of worship? I know it is very easy for people to get discouraged, when they are made privy to unsettling stories about their religious leaders. Question is, should that cripple our faith in God?

A couple of years ago, I shared a post about a priest in my church who got involved in some very murky affairs, and all in the quest to have the parish priest removed from office, so he could be the parish priest.

At the time the story caught me by surprise because the parish priest at the time was a very jovial and kind man of God. He was humble and even in his interaction with people, it was difficult to fault him for any malice, hypocrisy, or anything of the sort. His kind personality notwithstanding, some devious congregants conspired with the assistant priest and came up with very serious allegations that had our parish priest suspended.

The cardinal set up a team, which set out to investigate these defamatory allegations; which included womanising and practising black magic. A couple of months later, a report was sent to our church revealing the findings of the investigation. By then, neither of the two priests was in our church.

Worse still, the entire missionary society had pulled out from our church so now we had new priests. The parish priest read the report to us and just as I had thought, the former parish priest had been found innocent. None of the sixteen allegations against him were confirmed.

On the other hand, we were informed that the conniving assistant priest had been dismissed from priesthood by the Pope. Reason being, he was found guilty of various offences, which were a violation of the sanctity of priesthood, in the strict sense; since ideally a priest is meant to be a representative of Christ on earth.

That announcement made me question many things about the church. I knew there were priests out there who molested children, or even sired children with women, yet a Catholic priest is required to be celibate…Now to add to the list, there was a priest practising black magic.

I thought about my personal interactions, with that assistant priest –for instance during confession- and I felt scared, because I wondered where he drew the line between serving God and practising black magic.

I questioned the effect of him celebrating mass, and worst of all consecrating the bread and wine to turn them into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Had any of that been real given his already tainted soul? To some extent I felt duped.

There I was, dedicating my whole soul to God, yet the person who was meant to be loosely put, ‘holier than me’ was there invoking powers from the underworld. Speaking from experience, it can be really disheartening.

Now fast-forward to the present, I have read online about this disturbing story of a priest who was found dead and it is alleged he was killed by a fellow priest. How do we trust murderers to guide us to heaven? It really is disheartening.

Then following further investigations, there’s been a twist…it is alleged, this priest was in a gay relationship and his supposed lover is the one who killed him. Technically, a priest should not even be getting involved in romantic relationships with women, leave alone men; which part of society still frowns upon. So that raises a lot of concerns, especially where believers imagine, priests are very holy people.

From where I’m sitted, I feel it is very easy to lose faith in God, if it’s premised on the holiness – or lack of it thereof- of our spiritual shepherds. I remember when I was in boarding school, there was this priest who used to come to church with blood-shot eyes, courtesy of alcoholism, and in my infantile mind I found everything wrong with that. As I was growing up however, I realised alcoholism was only the least of a priest’s shortcomings.

So with all these occurrences, how does one still ignore everything and continue attending mass, with the nagging thought at the back of the mind that the priest celebrating mass could be getting apprehended for murder, rape…etc. sooner than later?

In my humble opinion, one should nurture their faith in God, in a way that it won’t come crumbling down the minute news of a priest’s/religious leader’s flaws start spreading on social media. Normally, I discourage those around me from ‘getting prayed for’ by others. This is because, I believe praying is a gift God has given us all for free, so we don’t need ‘middle men’.

Attending mass, from a Catholic’s perspective is highly encouraged. However, one should not just be attending mass for the sake of it. One’s faith should be so strong, such that even when we hear our beloved priests committed a felony, we won’t get easily discouraged. I like to remind myself that all these spiritual shepherds are also human.

