Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perfectly woman

I am a woman. And like every woman, I have my good and PMS-y days. I get emotional, irrational and I even overreact sometimes. When it’s all too much, I have a good cry and when am through, I am as good as new and it’s on to the next one…

Staying faithful to womanhood, I take a minute or two to work on my nails, hair, face, you know… my appearance. So I file my nails and apply a nail hardener to keep them long (woe unto the woman who loses a finger nail in her ‘line of duty’), I paint my toenails and oil my legs. I give my face an exfoliating scrub once in a while and I pay the hairdresser a visit frequently enough to avoid birds building nests and laying eggs inside my weave. All in the spirit of keeping up with womanhood.

I enjoy being a woman. I love being a woman. And I embrace all the quirks and perks that come with it. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes my womanity gets in the way of my writing.  

Here I was this Thursday afternoon, playing around with ideas in my head on what to write about in this week’s blog post. One sentence stared at me from the computer. One sentence that I had typed as the story started weaving itself together inside my head. It began;

“I have decided to cut my hair…”

Just when I was about to get into it and write to tell you about this decision, I got a phone call. On the other end was a disgruntled friend, who was not so pleased with me for something I did, or said (the details are still unclear) I picked up the phone when it rang and without any niceties, we got right into it. My friend expressed her disappointment in me, as I defended myself stating that I was entitled to an opinion, palatable or not. Barely two minutes into the conversation, we realized that we were not getting anywhere and so we hang up. No, she actually hang up first, and I had no choice really.

Through with this very unproductive conversation, I got back to the blank Microsoft Word page that was looking at me, begging me to fill it up. But I could not do it because I was not in the mood anymore. My train of thought had been interrupted (moodus interruptus?) I lost my mojo. Not that I was angry. I was just ‘out of it’. So I decided to go for lunch instead.  Have some food (pun) for thought perhaps?

The beauty of being a woman is that you do not have to put a word, or an explanation to every emotion you go through. You only have to feel it. Be it something close to pain or disappointment, happiness or ecstasy. You only experience true womanhood when you can allow yourself to be you-a woman, without feeling the need to apologize for it.

Maybe I am stubborn and complicated, but I am also a woman. So it is perfectly fine. It’s perfectly normal. It’s perfectly woman.

If I get my mojo back in good time, I will complete the story that I had started telling about this decision to cut my hair. Will you think of me as less of a woman if I don a bald head? Mmmm….more food. For thought, that is.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love is blind...No more!

Behold, she was blind, but now she can see! I’m talking about love. She went ahead and got herself a good pair of eyes. And in the case where she found her vision impaired, she got herself a pair of glasses to boot.

She was blind when Titanic’s Jack threatened to commit suicide in solidarity with Rose “You jump, I jump”, remember? She was blind when Shakespeare’s Juliet beseeched Romeo to ‘deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet.’ (Sweet isn’t it?) Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky (From Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina) suffered love’s blindness too. So much that it cost Anna her marriage and she eventually committed suicide even after she got the man she loved! Irony? No. Love actually. Her love for Count Vronsky, the same love that made her plead her husband for a divorce that she never was granted, made her live in constant fear of losing her beloved, even when she had him. She was depressed, unhappy and almost went nuts (with love). Unable to cope, she threw herself in front of a train, killing herself. Love, huh?

From all this botched love stories, we get the feeling that love could be synonymous to pain, heartbreak, misery, suicide; death. Anna Karenina commits suicide, so do Romeo and Juliet. For Rose and Jack - well, Jack died and Rose lived to tell the story. But still…happy endings? Not so much. Why so?

When love is blind, it does nothing but bring misery and heartbreak to the so called ‘lovers’. Who wants to cry anymore? Who wants to have their hearts broken in the name of love? I am glad that women are starting to think more with their heads and not their hearts.

You will hear many a Nairobian woman today quip “Love? Will love put a roof over our heads? Will it put food on our table and feed our children?”

Truth be told, you cannot depend on love for anything! Just the fuzzy feelings that will make you feel like you are walking on a cloud (you’re not!) and the sprint added to your step. It will make you go through your days in a daze (get it?) and your nights…well, your nights could be steamy - I’ll give you that. A replica of a page off Fabio’s book collection even! Oh, fabulous F.A.B.I.O!(gasp)  

But how long does this feeling last? How long before you come down to earth with a shattering rude awakening?

What made love decide to fix her eyes? Was it the futility of her emotions when she realized that she was after men and women she couldn’t have? Was it the betrayal of her emotions when she had illicit affairs in the name of love? Was it the realization that love is just another revered four-letter word? Better still, could it be its ephemeral nature that makes it seek a quick exit once you scratch beneath the surface to get to the intricate not-so-rosy stuff?

