Who’s more important?

Who’s more important? One’s sibling or a partner/spouse? A child or a spouse? A child or a sibling? One’s child or parent? This is a question so many would shrug off, but in a way, it’s a quagmire people find themselves in more often than not. No one will blatantly put someone in such a situation where they have to pick between loved ones, except in few cases where some people have the guts to go issuing such ultimatums.

Earlier today, my sisters and I were talking about the different relationships we humans are privileged to have. Filial relations between one and their parents, fraternal relations between siblings, parental relations between one and their children, romantic relations between one and their lover… of these, one can’t be asked which of those relations is most important because as it, each one is unique; different from the other.

For instance, I know the emotional satisfaction I derive from bonding with my sisters is so different from what I feel when I bond with my parents… and what I feel for a guy I’m involved with is a whole different story. So in my humble opinion, it would be inhuman to make one pick who they love most.

In a funny twist of events, mom came home in the evening and was telling us about a troubling conversation she had with a friend. As it turns out, the friend took her sister’s child in because she (the sister) got married to another guy, who said he wasn’t going to take care of another man’s child. Subsequently, the sister left her baby girl with her biological dad.

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Unfortunately, the girl’s dad died shortly after and life took a turn for the worst for her as she wasn’t getting proper treatment from the dad’s family. Moved by the girl’s predicament, mom’s friend (the girl’s aunt) took her in and now she is her legal guardian.

Since the girl wasn’t taken to school until recently when her aunt took custody of her, she’s around fifteen but only has the wits of a nine year old. It will be roughly five years before she joins high school; and that is, if she’s brave enough to stand disparaging remarks from her relatively younger classmates.

That story had me thinking; if I had a child with a guy, and then after breaking up with him, I got into another relationship where the guy insists that if I want to be with him I would have to abandon my child, would I submit to such a misguided ultimatum?

Not so far from home, I have a cousin who got a baby when she was only fifteen. Given that she was very young then, her parents helped her take care of her daughter. Unfortunately, a few years down the line, she met another guy, fell in love with him…

However, when they decided to move in together, she couldn’t take her child with her.  Her baby girl, who’s a teenager now, has been living with her grandparents all through. Her mom got another child with her new man… This was also the case with mom’s friend’s niece; her mom got more children with the new husband. They even relocated to another country so she has never met her siblings; worse still, there’s a very high possibility she doesn’t remember her own mother.

Such scenarios make me wonder, what does that imply for the children who are left behind by their parents as they forge new paths with other partners? My cousin’s daughter for instance; she has a sister whom she doesn’t interact much with and a mother she barely sees, all because her mom got into another relationship with a man who wasn’t her dad.

I’m cognisant of the fact that to some extent, this could be to the girl’s advantage. For instance, this might shield her from any form of abuse from the mom’s husband, who could maltreat her because she’s not his biological daughter. However, I can’t also ignore that a child who’s separated from his/her parent for such inadmissible reasons may have a very difficult life because they will always try to comprehend why their parent chose to abandon them.

The way I see it, no one should be made to choose between people they love. It’s unfair to ask a mother to ‘trade in’ her child for a new lover. This could be psychologically traumatising for both mother and child. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that anyone who claims to love someone will accept them and their children.

Personally, I wouldn’t believe a guy who said they loved me to the moon and back, but couldn’t accept my child because he/she is another man’s child. How does one reject my own flesh and blood, and still purport to love me? That doesn’t make any sense if you ask me. It’s unfair to say the least, to the innocent child.

In all fairness, where I’m at, I can’t pretend to know what parents who have encountered such mind-boggling issues go through; however, I can say with certainty, that people who give their partners such unfair ultimatums are driven by their own egoistic desires. They refuse to empathise with a blameless child, who will be unfairly separated from their family, and a mother (or father), who has to come to terms with abandoning their child.

Love presents itself in various forms, and each type is different from the other. We shouldn’t make anyone choose. It just ain’t right, in my humble opinion.

