Monday, October 13, 2014

Back to the Beginning.

We always start with a mattress, don’t we? We take our first salary which is not much at the time and we go to a supermarket nearby because carrying a mattress over a long distance is nobody’s piece of cake. With our meager earnings, we purchase a mattress that will be as kind to our backs as it will be to our pockets. We grab a cheap blanket and pair of sheets on the way out and, carrying our only possessions proudly in our hands, walk with heads held high into an empty house to start our life of independence.

We will spread the mattress on the floor at the far corner of our one-roomed house. This mattress will serve as our sleeping area, our dining table and our sofa. For the most part, we will not entertain visitors much. We will not cook much either. The nearby food kiosk will be our saving grace from starvation as  we will rush there to grab a serving of madondo or githeri or … what else it there … chapati? to take us through these empty days.

We will however not live like this forever. Our circumstances will help fan a flame in us. A flame that will propel us to excel. We will want more room. We will get tired of madondo chapo and crave for home-cooked ugali, sukuma wiki and beef stew. We will then save up to buy a stove or a jiko, a sufuria and a cooking stick. Maybe one plate and a cup? A spoon and fork…no, the cutlery can wait. We will fall asleep on the mattress and on it dream of laying our heads on a bed for a change. We will have an obsessive desire to sit on one of those fluffy couches that come with pillows to cushion your bum and your back. We will want. This wanting will drive us to work even harder. We will hustle day and night for more financial freedom. Soon we will be rushing back to the supermarket for that bed. For that dining table. For the curtains that match the seats. For a carpet, a fridge and a cooker. Subsequently, we will move into a bigger house. In no time, our cold and empty one-roomed house will become a warm fully furnished multiple-roomed home.

How about that for small beginnings?

This is how most of us are introduced to a life of independence. If your stride to independence was to a furnished house then you make me jealous. Consider yourself exceptionally lucky my friend.  I remember my first house. It was a very small affair. It had a sink and a kitchen cabinet – which was a bargain for the rent I was paying. There was barely room for a bed. There was an adjacent room with shelves, which was supposed to be some kind of store room? It was small and cozy. Not much, but it made me proud that I could sustain myself and did not have to live off my siblings anymore. I had come of age. It was exciting as it was limiting.

With time, I could afford to move to a house with rooms and stuff. I had the luxury of a living room and a modern kitchen. This house had a balcony to boot. It was timely too because Hailey happened at the time. The timing couldn’t have been better.

This is what life is about. Evolution. You start small and dare to dream big hoping that someday you will need to create more room for your growing collection of shoes, your ginomous TV set,  your king size bed. We grow progressively. And it is a good thing.

But even when we move to bigger things and bigger places, we never forget our humble beginnings. We always treasure them because it made us want more out of life. With that desire, we were able to strive hard to make it. Our beginnings made us who we are.

This was my first home. I have laughed in here but I have cried most of the time. I have been so many things at different times.Yet with every first home, there comes growth. We live somewhere and with that growth, we tend to want more stuff.  We just want better.

I want more. I want better.

What I am doing now is that I am packing. I am leaving. I am looking for a better home. A bigger home with bigger windows and nicer stuff. I need a backyard. I need more space. It is a bittersweet experience because I am leaving this home that I have grown so attached to. It stings a bit. I don’t know whether to be happy that this new home is a step forward? I should be happy about this no? But then again, humble beginnings. They are responsible for who I am. Bittersweet is the emotion I will settle with for now.

I am emptying the closets and putting everything in labeled boxes. Soon, I will be out of here.

I will sure miss this place.

Come with me?

Come with me!

Come with me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crying Space

Photo Courtesy of
When have I not cried? Yeah, that is an easier question to answer than; when have I cried? This gets me more to the point because I have cried more times than I care to remember. I cried when the Titanic sunk in the movie Titanic. When Phoebe gave up the triplets she had been carrying for his brother in Friends. I cried in almost every episode of Army Wives-that series is a tear-jerker! I cried when Md and I got engaged. I cried when Heidi tearfully bid farewell to her cousin recently and hugged him so tight, refusing to let go. When Hailey, while hugging and kissing me on the cheek, neck, eyes, mouth, told me how much she missed me when I was away in Nairobi for a whole week.

So, when have I not cried?