Whatever it was, aren’t we glad that love finally ‘saw the light’? I, for one am happy that she realized that all this lovey dovey, hanky-dory attitude was not working for her.
Tina Turner summarized it thus;

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a sweet old fashioned notion?
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

Still, there are those who like a tick, cling to blindness in love. They will ignore the flaws, while patting themselves for the ‘nobility’ of their actions. So they date irresponsible men, calling it a weakness that they can fix – with love. They will be seen with hard core thugs who in their love-veiled eyes, are good men who have just made a few wrong choices in their lives but who, with patience and love, could be well on their way to reformed behavior. You will see them dating married men, smothering them with love, while hanging on to the promise that he will leave his wife – his nagging, idiot of a wife who does not know how to take care of a good man. They insist that they have this innate ability to tame philandering men and they look forward to the day he will come home to roost. You see them strung on abusive relationships, convinced that love will fight their battles. Eventually.

With eyes wide shut, one hand to their chest and the other raised in a solemn prayer to the love gods, these women who refuse to open their eyes, continue to love blindly. While they do so, tears flow through their tightly sealed eyelids, unabated. Their hearts break over and over again into tiny and tinier pieces with no one to pick them up and piece them back together. They cry and wallow in sheer pain and disappointment. They hurt. In the name of love.

While others say that love is blind and if you’re not blind you are not in love, I say smart love is not blind; it sees clearly and from what it sees, makes a smart choice on what matters and what doesn’t. What say ye?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A letter to my 13 year old self

First of all, let me start by saying that you ain’t seen nothing yet!

You are still cooped up in that shell you are so used to; quiet and shy, a girl of few words, but with a smile for everyone. For starters, that smile will be wiped off your face soon when you realize that like every woman, you have to bear the burden that comes with being a teenage girl budding into womanhood. Your smile will be misinterpreted by testosterone-laden men and you will find yourself having to shield off unwarranted advances by taking up a serious look every once in a while. Your friends tease you now; a ‘smiling machine’ they call you, but in a year or two, the world will force you to hand out that smile in rations.

You will be a late bloomer; please practice some patience because your boobs will take forever to ‘show up’ and when they do, they will come out with very little enthusiasm! Hehe, don’t worry though - they will make a good appearance. Eventually.

Your first boyfriend will be nice, but you will break his heart. Another man will ‘snatch’ you away from him, and you will fall for this new guy hook, line and sinker (All’s fair in love and war, right?). He will sing for you. No really, he will. He will write you a song, he will write you poems and he will draw pictures of you. You will hang the pictures and the poems in your room. In a nutshell, he will turn your hormonal adolescent world upside down. Then he will leave the country for ‘higher learning’ and your relationship will dwindle off - and you will be left with the memories of a guy who connected with your soul (and sang to it). Aaaah! Karma.

Don’t worry about high school. You will get through it in one piece and with good grades too. The years after high school will be the tough ones. Financing your college education will be a hustle. I know this seems unbelievable right now, but not to worry, not much damage will be done.

You will suffer loss. You will lose your paternal grandmother while in high school. This will be your first sense of loss. Then, you will lose your niece, just months old, after high school just before you join college. This will be an even bigger blow. The morning before your niece’s demise you will kiss her chubby cheeks so many times and you will play with her for a while before leaving. Then you will come back in the afternoon, and you will be told that she is gone. You will ask God why? You will remind Him that you were just from praying for your family. You will feel betrayed by God. You will be devastated. Double devastated; because of the death and because of your sister’s devastation. You will try to be strong for her but you will be confused, not knowing what to say or do, especially since you will still not know what motherhood is all about, yet. You will cry in torrents and hope that by so doing the tears will flow out with the pain.

Sadly, that will not be the end. Two uncles and your witty grandfather will be added to the list. Yeah, the only grandfather you have ever known will leave too. These losses, among others, will teach you the importance of life, and the importance of the people in your life. You will take it all in stride, struggling to keep your head up.

 A time will come when you will see life not only in black and white, but your eyes will be opened to the shades of grey as well. What’s more, you will meet someone.

He will be the father of your two daughters. He will love you. You will take your time (the longest time) to let him in. You will be friends for close to two years before you end the skepticism and start dating. You will be cautious simply because he will hold your heart at the palm of his hands. This will only be a problem because it will make you vulnerable. Ironically, caution be damned when you decide to have children because it will happen with a blink of an eye. Being a mother is one thing you will want in your adult life more than anything else.