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.

Burning bridges – Part 1

burning-bridges

Life as we know it, is a curve. A baby is born, s/he matures and ages, then ultimately dies. At least that’s the normal curve, even though not everyone gets to go through all the stages. Now, as any keen person may have realised, person(s) on either side of the curve seem to be in the same state technically. The only notable difference would be the difference in age and the obvious physical characteristics accompanying each.

What I find interesting is that persons on either side of the curve appear to be in a similar stage. For instance, when a baby is young, they require assistance taking a bath, moving from place to place, they need to be fed…etc. and so does an old person. Interesting, ain’t it?

My paternal great grandmother passed on two years ago and albeit no one knew her exact age, she’s rumoured to have been over a century old. Now if that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is; in my humble opinion at least.

I was lucky to see her a couple of months before she passed on and when I did, I had trouble reconciling the version of her seated in front of me, with the version of her I knew when I was a child. Unlike her relatively younger self, she couldn’t move on her own and therefore had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair. She seemed so fragile; and obviously because she had lost all her teeth, there was a variety of foods she couldn’t eat. Just like it is with infants.

The reason I find this human curve interesting is because, once a child is born, they rely on their parents/guardians to get through life; then the child matures, they become independent and at some point they get families of their own and as it is with life, they continue aging. Now the interesting part is that when they do, the independence they once enjoyed when they were lithe fades away with age so they start relying on their children to perform, even the most basic of tasks.

Another difference is that unlike babies, who can’t chose who takes care of them, elderly people have that discretion of choosing. This they determine by the relations they have; how they treat their children and those close to them during their younger years.

One thing I keep reminding myself as life goes on is that life is too short to learn everything, so a wise person will learn from other people’s experiences, without necessarily waiting to learn from their own. Sometimes, when we’re in our prime, we delude ourselves into thinking that we can survive without help from others. But as some of us may have learned first-hand, in this business of aging, life knows no status quo.

A few years ago, dad was just going on and on with his drunken rumblings. He said my sisters and I could go get married and that he didn’t need any of us. He had his money and would therefore never require our assistance. I shook my head, concerned that he was being too myopic; he could barely see what was right in front of his own two eyes.

At the time, his grandmother was already in that stage where she was too old to take care of herself. The rest of his family had trouble deciding who was going to take care of her as she had too many ‘special needs’. I only told mom to remind him later that sometimes there comes a time, when parents rely on their own children to feed and bathe them. As it is though, dad is as obstinate as they come. Most often than not, I feel he’s one of those people who wait to learn from their own experiences.

Currently as we speak, his own mother, whom I’ve mentioned (not in very good light) in some previous posts is now aging and needs someone to take care of her. Dad and his three siblings have had trouble lately, deciding who would take her in.

See thing is, in her halcyon days, she burned many bridges; just like most of us do when we feel our lives couldn’t be better so we don’t need others to get by. She was practically the one calling the shots in her children’s lives; who they should marry, how they should treat them… the ones from humble backgrounds like my mom were only acquainted with the callous side of her.

She got to decide if her children married well, and this was always on the basis of monetary wealth; good virtues didn’t matter to her. Where she felt they could do better, she incited them, hoping to break them apart. With my parents for instance, she tried and failed miserably so we’ve -in most cases- been treated like pariahs.

Now as it turns out, her only daughter, who never married (because she didn’t want her marrying a poor lad) is not in a state to help her (financially speaking); her sons on the other hand, didn’t marry the wives she wanted so they (she and her daughters-in-law) don’t get along too well and as nit-picking is seemingly one of her fortes, no one wants to be in a situation where they are blamed for ‘maltreating’ her.

This is because they never forged a healthy relationship that’s characterised by trust and tolerance when they should have, so they are naturally weary of each other. It therefore goes without saying that any unintentional slip-up on their (daughters-in-law) side, might be construed as a deliberate attempt at making her life miserable.