The implication of this is that, they are prone to sin like the rest of us. Therefore, one shouldn’t base all their faith in them, but in God, who has commissioned them to spread His Holy word. That way, it won’t matter what our religious guides do backstage when they are not ministering. We should always remember that when all this is over, we will stand before God, individually. It won’t matter if our spiritual guides were murderers, paedophiles, home wreckers…etc.; of importance will be, what we did with our lives…

pressure to get married

I’m staring out at the sky, praying that he will walk in my life…

Where is the man of my dreams…I’ll wait forever how silly it seems

How does he laugh how does he cry, what’s the colour of his eyes;

Does he even realize I’m here…where is he…where is this beautiful guy…

Who is he…who’s gonna take me so high…”

These are the lyrics to Justin Roman and Natalie Soluna’s song, ‘Where is she’. When I was younger I used to sing it word for word, because I loved it (still do). Now it pops randomly as a reminder of what’s going on in my life.

See, when my two sisters and I turned 13 (at different times), dad automatically assumed we would give in to the raging hormones teenagers are usually said to suffer from at the onset of puberty. Therefore he always treated us like we were just sleeping around with boys. “I know they’ve done it…either in that bedroom, or that bedroom…”This, he would say during his drunken ramblings, pointing at the bedrooms while standing at the hallway.

As a result, we always avoided inviting guys over because we didn’t want to be judged. Even the ones who came over did so without our consent. Like this one evening my childhood sweetheart popped by on his way home from work. Needless to say, I had not invited him over. When mom got back from work, she found him there but since she knew him since he was a child, and was friends with his mom, she was generally happy to see him.

Only thing she was not privy to was that a couple of years ago he and I had been in a relationship. At the time we had already gone our separate ways and he had visited, hoping we would get back together. However, I had already moved on so that chapter had long been closed.

Then, 25 came and suddenly dating was the implied requirement…if one was not dating and introducing their partner to the family, people thought that person was slacking off. The pressure to get married started. Mom light-heartedly started saying she wanted to see her grandchildren before she turned 50.

One of my cousins got a baby at twenty and the entire family ganged up against her. No one wanted to be associated with her, and I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. I mean, at the least, she was above 18, if age was the issue. She stayed with us for a while and a couple of years later, everyone was doting on her little girl. Nowadays, in family get-togethers, the same people who had ostracised her refer to her daughter as her second degree, her first being her bachelor’s degree.

So question is, is it just in my family or that’s the norm? Where before one turns 25, dating is almost a felony…then after 25, there’s pressure piling from all corners for one to get hitched. Nowadays, all my dad’s drunken ramblings start and end with marriage; but in all honesty, I sort of understand why. Most of our cousins are getting married and having babies.

Dad yearns to be called a grandfather, like his elder brothers. However, he fails to realise marriage is an almost permanent situation, given that it’s usually intended to be, “Till death…” So the way I see it, it’s not a matter of having attained the suitable age for marriage, but about being prepared emotionally, financially…

I really do not want to end up in nuptials because I’m ‘ripe for marriage’. If marriage was merely about age, right now I’d be nursing my own children, and taking care of my husband. Nonetheless, I want to find a man I truly love…someone who completes me in every sense of the word; someone who understands me in all my ‘damagedness’…and that, in my opinion, should not be rushed. It’s not about whether dad and mom are ready to be grandparents, but whether I’m ready to start a family.

Take me as I am: Part 2

For the last five years or so, I’ve been on a social media hiatus. Reason being, being a person who struggles with anxiety, I noticed social media is a constant trigger. So for health purposes, I made a conscious decision to just take a break; and I must say, it does feel calming not having to worry about things people are sharing or not sharing.

Since ours is a formal setup, we agreed we would share all important documents and information on Googlegroups. That way, no one would feel inconvenienced. Needless to say, not everyone would understand an odd situation like mine. One of our members seemed hostile towards me from the onset. When discussing issues she would always shoot me down, until it became so obvious to other members.

Growing up, I learnt that confrontations aggravate strained situations, so incensed as I was, I tried to be patient with her. One time, another one of our group members commended me for being so mature about it. This went on for a while, until one Sunday when she called all members for a Monday meeting on WhatsApp. Everyone else assumed she had notified me about it, so they didn’t inform me.