This warm Wednesday evening, I am walking along a busy road. I am in deep thought. Cars swish past me. Thoughts that I shouldn’t be having start creeping into my mind. They peep in. Look around for some space. There is little room, barely enough to accommodate one leg or an arm, or a small head. These thoughts are determined. They know that all they need is a small opening. True to their conviction (and thanks to my aimless walking, my straying thoughts, and a difficult day that drained me as it took its time to come to an end) they find that tiny crack to squeeze themselves through.

With one leg in, the thoughts start to slowly feed my mind with negativity. They can barely be heard since I am on a busy road and thinking is not all I am doing entirely. I am watching out for the passing cars, giving room for the human traffic going against my direction, stopping to give room to a sweating mkokoteni guy…these thoughts need my attention. They squeeze in and before I know it, two legs are in. Both arms find room. A big head squeezes in as well. They are slowly progressing from inconsequential whispers to overwhelming noises. They are taking over. My attention is drawn to them. My positivity is neglected. Surely, I am not going to kick positivity to the curb only to focus on these newcomers, now am I?

Well, I do.

A car passes by in full speed almost hitting me. I have strayed from the pavement to the road. The driver peeps out and curses me out. Just like that, the negatives find a better avenue to assert themselves: “You could have died on this road. That car could have hit you. If that happened and you died, would anyone really miss you? You really think so? Who?” Do they have a point? I think about it.

I think about so much more. I am now a walking host to bad vibes. I reek of negativity.  I stink of a bad attitude. Of bad feelings. I am all blue and full of gloom. I have a mind to get a sticker and put it on my forehead that reads: Suffering from Acute Melancholia. Highly Contagious!  

I have a lump in my throat. My eyes tingle. There are tears welling up. Fast. They want to be let out. But I am on the streets. People will see me. I might meet someone who recognizes me and they will insist on talking to me and I will feel like slapping them across the face, and I will try to talk to them anyway because it’s the right thing to do and my mouth will open and the words will refuse to come out and the tears will refuse to stay in and the waterworks will flow and the person will stand there looking all confused wondering what it is they said, or did, or who is responsible for the tears, whether I am a victim of a dead beat dad…then  I will shake my head, they will keep prodding, asking why I am upset, what has gone wrong, who has wronged me, whether I am sick or hungry, or angry or ... That sign on my forehead would have come in handy!

Seriously, who doesn’t know not to ask questions when you see a grown woman crying. Women need some alone time with their emotions sometimes. I know I do.

I need space where no one will ask me why I have tears in my eyes. Where I can cry so that the lump in my throat is cleared - I actually get a sore throat when I am stressed so there must be a connection. I need somewhere where I can cry, wail, snort, sob, heave, and not care how ugly I look. Well, I need space to wear that teary, mucus-y face with pride. And I will not answer any questions. Space that will shield me from judging looks. A place that will cushion me from labels like ‘softy’ or ‘pathetic’ or ‘unstable’ or ‘poor Renee’. Where I will not be expected to act all put together. I need a place where I can break apart.

This space will enable me to express these dark emotions the way a mother expresses milk that burn her welling breasts. The toxic emotions need to be excreted from my body before they corrode me from the inside. I am in dire need of some crying space. But where does one find that? Where in this crowded busy world?

While others can hold their tears and their hurt until they are in that comfortable crying space; in the comfort of their beds at night, behind the walls of their homes, out of glaring eyes and unwelcome queries- I don’t have that luxury. I am embarrassingly unable to hold the tears when they demand to get out!

As if on cue, one tear trickles down my cheek. Maybe this is not the best time to cross the road to the other side then? I will just stand here for a minute or two. I reach for my handkerchief from my purse…

See, until I grant these ‘visiting’ thoughts time to express their fears, their anger and disappointment. Until I acknowledge these feelings and cry them out of my system, I will not be able to smile again. Unacknowledged feelings are like that drunk cousin at a family reunion, they say. They won’t shut up so you can hear anyone else. They go on and on and on. These feelings may be unwanted but they have a purpose. After the acknowledgement, I will be able to see more clearly (I will cross that road with better care for sure!) I am then better placed to forge ahead. I can then welcome back positivity. I can even afford a smile. J

I will be ‘normal’ again in a minute. Normal meaning; jovial, full of hope, fun. But that is not really the meaning of ‘Normal’, now is it?

If you spot me standing at the corner of a street with my head bowed down and a handkerchief covering my eyes, do me a favor and move right along. There is nothing here for you to see. Just an emotional woman grabbing her rightful crying space.

And No. It couldn’t wait!

Have a positive week!