That time of the year again

It’s the holidays again. Would you believe? Cuz I don’t… honestly! Where did the year go? I woke up on 1st January 2016, did a few things here and there, slept, woke up again… and bam! The year’s gone… just like that. Up until yesterday I had my head buried deep in books. Didn’t even get time to nurture the Christmas spirit. You know, that inexplicable super awesome feeling that adds some merry-touch to everything?

Now tomorrow’s Christmas and I couldn’t feel emptier. In my house we were all so tied up that we didn’t get time to put up Christmas decorations. Mom’s feeling the most deprived. She’s been coming home from work, and every time she’s disappointed to find the corner reserved for the Christmas tree still empty.

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I feel her; even felt guilty to some extent. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about it. I had exams to revise for; had my last paper yesterday. So now the exams are behind me but the Christmas cheer couldn’t feel further… and that right there, is my dilemma. It almost feels like my family and I are skipping Christmas, God forbid.

We’re going to salvage whatever’s left of Christmas because for us it’s not just a day, but a season. Hopefully, the ensuing days will make up for the lost time. However, looking back at how this year has been like, I know I have so much to thank God for.

Our ship, if I may call it, so has been rocked by so much turbulence. We’ve cried, got so close to despairing; but by God’s grace we’ve made it this far. For me, that counts for so much. If you feel like me, don’t let yourself get discouraged. Count your blessings. However insignificant it may seem; be grateful for whatever has made you smile, even if it’s only once this year. And just the simple fact that God has granted us this wonderful gift of life and guided us through this year is reason enough to thank Him and praise His Holy name.

merry-christmas

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ tomorrow, I wish you the merriest of Christmases. May God fill your hearts with immeasurable joy and peace… And may He, in His abundant mercy, grant you a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2017.

Happy holidays!

Close of the Year of the Divine Mercy

divine-mercy

Last Sunday but one marked the close of the year of the Divine Mercy. That sounds weird I know; because God’s mercy is timeless and lasts for all time. However, this year we have been celebrating the year of God’s Divine Mercy. Thinking of what that title alludes to; the hopes and promises… it’s so easy to get discouraged if those prayers don’t come to fruition just yet.

That’s the situation my family and I find ourselves in. We’d hoped this year would somehow bring some relief after all we’ve been through but as this year comes to end what we feel is utter discouragement. Most of the things we had prayed would come to pass didn’t.

In any case things seemed to have gotten worse. For instance, dad’s drinking worsened and he squandered most of the money he had set aside for our school fees. So now we’re always getting in constant arguments with him because of that. Additionally, he completely neglected mom completely so basically the only thing that keeps them together is the marriage certificate.

Since he works out of town, he only comes home when he needs to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank. Normally he will call her to notify he’s coming home but as it is he’ll just take a detour, to some nearby bar and by the time he comes home it will be the next day at dawn, in a drunken stupor. It goes without saying that in that state there can be no civil conversation between him and anyone. When he talks it’s usually annoying because all he does is offend everyone.

Later in the afternoon he’ll wake up and go back to the bar. In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I saw him eating at home. Mom, as a result of this, has been so stressed lately. If it wasn’t for the fact that I believe marriages are meant to be for keeps –in good times and bad times- I’d suggest she file for divorce and subsequently institute proceedings to get a church annulment.

Whatever little faith I had in matters marriage has completely waned. Now I feel like marriage is just a prison; an institution that one walks in filled with hope but gradually closes in on someone, leaving them constricted and without a way out. Mom’s a prisoner of love, and this year has left me absolutely doubtless that if she had married a different man she would have been very happy. A far-fetched dream from the misery, that is her life.

So now that the year of the Divine Mercy is behind us, I’m almost feeling desperate. Our lives completely denote the saying, that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’; even with everything around us changing, the only constant has been problems; which obviously everyone has. But my faith in God keeps reminding me that all hope is not lost because God’s mercy is timeless.