That Monday I got to school early as usual, oblivious to the fact that there was a firm meeting. I went on to do my morning studies before class started. Later after the first session, I ran into her in the washrooms and that’s when she told me the group had met up. I didn’t want to seem agitated so I told her it was ok. Since not all members had been present, we had another meeting in the afternoon to be briefed on what guys had discussed in the morning.

It was to discuss some assignment, but as I later figured out, some basic requirements on how to undertake it had been flouted. Subsequently, I brought the matter up to everyone’s attention. She argued that I should join WhatsApp as that was convenient for everyone. I felt she was being insensitive towards me and I told her it was unfair for her to treat me that way simply because I was not on WhatsApp like everyone else.

Her behaviour made me realise how most of the time we’re insensitive towards other people, just because they are different. In my case for instance, I seem like an outlier because I’m not conforming to the norm of being on social media. For someone else, it will be something different. That begs the question; must we all be the same for us to be considered ‘normal’? I think not.

I always like to think we’re all different, and those differences make us unique. It would be so boring if we all behaved and thought the same way. Taking this into consideration, I think we should endeavour to take people as they are. We might not always like or agree with what some people do, but chances are, if we cared enough to ask, we would find they have some compelling reason for being/behaving the way they do.

Take me as I am: Part 1

Three months ago I joined bar school. Even though things are anything but easy, I would say so far the going’s ok. When I got there, the first perceptible difference was the huge number of new faces. That was expected though, because it was an entirely different institution from the one I’d been in for the last four years during my undergrad. Thankfully, in that sea of foreign faces, there were some former colleagues of mine and that was a huge relief, taking my introverted nature into consideration.

Ordinarily, I’m those people who could walk into a room full of people, and after the end of the session, walk out without having spoken to anyone. Depending on the mood I’m in, sometimes it feels ok, but sometimes it makes me feel lonely. Since I was a child, I have always had trouble socializing because it does feel like a task, for the most part at least.

Nonetheless, when I meet someone and I get to know them over time, I could be the chattiest person. In such cases I consider myself an extroverted introvert. My closest friends could attest to this. Sometimes they think I’m just crazy, but in a fun way. In some previous posts I have talked about my introversion.

Therefore, when I saw familiar faces from campus, I felt relieved because I didn’t have to worry about making new friends and all… However, this being a new institution, some things were bound to be different. For instance, in campus I was my class’ president for four years; but when we got to elect our class president in bar school, I did not vie because I felt I needed to take a breather. Being in a position of leadership puts one in the spotlight and I was craving some sense of quiet and invisibility.

The other different thing is that in campus we had the autonomy of forming our own discussion groups. However, in bar school, we were divided into firms long before we even started classes. The effect of this is that in my case for instance, majority of my group members were foreign faces; and, given the bulk of work that is required to be carried out in groups, it meant I would have to familiarise myself with them all.

After our first class, my group members and I met briefly to introduce ourselves and we agreed I would be the firm leader. Given that I had been the president of a class of about one hundred and fifty students, being the firm leader of a group of twelve felt pretty manageable. But as it would turn out, that was a wrong assumption I made.

See, in my former class, my colleagues got to know me and they figured what kind of a person I was, and thankfully, they accepted me for who I was. They did not try to change me. In my firm on the other hand, my colleagues don’t know me and half of the times I feel they treat me with suspicion.

The genesis of this is I told them that currently I’m not on WhatsApp, or any other social media platform for that matter. Given that we’re currently living in an era where almost all social conversations and business negotiations take place on social media, they found it strange. One of my group members asked if it’s because I was trolled, and I told her I wasn’t.

 

Gift of hope

Whatever you do, no matter the circumstances, don’t lose hope. All other virtues are premised on this one and this is in the sense that desperation makes us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Desperation makes good people do bad things. For instance, hunger could make a person steal if they do not have better means of obtaining food.

Love as we know it, also stems from hope…A person whose heart has been broken so many times will be afraid of falling in love again because they are afraid of going through the pain that’s already too familiar, if things go awry. On the contrary, where someone has hope, they will embrace a potential love because they are hopeful things will turn out fine.