There will be significant highlights in your life, but the birth of your daughters will take the crown. These will be the most glorious days of your life. First will be Hailey. Then Heidi will follow three years later. And you will love like you never knew you could. Your heart will warm up and tears will well up in your eyes every time you talk or write about them. They will make your heart swell; they will fill it to the bream.

With the onset of motherhood, the woman within will finally come out. That woman will teach you how to be more assertive and you will learn to follow your heart and to stand by what you believe in.
 Remember how your classmate (was her name Noreen?) once gave you a pen and a paper (or was it a scented writing pad?) and asked you to help her draft a nice romantic letter to her boyfriend? Remember how she said you had a way with words because the English teacher had asked you to read out your impressive composition to the class? Remember how the teacher asked the other pupils to learn from you and write intriguing pieces for their exams. You must remember how awkward it felt sitting down with Noreen and trying to find the words to express her love for a man –scratch that- boy you barely knew. It was hilarious right?

Well, Noreen had a point though. Skewed as it seemed, she was right that you had a way with words. A few years from now, Facebook, a social networking site will be born and you will be caught up in its web. You will use it to put your witticism to practice. Soon, your writing will catch the eyes of a couple who run an online magazine; Mr. & Mrs. Oluoch (Sylvester & Pamela ) and they will help you to take your writing more seriously– God bless them. You will be one of the contributors on their online magazine, a job you will do with unbridled passion. This passion for writing will motivate you to start a blog and from then on, you and the pen (keyboard?) will be inseparable.

 Life will hand you lemons girlie. Sometimes you will make lemonade, other times you won’t know how to and you will hurt and cry your heart out – you will never be one to be ashamed of your tears. You will do just about everything your heart commands you to do and never wonder ‘what people might think’. You will never be afraid to be yourself. When you feel like silence, you will be quiet and will not struggle to fill it with empty words just for the sake. You will come to understand the magic of words; and the damage they can cause when used carelessly.

You will promise yourself to always stand on your own two feet simply because you are likely to fall harder if someone carries you then let’s go. This will be your motivation to always stay grounded, no matter how tempting it is to get carried away.

Most importantly, you will give love and you will try to be happy.

So saddle up girl, your journey is just beginning. Don’t forget to have fun. You my dear, will do just fine, considering.

Your older (smarter) self

 P.S: Happy International Women’s Day to all you phenomenal women!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Honey, lemon & something for the pain

I’m tired, hungry, and irritable. But mostly tired. No, mostly hungry - No tired. See, I can’t even make up my mind which one is worse; the hunger or the exhaustion!

I’m at the waiting room of a hospital’s pediatric casualty unit. As I wait for the doctor to see my daughter Hailey, I have decided to torture myself with thoughts of food, a hot shower and a warm bed; three things that I need now more than anything, but can’t have.

Instead, I’m seated waiting impatiently to hear them call out Hailey’s name to signal our turn to see the doctor. All I have are; this phone, which am using to type this post, a hard bench to seat on and the sound of crying sick babies. One of those ‘sick babies’ is my own. Great! Just GREAT!

Hailey is all – “Muuuum, (she tends to pull her words when she is unwell), I want water, I’m thirsty, I want to sleep, I want you to carry me” My poooor baaaby, I let her rest her head on my laps as I type away to take my mind off the other cravings. I find myself stroking her hair with the other hand. I know that she will pull through this (whatever this is) like the champ she is, if only that doctor could speed things up!

I already know what the doctor’s diagnosis will be; throat and ear infection - We seem to frequent the hospital consistently courtesy of these two culprits. First, Mr. Doc will examine Hailey. He will ask her to say “aaaah” - open her mouth wide, and with that wooden thingy that looks like an ice-cream-scooping spoon, he will hold down her tongue as he inspects her mouth (throat) with a ‘torch?’ then remove it at the nick of time; just when Hailey is about to puke on his well-polished shoes. I always anticipate this but it never happens. How I would love to witness it! I still harbor hope that one day I will be granted that privilege.

After examining her throat, he will wear a concerned look on his face. Very concerned; wrinkled eyebrows and all. Next he will take the thingamajig that is used to look inside the ears. Face still wrinkled with concern, he might mutter something to the effect that what he sees is not good. “mmmh…not good at all”. He will listen to her chest using a stethoscope (psheee! He might as well use it seeing as doctors carry it everywhere), her chest will be declared fine. Her breathing too. Then the verdict will be made; ear and/or throat infection!