I would imagine there are very many people who are in similar situations; feeling spent because life seems to continue kicking even when someone’s already down. However, there’s one thing I refuse to give up on; hope. So if you’re feeling like my family and I are, don’t give up just yet. There’s hope. I know that because there’s this deep conviction I have that God listens; so if you have been praying and hoping, that big break is in the offing. Believe it…faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, remember?

All through, since I became aware of my own existence, I’ve always believed God never disappoints those who hope in Him; and more often than not, He’s proved me right. So today, even if you’re feeling distraught, don’t give up; because tomorrow we’ll be a better day. Why, you ask? Because He lives.

Female Genital Mutilation vs Cosmetic surgery

Mutilation is a word used commonly to describe girl’s circumcision. Most of us call it Female Genital Mutilation. In a recent jurisprudence class, the lecturer posed some questions to the class, “Was the word mutilation used properly to describe the procedure? Isn’t it extreme? How does one approach the topic objectively, if the term itself is already subjective?” He made it clear that naturally he is opposed to the whole idea of female circumcision, so he wasn’t trying to defend it in any way and that his was just a general question.

However, he pointed out that in his opinion, the instant reference to the procedure as mutilation makes one subjective so one doesn’t look at it with an open mind. Unable to hold my opinion back, I told him I felt the word was used properly. Because, how can one begin to describe positively what is actually done to girls in the name of circumcision? Based on the limited knowledge I have of what usually happens, I would say using a word other than ‘Female genital mutilation’, would be sugar coating it.

For starters, how does one justify the pain girls from various cultures are subjected to when their genitalia, the clitoris to be precise is ‘tampered with’, for purely non-medical reasons? In some cases there’s removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans, removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva. In the latter process, also referred to as infibulation, only a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. Later the vagina is opened further for intercourse and child birth.

Just from reading that basic definition, what part of it doesn’t sound like mutilation? Personally, I think it’s excruciatingly painful and the worst part is that it’s said to be done solely to control a woman’s sexuality. That reminds me of a related practice I came across, known as Chinese foot-binding. Both of these practices are done for the man’s benefit, yet they’re agonizing on the woman’s part.

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The clitoris as it is, plays an integral part in a woman’s enjoyment of sex. That fact alone makes me wonder what happens when a woman loses part of, or all of it. I have tried understanding why older women in cultures where this is practiced encourage it; growing up, they were taught it’s a source of honour for the girl, so in the event one refuses to undergo the same, they lose their social standing. I know I would hate to be ‘ostracised’ by my own people so to some extent I understand them.

This however, doesn’t justify this procedure, which I personally consider very unnecessary and demeaning to a woman. I have read of stories where circumcised women have had trouble being in intimate relations with men from cultures different from theirs, as those men consider the whole issue of female circumcision an impediment to fulfilling whatever sexual fantasies they may have, especially where the woman is ‘unresponsive’.

In light of this, wouldn’t referring to this practice as anything other than mutilation be sugar coating it? I’m of the opinion that the term ‘mutilation’, extreme as it sounds is just, as the old adage goes, ‘calling a spade a spade’.

After my brief debate with the lecturer, he asked what the difference was between FGM and nip/tuck (cosmetic surgery), where a woman goes through what others might term, ‘unnecessary pain’ just so they can look beautiful. Personally I had more than enough reasons why those two types of procedures couldn’t be put on the same scale.

cosmetic-surgery

For instance, in FGM consent is usually not sought but in most cases at least, a woman chooses whether they want their boobs enlarged, etc. Additionally, during cosmetic surgery a person is sedated where the procedure could be painful. With FGM, however, the procedure is carried out by non-medical practitioners and there’s no anaesthesia used, so a girl/woman is conscious the entire time, and this is taking into consideration that very crude tools are used, say shards of glasses. Furthermore, one knife/razor could be used on very many girls without sterilizing it.

In some cases, girls die from over bleeding during the circumcision, and others contract recurrent infections and/or develop complications later in life, which in some cases lead to death. Simply put, there are no known health benefits of FGM.

