Tag Archives: lesson learned

No one can be a slave of two masters

Why do we get anxious? Why do we worry? If you’re like me, chances are you worry because you anticipate things that haven’t happened yet. I realized I feel anxious about the future when the present is so good, I couldn’t ask for it to be better. That got me wondering, what if I just enjoyed the present and let the future take care of its own stresses? You know, take one day at a time?

When I walked into church this past Sunday, I prayed that I would learn something important; something that would guide me throughout the week. Coincidentally, the readings addressed matters anxiety:

“No one can be a slave of two masters; he will hate one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. This is why I tell you; do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life more worth than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds; they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than the birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?

And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow; they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even king Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass-grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t He be all the more sure to clothe you?

What little faith you have!

So do not start worrying: “Where will my food come from? Or my drink? (These are all the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned about everything else with the kingdom of God. And with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things.

So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.” (Matthew 6: 24-34).

I have read this verses so many times before, but hearing the words again reminded me why worrying is really useless. Worrying won’t help alleviate whatever problems one is going through; it just weakens a person and takes their joy away. It magnifies small matters, making them seem unsolvable. So what’s the point of worrying? I have said this in previous posts, but I reiterate; one can only choose to believe in God or let fear and worry consume them. It’s impossible to serve two masters.

And the thing with anxiety is that once someone starts worrying about something, it becomes a vicious cycle; a cycle that paves way for darkness; a path that leads one into depression. When one gets used to worrying, they will always have something to worry about everyday; because that’s what fear does. It brings to focus things that on a normal day would just pass unnoticed. And it’s those small things that steal our joy away.

dark path

Do you choose to believe that tomorrow will take care of its worries? Or will you be anxious about tomorrow and let happiness seep right through your fingers today? It’s a choice one has to make. What master will I serve? That’s the question.

Sometimes it’s ok to hurt people

In relationships, there’s that person who will take on the martyr role. Apologizing for their partner’s mistakes, being the one who’s more understanding because they’re afraid if they tell their partner the truth their partner will ditch them or get majorly offended. But now, from my own experience I’ve learned, sometimes it’s ok to hurt people. Not in a malicious way, but to offend because one knows it’s only by hurting the other person that they’ll be able to move on. Sometimes it’s necessary.

There’s a time I’d approach relationships with the ‘I’d rather be the one who gets hurt than the one who hurts’ mentality, but what did that teach me? That sometimes there comes a person who doesn’t have your best interests at heart and they’ll kick you down so hard that it will take all of your strength to pick yourself up.

There’s this guy I was seeing. Every now and then he would mention how he felt inadequate because he wasn’t making much money. He always gave me the impression he thought I was high maintenance. Funny thing is I never even asked for anything from him. My extended family has always made money seem like a very big issue and that made my sisters and I grow feeling disadvantaged. From that I learned to never put anyone in that awful situation. He was no exception. I fathomed it was his own insecurities that made him feel inadequate.

He would often ask what someone like me saw in someone like him and I’d have to repeat the ‘it’s the heart that matters’ conversation, telling him what I found attractive about him…and that would quell his doubts…until the next time. It was getting old. At some point I started reflecting on where I expected that relationship to head. To my dismay, I realized I didn’t really love him. I was always happy telling my girlfriends about him, but I wasn’t in love with him. I was only in love with the idea of being in love.

I wanted to break up with him on so many occasions, but I’d pity him, afraid I would break his heart; I was afraid he would think I was breaking up with him because he wasn’t loaded. Whenever he did something wrong and I pointed it out he would deflect it, blaming it on me. He would play the needy, spoiled brat, taking me on unnecessary guilt trips. It was exhausting. But whenever I thought of breaking it off, the nagging thought would surface, hindering me from freeing myself from the strenuous relationship.

I was certain I didn’t want to be in that relationship, but the fear of hurting him would keep me going. Six months down the line, a part of me wanted it to work because I was getting attached to him. You know, the ‘can’t-live-without-him when apart and can’t-live-with him when together’ phase.

There were things about him I genuinely liked that gave me hope that maybe it could work, even though I knew at the time I wasn’t particularly in love with him. I didn’t envision a future with him but somehow the fear of hurting him made me stay.

One day, he just went MIA. Couldn’t reach him on phone and since it was a long distance relationship there wasn’t much I could do to track him down at the time. I knew I didn’t love him but it hurt an awful lot. I had thought it would be easier if he was the one who broke up with me first so that way I wouldn’t be the one dishing the pain, but I realized I was wrong. He didn’t even have the guts to break up with me appropriately. He just switched his phone off and assumed I would get the drift.