Then I will ask the same question I always ask, why can’t we deal with this once and for all instead of us frequenting the hospital as if we are subscribed to a bi-monthly visit? To which I will get the same answers – It can’t be helped, it’s the environmental hazards; the dust, the highly contagious school environment, working against her tender age while her immune system is still ‘work in progress’ etc etc…

HAILEY I. CHERUTO! Finally! Hailey’s eyes almost pop out as she hears her name booming over the microphone, and she looks up at me. I take her hand and lead her to the nurse’s centre, where a male doctor is waiting. Strike one; I got the sex of the doctor right! I ‘save as draft’ the post so far, keep my phone away and we follow the doctor to his office.

Doctor closed the door behind us, showed us to two seats while engaging Hailey in playful conversation in the usual playful way that doctors interact with children (or are trained to, I don’t know). A whole minute later, he ‘remembered’ that I was also in the room and switching his attention from Hailey asked me what the problem was. Fever, coughs, fever - high fever, persistent fever. We were here barely three weeks ago. She was ok until yesterday. Why isn’t her cough going away? She keeps falling sick. Blablabla, I lamented on and on while he patiently listened. He then took the ‘ice-cream spoon’ and asked Hailey to say “aaah”. I smiled to myself. Strike two; the ‘ice-cream’ spoon! When Hailey was just about to throw up, he quickly withdrew the ‘spoon’ from her throat, and once again, I was denied a show! He had no concerned look on his face though. He then reached for the ear thingy, peeped inside her ears but still no wrinkled look of concern. The Stethoscope was next; he listened to her breathing. Still, no worried looks, no ‘mmmhs’ nor ‘aaahs’, and therefore no touchdown. I gave up!

Then he closely examined Hailey’s face (his hands on both her cheeks) and he turned to me. “Well…?” I asked. He then strayed miles away from the script in my head. He said Hailey’s chest was fine, her throat too. He then asked me if I had noticed anything peculiar about her cheeks. Now, us ‘Murreys’ have one very outstanding feature passed down to us by our ancestors from my father’s side; chubby cheeks – I definitely wouldn’t call that ‘peculiar’! I indulged him anyway and took a good look at Hailey. A-ha! Her right cheek was slightly swollen; just below the ear, along the jaw line. It was slight, almost negligible to the blind eye, and definitely invisible to the eyes of a tired hungry mother who had been working for the last 9 hours!

But it was there, the doctor wasn’t seeing things, her right cheek was indeed swollen. Still straying further away from the script, the doctor suggested that Hailey could be suffering from the MUMPS! I looked at him puzzled…wasn’t that disease ancient or something? Sorta like polio? Hehe, he smiled. And from that point on, he kept smiling. Who knew that ignorance could be such an ice-breaker! He prescribed meds for the persistent fever and pain, and nothing else since mumps is viral.

When I asked for something for her cough, he engaged me in a long conversation on how kids like Hailey who are prone to allergies resulting in coughs and flu need just a good stock of Honey and lemon in the home, some anti-allergenic once in a while, something for the fever and pain, and nothing else. He intimated that this hospital NEVER (yeah, I could hear the CAPS in his tone) prescribed cough syrups. “Other countries dump these medicines here, yet they are banned in their own country!” he said with some annoyance. He went ahead to say that people who gave their children the cough syrups are na├»ve to think that they work. “The body’s immune system fights viruses on its own. It makes no sense when people go like ‘I gave her the syrup and she got better after a few days’ (he mimicked a lady’s voice at this point), yet the child was going to get better anyway, with or without YOUR cough syrup” I swear that doctor was hilarious, I couldn’t help laughing. Very nice doctor too. All the time I was pretending not to be one of ‘those mothers’, hehe. Yeah, I am the ‘honey and lemon’ kind of mum. Word!

We thanked the good doctor before leaving. He told Hailey to say hi to her teacher when she felt well enough to go to school (‘No school for Hailey until she gets well– Mumps is contagious!’ he had said) Then I remembered how Hailey had told me a few days ago about her classmate, Roy, whose face was swollen “…na teacher akamwambia atapona”. I wished that Roy’s mother would have followed doc’s advice and let Roy stay at home instead of coming to school and infecting others. I wondered who else in their class, besides Hailey, had been ‘adorned’ the chubby face.

It was past 11pm in the night when we got home. Hailey was asleep and so I woke her up briefly to give her the pain medicine then I put her to bed. Only then, when both my girls were in slumber land, was I able to eat (boy was I hungry!), then I took a quick shower and heaved my tired aching body on the bed. Whoa! I too needed something for the pain…

PS: I’m happy to report that Hailey has since recovered fully