I, therefore, find the two procedures different and shouldn’t be compared. In other words, I wouldn’t think of cosmetic surgery as a form of mutilation because in essence, that is used to enhance a person’s physical beauty. FGM on the other hand has even been outlawed in many countries because of the serious health risks it carries, and for the simple fact that it’s demeaning to women.

A lady in my class said she felt the term mutilation was used inaccurately in an attempt to scare people off from the practice. The lecturer added that words usually impact how we view different things and that I agree with. Still, I felt describing the practice as mutilation was apt, since that’s what it is anyway. That’s just the way I see it anyway.

What do you think? Can cosmetic surgery be referred to as mutilation? And is the word Female Genital mutilation used subjectively to instil some sought of fear in people, or it’s a perfect definition of the practice?

Flipping the humanity switch off

humanity-switch

I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but lately I feel like I could switch my ‘humanity switch’ off; if I could. That sounds weird I know; but I’m thinking of the instances in the Vampire Diaries, where a vamp, say Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev), Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) or Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), who are the three most popular actors of the show flip their humanity off.

In the show however, what usually happens is that when one of the immortal creatures runs into one of life’s inevitable painful moments, and it becomes unbearable, they just do one of the things their superhuman nature affords them, namely, flipping their humanity switch off.

Basically, what this feature helps them with is that they stop feeling. Emotional pain becomes just another trivial feeling, that’s barely discernible to them. Knowing how bad it feels to hurt, I would say that’s a pretty awesome thing; I mean, who wants to feel pain, right?

We lose loved ones; businesses we’ve worked tirelessly to build come crashing down like washed up sand castles at the beach; people we love to bits cheat on us without the slightest care in the world… truth of the matter is, we live in a callous world, and it would help tonnes if it were possible to flip some switch off, so we can stop ourselves from feeling some of this annihilating pain.

As it is though, we wouldn’t value life so much were it not for these painful moments we go through which make us human. I bet that’s why TVD’s scriptwriters called it the ‘humanity switch’. One thing I know is that the pain we feel keeps us connected to our humanity; it makes us refrain from doing things that would cause pain and untold suffering to the rest of the populace.

For instance in the show, Stefan Salvatore is usually a laid back vampire, whose determination to do good prevents him from feeding on human blood, even though he’s an actual vampire, whose main prescribed dish is warm/fresh human blood, straight from the vein; even blood bags are frowned upon by the rest of the vampires. To keep his craving for human blood to a minimum, he avoids the temptation all together by feeding on animal blood.

Sometimes however, he also bumps into issues which force him to turn his humanity switch off. Like this one time, a stronger vampire (an original), Nick Klaus compelled him to turn it off and once he did, what we (viewers) were treated to were gory scenes of beheaded humans, courtesy of Stefan. When he flips that switch off, he’s referred to as ‘the ripper’ because he decapitates people in a heartbeat and actually revels in it. That’s when one realizes how it’s important for one to feel, because feeling makes us human.

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Lately though, I find myself confronted with situations which have me wishing I could flip some switch off, even if it’s for a day, just so I don’t feel the pain. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I slept soundly without a care in the world. Even my waking moments are marred by conflicting thoughts, which threaten my sanity. I feel everything around me is pushing me towards the edge of the precipice.

I’ve even started questioning my faith; maybe I’m not praying enough; or maybe God turned His back on me. That’s the thought that crossed my mind as I walked the short distance to church this past Sunday. Then in the midst of all that anguish, I remembered that God never gives up on His people. He never abandons those who call on Him.

As it is, I feel my life’s a mess right now and the thought of a new day makes me tense up. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I’m hopeful it will all be well, because God lives. So as I desperately wish I could flip my humanity off so I don’t feel pain, I also appreciate the fact that pain plays an integral part in our lives. That pain makes us human; mindful of other human beings and creatures. So we just can’t wish it away, much as it makes life miserable.