That made me question my resolve; did I really want to be the one left hurting because I was afraid of hurting someone else? Had I left when I contemplated it, I would have saved myself so much anguish. Chances are I would have hurt him, but since my instincts had forewarned me it wasn’t going to work, I figured I should just have left. I was afraid I would hurt him, but when he decided to leave he just did it like a coward; creeping out, paying little attention to how I’d feel.

I learned, sometimes we may have other people’s interests at heart, but it turns out not everyone is kind. For that reason, if one is in a relationship or a situation where they feel they’ll hurt someone if they followed their hearts; it may sound selfish but sometimes it’s better to hurt that person and get out of the mess when it’s still early because if prolonged, the situation could mutate into something so painful that will leave one grappling with sanity; because sometimes the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

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.

Life happens when you’re busy planning life

making plans

‘Life happens when you’re busy planning life.’

The first time I heard this statement, my mind went back to a date I never had with a guy I really liked about two years ago. Naturally, I’m one of those people who don’t just do things on impulse. If I’m hooking up with some girlfriends, I’ll have to plan for it. If it’s an appointment I have with my hair dresser, I’ll have to plan for it. If I’m going shopping, I’ll have to plan for it. Spontaneity isn’t a word I’m too conversant with.

I really can’t say it’s a good thing. Some might argue it’s good to always plan for things in advance-I thought so too, but not anymore. Through experience, I learnt that sometimes it’s actually good to do things on impulse. The problem with some things is that if you actually sit down to plan when you’ll do them, they’ll never happen.

Two years ago, I met this guy when I was at work. He worked for a popular radio station. After talking for a while we just clicked, and he asked me out. I didn’t even think twice about it; I definitely wanted to spend more time with him. You know, there are those people who are so easy to like; he was one of them. The problem however rose when we started setting the time for our date. Somehow our schedules collided. When I was free he wasn’t, and when he was, I wasn’t.

He suggested we should just leave the possibilities open so if he was free he’d call me up to ask if I could avail myself. That proved difficult because at times he’d call when I was tied up with something. I had to explain to him that I had my activities all planned out (It sounds boring I know, trust me). He on the other hand told me he was an in-the-moment kinda guy. Whatever he did, he did when he felt like. He made it clear that he wasn’t really into planning and all. At the time I was like, “What? Planning makes things easy.”

He dropped by my workplace, and we managed to set an actual date. We agreed to hook up later that evening. Everything was going on fine, until I sprained my ankle. I wanted to ignore it but the pain was too much. I just rang him to cancel; there was no way I was going on a first date with him limping.

It was around Christmas. Later that week my family and I travelled out of town for a couple of days. When we came back the Christmas festivities had relatively cooled off. I’d asked my boss to give me a few days extra and the understanding man he was, he had agreed, so I reported back to work later than everyone else. It was almost time to usher in the New Year. Soon, everything went back to normal, the holiday spirit died down, waiting for another twelve months so it could resurrect.

There was too much work to be done and even, though I’d thought December was a busy month, January proved worse, not because there was too much work to be done, but because generally, the month feels like a Monday; a mundane, lethargy-inflicting day, after an exciting weekend. The connection we’d fostered the first few days faded away. I got tired of all the rescheduling, and I imagined he felt the same way too.

The relationship we would possibly have had ended before it had begun. I could tell he was a fun guy to be with, but it just didn’t happen. Maybe if I hadn’t been too keen on planning, if I just lived for the moment, I would be telling an entirely different story. Maybe I made wrong deductions, but given that to date we’ve never hooked up, I concluded that sometimes it’s actually good to just do things on impulse.

From a Christian’s perspective I could decide to look at it from the, ‘God didn’t want us to go on that date perspective’, but normally I feel my ‘planning’ got in the way. So I do agree, that life actually happens when we’re busy planning it. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, so if one gets the opportunity to do something today, they should just grab the chance. Maybe I’m wrong… maybe I’m not…

 

Sweeping issues under the carpet

A few days ago I watched my two sisters arguing. My big sister, who’s an aspiring fashion designer, makes clothes for me and my little sister when she’s not too busy with school; currently we’re her muses. We had a cultural event in our church and one of the requirements was to go dressed in some cultural outfit. They only announced it a week to the actual day so we only had a few days to find suitable outfits.