When things are not going on as well as we may want, what keeps us going? It’s hope; hope of seeing better days. Lately I keep reading stories about people who have come so close to taking their own lives because they were suffering from depression. From my understanding, hopelessness is what triggers suicidal thoughts.

While I may not have gotten to that point where I felt the urge to end my own life, I have battled depression before and I know, only too well, the state someone is usually in…one finds themselves in a situation where no single thought triggers happiness…everything feels bleak, and wherever one tries to comfort themselves that the future will be better, all they see are misery-laden days.

When someone wakes up every morning, feeling like they have nothing else to live for, hopelessness engulfs them and the next thing that prevails over them is the thought of ending their own lives. Hope strengthens our spirit to fight through unpleasant situations.

In life we can’t always be on an upward scale, because failure and pain are just an inevitable part of life; and I bet, this is where the saying, ‘it’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times  you pick yourself up’ arises.

My maternal grandma passed on five years ago, and everytime I think about the months leading to her death, I usually suspect she died a depressed woman. A few months before she died, mom brought her home so we could take her to hospital. She had been unwell for a while and her two sons who she lived with upcountry seemed to have neglected her.

Moreover, the two had been fighting over the ownership of her land. Given how peace-loving grams was, I usually imagine those clashes between her sons sent her to an early grave. She abhorred violence and they wouldn’t resolve their disputes amicably. Sadly, when she fell into depression, they didn’t seem to notice.

When mom learnt she was sick, she went for her and brought her home. I loved her so much, and I even had the honour of being named after her. Looking at her, I could tell all was not well with her. Even while sitted next to her, I would get the impression she was miles away because she had this bleak stare. At night I would sit by her bedside, trying to give her examples of all the good things she could look forward to, so despair wouldn’t suck her into its dark abyss.

As days passed, she got better and she started insisting she wanted to go back home. We didn’t want her to go just yet, but we figured she was feeling disillusioned because she was in a foreign place. Since we wanted her to be happy we agreed to let her go. A few months later mom and I visited her at her place and shortly after, we heard she was sick again.

Before we knew it, she was gone! When she was well, she was very lively. So when I think of hopelessness, she comes to mind and I hate what it does to someone. The way I see it, though grams never jumped off a cliff or stood in front of an oncoming train, she died because she lost the will to live.

She didn’t have the strength to fight illnesses when they ravaged her frail body and eventually when death knocked, she just opened without putting up a fight. I usually feel she could have lived for many more years if she had been happy. Hope would have opened her eyes to the endless possibilities that the future held.

The worst part about depression is that it’s very easy for one to fall victim, yet it is relatively difficult to get out of. Hope is that priceless shield which protects us from falling into that chasm. When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of the Bible verse, which says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, but with prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.

From my own experiences, I know it’s very easy to lose hope; but one thing I’m learning, is to look up to the man of sorrows. Jesus would have despaired in life because He already knew the painful death He was going to be subjected to, yet He didn’t. Everytime we feel despair gnawing at us, we should ask Him to help us. Because we too can be victorious like He was.

 

Emotional scars: Part 2

A few weeks ago on Deutcshe Welle TV, I watched this show about women who, in an attempt to get past horrifying incidents of domestic violence which had left their bodies awfully scarred, had gotten tattoos to cover the scars. Therefore in place of a burn or big scar, one would have a beautiful tattoo. Though I’m not a psychologist, I can say getting ‘rid’ of the marks sought of speeds up the healing process.

Now with regard to that, I found myself wondering, what would happen to people whose scars are not physical but emotional? For instance, last Sunday I was talking to my big sister and she seemed to have this evident revulsion for all matters dad. Late last year she had developed this habit where she’d stay in her room the whole day, in an attempt to stay away from him.

This went on for weeks until dad, in one of his rare glimpses of responsible parenthood, asked mom about her whereabouts. He actually sounded concerned, and that happens rarely. He told mom he didn’t support that because if she went on like that for a while longer, there was no telling what she could do to herself.