I already knew what I wanted; we bought the fabric and in four days mine was complete. My baby sister however, couldn’t decide what she wanted. It was difficult trying to choose a design that would be ready in only two days. While sampling a few designs, it just so happened that she and my big sister couldn’t agree on one.

That little, seemingly minute conversation spiraled out of control and before long, one was hurt, the other one was furious. I was caught in the middle, trying to help them come to a consensus. By the time we went to bed that night they were not talking to each other.

That argument reminded me of previous fights between mom and dad. That’s how it’s always been between them; going to bed with matters unresolved. When they wake up the next day they try to ‘ignore’ what happened-depending on the magnitude of their fight. The small issues are deftly swept under the carpet. They just go about with their lives like nothing happened, until the same issue springs up later in another argument, seeming much more intense than before.

When we were small, my big siz took on the role of chief mediator. When mom and dad weren’t talking because they just couldn’t see things from the same perspective, she would ask us to jointly intervene. I didn’t have the patience for it but since she had requested, I would agree to it. We would sit both of them down at different times, trying to understand why they had fought.

On most occasions we would talk to dad when he was sober, so it wasn’t that bad; it actually felt like a breakthrough because sometimes he helped us understand why he had lashed out at mom. Apparently he wasn’t always the guilty one.

After getting dad’s side of the story, we would wait for mom to come home from work then we would get her side of it. We would then help them see it from the other’s perspective; when all was said and done, they would be hugging and kissing, happy to be on speaking terms again.

Those days were such happy days for us; it’s every kid’s dream to see their parents happy; we were no exception. That’s how I got to understand that communication is key. People could fight over the most trivial of issues because somehow a point went misunderstood, then got blown out of proportion. In an attempt to reconcile, sometimes we choose to sweep the issues under the carpet, but I realized that is hardly a solution because eventually the same issue will graduate into something dreadful, which could have been avoided in the first place.

communication is key

About our outfits, I had a talk with each one of my sisters separately, and just like we used to do with mom and dad, I helped them understand what the other meant. My big sister tried to make a dress similar to the one our baby siz wanted, but tried to simplify the complicated parts so she could finish making it on time. When Sunday came, we went to church happy in our beautiful custom made outfits.

 

 

Avoiding the inevitable

broken hearts

Sometimes when I’m watching a movie, I see a couple looking so disconnected.  For instance, a guy will close his eyes, savouring the feel of his girlfriend’s luscious lips against his, whereas on the other hand the girl will be rolling her eyes impatiently, wondering when the guy will release her. In another scene, there will be a girl telling a guy how much she loves him, but the guy will only shrug, unable to reciprocate because deep down he knows he’s only toying with the girl and will flee the instant another charming lady shows up.

During such moments I wonder, doesn’t he/she feel his/her guy’s reluctance? But then I remember; I’ve been in similar situations; feeling the guy slipping from me, but I hold on obstinately because I’m afraid of admitting what is right in front of me; that the halcyon days are long gone. That the lurking pain is inevitable; that it’s over.

One feels the pain creeping in slowly, but because s/he dreads it, she puts up with him; settles for whatever little pieces of him she can get, even when she feels it’s not enough; just because she’s afraid to let go.

From the relationships I’ve been in, I realized, when the daily good morning, good afternoon and goodnight texts reduce to a single text per day or none at all; when texts go unanswered for hours, when initially a minute wouldn’t go by without reading the reply (when it would come in right after, you would wonder if they had texted it in advance) this are signs of the end.

When he doesn’t say ‘I love you’ with so much enthusiasm like he used to before, you even feel like you’re forcing it out of him, it is time to let go because the looming pain is inevitable.

It’s better to let go and deal with the pain than hold on to a lifeless relationship, which will sink you into unfathomable pain and frustration.

Following Multitudes

making decisions

It was mid Sunday morning. My fellow students and I were sitted in church. We were listening to the Bishop giving his sermon. I don’t really recall what it was about, but I remember vividly that the particular day was a special one. The bishop rarely visited. So even as we sat, eyes glued to him, we felt special he had paid us a visit. Later, the father-in-charge informed us he and the bishop would be headed to town to hold another mass there for the rest of the town folks. There was a grand occasion, only I don’t remember what they were celebrating.

The father-in-charge, who every girl in my school adored, invited us to accompany him there. He said it would be worth our while. We were thrilled by the idea. We were always confined in the school compound. The only time one got to leave the school premises was when one was leaving for a medical check-up at the health center, which was located in the heart of the town, about five kilometers away from the school, or when leaving for symposiums,  game tournaments, drama competitions, music festivals, debates … in other schools, or just the usual trips.