Eventually, mom talked to her about it and after seeing how concerned dad was, she stopped ‘locking’ herself in her bedroom and even started talking to him. They didn’t just dive straight away into the buddy-buddy pool but their relationship improved remarkably.

However, to my horror, last week I realised she was sliding back into that habit. When dad’s around she’ll avoid all the places she knows she could bump into him. While I don’t quite think it’s the best solution, I sought of understand why she’s doing it.

I had a talk with her about it and she told me dad is the one person in her life who has ever made her contemplate committing suicide. Therefore avoiding him works for her because if he doesn’t see her, he just might forget she even exists and he won’t have to think of all the hurtful things to say about her when he’s drunk.

See, when dad’s not trying to be a good parent, and that’s who he is most of the time, he makes someone feel very uncomfortable when they are around him. He’ll just sit behind a newspaper, purporting to read it all day, and he might not say a word unless someone starts a conversation. From what I’ve gathered over time, he usually spends that time observing everyone, making his own little condemnatory mental notes.

It’s only when he’s drunk, or has only had a little to drink and is pretending to be drunk that he starts yapping, complaining about everything and everyone. He’s been doing that since I’ve known him and I abhor it.

To be fair, I’ll just give him the benefit of the doubt and say maybe there are times he has meaningful complaints, like this one time we were all busy and didn’t get time to pull down the Christmas decorations until February.

Nonetheless, my problem is how he raises those issues. He’ll go fill up on some dutch courage before he starts venting. Worst part is, he always does wicked things deliberately with the sole intention of hurting us. For instance, two weeks ago he suggested we should visit his mom the next day and we all agreed.

Seeing as we were supposed to leave very early, we thought we would use that Friday evening to prepare for the trip which had been suggested on such short notice. Disappointingly, he went to drink at around five in the evening and he didn’t come back till around three in the morning. By then we had all cancelled the travelling plans since there was no way we’d be going to his mom’s with him drunk.

When he came in at that very ungodly hour, he started shouting as usual but since we were all asleep, he figured he would force mom to have an audience with him. Though his loud monologues had woken her up, she didn’t say anything. When he saw she wasn’t flinching or acting all agitated, he just walked to their bedroom window, opened it, and started shouting, apparently addressing the neighbours who cared to listen.

Though I didn’t hear everything because I willed myself to fall asleep so I wouldn’t hear him, the things he said were very offensive, and not to mention hurtful. In a nutshell, he said mom must be a witch because she spends so much time in prayer… (I’ve always thought praying is a good thing). And regarding my sisters and I, he said he didn’t understand what we were still doing in his house.

Like I’ve said before, maybe sometimes he has genuine concerns, but the way he brings it all up is what really hurts. I’ve never told him, but my reluctance to get married stems from this overwhelming fear I have of ending up with someone like him. He’s subjected us to so much misery, and though he’s clearly oblivious to it, I have an anxiety disorder to show for it… I have suffered from depression…and peptic ulcers…

Since I do not like dwelling so much on the past, I always try to find things which will cheer me up so I don’t get sucked into my own negative thoughts, which have become a constant companion. That’s what living in constant anxiety does to someone…Always waiting for something to go wrong…

If someone was to judge my sisters and I from our physical appearance, we look healthy and ‘normal’, because we don’t have physical scars to show for the pain and anguish we’ve been through. However deep down, we’ve so many emotional scars. That’s why I find dad’s sentiments awfully erroneous; physical scars are not the only indicators of suffering.

Trying times… Part 2

Owing to the ‘ambush’, I said I wasn’t going to talk to the politician. I’d just say hi on my way out. However, mom said she’d already told him we were in the house because that was the whole point of dragging him over. Ergo, out of respect I went to greet him.

Surprisingly, when my sisters and I talked to him he seemed very interesting. Though I have never voted for him, I’ve always admired his nonconformist attitude towards societal beliefs and practices. He does things differently and has no apologies for it.

As the minutes ticked away, I actually let myself enjoy the thought that a politician I only saw on TV was just sitted across from me…in our own house. It all felt surreal and the thought was thrilling. It’s surprising how some of our simple childhood delights stay with us even in adulthood.

“I have no money”, he’d warned us. And that obviously was the least of our worries. We’ve never been interested in receiving hand-outs.

“In this house, we’re not interested in getting money”, my big sister assured him.

“We prefer being given a fishing net to fish”, I added. That has always been one of the principles we live by. If someone gives us money to satisfy our immediate needs, what about tomorrow? Will they be there to provide for us still? Funny thing is, most of the people we meet prefer giving someone money…

Close to an hour later we’d discussed very many things with the politician and he filled us with so much hope. He was going to help our big sis get a job and all our problems would be over…or so we thought. Little did we know he was possibly worse than all the other hot-air-blowing charlatans we had previously encountered.

Eventually he took my big sis’ phone number, promising to contact her if any job openings came up. Later when I got back home, I found my sisters all excited. Since I’d been gone, he had assigned my big sis the role of project coordinator in some youth project he was running. He had requested her to recruit some 50 young people who would assist with the research project.

Excitedly, she had brought on board one of our cousins to help with the recruitment…and all was going on great. It had been a while since I’d seen her looking so jovial. That evening he called, telling her he’d be flying abroad; and since he’d realised she would be a great asset in his team, he wanted her to accompany him. We didn’t see any harm in that so we told her it was ok.

Since he didn’t have her personal details, he requested her to send him a copy of her passport because he had to fill out some papers in preparations for the flight and that had to be done before midnight. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t send such personal details to someone we’d just met, especially with the rising cases of identity theft…But as I mentioned earlier, desperation makes people myopic.

Enthusiastically, she scanned the first page of her passport and emailed it to him. We were all on cloud nine. We had finally met some ‘big fish’ like we’ve always hoped and things couldn’t be better. Later in the night he called her making some very ‘unconventional’ requests. He particularly told her he would prefer she dressed more ‘modestly’; that she didn’t have any hair extensions and instead covered her head with a veil…

With regard to modesty, he made reference to how Mary, the Holy Mother of Jesus dressed, adding that, she (my sister) would be better placed to understand why that was important because we’re Catholic. Furthermore, he referred her to 1st Timothy Chapter 2. He expressly said he liked working with ‘religious people’. I found that baffling.

I know my family and I are not saints, but when it comes to religion, we’re very tight with God. With all these problems we’re constantly facing, it would be practically impossible to live without God. He’s been our refuge all through. So needless to say, it felt deeply insulting for someone to throw ‘religiousness’…or the lack of it in our faces.

When he’d visited earlier, he’d found my sister saying the rosary so my mom had to request him to wait a bit; and, by his own admission he’d found that very intriguing because young people do many things, with praying being at the bottom of the list. Additionally, he’d found her in a pair of loose jeans (because she’s lost some weight) and a very decent top. But we understood what he was hinting at…it’s the Mother Mary look.

“I have no issues with dressing modestly, but what you’re asking for is a bit too much. I have my own principles too”, she contended.

“I don’t know what made me think I could trust someone I just met for thirty minutes”, he retorted. He hang up, and after that, all the promises he made vanished just like that as he covertly rescinded them all. He didn’t pick her calls nor call her.

After doing a quick search on Google, we found the person in-charge of the youth project was a fraudster, who the authorities were searching for. He was using an alias and the email address my sister had sent names and contacts of her recruits to wasn’t valid.

It had all been a hoax. Then we realised we couldn’t report the matter to the police because of the politician’s connections. He had the power to annihilate us. At that moment, all our problems felt dwarfed by this potential disaster we were staring at. Helplessness engulfed us!

Two days later since meeting the ‘big fish’ it evidently dawned on us that we’d been duped. Given that the research assignment had turned out to be a ruse, my sister had to personally reimburse some of the recruits for the expenses incurred. Now we know better…