The occasions were rare, so whenever the opportunity presented itself we would pounce on it unhesitatingly. When the father-in-charge invited us to attend the grand mass in town, we didn’t care to run the idea by the principal, who was also in attendance. Naturally, she was given the chance to give a vote of thanks as the mass was mainly for girls from my school. When she took to the lectern at the far end of the altar, she began her speech. “Your Lordship the Bishop, the father-in-charge…”

Basically, she told the bishop how honoured we felt that he had graced us with his presence…and in conclusion, she merely said it in passing that we were required to go back to school after mass; the church was only a stone-throw away from our school. That simple command put us in a quagmire; we wanted to go to town, had already been invited even, but the principal wouldn’t allow us.

After mass we dutifully walked back to school in a pensive mood. We had to go to town; if only we could convince the principal-a strict woman, who was zero-tolerant to crap. Instead of heading back to class for our thirty minutes preps before we went for lunch as was tradition, we assembled on the parade ground to device a way out of the conundrum we were in.

After a unanimous decision, we-a group of atleast three hundred girls-asked the headgirl and her deputy to see the principal at her quarters; ask her if she would be kind enough to let us attend the grand mass in town. The two left. We waited with baited breath, hoping she would consent to it.

About fifteen minutes later, the two came back, raw disappointment written on their faces. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell she had nixed them…or us for that matter.

The father-in-charge, the one person we thought was brave enough to cross the principal, had given us the green light. We banked on that. If the principal dared counter him, he would personally take up the matter with her; besides, we were too many to be punished…or so we thought.  After a relatively long deliberation, we made our decision. We were going to town. And since we didn’t have the principal’s blessings, we would walk all the way to town. It was a long walk, but for the sake of leaving the school compound even if only for a short while, we would trek.

The road was dusty, very dusty actually, because it hadn’t rained for a while and it was cold too. The clouds were grey; I thought it would rain, but as the minutes ticked away, the grey clouds scudded away, unveiling the azure sky. The sun came out in all its glory. When finally we got to town, the townsfolk had already gathered at the makeshift stadium. Beautiful gospel music was playing in the background, amplified by the speakers, which were placed at strategic locations.

Given the risk we had taken to leave the school compound against our principal’s orders, the mass wasn’t all that. Most of us had only taken it as an opportunity to indulge our cravings for junk food, touring the small town… it wasn’t really about the mass; we were only yearning to breathe some fresh air away from the school.

The function ended a few minutes to four. We started our long walk back to school under the scorching sun. When we got back, the few girls who had opted not to follow the multitude were still in class for the afternoon preps.

Sitted on my desk later that afternoon, the magnitude of what trouble I had gotten myself into hit me. I had willfully, against my better judgement, followed the multitude. Now that the party was over, I had to face whatever dire repercussions ensued.

I hated myself for my poor judgement.

I had always known following the masses rarely had happy endings, and I always avoided doing something because everyone else was doing it. This day however, I had let the thrill of getting out of the school compound derail me. In the heat of the moment, we had defied our principal, thinking we were too many to be punished. We had ruled out the idea of being punished because we had figured she wouldn’t have the guts or the energy to punish an entire school.

The next day, during our usual Monday morning assembly, the principal, wearing a stern face, instructed all the class prefects to forward the names of all the girls who had left the school premises the previous day. In our defence, we argued the father-in-charge had given us his consent; “But is he your principal?” She had countered vehemently. Blazing eyes darting across the assembly ground, she promised us a torturous week; one that would be ingrained in our memories for years to come.

True to her word, the ensuing week was everything she had promised it would be. Some months before, all the trees which outlined the school compound had been felled to pave way for the wire mesh fence, which was being erected. We spent the whole of that week moving enormous, moss covered logs from far corners of the school I didn’t even know existed, to some field adjacent to the school’s kitchen.

By the end of that week, my arms and legs were covered in bruises, where the logs had scraped against my bare skin. And the sight of the termites, which had started eating away at the logs just made me feel itchy.

Apparently she was right; my mind always goes back to that day. It’s been a few years since I left high school, but somehow, whenever I’m in a situation where I have to make my own independent decision or follow the multitude, I always opt for the former. I would rather be accountable for my own choices than get into trouble for getting swayed by other people’s opinion. That day always serves as a reminder.

I always think it was sod’s law, that the one day I chose to throw caution to the wind; the one day I went against my better judgement, to follow the multitude, was precisely the day I landed myself in unmitigated trouble.